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.