Happy Knees: Time Atac XC6 Pedals

Happy Knees: Time Atac XC6 Pedals

Over the years, I’ve noticed that the more static my position is on the bike, the less my pedals need to accommodate. If I’m riding country roads in Europe, I may only clip into my pedals two or three times over a four- to five-hour ride, so smooth entry isn’t a big deal. But if I’m doing a group ride with a bunch of stoplights, smooth entry becomes a bigger deal. When the surface turns to dirt, a smooth entry becomes a bigger deal. I’m likely to unclip more often and unclip on uneven terrain, so an ultra-smooth exit with less than a moment’s notice also becomes important. And as my movement on the bike becomes more dynamic, float becomes more important because I don’t want all that twist going into my knees.

The realm in which I’ve found the combination of float and ease of entry and release to be particularly important is mixed-surface riding. When I’m on the road, I still want that feeling of float that I get with Speedplay Zeros, but I want a pedal that isn’t going to foul up if I walk through sand. And once I’m in the dirt, my movements are going to be bigger, more extreme. In short, my wiggle factor goes up by a factor of 10.

That’s what led me to the Time Atac XC6. Of the many off-road pedal systems I’d tried, the Time Atac had escaped me, partly because when I was at other publications other editors were better versed in them.

Quality and performance-wise, the XC6 is positioned mid-way through the Time lineup. It features a composite body (not carbon fiber) and a chromed steel axle (chromed to give it a harder, smoother finish) that is hollow to reduce weight. My pair weighed in at 289 grams, without cleats.

Time claims that the particular design of the pedal is great for mud shedding, that the open front allows the shoe to push mud through and allow flawless engagement of the cleat. I can say from previous experience that if I need to twist my foot around until I think I hear a click and then go to hit the afterburners only to have my foot lift off the pedal, I am, in a word, dishappy.

I used the Atacs at a recent cyclocross race that wasn’t Belgium-muddy, but it was muddy enough and engagement was nearly foolproof at each remount, and to the degree that it wasn’t flawless, that can be attributed to me not yet have a sixth sense about foot position the way I do with SPDs.

One of my favorite features of the pedals isn’t really a pedal feature. The Atac cleats feature an asymmetric shape. Position them one way and the release angle is 13 degrees. Swap them to the opposite shoes and the release angle increases to 17 degrees. I ran them in this latter configuration and have yet to identify a reason to run them the other way. The 17-degree release gives me a greater ability to move around on my bike, especially on descents, without risking an accidental release.

Rotational float comes in at 5 degrees, but the Atacs also offer a feature unique to Time pedals: lateral float of 6mm. The combination of both lateral and rotational float results in a pedal that enjoys a surprisingly gentle relationship to the cleat without ever letting go until the full release angle is reached.

I had several riders comment that they looked like Crank Brothers pedals, which is a reversal from what people were saying back in 2002. Regardless, the Atac is an inherently different pedal and striking the bottom of the pedal on a rock cannot result in an unintended cleat release.

Suggested retail for the XC6 is $175. Other models in the range can shave the weight by 50g while doubling the price or cutting the price in half while increasing weight only marginally. I’d say the XC6 offers the best mix of performance to cost of the bunch.

Of all the off-road pedal systems I’ve tried, the Atac has the smoothest, most consistent float.

Final thought: A great way to ward off knee replacement.

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  1. Lyle Beidler

    You touched on how they compare to Crank Brothers in the looks department, and the fact that they eliminate “cleatastrophes” (I think Fatty may have coined that term). How to they feel compared to Crank Brothers, in terms of ease of engagement/disengagement, and floating?

    1. Gummee!

      The last I checked, Times and Look S-Tracks both had bearings. Not a bearing and bushing setup like the Crank Bros. Not having to pull them apart and re-lube ever so often make these pedals much much better than about anything else.

      Having said that, I’d been riding ATACs off-road for years before I took up CX. The somewhat tenuous-feeling disengagement didn’t inspire confidence I was out of my pedals on the way to the barriers so I switched to SPDs.

      There *have* been a few races over the years where I’ve wished for the mud/snow/ice clearance of the ATACs


    2. Author

      I definitely prefer the overall feel of the Atacs to Crank Brothers, but that’s not to say I dislike the feel of the Crank Brothers’ pedals. Gummee! makes a great point about how a pedal feels as it disengages, but I get enough feedback from the Atacs that I’m not disturbed by the float prior to unclipping.

  2. Mike C

    Tried SPDs, tried CBs, but have been an ATAC zealot for well over a decade now. Can’t understand why more people don’t try them because they would fall in love, and that pains me additionally because it’s hard to find them in stock locally.

    You didn’t touch on what is perhaps my favorite feature – the “platform.” While being great at shedding, there’s still plenty of face available to push power through when you had trouble clipping in or simply aren’t ready to.

  3. marco

    Time addict here. I used ATACs for a good 10 years for both MTB & CX and loved them, especially the wide platform. makes for happy feet. I just got tired of the clear wearing out a bit too quick. Plus, the cleat wore a groove in the pedal body so engagement wasn’t so great. Probably just needed to replace the pedals.

    As for road, I love my Time RXS pedals, but they won’t last forever so may go to xpressos soon. Hope to use time road pedals forever.

    Overall, very happy knees.

  4. George

    ATACs were the first clipless pedals I bought for my original MTB (’96 Specialized Stumpjumper). I had done a lot of reading, being more nerd than an actual cyclist, and these seemed like the best bet. The ease of getting in an out of the pedals made me a happy man (compared to my Time road pedals, which were my first experience with clipless pedals in the very early 90’s and produced more “timber!” moments than good feelings), but the fall on a leafy off-camber hill path where my feet simply popped out instead of my bike throwing me for a loop made me a convert. I now own 4 bikes all with ATACs, including my BMC road bike. They simply work well and I’m not fast enough to worry about the extra grams or wind resistance. I just want to enjoy the ride and these work great. Oh, and the original lime green ATACS are still on my Stumpy.

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