Of the three
contact areas between bike and body; the saddle, cockpit
and pedals, none is more dynamic than pedals. Pedals translate
physical work to speed. The transmission of physiological
energy to mechanical energy is among the most complex
opportunities in cycling.
Pedal design is subject to the same marketing hyperbole
and quasi-science as the rest of the cycling world. In
this arena “studies” and “data”
fly loose and fast to support marketing positions. Acknowledging
this and our own biases we’ve been using the Time
RXS pedal for more than a year, and this is a close look
at what we believe is the most refined, evolved pedal
system in the industry.
Time Sport, manufacturers of the RXS, is a distant relative
of Look Sport. Jean Beyl was a product designer at Look
Sport in the early 80’s. Decades before, Beyl invented
a unique ski binding in Nevers, France during 1948. The
binding safeguarded the knee, femur and tibia of a skier
by swiveling to absorb sudden impacts and forces. The
original concept did not eject the skier’s boot
from the binding, but allowed it to pivot momentarily
and return to its original position so the skier could
regain control of their run.
This design cue not only revolutionized ski binding design
(some say the entire ski industry) it was also the beginnings
of three design principles incorporated into the first
Time road cycling pedal: Rotational movement (“float”),
Lateral movement and Re-centering Force. Two of these
three design principles differentiate Time pedals in all
their versions from every other pedal system. The only
design attribute adopted by others has been rotational
movement. Jean Beyl invented it for Time, and now every
popular pedal system incorporates it. Lateral movement
and re-centering force remain unique to Time sport and
the RXS. No other pedal system has them.
It is no surprise that the most recent evolution of the
Time road pedal, the RXS family, incorporates a number
of elegant and subtle design refinements. The man who
invented the Time pedal, Jean Beyl, arguably invented
the first truly practical and popular clipless bicycle
pedal, the Look pedal. Jean Beyl did not stop there. He
continued to innovate and develop, moving from Look Sport
to help found Time Sport and taking his design ideas with
him for a more advanced pedal.
Each evolution of the time road pedal has been a re-invention
of sorts. The pedal’s size, weight, shape and appearance
have changed with each new Time pedal. The basic bio-mechanical
principles have remained and been refined in the new RXS
pedals: Smaller, lighter, safer- better. The result is
the best pedal system on the market in my opinion, a system
rich in valuable features and benefits but somewhat off
the main radar of consumers due to a conspicuous lack
of marketing push. It may very well be that the simple
but numerous advantages of the Time RXS are over most
consumers’ heads. The genius of the pedal is lost
I’m a bit of a pedal connoisseur. I’ve ridden
Look (many versions, from the original in 1986 to the
current Keo version), Time, Speedplay, Shimano, Campagnolo
and about a half dozen odd pedal systems than had a life
span about the same as a mayfly. I’ve also sold
and set-up several thousand clipless pedal systems. For
my money, the Time RXS is my favorite pedal system. After
a series of major knee surgeries for an ACL tear and a
lateral collateral ligament tear in 1987 I am particularly
fussy about pedal set-up for myself and as protective
of my customers. Here is how I evaluate a pedal system:
No one feature makes a pedal “best”. Consumers
have a habit of latching onto one feature and making comparisons
as though that one feature, be it weight, rotational movement,
float, or whatever is the single determining factor in
pedal performance. Pedal manufacturers know this and like
it. It plays conveniently to a myopic brand of marketing
whereby a company publishes a few statistics about their
pedal. Their pedal happens to excel at this feature or
that feature. Then they invite some kind of comparison
with other pedals. The conclusion is inescapable: Their
pedal is clearly best. Like any campaign there likely
is one best candidate, but cutting through the rhetoric
and claims to see which one is best is difficult.
When I evaluate a pedal system the single most important
determining factor to me is how the pedal interacts with
my shoe while riding. That is number one. Does the pedal
provide a degree of guidance for my foot so that the union
between shoe and pedal is secure? Or, is there a distinct
lack of guidance so my foot moves on the pedal too freely?
Does the pedal form a union underfoot that is not apparent
through the sole of my shoe? Will the pedal be as comfortable
during the fifth hour of a ride as the first? How the
pedal works underfoot while pedaling is more important
than anything else.
