Product Review: A lighter, stronger pedal is what LOOK claimed to have created with the Look Kéo Blade 2 – the same pedal used by almost half the professional peloton this year. I quizzed the designer at Look France on the new features and then took them out for a tough 3 month test.
Late last summer at the shrine of all things bicycle, Eurobike, I came across the LOOK Kéo Blade 2 pedals and even amongst the thousands of new bikes, gadgets and carbon odysseys these new pedals had my mouth watering.
Unlike other gear at the show, these pedals were actually within my price range and obviously well designed. What was even better about them (and the same could be said about all the LOOK products on display) was that I could talk to the actual designer of the product – not some marketing guy or promotional person employed just for the show.
Guillaume Lenoir d’Espinasse is the Pedal Product Manager at LOOK France and one of the driving forces behind the whole design of the new Blade 2’s – his enthusiasm and obvious pride for the pedals was infectious. Before you knew it I was spending a large part of my alloted time at the LOOK booth talking about pedals – despite the beautiful LOOK 695 Aerolight, my pick for ‘Bike of the Show’ just metres away calling out to me…
But before I get into what I learned from Guillaume, let’s take a look at what makes the Kéo Blade 2 different from the old Blade.
First up, at the heart of the Kéo Blade 2 is the new carbon blade which comes in 3 different tensions, 12, 16 and 20 nm. The old Kéo Blade only came in 12 and 16 nm tensions and the 20 has been specifically designed for sprinters and track riders that require the extra tension.
Previously riders on LOOK sponsored teams with simply massive power output like Tom Boonen wouldn’t actually use the top of the line Blade and instead would use the Kéo 2 Max as it could be dialed up to a higher tension. There’s no doubt that the Kéo 2 Max is a great pedal but to have sponsored riders not using the top of the line product just doesn’t look good and now with the massive 20nm blue option all riders can use the Blade 2.
The second big difference between the Blade and Blade 2 is without a doubt the very large and wide pedaling surface with the new pedal. This stainless steel plate is a full 68 mm wide. This is big news in a lightweight pedal and it is moulded into the pedal body to give a huge surface area contact with the cleat.
In fact this stainless steel plate and the redesigned shape have increased the platform area from 400 square mm to 700mm allowing the cleat maximum contact with the pedal at all times. The stainless steel plate has only increased its width by 2mm but it’s the redesigned shape of the plate that has led to such a huge increase in surface area.
Other differences between the new and the old is the aero profile of the new Blade 2, the lower stack height of just 13mm and the lighter weight with the titanium version that I tested coming in at just 180g for the pair or 220g for the chromoly versions.
On The Road
New features, lightweight and good looks are all well and good but it’s on the road where it really counts so I was keen to get these on a bike and hit the road. Normally with a product test after it gets delivered I’ll photograph it and maybe wait for the weekend to take it out, but not these babies. One quick photo session later it was time to step away from the computer, screw them onto a bike and get out there – winter be damned!
When installing the Blade 2’s I got my first pleasant surprise – only a standard 6mm allen key is needed. Yep, none of those big 8mm ones that are needed for so many other pedals out there (I never seem to have an 8mm when I need it) or even worse a pedal spanner like days gone by that certain other lightweight pedals still need.
As I currently have a couple of pairs of shoes kitted for Kéo pedals I didn’t need to install the supplied grey cleats, I simply hopped on and I was away. The Kéo Blade 2’s do come with the standard grey cleats though that offer 4.5° float or you can buy the black ones with 0° or the red ones with 9° like any other Kéo pedal.
From the very first click these pedals displayed the usual LOOK characteristics of a simple click in and solid feel but it was the extra surface area that set them apart from my other stable of Kéo pedals. Using exactly the same cleat as any Kéo pedal I was slightly skeptical of how big a difference the extra surface area would actually translate to in ‘feel’. The difference from the very first pedal stroke was immediate though with an extremely solid and connected feeling. In fact there was actually such a big difference in feel between the Keo Blade 2’s and my previous generation Keo’s on my two other bikes that I no longer wanted to use them…
Yes, I was like the beginner rider who was perfectly happy with his $2000 bike, using it day in and day out with zero complaints and then one day he tried his friend’s $5000 bike and suddenly his $2000 machine was no longer so great. Sure my old pedals were still in perfect condition but instead of just leaving the new pedals on my test machine I constantly swapped the Blade 2’s from training bike, to winter bike and on to my time trial bike so I used them on every single ride for the past 3 months. Through a winter of fortunately not too cold temperatures, some rain, lots of miles and even a bit of snow the Blade 2’s were my pedal and as expected they took every bit of punishment that I gave them.
I’ve previously talked to the guys at LOOK about their rigorous testing procedures before any launch of product so I certainly expected the pedals to handle everything that I could throw at them during this test and I wasn’t disappointed here with the Blade 2’s. The spindles are tested via a real world simulation of an uneven pedal stroke with a bump every revolution, a load weight of 90kg on the pedal and for a full 2 million cycles at 100 rpm – my 3 months of winter riding with my 75kg on board certainly weren’t going to be a problem.
