Pedals for Lighter Riders

A version of this article was originally
published in Triathlete Magazine

I am a smaller rider (115 lbs) and have always had problems getting in and out of clipless pedals. What would you suggest?

Trina, via email

Dear Trina,

Your pedal dilemma is one that we hear about regularly, especially from newer or lighter/smaller riders. Luckily, more pedal manufacturers seem to be realizing the issue and the result is that many of the latest pedal designs require less effort without compromising retention in the process. Some of the better options are as follows:

Time iClic – Time’s latest generation design directly addresses ease of entry by using a “blade” made of composite or carbon fiber instead of a metal spring. The benefit of this design is that it depends on the shape of the blade and how it engages the cleat to retain rather than spring tension and this means that the force required to engage the pedal is extremely low. Another beauty of the iClic design is that it still retains at a level a pro racer can use vertically, so you won’t be pulling out of it under heavy efforts. Time offers the iClic design across their entire range of pedals and the design maintains Time’s well protected café cleat design and unique angular float feature.

Look KEO Blade – Like the Time iClic, the Keo Blade by Look uses a carbon engagement blade instead of a metal spring to hold the cleat. In addition, Look uses “bimaterial” in the design to create great rigidity in the platform while dramatically reducing friction between the cleat and pedal. The result is a design that requires 30% less effort to release than a standard Look Keo with a metal spring and is lighter and more rigid (for maximum power transfer) too. The only downside to the Look Keo is that the technology is currently not available across the full range of Look pedal products – it is found solely on the top of the line Carbon/Titanium model. The technology will likely trickle down in future seasons.

Speedplay X Series – Over twenty years young, the Speedplay X Series line of pedals is arguably the original low spring tension design. Unlike most designs where the cleat on the shoe goes into the pedal (like a ski binding), Speedplay uses a unique spring and groove design where the cleat actually goes around the pedal body. The Speedplay X Series pedals use a low tension round spring design that requires very little pressure to engage or release. The X Series pedals provide the largest amount of lateral float (freedom of heel movement) of any pedal on the market and have very little friction and the design allows the foot to naturally rotate wherever it would like. While the release effort to get out is very low, the pedal does require that the rider be able to rotate their heel and hip more than most other pedal designs before it hits its release point. Like Time’s pedals, the Speedplay X Series also has a degree of angular float which some riders will do well with while others should gravitate towards a more stable platform (like Speedplay’s Light Action or Zero pedals). Like all other Speedplay designs, the X Series uses a durable metal cleat, offers the most fore-aft and stance width (“Q factor”) options of any pedal system and offers two-sided entry/exit.

Speedplay Light Action – The Speedplay Light Action series of pedals is designed to bridge the easy entry/exit of the X Series with the increased stability and control of Speedplay’s stiff spring equipped Zero pedal line. The Light Action gets the more stable (less angular rotation) square spring profile from Speedplay’s Zero pedals, but uses a more forgiving spring that is easier to engage and release than the Zero series, but is a bit stiffer than the X Series. The Light Action offers a preset 15 degrees of float from the factory and requires less heel rotation before disengaging than the free floating X Series design. Like all Speedplay pedals, the cleat goes around, instead of into, the pedals and thus the easiest mode of entry with the Light Action is a little different than the traditional toe in method most designs use. While this technique can take a few tries to master, it is not hard and quickly becomes second nature for most riders.

Hope this helps and I’m sure you will find all of these pedal designs better than average for you in regards to ease of operation.


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