Secondly, will the pedal release easily in an accident-
but not too easily during hard pedaling. On the flip side
of this requirement is the necessity to enter the pedal
easily and intuitively.
Filing in behind these requirements and roughly tied
for third are equal measures of a pedal being light weight,
having low posture to the pedal axle from the shoe sole,
having good cornering clearance and being as universally
adaptable to any brand shoe as possible.
Taking up the rear is ease of installation, durability
and “walkability” of cleats and ease of maintenance.
This is a long shopping list. Only the Time RXS excels
at all of these features, while perhaps not topping the
list at any one of them conspicuously. It is elegant and
carefully conceived combinations of factors, in measures
equal to their importance, that make the Time RXS stand
out from other pedal designs.
Another advantage for Time is the fortune of timeliness:
The Time RXS is the most recently introduced of the major
pedal systems and, as such, avoids the pitfalls of the
other systems, learning from their mistakes.
The Time RXS pedal is secure and sure-footed when clipped
in. Time pioneered a concept called “re-centering
force” that is a minor degree of spring tension
on the cleat/pedal union that “suggests” the
shoe to a neutral position on the pedal. This re-centering
force gives the rider a start and return point within
the range of float. On free-floating systems such as Speedplay
riders sometimes report “too much float” or
a sensation of standing on ice cube. They feel no guidance
for where the shoe should rest on the pedal rotationally.
When you are clipped in to the Time RXS pedal you have
a sensation of security and a firm surface against which
to push and pull. As pedal cadence and force changes the
rotational position of the foot on the pedal also changes.
As it does, the shoe naturally and easily exceeds the
re-centering force and goes where it needs to go for best
anatomical position and power transfer. It all happens
naturally, elegantly, without the rider ever noticing.
There is no sensation of insecurity or excessive play
or float. The pedal simply feels secure.
The rider can select one of three levels for their sensation
of re-centering force. This adjustment does not affect
“float”, only the force required to induce
float. Time calls the adjustment the “Sensor Elasticity
Tuner” or “S.E.T.” Basically you turn
a little Allen wrench on the inside of the pedal until
it feels as snug as you want.
Rotational movement, or "float" on the Time
RXS pedal is 5 degrees to both sides for a total of a
10 degree arc according to Time's technical brochures
and their website. This seems to be a digestable amount
of float for most people. Other systems such as Speedplay
X Series have much more float, so much that it exceeds
the comfortable range of motion of the lower leg. That
makes escaping from Speedplay X Series pedals feel unnatural.
The Time RXS seems to have just the right amount of float
and releases where you would expect a pedal to release.
The Time RXS pedal uses the same entry and exit style
as previous Time pedals and, for that matter, previous
Look and Shimano pedals. This is presumably since Jean
Beyl invented the technique for them all. Basically, you
toe into the pedal naturally and then gently step down.
You hear a “click” and you’re in.
All of Jean Beyl’s pedal designs have been single
sided designs. That is, they have a top and a bottom.
Other pedal designs such as BeeBop, Shimano SPD Mountain
pedals and Crank Brothers Egg Beaters feature a double
sided configuration supposed to ease entry. The problem
is, when the pedal becomes small enough to be double sided
it is tough to find under your foot- double sided or not.
The Time RXS design is large and easy to locate under
your foot. The tail of the pedal is heavier than the nose
so the pedal hangs naturally heel down in almost every
instance. You don’t have to hunt around for the
pedal/cleat interface under your shoe.
If there is a criticism of the entry mechanism it is
a function of the pedal's light weight. This family of
pedal design relies on the heel of the pedal being enough
heavier than the toe. If the heel isn't heavy enough then
the pedal may not always settle heel down for easy entry.
The RXS is light, and as such can settle in a position
other than heels down. That may cause a bobble on entry
when the rider has to re-position the pedal to the heel-down
attitude before clipping in. In fairness, this is rare
and is usually only associated with using the pedals in
gritty conditions. As soon as you clean them off they
rotate freely to the heels down position for easiest entry.
For that matter, they usually do it even when dirty. I'd
be remiss if I didn't mention this happening even once
in over a hundred pedal entries.
