What would it take for
you to switch to a new pedal system? What is the best
pedal system? Which pedal system should you buy?
Whether it is your first
clipless pedal system or an upgrade to improve performance,
these are key questions.
The Perfect Pedal System.
The ideal pedal should be easy to
get in to, easy and intuitive to get out of in any
situation, offer enough anatomical float to prevent
injury, be adjustable, have better power transfer
and efficiency, be extremely light weight (ideally
half the weight of the pedals you're using), work
with any shoe system, be durable and mechanically
simple, easy to maintain and have parts (including
cleats) readily available and the best cornering clearance.
That's asking a lot. Does
any one pedal system deliver? Only one: It's called
The Speedplay Zero is the
ultimate evolution of the revolutionary Speedplay
"X" Series pedal. Invented in August 1989
by Richard Bryne, owner of Speedplay, The "Bryne
X-2 Pedal" was a unique approach to pedal design.
Richard Bryne's design is a "pure" design.
It is not adapted from ski bindings (such as Look
The new Speedplay Zero
is the most refined, advanced pedal system available.
Although this is a sweeping endorsement, the Speedplay
Zero is the best clipless pedal system available.
It offers real advantages, features and benefits not
found in any other pedals system- all in one package.
It is a big upgrade that offers numerous performance,
safety and comfort improvements. You can't argue with
the facts, so read on to find out why Speedplay Zeros
are the best pedals you can buy, and how they will
improve your performance.
The original Bryne X-2 moved critical binding components
from the pedal to the shoes, reducing overall weight,
increasing power transfer, making the pedals 50% easier
to enter (since they are two sided) and a host of
other features and benefits. So unique was Bryne's
design he filed for and won a number of patents. And
that was just his first effort. The new 2002 Speedplay
Zero is a tremendous improvement over that. Check
your shopping list: Speedplay Zeros have it all.
Triathletes, quick to adopt
new technology, were early fans of Bryne pedals. Attracted
more by their unique appearance and ultra-light weight
(half the weight of the next lightest pedal) they
were the first believers. While triathletes recognized
the benefits, the traditional world of European cycling
was slow to see the new paradigm.
I tried the Bryne X-2 Speedplay
pedal when they were introduced in 1990. I was attracted
to the idea of saving a half-pound by switching pedals.
I hated them! They did
not work for me. The original X-2 design had too much
float for my taste. I felt unstable on these pedals
while sprinting and climbing. The pedals felt as though
I was standing on an ice cube. My footing wasn't secure.
While I never accidentally released from the pedals,
it felt like I would. It seemed like a novel idea,
but I just didn't like them. I went back to Look pedals.
That was 1990.
The primary reason I didn't
care for the early version of the Bryne X-2 pedal
was the "excess" float. Speedplay has addressed
this concern in the completely redesigned Zero by
making the float adjustable in both rotational axes
from zero degrees to 15 degrees. The pedals will have
exactly the float you want- no more, no less. The
adjustment is easy to make and control.
Click to enlarge. The new Speedplay Zero
enables the rider to adjust how much float
they prefer from 0 degrees to 15
degrees and everything in between.
There are three variations
of float found in clipless pedals: "free float,"
"spring recentered" float and "float
with friction." Free float allows the foot to
float without any resistance. This is what Speedplay
features a spring that returns the foot to a center
point that may or may not be adjusted by the positioning
of the cleat to a neutral point. Time pedals use a
version of this "re-centering" float.
Float with friction inhibits
rotational motion between the pedal and cleat. As
a result, a rider can reposition the foot by moving
it within the rotational range, but the foot does
not move freely on its own. This is the system used
with Look Arc Pedals.
I was accustomed to the
float systems with friction, namely the Look Arc.
Look is a good pedal system but does suffer from its
own share of drawbacks. The plastic cleat is fragile
and wears quickly. Most people using Look pedals are
riding on worn-out cleats. This is a dangerous situation.
Erik Zabel's near catastrophe in the 2001 Tour de
France when he accidentally released from his pedals
during a field sprint is an example of what happens
when pedals don't work correctly. The pedals are much
heavier than they need to be, an attribute that belies
their ski-binding heritage. The pedal is also single
sided, making entry 50% more difficult for beginners
and experts, a critical drawback for triathletes.
In fairness, Look was the
first real evolution in modern clipless pedals. Jean
Beyl was the originator. Beyl recognized the drawbacks
inherit in his original Look design and proposed a
second generation to (then) Look company owner Bernard
Tapie. Tapie became embroiled in an Enron- like business
scandal surrounding his health food venture, La Vie
Claire, a failed French chain of natural food stores.
