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Time RXS Pedals.
By Tom Demerly.

Time RXS Pedals.

 

Time RXS Pedal System
Your pedal system translates fitness to speed. This is the among the most important unions between bike and body. Time RXS uses features that optimize this union.

 

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 on them.

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 130 pounds.

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 low anyway.

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 strong.

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.

Bottom of RXS
The Time RXS is a highly evolved design from the man who invented the original, popular clipless pedal.

Comparison of four pedals
While other designs such as Speedplay remain as good as the day they were designed, they are dated by comparison to the RXS system.

RXS pedals surface comparison .
The Time RXS provides greater longitudinal and lateral surface at the pedal for the feeling of greater stability.

Foot on RXS Pedal.
Time provides two designed-in ways to adjust the distance between pedal and crank arm. One is fixed, one is dynamic and sets itself while pedalling.

Foot in RXS PEDAL
Entry into the Time RXS is simple and begins at the toe of the pedal.

8mm spread
Most pedal companies advertise the proximity of their axle to the sole of the shoe. Time claims 8 mm and is among the lowest.

RXS shoe in RXS pedal
A big part of the distance from pedal axle to shoe sole depends on your shoe choice. It varies from brand to brand making comparisons from pedal to pedal difficult.

RXS weight
The Time RXS system including hardware weighs in at 182 grams. It isn't the lightest system, but is one of the lightest.

Speedplay weight
Speedplay's Cro-Moly Zero pedal is 12 grams lighter than Time RXS but lacks many of the biomechanical features.


The Time RXS Carbon is about $180 and weighs in at 122 grams per pedal.

Scale
The standard Time RXS is about $50 less expensive and only 2 grams heavier than the Time RXS Carbon.

Weight of a credit card
The combined weight difference between the Time RXS and the Time RXS carbon is the same as the weight of a credit card.

RXS Cornering clearance
Cornering clearance for the RXS is low enough for the most aggresive cornering.

Time RXS System
The Time RXS system is simple and elegant with few bolts and minimal components.

Speedplay Pedal System
By contrast the older Speedplay family of pedals relies on a lot of monting hardware and a series of shims to adapt it to different shoes. This is a complex system that requires careful installation.

Mounting for the RXS System.
Even the mounting of the pedal to the crank is simple on the Time RXS. Using a 6 mm Allen wrench it is impossible to over torque the pedal or damage your crank.

Pedal adjustments
A small adjustment for re-centering force adjusts the "feel" of the pedal for float. How easy do you want your float? With Time RXS you can tune how easy the float feels.

Time RXS Cafe' cleat
The Time RXS Cafe' cleat is simple, light, easy to mount and designed to walk in. It uses two types of polymer to conform to the shoe sole without shims.

RXS rotational movement
Time RXS has just the right amount of rotational movement or "float": Not too much, not too little.

interchanging cleats
The distance of the pedal to the crank can be controlled by interchanging the cleats from one shoe to the other.

shoe soles
One different radius shoe soles the cleat naturally conforms to the shoe without shims.

flexible, co-molded cleat
The flexible, co-molded cleat follows the contour of almost any cycling shoes precisely without adjustment.

cleat
The cleat comes fully assembled and is essentially one unit that is thin, made to walk on, provides non-skid and is light weight.

Speedplay's older Zero cleat
Speedplay's older Zero cleat provides tunability and adjustment but has many more components and requires careful assembly and attention to instructions.

Truly "walkable"
Even after more than 3,500 miles that included a large amount of walking the cleats are still fully functional and do not need to be replaced. Time designed the cleat to be truly "walkable". It is the best wearing pedal cleat of any dedicated road system.

 

© Tom Demerly, Bikesport Inc.
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