This Space for Rent

I am become death, the destroyer of clipless pedals

A few months ago (just before the Saltzman Road episode of the disaster of the week club) I decided that I’d try out clipless pedals just to see if they were substantially different from clips & straps. After a little bit of half-hearted research, I decided I’d try out Crank Brothers eggbeaters, which initially were absolutely marvelous – easy to fasten my feet to, easy to unfasten my feet from, secure when my feet were in them, and with a little bit of play so I could adjust my feet left/right on the pedals.

I wanted to see how clipless would work for everything, so I rolled all of my bicycles over to them, and was happier than a clam in batter.

Now fast forward about two months, and a few defects had become apparent with this pedal/cleat design.

I might have been able to tolerate one of these defects (might have) but the combination of the two rendered the pedals unsuitable for my purposes (it’s harder to enjoy the country scenery when you’ve got a clicky soundtrack, and having to buy 5-6 sets of cleats a year would get old really fast) so I pulled the eggbeaters (fortunately they’re from REI, so I can actually return them) and replaced them with a set of Shimano M520s.

Unlike the eggbeaters, the Shimano cleats don’t have any play; there’s only one place where your feet can go and by G-d that’s where your feet will be when you’re clipped in. It makes them a lot harder to adjust – on hot days, I’d periodically get cramps in my feet when climbing steep ramps – and I never got them to be completely comfortable. And, also unlike the eggbeaters, I couldn’t half-unlatch my feet when approaching a stop, then completely unlatch them at the stop – the Shimano cleats are either latched or unlatched and if I tried to half unlatch they’d forceably rematch themselves again. This was not a problem; I just had to train myself to be a little more deliberate when detaching myself from the bicycle.

But what was the problem was that after 2000 miles the pedals had started to click on me. In this case, it wasn’t that the bearings had ovalized, but some play had developed in the springs and they were either sliding or bumping up against the tension adjusters and clicking (A friend had recommended that I take the tension out as far as possible to make it easy to clip in/out, and I suppose I could increase the tension to see if that would make the pedals less clicky) so I pulled them to try a third alternative that another friend suggested.(I may go back to the Shimano pedals later if I can figure a good solution to the clicking, because Shimano uses steel cleats instead of brass, so after that 2000 miles the only signs of wear were that the bluing had been worn off their bottoms) in the form of Time ATAC pedals.

These pedals have only been on the mlcm for a couple of days, so I don’t know how they will wear (they use brass cleats, so I’m not particularly confident of their durability unless I can get steel replacement cleats) but I do know that they’re amazingly stiff. When Time says it’s a 15° rotation to unlatch, they mean it, and more than that I can feel my left shoe attempting to twist off my foot when I rotate it off the pedal.

If there’s any pedal that’s going to have me do the traditional clipless “fall over sideways while trying to detach my foot” dance, these are them.

You might think “why doesn’t he go back to clips and straps?

Well, sadly, I find I prefer clipless pedals because they’re more adjustable than clips and straps (it’s really easy to loosen and slide a cleat around. It’s not so easy to unbolt toeclips and add spacers to move the toe forward, or to replace the toeclips with shorter/longer ones.) When I de-eggbeatered my pile of bikes, I put clips and straps back on the trek and they are noticably less comfortable that the more bike-geeky solution (sadly, I’ve found that a lot of the more bike-geeky things out there, from jerseys with back pockets to tights to clipless pedals, work noticably better than my traditional approaches. Sigh) and I’m going to have to recliplessize it as soon as I work out which pedal type I prefer.

Hopefully “which pedal type I prefer” will also be a pedal that lasts more than 2 months.


Those Time pedals look extremely durable; I hope they work well.

In the event you try the Shimano again; remember there’s more than one kind of cleat, and it’s the cleat, rather than the pedal, which determines how much play you’ve got with the Shimano system. (SH51 cleat = foot goes here; SH56 cleat = foot goes somewhere around here.)

Graydon Sun Aug 19 12:58:24 2012

And, oh yeah – if you can put the bike on a stand and rotate the cranks by holding the pedal and it’s not clicking, you can totally take that out by upping the tension, because it’s the cleat coming out a little on the pedal stroke.

My experience is that the cleats have a wear-in period, kinda like brake or shifter cable stretch, and there’s going to be at least a half turn of tension uptake by the end of the wear-in. 2,000 miles is most emphatically out the other side of the expected wear-in period.

The other thing I’ve had happen is for tiny roundish pebbles to get wedged into something, so the latch never fully happens.

Graydon Sun Aug 19 13:02:57 2012

Speedplay Frogs. A ridiculous amount of play, plus, no adustments. Plus you can fully dismantle and service them.

Happy customer since 2002.

Lynne Mon Aug 20 17:29:56 2012

I’ll put them on the list :-) I suspect at the rate at which I destroy clipless pedals I’ll be needing to try them out sometime in November (just before I get the surgery on my shoulder and go offline for 4 months – this will have the benefit of making the pedals last longer, too.)

David Parsons Tue Aug 21 09:34:22 2012

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