Now speaking of the spindle, the new Kéo Blade 2 runs an oversized spindle (titanium on my ti test pair, chromoly of course on the cr version) with two miniature ball bearings: one 12mm inner x 18mm outer diameters, one 6mm inner x 12mm outer diameters and a needle roller bearing. A double seal ensures the bearings have a very long service life with the spindles running smooth and easy at the start of this test and that’s exactly how they continued to operate at the end of the three months. It’s nice to know that the oversized spindle shafts are protected with dual seals that should stand up to much abuse which is somethng they should get this year as the official pedal supplier for many of the Pro peloton’s big names.
Yes, rolling underneath the likes of Cavendish, Quintana, Voeckler, Boonen and co. this year are exactly the same Kéo Blade 2’s that anyone can buy in either 12, 16 or 20nm blade versions. In fact the Kéo Blade 2 can be seen this year on a full seven World Tour teams, (Astana, Ag2r, Europcar, Lotto-Belisol, Movistar, OPQS & Tinkoff-Saxo) as well as a host of Pro Continental and Continental teams.
What The Engineer Says
With the Pedal Product Manager Guillaume Lenoir d’Espinasse on hand at Eurobike for all the journos and dealers from around the world to chat about the Blade 2’s I was keen to get his take on his new babies.
Here’s a few of his translated comments about the pedals – about which he could talk a long time – (but that 695 Aerolight was still calling out to me).
• The Kéo Blade 2 is quite simply a massive evolution from the Keo Blade. We started with the Blade and discussed how we could improve it even more. We wanted to improve everything and I’m not just talking about the weight or tension and things like that – we wanted to change its usability to make it the best performing pedal possible. The first change was the carbon blade. On the previous model it was on the side but we knew that in an ideal world we’d have it in the middle – which we’ve achieved. The centering of the blade is positive for two reasons, 1) It avoids shocks in case of accidents or bumps & 2) we could get a design much more aerodynamic and profiled.
• The new carbon blade is bigger and larger but the function is essentially the same as the previous model but we’re excited to now offer it in 12, 16 & 20 models. We specifically made this change for the pros – we believe that the most common units will be the 12 & 16 but for the Cavendish, Greipel etc they now have a 20nm tension pedal which is huge.
• After the changing of the blade’s position the second thing we looked at was the surface area between the cleat and the pedal. The extra width of the platform that we worked into this pedal means that the cleat always has an excellent contact with the pedal – even for those riders who are using the red cleats with the extra movement on each side. This is a super important point for the Blade 2 as it brings lots more stability to the pedalling movement with the constant cleat/pedal contact.
• The weight is something that is always important to consumers and we have managed to cut down the weight of what was already a light pedal in the Blades to lighter again – mostly thanks to the new spindles which are much thinner, saving weight in the spindles themselves and also thanks to the smaller size, we saved weight in the pedal body also.
• Another hyper important part of our new redesign is the reduction of the stack height – from 15.7mm to 13mm. The closer you can get to the axle the better you transform your power so this was a big step and it’s due in large part to the redesigned spindles.
Living With The Kéo Blade 2
At the end of this test (and any test for that matter) I always like to think about the positives and negatives of the product and would this be a product that I’d want to live with in the long term. In this case the positive lists were long as the weight, ease of use and low stack height were impressive but it was the positive feel of the pedals that shined through on every occasion.
From my very first clipless pedals bought back in 1991 just until the start of this test I had never used a set of clipless pedals with such a solid, positive feel. Before the test I thought that the main points that I would talk about in this review would be the weight, the fact that the Blade 2 has the new 20nm blade and perhaps the new aero design – I honestly wasn’t expecting the increased platform surface area to make such a big difference in feel.
For a newer rider who rides with the Blade 2’s perhaps they wouldn’t notice the difference but having logged hundreds of thousands of kilometers on various clipless pedals over the last 22 years, for me it was a big difference. So much so that I didn’t want to go back to my own pedals and I was struggling to find any negatives with the Blade 2’s.
Although it wasn’t an issue for me, some guys could possibly find one negative in the changing of the carbon blades if not happy with the tension they bought. I for example chose the 12nm which was perfect for my pedalling style and my road racing calendar but maybe if I were to do some Pro/Cat1 criteriums or even track racing where the pulling up cycle of the pedalling action can get extreme then I would think about changing to the 16nm. Changing these blades can only be done by a LOOK dealer with a specific tool, but I’m guessing this will be an issue for only a very small number of customers.
Many LOOK dealers will perform this operation for a nominal fee or even free but it’s something to keep in mind. Choose wisely for your style when it comes to your purchase and you should never have to change your blades.
After three months of riding the pedals though I still couldn’t come up with anything else negative and after a ride one day I came home and explained my predicament to my wife. I didn’t want to be one of those reviewers who simply loves the product and has nothing negative to say- then my wife hit me with:
‘Well they’re not very sexy.’
I’m not sure about that but I was just relieved that she wasn’t talking about the rider…
LOOK may have a comeback for comments like that though with the, if not sexier, definitely ‘flashier’ Team version that should be available later this year.
This is the exact version that all the Pro sponsored teams have been using so far this year and for a price premium of $40 more you could have the same model as your favorite rider. The only difference is the change in color scheme on the blade and I personally was more than happy with the standard versions which retail for $299.99 for the CroMo version and the Ti is $399.99. Interestingly this is the same price of the original Blades so Guillaume and his crew have managed to completely redesign the pedal, drop the weight, drop the stack height, improve the aerodynamics and increase the surface area contact all without increasing the price.
• These pedals are well worth a look: lookcycle.com
• Check prices at Amazon.com.