Sampson Sports s5 Pedals

My first experience with Sampson products came back in 1987 when a coworker at the bike shop I worked at bought a Centurion Ironman spec’d with Sampson pedals. For those of you who don’t recall these pedals, they featured an unusual L-shaped cleat that wrapped around the back of the pedal. They featured a unique clutch that held the pedal in place after you clipped out so that upon clipping in again it was in (hopefully) exactly the right position to clip in without fumbling around with your shoes.

The cleats were very difficult to walk in and broke. A lot. I wasn’t exactly impressed.

A few years went by and I received a test bike from Sampson. It was made from Reynolds 853 steel. For construction, Eric Sampson sought out Reynolds’ famous frame shop in Nottingham, England. This was the frame shop where all the Ti-Raleigh frames were built, a shop with as much history as there is to be found in the bike industry. The bike included a few different Sampson components, including cranks.

The bike was one of my favorites of the quartet that I reviewed. My opinion of Sampson changed dramatically.

Since then, I’ve reviewed two more Sampson bikes. Each time, he has done something essentially unknown among his competitors: He calls me and asks me what could be better. Invariably, I get another call a few months later in which he tells me about what changes he was able to make to respond to my suggestions.

I confess, during these calls I rock back in forth in my chair, grinning at my obscene power. Weekly calls of this sort could give me an ego transportable only by 18-wheeler.

So a couple of weeks ago I received a pair of the new s5 pedals. They feature steel spindles, a lightweight alloy body, a 62mm-wide cleat platform, three cartridge bearings and a cam-graduated hinge to make entry easier. The s6 pedals feature a titanium spindle.

Sampson claims a weight of 121g per pedal. My test pedals weighed exactly 121g each (the titanium model has a claimed weight of only 99g per pedal). I was so dumbfounded, I weighed them a second time. I can’t recall the last time a weight was accurate to the gram. Eric says he weighed at least eight pairs himself just to make sure the weight was dead-on.

Eric says that unlike most competitors’ pedals the contact plate on the s5 is replaceable to allow you to keep the look of the pedals new. The spring tension is also very adjustable thanks to a 20-position indexed Allen bolt. The cleats mount via a standard three-hole mounting pattern.

I’ve been a Speedplay X user for more than 10 years. While I have some other pedals at my disposal, Speedplays have been my pedals of choice. Non-Speedplay users tend to be critical of the system, pointing out how shoes will rock side-to-side when the cleats are worn. I tend to replace my cleats pretty frequently and never have any complaints about rocking or the amount of float when using them. It feels perfectly natural.

Okay, so that said, the Sampson’s are striking for their secure feeling. My cleats featured no float, which added to the ultra-positive power transfer. Entry and release is easy enough. I’ve set the release tension pretty low; thrashers afraid of unwanted release can increase tension dramatically.

Suggested retail for the s5 is $139, while the s6 goes for $239. Initially, they will be available in red and white. My test pedals are pre-production; they should be available in black in June.

I’m not sure there’s much more to say about a pair of pedals other than they are light, easy to get into and release and, best of all, provide a secure platform. By comparison both the Dura-Ace 7800 and 7810 pedals—while good pedals—they are heavier than the Sampsons, don’t feel quite as secure and are more expensive. Same for the Look Keo Sprint.

For years I wrote that Sampson products were a terrific value because they typically offered 85 percent of the performance of the top-drawer stuff for 50 percent of the cost. Those days are gone. He said he wants to compete head-to-head with companies like Shimano. After riding these pedals, there’s no denying that they are a great alternative to Shimano and Look.

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  1. Souleur

    Sampson is making a name for himself, no doubt. I am interested also in his grouppo…..have you had a chance to rate??
    will look for the pedals to add to the fleet, as I have been in the market for some. These look simple stupid smart.

    which cleat do these require??

    1. Author

      The cleats are Look compatible, which is to say they are NOT Shimano compatible. Why that divergence needed to take place, I’ll never know.

  2. swissarmy

    I had a pair of those old Sampson pedals. Not only did the cleats break, but I once had the left pedal body slide off the axle in the final corner of a criterium right before I stood up to sprint. Fortunately the worst that happened was my leg was left dangling in mid-air as I lost my #3 position out of the corner and was swallowed up by the rest of group.

    I’m glad to see Sampson didn’t give up on pedals altogether as those early versions were some of the lightest you could get at the time. And Padraig I agree it is too bad they didn’t make the new version Shimano compatible or I met be more inclined to give them a try.

    1. Author

      Swissarmy: Sampson had to choose either Shimano or Look. Why those two manufacturers would make their cleats and pedals so similar and yet incompatible boggles my mind. I can’t get my head around it. Colossally stupid. I mean like Paris Hilton stupid. Sampson had to choose one or the other. I’m not surprised that he chose to be compatible with the brand less threatened by his full complement of parts.

  3. SinglespeedJarv

    Interesting, never heard of Sampson before, I’m guessing it hasn’t made it out of the states? I’d love to try different pedals, but to move away from Time gives me the fear.

  4. Dan O

    I’ve heard of Sampson – but have never seen any of their products in the flesh- uh, metal…or carbon.

    I always dig reading about folks coming up with their own products and giving it a go – especially drive train, pedals, and other items already out there from the big boys – Shimano, Campy and the like.

    Calling reviewers direct for input is a cool move. If I was Sampson, I’d be doing the same thing – as well as calling actual customers for feedback. How cool would that be?

  5. maxrad

    Back in the day, I had a pair of early Sampsons come my way, but I was already evaluating a set of 1st-gen Time pedals (the ones where all the spring-loaded plastic bits exploded if you ever tagged pedal in a corner). So I gave the Sams to my wife to try. She showed up one afternoon with a strawberry the size of the Gadsen Purchase on one thigh, didn’t speak to me for a week, and divorced me shortly thereafter.

    True story.

  6. Nate Griffin

    Between all the unfinished, sharp edges at the back and the simple nut adjustment thing at the rear, this is one of the most crude products I have seen for cycling.

    But, I see that this is ‘pre-production’, so maybe I should ease up.

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