Based on my experience, many people do not put a lot of thought into which pedals they will put on their bike. Some go with the recommendation of the shop when they purchase their first bike. Others buy what their friends are using. Most of the rest pick based on price, colour or some other trait. Once a person has been into riding for a few years, they tend to end up with a couple of bikes in their quiver (eg, the commuter, the racer and the old racer a.k.a. the wind-trainer bike), each with a pair of the same pedals threaded into the cranks. From such serendipitous beginnings it can take a very good reason to force a change of brand when it brings the need to re-fit several bikes at the same time.
My personal history involves three complete changes of pedal type. The first time it was because I never quite got along with the pedal system. The second time it was because the manufacturer stopped production and I had no choice in the matter. The most recent swap occurred when the brand I was on offered a new, better, platform. Somewhere in the middle I spent a single season on one pair of exotic, incredibly expensive pedals with a lot of install/removal going on to keep them on the bike of the day.
While I am not interested in swapping yet again, I was very interested to try out a pair of Time’s latest offering for this review. Time was one of the pioneers in clipless road pedals and still offers features that are distinctive in a crowded marketplace.
The first thing I noticed was the metal box in which the pedals are shipped. According to the note on the bottom, Time hopes you use the durable box to store something rather than just adding to the landfill – a nice touch. The pedals themselves are light (195 grams claimed). I was surprised at just how light they feel in the hand. The pedal body is very minimal, the axle just a short stub of steel. What isn’t small is the platform on which your foot rests; Time having greatly increased the surface area on which the cleats rest in the Xpresso line compared to the last generation (the i-Clic 2).
The Xpresso 8 sits towards the top of the range of five models, the 12 adds titanium axles for more money and less weight while the 6, 4 and 2 are correspondingly less expensive and slightly heavier with each step down.
The cleats themselves are slightly asymmetrical so that installation one way offsets the feet in from the pedal centreline while installation the other way offsets the feet out from the centreline. Once clipped in, the cleats have a small amount of lateral free motion permitting each foot to find its preferred location. Like many systems, Time offers rotational freedom. Unlike most, however, the Time pedals have an adjustable force for the re-centring spring. Also unlike most systems, the Time pedals do not have an adjustment for the retention force. Release is accomplished simply by twisting far enough in either direction to effect a release.
Cleat installation is very simple, requiring a 4mm Allen key to install the three bolts and one washer that attach the plastic cleat to the shoe sole. They offer a wide range of adjustment (both sideways and fore-aft) due to the large cleat size. On my shoes I got an extra bit of adjustment thanks to the threads being moveable within the sole. Despite all this, I could not achieve quite as much rearward placement as I was used to (my foot ended up roughly 4mm further forward, an amount I noticed throughout the test period). It took several attempts to get the rotational angle of the cleat on the shoe just right and I am not certain I ever got them exactly right. Yes the pedals have rotational float, but with a spring re-centring the shoe there was a strong sensation of movement whenever I relaxed my legs until I found the sweet spot. My strong personal preference would be for an option that does not re-centre the shoe.
The pedals thread into the crank with an 8mm allen key from the backside of the crank. Virtually no axle is visible on the outside of the crank once installed (so no room for spanner flats). The only adjustment on the pedal itself is the re-centre force adjuster, which has three different positions.
Insertion and removal of feet is very easy. The cleat seems to find its way to the correct spot without much rider input and the force required to click in is low. The pedal preloads for the next foot insertion every time the foot is removed. Old-school pedals required the cleat to force the retention bail backwards before the cleat clicked into place. The Xpresso pedal is jammed open when you exit, ready for the next step-in.
There is a very distinct click accompanying most entries and every exit from these pedals. My only grumble with entry is that sometimes the cleat seems to snap halfway in. While I never had an unintended release after this, I did find another click happened if I wiggled my foot as the cleat found its way into the optimum location. I put this trait into ‘character’ rather than ‘fault’ as it did not affect riding.
Walking in cycling shoes is always sub-optimal. The Time cleats have large rear side pontoons that keep the functional portion of the cleat off the ground. These pontoons provide decent traction and greatly extend the life of the cleat (versus walking on the active portion). None of the pedals I have used were as good as the Time are for walking in.
To sum up, the Xpresso 8 pedals are light, provide secure retention along with low-force entry and exit, feel like they should last for a long time and have a good cleat design. I would definitely put Time pedals on the shopping list if you are considering moving to clipless for the first time or if you are considering swapping to a newer pedal model.