Capital to reinvent the Look pedal (and resolve its
drawbacks) was not available. The pedal has remained
largely unchanged, except for a few changes, ever
since. Jean Beyl went on to start his own pedal company,
Time. The Time pedal, dubbed "Le Defi",
or, "The Challenge" by Beyl- in deference
to his competition and bitterness toward the original
Look corporate snub of his vision of evolution for
his own invention was a quick success. In less than
two years Time, under the U.S. leadership of the charismatic
French millionaire and bon vivant Jean Pierre Pascal,
seized 1/3 of the road clipless pedal market and the
lion's share of the professional peloton. Pascal was
particularly proud of saying he only paid three or
four riders to use Time pedals, the rest were only
given free pedals.
Time pedals were an evolution
over Look, but were still mired in the "ski-binding"
paradigm. After all, the pedals were designed by the
same man who invented Look pedals- Jean Beyl.
I did a tour as the technical
representative for Time pedals and traveled the United
States teaching dealers the features and benefits
of the pedal system as well as installing pedals and
cleats for professional cyclists like Greg LeMond,
Roberto Gaggioli and others.
Time was the state of the
art then. But it was clear there was a next step,
a higher level of design that was more elegant, simpler,
worked better and weighed less.
It is also worth pointing
out that Greg LeMond's time trial bike, used in the
final stage of the 1989 Tour de France, weighed nearly
30 pounds. Everything was too heavy- frames, wheels,
especially pedals. LeMond required an average power
output of 450 watts to sustain his incredible final
time trial effort in the Tour in 1989. With lighter
equipment he could have gone much faster, or gone
as fast with less energy. Lighter pedals would have
been an important part of the equation.
Along came Richard Bryne
and his first generation Bryne X-2 Speedplay pedal.
The new paradigm. That was 1990.
New Pedal Paradigm: Perfection realized.
At the annual Interbike
Bicycle Trade Show in Las Vegas during September of
2001I noticed a lot of activity in the Speedplay booth.
Speedplay was rumored to have a new, revolutionary
pedal for the 2002 season. Right. I saw the revolution
in 1990, and doubted it was the coup they hyped it
to be. With some reservations I looked at the new
What I found was all the
drawbacks of the older Speedplay X-2 were entirely
eliminated. The pedal was a complete redesign. It
shares almost no interchangeable components with the
old "X" series pedals, and none of their
First of all, the new Zero
enables you to adjust the amount of play from zero
degrees to 15 degrees of float- and everything in
between. Even more significant, you can adjust the
float independently, or asymmetrically. There are
separate adjustments for inboard and outboard float.
The adjustment is simple and easy to make.
I was so impressed by this
feature alone I decided to try Speedplay pedals again.
When I was installing the new Speedplay Zeros on my
new 2002 Sidi Energy SDS shoes (size 42.5) I discovered
further refinements. The cleat has been completely
The original Speedplay
"X" series cleats had a major dirt-fouling
problem. Think about this: You're at the local triathlon.
You come out of the water, enter the swim to bike
transition area. You put on your cycling shoes, helmet
and sunglasses. You pull your bike out of the rack
and a volunteer yells at you to "Walk your bike!"
to the road where you can get on, clip into your pedals
and start riding. If you are doing the Ann Arbor Triathlon,
Waterloo, Mrs. T's and most other triathlons the bike
racks are in the grass. You may have to run some distance
on grass, through gravel, even in a little sand before
you hit the pavement and can mount your bike. With
the older "X" series cleats there was a
thin "coat hanger" like spring that made
up the retention system. Dirt, grass, grit and road
debris would easily lodge in the spring, preventing
it from retracting and enabling the pedal to engage
the cleat. The cleat was fouled with dirt and wouldn't
clip in. You had to stop and rinse your cleats out
with your water bottle. This was a major hassle. At
the Caesar Creek Duathlon in 1994 I lost almost two
minutes in the transition while he tried to rinse
lodged debris from his old "X" series cleats
with is water bottle. I went back to using different
pedals after that.
