Recommending contact point components on a bicycle is tricky business. Bars, Saddle, Pedals: that’s personal stuff. It’s probably why we have so much to chose from. I could glow about a certain pedal (say the LOOK KEO 2 MAX BLADE), recommend you try them, and you could end up with a sore knee. Not good.
But a least with LOOK, we have a whole lot of history to lean on. In 1984, LOOK introduced the first commercially successful clipless pedals. The LOOK cleat is THE cleat that started the three hole standard. Competitor TIME got into pedals thanks to Jean Beyl, the founder of LOOK. You go to spin class, you have two pedal choices: SPD and LOOK.
The poor pedal gets no visual love like a set of wheels or even bar tape. Once clipped into, the lowly pedal is hidden from the world by a Sidi or a Northwave or a Lake. They are stepped on, twisted, and scraped. They are there to help turn force into motion, not to make a fashion statement. But LOOK, they’ve turned the hard working, floor mopping pedal into the Cinderella of bicycle bindings. The KEO 2 MAX BLADEs are not only attractive, they are downright sexy.
Of course looks are only skin deep, or in this case injected-molded composite fiberglass deep. The body of the pedal is made out of the latter. Its shape was engineered with aerodynamics in mind. LOOK says the body that covers the blade improves airflow. The RKP wind tunnel has been down for maintenance so we’ll have to get back to you on any aerodynamic advantage.
A claim that we can confirm is that these pedals are light. The KEO 2 MAX BLADEs are 308g with cleats and screws. 120g per pedal. The important thing here is pedals are rotational weight where less is more is less – less weight, more spin speed, less effort. With a pair of LOOKs snugged into my Dura-Ace cranks, my circles had a quicker, easier feel.
Now lighter isn’t always better and that became apparent at stop signs and red lights. The pedal is so light that it does not consistently hang in the same position when dis-engaged. Pulling away from a stop and clipping back in took more than my normal amount of focus. The no-look clip-in became a hit or miss proposition. And the misses made me feel like a clipless newbie. I groped and clawed and flicked and fumbled, trying to get my size 46 into position. What I learned was to simply do as the name says: LOOK at the pedal as you are clipping into it. Suddenly, my pro-form was back.
When I did get lined up with the pedal properly, I found engagement to be like butter. On my first ride, I found myself questioning whether I had actually clicked in. With the BLADEs, clicking in is more like slipping in: The feel and sound are muted. LOOK says the “linear” resistance is due to a switch to a carbon spring. A metal spring’s tension tends to ramp up has pressure is applied. The carbon option is even tempered when under load. Score another one for CF.
Unclipping from the KEO 2 MAX BLADES requires more force than stepping in. There’s a definite spot where float ends and the pedal begins to open up. Once the pedal does start to release, the twisting required to complete the exit is smooth.
The blades come in two tension types. In other words, tension is preset. There are no adjustment screws but LOOK says customers not satisfied with tension can exchange their pedals for another pair. The non-blade models have the advantage here if dialing in resistance is a priority as they can be micro-adjusted with an allen key.
LOOK cut so much weight with carbon springs and composite surroundings that it allowed them to bulk up the platform on all BLADE models. For the KEO 2 MAX that means going from a 57mm width to 60mm. The cleat contact with the rear of the pedal has also been refined so that the entire contact area has been increased to 400 square millimeters. For the rider, that means better pedal stomping. When accelerations are called for and responded to, the feedback is solid and forward propelling.
Float, stack and width are areas that can be adjusted without much hassle. LOOK’s color-coded cleat system is a straight forward way to adjust float. I rode the greys which provided 4.5 degrees of heel movement. Spacers can be purchased to place between cleat and sole to address a leg length discrepancy. The spindle threads are 14mm, enough length for spacers that increase Q-factor by 2mm. We love the adjustability but wish the accessories needed came in the box.
The cleats come with a memory port that makes aligning replacement cleats more precise. It requires compatible shoes, which I do not have, but on paper it seems to make sense. And if nothing else, it eliminates tracing worn out cleats with a sharpie. The cleats were safe to walk on thanks to the anti-slip pads located on the bow and stern of each. I cruised the coffee shop with ease.
If you’re riding is routinely interrupted by a number of full stops, then these pedals could be a bit of a struggle. Bike commuters are not the target audience. But on rides with relatively few stops or for those who have mastered the traffic light-track stand, then the dance required to clip in can be disregarded. Hammer these pedals and you will be rewarded.
Funny thing about LOOK, when I was researching their past I found very little about the company’s history on its own website. In fact much of what I found about LOOK’s clipless history was on the Speedplay website. A little online museum where LOOK gets much of the credit for introducing and improving pedals as we now know them.
What you will find on LOOK’s website is a focus on its current technologies, like its KEO fit system that helps identify cleat position and float. KEO videos flash the names of current pros riding LOOKs: Boonen, Contador, Cavendish and the current world champ, Sagan. LOOK’s bicycle lineup is downright futuristic. The now classic Mondrian graphic is still part of the LOOK image and the company does pay homage to Hinault for winning the ’85 Tour clipped into PP65s. But clearly LOOK is going with the idea that reputation and innovation trump heritage when it comes to making and marketing bikes and bicycle products.