TriRig's Pedal Shootout

 Jul 29, 2012 article & images by Nick Salazar

Keywin pedals use a unique locking mechanism that is simple and effective.

"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.

The new Carbon pedals are a refinement of the original CRM design.

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.

Pros
  • Light weight at affordable prices
  • Easy to install and use
  • Replaceable spindles for Q-factor adjustment
 
Cons
  • Two-stage pedal entry takes getting used to
  • Stack height isn't the lowest around

A great product that deserves more attention than perhaps it gets
Rating: 4.5


Tags » aerolite,  keywin,  pedals,  shimano,  speedplay
  • Dura Ace pedals are the gold standard: rock solid function, bombproof dependability, and beautiful looks. Unfortunately, they're a bit pricey, and not very light compared to other offerings.
  • Dura ace pedal tension is set by a single hex bolt.
  • The ski-binding clamshell is a design that has been around for decades, and works well.
  • No more exposed spring; Dura-Ace keeps things tidy and protected from road grime.
  • A replaceable wear plate extends the life of these already very durable pedals.
  • I ride fixed, so for Shimano's pedals that means using the red cleats. Float is achieved by using the yellow cleats, which have a smaller 'nose' up front.
  • Dura Ace Carbon pedals have a rather large platform, although in our opinion platform size is a bit of a red herring, especially as carbon soles become so much stiffer.
  • The distinctive profile of the Dura-Ace pedals is impossible to miss. Their stack height looks super low, but is actually in the middle of the road.
  • The new Keywin Carbon pedals. I'm a big fan of Keywin's bold willingness to stick to their guns and use a unique pedal mechanism. It works well, and keeps the weight low.
  • Most of the Keywin pedal consists of injection-molded plastic parts, and the new version also has carbon in the mix for lighter weight and a stiffer body.
  • Instead of using the ski binding style to retain the pedals, Keywin uses a novel locking system that is effective, durable, simple, and very light.
  • Keywin's pedal allows for float tension to be controlled or removed via adjustments at the pedal itself. Here, I'm removing the 6-degree float insert, which will be replaced by my preferred fixed insert.
  • With the insert out, you can see the interior of the pedal. Installing the fixed-pedal insert was a snap - literally.
  • The thin cleats look easy to walk on, but might be a little slick on smooth surfaces, until they get roughed up with use and develop a little more grip.
  • Maintenance of the Keywin Carbon pedals is easy, most of it is accessible through the screws and nuts on the underside of the pedal body.
  • There are tons of pedals on the market, but most of them share one of a few different mechanical concepts.
  • TriRig decided to take a look at four distinct pedals, each with a different mechanism, and uncover how their strengths and weaknesses play out for triathletes.
  • Aerolite is the undisputed king of simplicity and light weight, but unfortunately is very inconvenient to use.
  • With only three parts, and about 40 grams per pedal, there's nothing that even comes close to beating the Aerolite, for those who can tolerate its eccentricities and inconvenient mounting.
  • Aerolite's primary disadvantage is that you have to drill your shoes in order to use them. TriRig will soon be manufacturing a pedal that uses this type of retention mechanism, but eliminates the drawbacks.

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