TriRig's Pedal Shootout
Jul 29, 2012
article & images by Nick Salazar
"Wait a second!" I hear you saying. "Keywin? Isn't this just another LOOK-a-like? You said Shimano was going to cover all of these." Well, it's true that at first blush, Keywin's pedals appear to be a variation on the ski binding theme. But when we look closer, we see that these are something else entirely.
Keywin's company name is a play on Kiwi, which refers to their New Zealand origin. Keywin pedals have been around for a long time; in fact, this is their thirtieth year in business, and their pedals actually predate LOOK by one year. The pedals and their retention mechanism are unique in the industry. There is no clamping mechanism here. Rather, the pedal body and the cleat are each made of a single solid piece of rigid plastic, and these pieces simply lock together by virtue of their shape.
Pedal entry is much like in a LOOK-style pedal, with one extra twist. Literally. As usual, you hook the front of the pedal in first, and then step down. But then you have to twist your foot inward, to lock the cleat to the pedal body. It's simple, but definitely takes a couple rides to really feel natural. And despite having used these for well over a year, I could never get quite as fast to clip into these as I could with a set of Shimano pedals. I was always slower in Keywins, but not by much.
Fortunately, pedal release is familiar and easy. You just twist your heel out, exactly as you have with every other pedal you've ever owned. This motion applies enough force to flex the locking mechanism and allow the foot to release. No springs involved, which I think is really cool from an engineering perspective. Why use ten parts when two will do? Keywin's mechanism is very simple, very elegant, and the resulting pedal is very light in weight. There aren't any true budget offerings here, but for $170 you can get a set of pedals lighter than a $400 LOOK Keo Blade Carbon.
Although they've been popular in the Land Down Under for quite some time, many people stateside aren't familiar with the brand. Some news outlets have erroneously reported that they've been nearly impossible to find in the last decade - that's not quite accurate. I've personally had a set for a couple years, and bought them after a single search on Google led me to the then-current US distributor. For some time now, they've been available for purchase through Todd Kenyon, the owner of TTbikefit.com. They're not hard to find online, though perhaps they've been absent from brick-and-mortars. But my point is that their presence in the USA isn't new.
What IS new is an updated version of the pedal that Keywin is introducing this Summer. They are just beginning to ship, although I don't have a pair just yet. They're built on the same mechanical formula as the CRM, but shed about 20 grams and make certain adjustments easier. For example, like Speedplay, Keywin provides for an easy swap to riding fixed, without the need to swap cleats. Instead, you remove a part on the pedal body and replace it with an alternate one, which is thankfully included. The previous-generation CRM pedals used the same procedure, but the part you swapped was a little harder to get to. The new Carbon pedals makes the adjustment a quicker, more streamlined process. And speaking of hardware swaps, the pedal spindles can be replaced, offering spindle lengths from roughly 50mm to 62mm, similar to Speedplay.
Both shoes use a wonderfully-thin cleat that should be very easy to walk in, since it doesn't kick your toes up at such an awkward angle. But the surface of the cleats is very slick, and when they're new, they can be slippery on smooth surfaces like tile floors. So be very careful walking indoors on them until the cleats have had their first couple encounters with a gravel path, or concrete.
Keywin's approach to float is an interesting one, and basically the polar opposite of Speedplay. On the one hand, Speedplay has a zero-resistance float, and the float range is tunable. Keywin's float is fixed at 6 degrees, but the amount of resistance is tunable. Basically, it becomes tougher to swivel your foot as you increase the resistance. But it isn't a spring tension; your foot isn't pushed back to center. It's just tougher to move, like having your foot stuck in honey. Personally, I'm agnostic as to which mode is better, since as I've mentioned, I am now a fixed-cleat guy. And again, I'll get into that later on.
Stack height is a middle-of-the-road 14mm on the Carbons, and a rather high 17mm for the old CRM's. The lower you get, the better the feeling of power transfer, which you can understand intuitively. Imagine your pedal's stack height was a foot. Even assuming no other loss of efficiency, the long distance down to the pedal axle would make it difficult to always apply force perpendicular to the vector of travel. Your foot would probably start to wobble a bit at that distance. The lower your stack, the easier it is to apply force in the right direction. At the distances we're talking about, the differences are subtle, but definitely noticeable. A jump from 17mm (CRM) to 11mm (Speedplay) is pretty big, and I'd definitely recommend the new Carbon Keywins at 14mm for that reason alone, not to mention the other nice benefits they have in store. In all, the pedals are probably the best bang-for-the-buck of anything else in this review, and if you're in the market, you should definitely give Keywin pedals a close look.
A great product that deserves more attention than perhaps it gets