Click this photo to enlarge. This view shows the
improvement in the new Speedplay Zero
cleat over the previous Speedplay "X" series
The new Speedplay Zero
cleat is completely different. You can't dirt foul
it. I tried. The "coat hanger" retention
spring has been completely replaced by a greatly improved
disc-shaped spring. The design is so simple, clean
and elegant nothing can go wrong. If you own Speedplay
"X" series pedals you don't need much explanation
to understand how valuable this improvement is.
is as easy as it ever was. While it is very simple
to install Speedplay Zero cleats, I recommend having
someone do it who has experience. At the minimum,
read the instructions and be sure you understand them
completely before you begin. As the instructions mention,
do not over torque the bolts that hold the metal "cookie"
layer of the cleat down. Do use Locktite 242 Blue
thread locker on the threads of all mounting bolts.
Do be certain the hardware and receiving threaded
orifice in the shoe is spotlessly clean and the threads
are not damaged. If you fail to follow instructions
and install the cleats incorrectly you may not be
able to escape from the pedals, resulting in injury
or death. Having satisfied the lawyers (don't ignore
the warning) it is simple to follow the written instructions
with the pedals and install them correctly.
The new Speedplay Zero
cleats work with almost every shoe system available
in North America. They do, however, work better with
some than others. On my Sidi Energy SDS shoes I have
the Sidi standard Millennium drilled sole. This version
of the Millennium sole incorporates Sidi's new SDS
(Sidi Dual System) adjustment. The SDS enables you
to vary the stiffness of the sole of your shoe from
firm to rigid. This is a big advantage on any clipless
pedal, but particularly with the new Speedplay Zero
(more on that later).
The yellow arrow indicates the new Sidi
SDS sole stiffness adjuster. This is the
actual shoe/pedal combination
Ken O'Day used in his 500 mile test.
The Sidi Millennium sole
pattern, also on their super-popular T-1 Triathlon
shoe (best tri shoe available) allows you to "flush
mount" your Speedplay Zero cleats to your Sidi
shoes. You can actually eliminate one full layer of
the Speedplay Zero cleat when using shoes with the
Sidi Millennium sole. This puts your metatarsal joint
of your foot (the ball basically) much closer to the
pedal axle than any other pedal system, reducing rocking
torque and improving efficiency.
How important is this?
Remember when you were a kid and you had a tricycle
with those red, wood pedal blocks on them so you could
reach the pedals? When you pushed down hard on the
pedals the darn things wanted to jump out from under
your feet and spin around. Maybe you banged up your
shins a couple times. That is rocking torque. The
harder you pressed, the more the pedal wanted to dive
out from under your feet.
With Speedplay Zero pedals
and Sidi shoes your metatarsal is only 8.5 millimeters
above the pedal axle. That is less than half the distance
with Shimano Shoes and Look pedals that are at 22mm.
This results in over 50% less rocking torque. Even
if you don't use Sidi (or Carnac) shoes your metatarsal
is still only 11.5 mm above the pedal axle. The only
brand that comes close is Time when used with their
own brand shoe, and it still a minimum of 6.5 mm higher
than the worst Speedplay Zero combination. Speedplay
Zero pedals offer the lowest rocking torque and most
direct power transfer of any pedal system by a substantial
margin. You will go faster with the same energy using
Click to enlarge. Lower rocking torque
means more power and speed with less work.
This is such a big difference
you can actually ride one frame size smaller on some
brands of bikes when using Speedplay Zeros, Sidi shoes
and the same length crank arms- provided the top tube
of the frame is still the correct length for you.
At the very least, if you are using Look pedals now
with Shimano, Nike or some other generic brand cycling
shoe, you will have to lower your saddle around 8
millimeters (that's almost an entire frame size!)
to maintain the same leg extension. The benefit of
this is the rider/bike package is lower to the ground,
with a lower, more stable center of gravity. More
More good news: Even with
this lower position you still have better cornering
clearance. That's right, you're lower, but you have
more clearance. The cornering clearance on the Speedplay
Zero is a dizzying 37 degrees with the stainless pedal,
and a downright acrobatic 39 degrees on the titanium
Speedplay Zero. Chances are you will never even come
close to catching a pedal while pedaling through a
turn because you will never approach those lean angles.
After years of motorcycle racing and bicycle racing
I rarely approach those lean angles.
ways to make you faster with less work.
Now, let's get to the biggest
reason to own Speedplay Zeros: Weight.
Bottom line: A pair of
2002 model year Look PP357 pedals without cleats weighs
380 grams (13.5 ounces). Speedplay Zero pedals with
cleats weigh 311 grams (11.10 ounces). Including the
weight of the Look cleats, the Speedplay Zero Stainless
pedals and cleats are a whopping 24.8% lighter than
Look. The savings are even greater if you use Sidi
shoes since you eliminate part of the cleat.
And Speedplay Zeros have
better power transfer; better cornering clearance,
adjustable float and they are two sided - 50% easier
to get into.