To release you rotate the heel outward and you click
out. Binding tension is not adjustable but pre-set. This
arrangement strikes some as curious but Time argues it
is the safest for riders of all sizes. I am a medium sized
rider and the entry/exit tension has never been too great
for me. In the event of a crash you seem to escape without
thought or effort. I’ve only crashed once using
Time RSX pedals. It could have been a dangerous crash
had I not released from the pedals correctly. I did and
that added a margin of safety.
Of equal importance to release is the avoidance of unintentional
release. Coming out of the pedals accidentally can cause
a crash. At least one large pedal manufacturer introduced
a new, down-sized version of their original pedal and
suddenly discovered the reduction in geometry produced
a tendency to unintentionally release. Time has maintained
the “cleat radius” (distance from front to
back of cleat area) of their pedals so their entry and
release geometry has remained safe and secure. Even though
the RXS is significantly smaller and lighter than the
original Time Equipe series pedals the pedal/cleat interface
is still full-sized. No other small, light weight pedal
system can say that. Only Time RXS maintains the safety
and security of the full-size interface. As an added level
of security against an accidental release there is the
new molded-in version of the old “Sprint Clip”
from the Time Equipe pedal. This little protrusion insures
a sudden, violent pedal stroke won’t pull the cleat
out of the pedal. A sudden impact would- but not a sudden
pedal stroke. The pedal/cleat can differentiate between
the two by design.
Two additional and unique bio-mechanical features to
the Time RXS are their lateral adjustment. There are two
types of lateral adjust on the pedal system: Static and
dynamic. You can set the distance between pedal and crank
arm, which is a component of "Q" factor, by
interchanging the cleats from one shoe to another. This
changes the proximity of the shoe to the crank by 2.5
millimeters on each side. An additional margin of lateral
movement is built into the pedal itself, and is always
available to the rider. It's likely you will never notice
this since your foot will just naturally go to the lateral
orientation that best suits you. No other pedal incorporates
both static and dynamic lateral adjustment.
Time RXS’s are not the lightest pedal on the market.
We compared the Time RXS Carbon model to the Speedplay
Zero Cro-Moly model and found the Speedplay Zero cleat
and pedal combination for one pedal, with all attendant
hardware, to weigh 170 grams. The combination of pedal,
mounting hardware and cleat for one Time RXS was 182 with
its longest hardware. That is an individual difference
of 12 grams and a pair weight difference of 24 grams,
almost an ounce. Pedal weight is important since it is
rotating weight so this single ounce difference is worth
talking about. Especially on long climbs a lighter shoe/pedal
combination is an advantage. If weight is a significant
factor Time and Speedplay both make titanium axle versions
of their pedals at much higher cost and at some weight
savings. Time reports “195 grams per pair”
for their titanium versions while Speedplay reports 164
grams for their titanium Zero and Keo reports 190 grams
for their titanium super pedal. Personally, I don’t
like titanium spindles as they actually do feel flexible
underfoot. They are best left to ultra-light riders under
One place Time does excel alongside Speedplay and in
front of other pedal systems is the proximity of the rider’s
foot to the pedal axle. Basically, less distance between
foot and pedal axle is better. Time coined the term “rocking
torque” to describe the phenomenon of reduced efficiency
due to angular application of pedal forces. If a cyclist
applied forces at a perfectly right angle throughout the
pedal circle this distance wouldn’t make a difference.
But being human being we pedal with varying levels of
proficiency, involuntarily varying the angle of force
applied to the pedal as it goes ‘round. The worse
you pedal the better Time RXS pedals are for you. The
close proximity of pedal axle to ball of foot improves
your efficiency, especially for new riders. To further
improve this mechanical connection a cyclist should select
a snug fitting shoe with minimal sole thickness.
