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.
Socks are the candy bars of the cycling world. They are sugary, diverse and offer an ever-changing array of flavors. Each year someone at Interbike shows a pair of socks that captures some essential zeitgeist. This year, as it is most years, Sock Guy gets my nod for the best socks I have seen at the show. You can consider these an open letter to Valdimir Putin for his stance on gay athletes. They ought to sell by the million. I need to mention that while I’ve always liked Sock Guy socks, I mostly wore them with sneakers because they were so thick. These, however, are thin enough to fit along with your foot inside a tight pair of cycling shoes.
Xpedo has been doing great work in the pedal market and yesterday they were quietly showing a functional prototype of a wattage pedal. While they were willing to talk target pricing for it (which didn’t make me gasp), they aren’t ready to allow that to be published just yet. The system is promising if only for the fact that once you install or remove the pedal, no additional work is required; there are no additional parts to worry about.
BMC showed off a new edition of the Team Machine that I’m told has been lightened significantly without sacrificing comfort or stiffness. Road feel is said to be improved, which fits with my general experience with what happens when you remove material from a frame.
BMC also had disc-brake editions of the Gran Fondo. This is the GF02—the aluminum bike, which I’m told is every bit as compliant as the carbon version.
I’d call B.S. were it not for the fact that these seatstays are just as tiny as the carbon ones.
This is the new EC90 carbon wheel from Easton. This wheel is the first to put together aerodynamics, a wide rim profile, carbon clincher and tubeless. It’s a total no-brainer at least as far as appeal. The last time I was this excited to ride a wheel was following the introduction of the Zipp Firecrest line.
The carbon layup work on this wheel was remarkable. This is definitely the first carbon fiber rim bead that seemed capable of holding on to a road tubeless tire. And as I mentioned on Monday, the new hubs seem to have a design that will put previous bearing issues to rest. More than any other product I saw, these left me with the desire to commit a felony.
Pearl Izumi showed off lots of new apparel as you’d expect, but this new chamois caught my eye. The surface of the chamois itself was remarkably smooth, rather than, well, bumpy from lots of different foam profiles. The idea was to create something that would contact your skin more naturally and lay flat against your skin more easily, rather than just relying on the compression of the bibs.
These are the new P.R.O. In-R-Cool bibs in which the new pad will be used.
Among a great many other items I saw that I liked, this mountain bike kit was pretty interesting. I’m not huge on baggy shorts; it just doesn’t make much sense to me, but if you can have shorts that conceal the Lycra and still offer a fairly tailored fit, I can see the point. The zippers for ventilation at the front of the legs made immediate sense. The jacket was really well-cut and looked to be breathable enough so the inside didn’t turn into a hothouse.
Cervelo has revamped both the R3 and the S3.
Previously, when Cervelo has offered a revision of a lower model following big gains in a flagship model, the result has been a lighter, livelier ride. I should be able to get on both these bikes this winter. I’ve liked the R3 and thought it did a better job of replicating the ride of the top bike than most companies manage. The question now is just how much the ride of the S3 has been improved.
Primal Wear does a lot, nay, a metric ton of charity ride jerseys. I figured they just gave good pricing to the folks running these events. I was wrong about that. It turns out they donate a stunning amount of money to charity events each year, paying the charities a small royalty each time a jersey is sold. Based on what I was told, I estimate it’s somewhere in the mid-six-figure range.
They were showing two new base layers that will combine Primal’s penchant for affordability with their ability to source soft, breathable fabrics.
One of the things I most love about Primal Wear’s apparel is their ability to produce simple pieces that are both comfortable and affordable. So often, when I see stuff that seems a bargain, like this $60 jersey, they will be hamstrung by stiff threads or material that doesn’t breath well. This was a refreshing display of careful design and sourcing.
While brevity isn’t what most folks come to RKP for, these posts are necessarily brief and incomplete for two reasons: 1) the limited amount of time I have between walking out of the show and walking back in. There will be plenty more posts to come.
I’ve tried several different mountain bike pedals lately. As my riding has evolved and I’ve tried new and more challenging terrain, I realized there were occasions when the pedals I’ve preferred previously weren’t exactly ideal. Some of them were lighter than the fingers of a pickpocket. That tended to make them small as well. Light is good for going uphill and small is terrific for not tagging the pedal on a rock or tree stump. But as I’ve encountered more and more situations that are dicey enough that I want one foot clipped out and just resting on the pedal, some of those tiny pedals don’t have a lot of surface area to rest a shoe that isn’t clipped in. On more than one occasion I had a foot shoot off just as I was being bounced around.
That wasn’t even my second favorite.
When I ran across the Baldwins from Xpedo I experienced an oddly conflicted reaction to them. They simultaneously looked like exactly what I needed and yet too large, too industrial for my needs, a butcher knife for a letter opener.
Then I tried them.
The first thing I want to mention about my experience with these pedals is that a heel-down entry was possible even without having a front gate on the pedal or the tension set to muscle relaxer. So many pedals I’ve tried won’t allow you to catch the rear of the cleat first and engage the pedal that way unless the tension is turned down too much to make the pedal effective at retaining feet. The Baldwins allowed me to keep the tension up plenty high so my feet couldn’t get bounced out accidentally, and yet I had no problem engaging either the front or rear of the cleat first.
Keeping the tension reasonably high also meant that on those occasions I wanted to tackle a descent with one foot out, getting bounced around never once resulted in my foot becoming unintentionally engaged. That happened at some point on most other pedals. Either my foot got bounced off or accidentally engaged, neither of which were terrific results.
The very features that made the Baldwin seem a bit more serious than perhaps I warranted turned out to be some of its best points. The fact that the cage around the pedal itself has little edges and corners to increase the ability of the shoe to hang on to the pedal made a big difference in clipped-out riding. The point was driven home in riding my bike with sneakers on. The last time I felt such a stable platform without cleats may have been prior to puberty.
The most obvious competitor to this pedal has been Shimano’s PD M985, the XTR trail pedal. That pedal has taken some knocks, though, for poor bearing seals and short bearing life. The Baldwin features three cartridge bearings. I began riding these pedals just before a tour I did in Oregon (still working on that feature) and I’ve put some significant mileage on these things since then. So far, the seals are holding up well but the bearings spin easily making the pedal easy to orient by just putting your foot down.
The cleats included with the Baldwins look almost identical to the old SPD road cleat; they are, however, wider. While I wondered about the wisdom of using such a big cleat, it was a brilliant stroke as the cleat engages a more of the pedal, giving you an even more solid purchase. I can’t say that any mountain pedal/cleat combination ever provided me with such a stable platform.
While you can get this pedal with a titanium spindle, I like the extra strength that comes with using a Chrome-Moly spindle. Some stuff doesn’t need to be ultra-lightweight, and in the case of the Baldwin, going ti only saves 40g off the already lighter-than-XTR 332g of my Baldwins, which was bang on the money with what Xpedo claimed the weight would be.
It’s possible to spend silly money on a pair of pedals, hundreds of dollars. For all the complaints I get about reviewing stuff that costs more than a semester at a private school, the Baldwins are refreshingly affordable thanks to their $119 suggested retail price. The pedal body comes in four colors: black, gray, gold and pink. I really fell for the gold (orange), but knew they’d look silly on my bike, so I went for the gray. Now that I have these on my bike, I’m disinclined to try anything else. That’s the truest measure of how good a product is—when you don’t want to keep looking.