Pedals are available to suit all budgets, from wallet-friendly cheapies to eye-wateringly expensive bling. However, you don’t have to spend hundreds of pounds — many companies’ mid-range pedals off er most of the benefi ts of the priciest models. At this price point we start seeing improved bearings for a longer life, more carbon-fi bre for weight reduction and better spring retention.
TheMax Blade has no user adjustment to entry or exit tension but is available in either a lighter-action 8Nm, or the 12Nm version we have here. Upon engagement the first thing you notice is a really audible, positive click so you certainly know when you are clipped in. Even though the carbon blade is lighter than a metal spring the pedal still manages to sit nose-up, allowing easier location of the cleat.
For the initial few uses clipping in was relatively difficult coupled with a notchy feel to the typical ‘heel out’ release movement. As the pedal and cleat began to bed in this stiff ness did ease and the action became smoother.
The Blades provided a really stable platform when sprinting or climbing out of the saddle. The limited fl oat (4.5°) grey cleats helped with this solid feel. It’s good to see Look using a stainless steel contact surface on the pedal as one of the issues of its older pedals was rapid wear of the pedal body. These should last a lot longer.
Look cleats have always been prone to excess wear (especially from walking) and the new design is no diff erent. They have, however, improved the cleat engagement points, using a harder material to ensure a more reliable connection.
Look Keo 2 Max Blade 12Nm – OUR SCORE: 4.7/5.0
Boasting the widest body on test, the Ultegra SPD-SL is one solid platform of a pedal. The latest 6800 version has a carbon composite body to keep weight down and, like previous versions, has a replaceable steel plate to limit wear caused by shoe and cleat movement. Like the Exustars, the Ultegra pedals also feature adjustable spring tension, widening their appeal — though the range of tension settings are slightly stronger than on Shimano’s entry-level pedals. In use, the Ultegras felt very smooth, bearing quality felt better than the others and like previous Shimano pedals I would expect them to maintain this smoothness for years to come. If they do needmaintenance they are easy to dismantle.
Engagement is accompanied by a loud click and the feel while pedalling is one of assured stability. Sprinting is solid and the wide body spreads pedalling loads evenly. Even on the lightest tension, accidental unclipping is next to impossible. The Ultegra pedals with Shimano’s SM-SH11 yellow cleats, offer six degrees of float and the most ‘normal’ feel when clipped in. The optional blue front pivot cleats only allow the rear of the shoe tomove if you prefer a more solid connection without resorting to fixed cleats. Cleat wear is good for an all-plastic cleat and the colour-coded material is slightly softer in compound, allowing some grip while walking. A perfect, reliable option.
Shimano PD-6800 Ultegra SPD-SL – OUR SCORE: 4.8/5.0
The lightest pedals on test, the Zeros are a weight-weenie’s delight. Speedplay places all of the adjustment and retention mechanismon the cleat affording the Zero a double-sided design, making clipping in a breeze. Just step down and go, no fumbling about.
Even though the cleat set-up takes a littlemore time than other systems, the large amount of fore-aft and lateral movement of the cleat makes the Zero a good option for riders with foot and/or leg issues. Speedplay also allows the user to set their own, preferred level of float by way of small grub-screws, allowing anywhere from a fi xed to 15° of movement.
The set spring tension of the Speedplay system can feel very difficult to engage and release for the fi rst few attempts but the spring does bed in after a couple of rides and engagement becomes easier. The design prevents accidental unclipping, adding to the secure feel.
Despite their tiny size, the solid connection with the cleat gives a comfortable, stable platform, even when pedalling hard.
Speedplay is the only pedal company that encourages you to regularly grease and maintain its pedals and provided you do so they will last (helped by having all contact points in metal). This maintenance regime might not appeal if you prefer to just fit and forget. Cleat wear is excellent due to themetal outer, but small amounts of dirt can restrict engagement and wet tiles need to be approached with caution!
Speedplay Zero Chromoly – OUR SCORE: 4.8/5.0
Exustar may be a new name to a lot of readers but the company has been steadily building a reputation for providing excellent value clipless pedals. The catchily titled E-PR2WH 2 pedals combine a wide, durable thermoplastic body with a Look Keo-compatible cleat.
Straight from the box the Exustar pedals have lovely smooth bearings and sit proudly nose upwards, presenting a large target for the front of the cleat to hit when riding away from the lights.
Spring tension is adjustable with a 3mm Allen key and even on its lightest setting, provided your cleats are in good condition, unclipping accidentally while riding is almost impossible.
The PR2 has a wide body but for some reason didn’t feel as stable as some of the other systems when applying power. I’m also a little concerned by the longevity of the body material as it lacks a metal shield so will eventually wear. The good news is the pedal can be rebuilt so excess wear of the body might not necessitate throwing them away.
Only available in white, the pedals started to look rather worn even after the first couple of rides; a black option would be preferable. Exustar provides both fixed and floating cleats, which is a nice touch, although the majority of riders will never touch the fixed cleats. Cleat wear is on a par with the Look pedals and the cleats have a grippier compound on the face to reduce the likelihood of slipping over when walking.