Is a nearly 25% savings
of critical rotating weight not enough for you? Remember,
this is rotating weight- it has to be accelerated
and decelerated every time you coast and begin pedaling.
How many times do you do that during a ride? A 25%
savings in rotating weight is like a 50-65% savings
in static weight. Since you are saving almost four
ounces in rotating weight, translate that to the static
weight savings and it is like taking over a half pound
(almost a pound) off your bike. If you spent another
$1500.00 on your frame and component group you might
be able to save that much weight. If you already have
Shimano Dura-Ace components and a high-end frame,
there is no way to save that much weight.
Click to enlarge. The Speedplay Zero cleat and
pedal combination is the most cost effective
performance upgrade you can purchase.
The weight savings alone is worth the price.
On a bike between $1000
and $2000 installing Speedplay Zeros is the most cost-effective
way to save weight and improve performance. For well
under $200 you will make a $1500 difference in performance.
The longer your race or ride, the more of a difference
it becomes. If the route is hilly, even bigger.
Still want more? Check
out the Speedplay Zero Titanium. The titanium version
is $295. The spindles are 6/4 vanadium/titanium. The
pedals (and cleats) weigh only 269 grams per pair
(9.6 ounces for everything, less on Sidi shoes). That
is a 44% saving in weight over Look PP357. The only
other place you can get that kind of performance upgrade
is with a $1000+ set of race wheels. For someone looking
for performance, these pedals are a cheap way to go
a lot faster. Less expensive than race wheels, a lighter,
faster frame or better components- and the time savings
is the same, plus it makes your bike safer and easier
to use. For much less money.
What kind of effect will
that have on performance? Over a hilly ½ Ironman
course like the HFP Buckeye Challenge in Ohio it could
account for over two minutes. The effect of carrying
extra weight uphill can be easily measured in units
called foot-pounds. A foot-pound of energy is the
work required to lift one pound one vertical foot.
For example, it requires 1000 foot-pounds more energy
to ride a 22 pound bike up a 500 foot climb than to
ride a 20 pound bike up the same climb. It is easy
to understand the cumulative effect of carrying extra
weight can easily determine who wins or loses a long,
hard race, or perhaps more importantly, whether the
race was fun or miserable.
On a flat International
distance course like Mrs. T's in Chicago it could
be as much as 45 seconds. Ever lose your age category
by 20 seconds? In a hilly Ironman distance race that
is like having to run 25.4 miles instead of 26.2.
Imagine saving eight tenths of a mile in the run!
That's the time savings with Speedplay Zeros over
a hilly bike course like Wisconsin, Utah, Canada or
Now that we have your attention,
lets talk about mechanics. Each precision turned axle
(stainless steel or titanium) is completely rust proof
and rotates on three sets of bearings: Two precision
sealed cartridge bearings and one row of precision
needle roller bearings. Maintenance of rotating surfaces
is easy. There is a grease port for injecting fresh
grease into the pedal. The pressure of the entering
fresh grease expels the old grease. You can rebuild
your pedals in less than one minute with no tools
except a grease gun.
From a bearing perspective,
no competing pedal system is as good. Look uses one
cartridge and one needle bearing. Time uses the same.
Shimano uses cup and cone (read: maintenance, sure
you can rebuild them- you'll have to rebuild them)
and needle. Speedplay Zeros have better bearing support,
less bearing load and are maintenance free except
for injecting fresh grease.
The engagement mechanism
is the most secure in the industry. The springs are
not loaded when the pedal is engaged to the cleat.
That means you do not depend on spring tension to
hold you on the pedal. If you've ever had an accidental
release (or, more importantly, have not been able
to release) then you understand how important this
Because the pedals are
two sided they are the easiest to enter of any dedicated
road pedal system. Because the spring is not loaded
and the amount of float is adjustable they are the
easiest to release from only when you need to get
out- at a stop sign, an accident or whenever you need
to clip out now. It addition to being the easiest
pedals to win Ironman on, these are also the easiest
pedals to get used to as a first time clipless pedal
So what are the drawbacks?
There are surprisingly few.
Perhaps one may be the
small surface area of the pedal. Speedplay is sensitive
to this issue and has addressed it on their excellent
website. The Speedplay website is actually one of
the more complete resources for any cycling product
on the web. On their website Speedplay does a comparative
analysis of the relative surface areas of various
clipless pedals. They put the pedals on a copy machine
or scanner and scanned them in actual size. You can
view the results below, borrowed from their site at