Time RXS has very low pedal clearance but isn’t
the best in cornering clearance. The pedals have low enough
cornering clearance that any rider who scraps a pedal
while cornering will be pushing the limits of traction
at these lean angles anyway. I’d rather have the
pedal hit gently before I leaned the bike over so far
in a high-speed turn that I simply slid out. The part
of the pedal that does contact the pavement is a slippery
composite so you will get a stern warning from the pedals
before they buck your rear wheel off the ground if you
corner way too hard. Normal cyclists never approach these
lean angles. For my purposes (mostly triathlons and group
rides with some fast cornering) the Time RXS has low enough
cornering clearance. I used this pedal to descend off
the Col de Vence in the IsoStar Nice Triathlon including
a section with 16 switchbacks in only 5 kilometers. I
had no issues. There are pedals with lower cornering clearances,
most notably Speedplay, but I can’t corner that
One area I am sensitive to is cleat/shoe adaptability.
This is where Time RXS uses some new molding technology
and good common sense to have the best cleat/shoe interface
of any pedal system. The Time RXS cleat is a “conformal”
cleat that has a flexible radius. The cleat conforms to
the contour of most cycling shoes regardless of size.
If you wear a size 50 cycling shoe or a size 35 cycling
shoe the Time RXS cleat will follow the contour of your
shoe sole and work perfectly. The cleat is “co-molded”
using two different polymers of varying flexibility. This
is an elegant innovation. As you tighten the three pieces
of mounting hardware down the cleat simply bends to match
the sole of your shoe. You don’t need shims or adapters.
It just works. This also reduces the amount of hardware
you have to install and maintain. Speedplay looses big
here as they require no fewer than seven bolts per shoe
for cleat installation to Time RXS’s three. Additionally,
the Speedplay pedals come packed with a collection of
warning labels threatening you with the consequences of
incorrect installation while the Time RXS installation
is relatively difficult to screw up. Speedplay also has
a large number of shims and spacers to compensate for
various shoe sole radius changes. This was a good design
seventeen years ago when Speedplay was developed, but
the Speedplay cleat system is now overdue for a big design
update. The simplicity and elegance of the thin, flexible
Time RXS cleat make that apparent.
A couple other small features that add up to big advantages
for Time RXS are the ease of maintenance. According to
the Time RXS Owner’s Manual, “Other than keeping
the pedals clean, no maintenance is necessary”.
I can confirm this after more than 3,500 maintenance free
miles on one pair of RXS pedals. It is particularly worth
noting that after 3,500+ miles the cleats are still going
Part of the reason the Time RXS cleat lasts so long and
wears so well is that it was designed to walk on. The
Time RXS cleat is called a “Café Cleat”
in recognition of the design feature that provides traction
and a non-marring contact point with the floor. The gentle,
polymer portion of the cleat touches the ground and is
decidedly less slippery than other road cleats like Look,
Keo and Speedplay. We frequently ride to a quant bed and
breakfast with restored wood floors. With Speedplay and
Look a rider has to carry a cleat cover to be able to
walk on wood or tile floors without slipping or damaging
the floor and/or cleat. No such appliance is needed for
the Time RXS. The capability to walk on the cleats is
designed in. This is a boon for triathletes who may have
to run in their cycling shoes through a transition area.
The cleats are also highly dirt resistant; also a plus
for triathletes in sandy, grassy, gravely transitions.
In addition to this shopping list of features and benefits
there is a curious economy to the Time RXS pedal line.
The Time Carbon pedal retails around $180 while the regular
RXS is about $130. When I asked Time’s National
Sales Manager Christopher Smith what the difference between
these two pedals was he told me “Two grams”.
Smith was also puzzled that consumers tend to gravitate
to the black colored Carbon version for an additional
$50 even though there is only a 2 gram per pedal weight
difference. When I asked Smith if there were any difference
in the materials he told me, “It’s stronger-
I can’t say that I’ve noticed any improved
durability….” This makes the less expensive
gray RXS version seem like the best deal. That said, I
still gravitate to the Carbon version since I personally
like the black color more.
Perhaps the most curious feature of the Time RXS pedal
system is why it isn’t as widely known among U.S.
consumers as the other big pedal names. Time pedals are
widely used in the European peloton among top professionals
and have won countless major races. It is as though the
well –conceived combination of elegant features
and simple advantages of the Time RXS is lost in a swirl
of hype surrounding older, less sophisticated pedals.
If you can get through the dust of the hype storm and
try the Time RXS, I’m certain you too will be seduced
by it sublime elegance and ease of use.