The clipless pedal market is highly competitive. Look have always been a favourite of the pro-peloton since their breakthough in the late eighties. Then Time and Shimano pushed the design further to allow for float and lower stack heights. In recent years a few riders have been switching to US manufacturer Speedplay. Most notably Tyler Hamilton, who has used the system for the majority of his career. And not all the pro-users are contracted to ride them, so most ‘choose’ to use them.
Having used just about every pedal system on the market I have never found one that I am immediately comfortable with. They all have their good points and bad points, although a lot of this is down to personal preference. Pedals are a contact point and therefore dependant on a rider’s individual riding characteristics so finding a system that suits everyone isn’t simple. Speedplay pedals are, however, simple and highly effective. Yet, until now, they have been highly expensive. So what can you expect from their budget pedal?
The basic Speedplay design principle is upside down. The cleat being the spring and release mechanism and the pedal is the fixed cleat. This means the pedal body is simple (and therefore small) and can recess itself into the cleat.
Although the pedal is small the cleat allows for a large contact area so there is no pressure point or hot-spot under the foot. The cleat design also means there is a lack of ‘cleat rock’. That is, where the pedal cleat rolls over as you press on the pedals (Something that Look users will be aware of especially as the cleat wears out, the noise can be very irritating and similarly users of MTB dual sided pedals (SPD) with road shoes where the lack of support makes the foot very unstable) I have never heard a squeak from a speedplay system, which means no friction and wasted energy due to poor contact surfaces.
The Zero’s can be fixed or float, I have used the X-system (which has no fixed option) in the past and found there to be perhaps a bit too much float, but some people like this freedom to find your ideal position. The float on the Zero can be micro-adjusted anywhere within a 0-15 degree range using inward rotation and outward rotation limit screws. Speedplay’s locking mechanism is super secure, you will not pull your foot out as the engagement security is independent of spring tension.
The double sided aspect is very welcome, there is no looking down to ‘find’ the pedal and so it means instant engagement every time. It uses a standard step-in, turn-out entry and release and is compatible with virtually all 3-hole and 4-hole shoe mountings.
Mechanically Speedplay have a major edge on the competition. A built-in grease port for easy bearing lubrication keeps the two precision cartridge and one needle bearings running smooth. But the best thing is you can rebuild the pedal completely. every part is available as a spare and they are very simple to strip and rebuild. The Cro-mo version has a treated axle to keep rust at bay, however there is a rust-proof stainless steel or a titanium spindle version available.
The cleats do require some servicing and attention. They can stop working if you get mud in them and need a little light oil and cleaning to keep them working perfectly. Remember to read the instructions before assembly especially when fitting the cleat to the shoe and don’t try running in them, the cleats are really slippy (and scratch your best wooden floors). Speedplay make some covers to fit (Coffee Shop Caps) and these make walking a little safer.
Weight & Price comparisons (per pair)
Good: An excellent system, function is a cut above the rest
Bad: Cleats need love and attention, especially when fitting
For a local Speedplay dealer go: here
For more on Speedplay go: here