In riding the Xpedo Thrust SL I experienced an odd and surprising epiphany, one only tangentially related to my own preferences in cycling gear. With one possible exception, it is possible I’ve never ridden a a Look-compatible pedal at full tension. The one possible exception occurred years and years ago; I took a friend’s bike for a quick spin and his bike was equipped with the first-gen Dura-Ace pedal. I’d been riding the just-released Ultegra pedal, and that pedal’s major difference from the Dura-Ace was that it didn’t feature adjustable release tension. I went around the block on my buddy’s bike and when I pulled back into the parking lot at the shop where I worked, I twisted my heel—or rather, I attempted to twist my heel.
Nothing happened. I fell over.
In the intervening time whole music styles have come and gone, so I hope you’ll pardon me when I tell you I no longer recall whether he told me he had the release tension maxed out or not. Regardless, the release tension on those pedals was set so high that I had to hold the bike still while I wrestled my foot free from my unintentionally prone position.
I mention that as a way of framing my first mile on the Xpedo Thrust SL pedals. I rolled up to a light at an intersection only slightly less busy than O’Hare Airport. I twisted my heel, and when nothing happened, I made a quick right turn and rode up the handicapped ramp and on to the sidewalk and then gave it a second try, this one with a fair dollop more determination. Second time, charm, blah, blah, blah.
That experience wouldn’t be worth mentioning were it not for one significant detail: the Thrust SL does not feature release tension adjustability. Just why that isn’t a complete knock against it I’ll get to in a sec.
So how to to frame the release tension against what’s out there? I could tell you the Thrust SL is the exact opposite of the original Speedplay X pedal, but that doesn’t really tell you much. More helpful is to say that the Thrust SL’s release tension is set higher than any adjustable Look-compatible pedal I’ve tried straight out of the box. Most companies set their pedals right in the mid-range of release tension. The Thrust SL, I’m informed, features an elastomer spring set at about 80 percent of maximum release tension of Xpedo’s other adjustable pedals in the Thrust series. One does not clip out of the pedal unless one fully intends to.
So here’s where I tell you that I don’t flail. Years ago I was diagnosed (if you want to call it that, and I do) as having a biomechanically precise pedal stroke. My pedal stroke features no heel swing and used to feature no side-to-side knee movement. I can ride the black cleat. I mention this not as a brag, but to put in perspective why I’ve tended to ride with my pedals set to very low release tension. I don’t flail. I’ve never unintentionally clipped out during a spring (well, I did once, but that was because the cleat was worn out).
All this is to say make damn sure you want a pedal with high release tension before buying this pedal. So why such a cautionary message? Well, the next two features are why there might otherwise be a run on this pedal. If you run the red cleat, it features the smoothest, most unrestricted float of any Look-compatible pedal I’ve ridden. That’s helpful to any aging cyclist.
Construction features a carbon injection-molded body and a either a chrome-moly or titanium spindle. The chrome-moly pedals retail for $169, while the ti version goes for $249. My pair of the chrome-moly pedals weighed a but 202 grams. That’s not easy to do. That’s also 8gm less than they advertise. If you want to go lightweight, be aware the ti spindle does mean that this pedal has a 180-lb. rider-weight limit. The pedals use three cartridge bearings, so these pedals should last a very long time.
It’s a terrific pedal, but the release tension took some acclimation. They’re ideal for anyone who fancies himself a sprinter and still wants a light pedal that’s practically impossible to scrape when pedaling through corners.