Real SPD Float: Look X-Track Pedals

Real SPD Float: Look X-Track Pedals

I never thought I’d see the day when the French company that invented the modern clipless pedal would license a design from a competitor, and not just any competitor, but the competitor: Shimano. The Look MTB pedal of today runs on SPD cleats.

Breathe with me. We’ll both get over this more quickly if we take some deep breaths.

The funny thing is that I didn’t even consider how strange it was to be mounting SPD cleats on a pair of shoes until I looked at the pedals sitting in the box.

Mon dieu!

It occurred to me they had done me a favor. SPD cleats wear out; not quickly, but they do wear out. Finding Look MTB cleats can be like trying to find a metric wrench in a Ford dealership.

The obvious question here is why go with Look when Shimano already does SPD pedals so well. For some riders, the answer will be prima facie: precisely because it’s not Shimano. Some people just want something else, and that’s just fine. For anyone running SRAM on their MTB or gravel bike, and you don’t want to go all Ghostbusters and cross the streams, here you go.

There’s a deeper answer here and that is that Look is a different company and they come up with different answers to the same questions that Shimano asks.

The X-Track is Look’s least expensive SPD pedal. It features an aluminum body with a chromoly spindle. The pedals spin on a steel-ball inner bearing and a bushing in the outer position with solid seals at both ends of the pedal to keep water and gunk out. Like most cross-country-oriented pedals, it doesn’t include a larger platform cage to support the foot if it’s not clipped in. Even so, it boasts 350mm² of surface area. Total stack height measures 16.8mm (10.7mm for the pedal and 6.1mm for the cleats). Look lists the weight for the pedals as 390g; mine came in at 391g.

Look claims the X-Track offers 6 degrees of float. Generally, I consider Look and Shimano road pedals’ use of the term “float” to be a stretch. Movement tends to be restricted until the cleat is fairly worn. When I think “float,” I think of Time and Speedplay. Those two companies are the masters of that.

What surprised and impressed me about the X-Track was the degree to which movement could legitimately be called float. What I hate is moving my heel a bit than then having the pedal hold the cleat in that position until I next choose to move it. With the X-Track I experienced the best float I’ve encountered after the Speedplay Syzr and the Time ATAC, respectively. Foot movement when clipped in is remarkably smooth. Given their relatively small size, ability to accommodate a moving foot and even release, I think these pedals are awesome for mixed-surface road riding. They’d also be dynamite for cyclocross.

I’ve not ridden these in especially muddy conditions, so while Look claims these shed mud well, I haven’t actually verified that. What I can say is that in wet conditions I’ve not had any trouble clipping in.

There are a few items associated with cycling where I think people sometimes have to be prepared to take a bit of a risk in order to find what works best for them. Riders who have a good relationship with a great retailer can sometimes get stuff to demo, but sometimes you just have to chew on ammunition. Saddles and shoes are the worst in regard to this, but handlebars and pedals can also pose a problem. Fortunately, this is the entry-level model of the X-Track, which leaves out all the carbon fiber and titanium (which results in cutting weight by 25 percent), but also leaves out the several-orders-of-magnitude increase in price. At $49.99 they are virtually risk-free. I was honestly shocked when I found out the suggested retail after taking some time to look them over.

In addition to the red shown here, they also come in black.

Final thought: Scoring points against Shimano isn’t easy to do.

 


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4 comments


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Technically true, I know; I still love the image of mechanics with wrenches that measure 3/4, 7/8, etc.

  1. Tominalbany

    I have a set of wrenches for metric and US measures. I use both sets. It’d be nice, though, to only have to buy one set…

    Patrick,

    I wrecked a couple of sets of SPDs back in the day. I love my Candy’s. Easy entry with enough platform to keep your foot comfortable. I also find the entry easier in all conditions than the SPDs ever were. I can’t really think of a good reason to ever go back to SPDs. What’s your thought on that?

    Thanks!

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