First off, I use Shimano SPD pedalson my mountain bike. I use Shimano SPD-SL pedals on both my road bike and my time trial bike. But after spending a couple days researching and writing about Speedplay and Look KeO pedals, I’m left to conclude that Shimano is resting on its Japanese pedal laurels.
The latest brilliance in Shimano design was to increase the width of the platform on the road SPD-SL series and to add a stainless steel plate cover between where the cleat meets the aluminum body. Meanwhile Speedplay and Look are crafting bike pedal bodies out of special carbon/resin formulas and turning titanium spindles off their lathes.
I’m the first to admit that ‘high modulus carbon fiber formed under extreme pressure’, as is done when manufacturing the high end Look HM Ti pedal may not be essential. However, Look is trying to push the technology envelope. The Shimano Dura-Ace still uses a clunky aluminum body.
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While others are dabbling in titanium spindles, Shimano SPD pedals use chromoly (Chromoly is a steel alloy mixing chromium and molybdenum. It’s noted for its excellent strength to weight ratio.) just like the good ole days. The problem may be that the good ole days aren’t what a high-tech sport like cycling is looking for.
When it comes to weight, the high end Shimano Dura-Ace SPD-SL weighs in at 348 grams for the entire package. The entire package includes both pedals, cleats and screws to attach the cleats to the pedals (the inclusion of the screws in the weight is questionable since Look makes a point of stating that they are included. Speedplay and Shimano make no such clarification).
The Look HM Ti weighs in at 258 grams for the entire package.
The Speedplay Nanogram weighs in at 186 for the entire package.
I’ve been right up there with those who mock cyclists falling into the ‘weight weenies’ category, so I may not be the best guy to point out the importance of weight savings. However, over the course of the last couple years I‘ve learned the difference between rotational weight and merely ‘too big of a butt’ weight.
Weight on bike items like wheels and cranks is more important than weight that doesn’t have to ‘spin up to speed’. Because bike speed is varying on an almost constant basis (little lulls and surges), parts like Shimano SPD pedals contribute to a disproportionate amount of energy consumption as they are accelerating and decelerating continually. The effect is even more pronounced with wheels.
The Recessed Shimano SPD Pedal Cleat…Eliminating The Clippity Clop
Any rider who’s not a hard-core roadie may do well to use the small recessed Shimano SPD cleat system that’s popular with cyclo-cross, mountain bike, and bike touring riders.
Right off the bat, it’s nice to be able to walk around without your toes pointing skyward. There’s also the option of clipping-in onto either side of a lot of SPD pedals (we’re talking about SPD pedals that aren’t the ‘road only’ SPD-SL series).
The little SPD cleats on my mountain bike set-up do cake up with mud at times.
Additionally, after tipping over several times in the middle of ill-advised small river crossings, I’m here to testify that twisting out of the Shimano SPD pedal system isn’t foolproof. I’m one wet fool who can attest to that!
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