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Pedals for Knees!
A Speedplay Pedal Review
By Gary Kristense
Army Cycling Union

Most real bike riders ask me what the hell I have for pedals. They are speedplays, in my opinion the best pedals on the market, albeit they are expensive. I have tried them all just about, Look, Time, spd's, be-bops, toe straps and slotted cleats, etc.! None are as good or as durable.

Speedplay pedals, aka "Lollipops" have been popular with triathletes for quite a while in the UK. Why? - they allow entry on both sides of the pedal, therefore making it less complicated to locate the cleat. "Not so much of a problem for us" I hear you the roadie or tester cry, but the X-system (see photo) has far more benefits than quick entry alone. Check this out:

1. The pedals and cleats are extremely lightweight - the top end titanium X-1 with cleats weigh a scant 246 gr for both pedals and the 3 hole "Look" type mounting platform. For four hole mounting subtract 46 gr!

2. Pedal stack height is low. So the foot is kept as close to the pedal axle as possible, better for mechanical efficiency.

3. The best rotational free play of any pedal anywhere! The X-3 will do 25 degrees and the X-2 and X-1's 28 degrees of "heel out" foot float.

4. Very easy to set up. Just adjust fore and aft position to get the ball of the foot over the pedal axle as normal and centralise the cleat on the shoe, the rotational play in the cleat/pedal means no fiddling around on turbos trying to get the cleat in the correct place! Easy!

5. Rotational float is smooth and free. Some people find this is quite strange at first, that the foot can rotate so freely, but after a few rides it is likely you will no longer notice. Some people report that they cannot get on with the amount of free float and how "loose" they feel rotationally, but everyone is different.

6. Simple design and construction but very robust. I still have the first pair of pedals that I ever bought in 1987 and they are still on my winter bike. They get greased every 6 months (by me) and that is that! The cleats are also very reliable and long lasting. The first pedal cleats lasted until mid 2000 - that's 13 years, until one of the spring wires became too worn through and snapped.

7. Improved cornering clearance. A must for crit or track riders. The speedplay locking mechanism is located in the cleat resulting in a thin pedal profile. Speedplay pedals maximize corner clearance, and greatly reduce the risk of a pedal hitting the ground.

8. Security of foot to pedal. You will not pull out of the speedplay cleat. You will not do it! The locating mechanism is two spring steel wires that locate front and rear into steel plates on the pedal itself. The wires physically hook under the plates and will only release when the foot is twisted outwards beyond the locating arc. I have never pulled out of a pedal in all the time I
have used them (15 years plus), importantly more so during my time as a real bike rider in the last 4 years riding the road and doing sprints in real road races. Because there is no tension adjustment, release is easy. Normal pedals rely on increased spring tension for better retention and therefore harder release.

9. A natural pedalling path for your ankles and knees. Due to the lack of spring tension means that the foot, ankle and knees are free to rotate on the pedals and your joints will be allowed to move in their natural paths while pedalling. This relieves the fixed position that normal pedals have, which sometimes result in overuse or other injuries due to a poor biomechanical relationship between knees and feet.

10. User maintainable. The pedals contain sealed unit replaceable roller bearings that can be purchased from any stock bearing supplier in Yellow Pages. All pedals also have needle roller bearings, which are still going strong on my original pedals. The pedals come with a speedy luber plastic cap that can be used to inject grease into the pedal. I find it is more effective to take the pedal apart and grease in that way, but lazy, non-mechanical types can do it the recommended way!!

The main disadvantage of these pedals is that they are expensive. The top end X-1's will set you back about 180 from UK retailers (see list of who I know sell them and discount potential!!). BUT, most people I know who have tried them, swear by them and never go back to normal systems. The best way would be to borrow a set for a week and give them a try. If you
see me around the races, ask for a go on mine and I might let you (if I like you!). Not during the race of course!


Tri - UK, 8-10 South Western terrace, Yeovil, Somerset - 07000 874854, ask for Chris or Glenn and mention the Army CU for a probable discount.

Behind the Bikesheds - Charlton, Andover, Hants - 01264 338794, ask for Phil Jacobs and tell him Gary from the Army CU put you his way and you might charm some discount off him!







The speedplays come in other designs for mtb and track. There is a new speedplay system called "Speedplay Zero". The rotational movement can be adjusted and the feet fixed in a set position if required (0 to 15 degrees float). Slightly heavier than the X systems, but they come in different colours, so you might be interested if you want to colour co-ordinate and all that!!


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