What's Cool In Road Cycling

Gear Review: Speedplay Zeros

Sweet pedals for less dough! Speedplay slides into the affordable pedal arena with their new Chro-Mo Zero. So now you need to ask yourself… “Do I really wanna spend another hundred bucks for anything else?”

A few years after Look pedals (that seem like they have been around forever) won a tour (Bernard Hinault) and then did a 1-2 (Hinault / LeMond), Richard Bryne came to the public with the first Speedplay product, The X pedal. That was about the same time we saw the first SPD system from Shimano, and a new Time system, and it’s been up and down (and all around) ever since…

Clipless designs have been around since the late 1800’s (it’s true – check out the Speedplay History page on their website…) and one thing is for sure, everyone and their brother have decided to try it, and almost everyone and their brother found it too tough to stay in the game. Not so with the folks at Speedplay, primarily because they haven’t stopped making pretty solid advances to their design.

While the latest pedal, the Chrome-moly Zero isn’t a real advancement in design, it does give you the advantages of the more expensive Speedplay products at a damn good price, and does so with the only sacrifice being weight. And when you hop over to their site, you’ll see that the added few grams are only a sacrifice when compared to other Speedplay Zero’s in Stainless or Ti… Visually and performance wise, the only difference is the color.

The Zero system is a lot like the X pedals, but with the ability to limit float. The original knock on Speedplay’s X peds was that they felt sloppy and unstable. The Zero system takes some of this feeling away by allowing you to adjust exactly where you want your heel rotation to stop, both inside and out, by turning a pretty simple screw. Of course with any new gear, it takes a few rides to get used to the feel. What some folks call instability, I just call free float. Still, if you are moving to these pedals from any other design, it will probably feel a little strange not to have your pedal trying to force your foot into line. But for those of us with knee troubles (and those who don’t want any) that lack of “self centering” is what make the Speedplays shine.

The clip-in in these pedals is also extremely strong. I used look pedals for quite a while and one thing I like is that the Zero’s cleat isn’t prone to breaking, squeaking, or coming un-clipped due to wear from walking on the part that clips in. As long as I keep them lubed well (White Lightning is perfect), the performance stays dead on until the metal protection plate needs replacing.

Installation Is Pretty Easy.
There are more things to play with, but because the float is so free, the hassle of lining up your cleat (which takes longer than anything else on most systems) is completely eliminated. The base plate for a three hole system is the first to go on (if you are switching from another pedal, mark dead center first to make things easy).

Step two is a little more fuss, because the inside to outside adjustment is a little better on these. You need to follow the directions well and, after you find the right spot, make sure not to over tighten the little blue tipped screws (the blue is lock tight material. Go ahead and trust the directions and resist the urge to screw too hard, as it binds the float and clip and will create early wear.

Clip in and ride a little and figure out how much heel rotation you want. Once you get an idea, just screw in or out on the heel adjustment until it works the way you want. You can have loads of float (up to 15 degrees), or none at all. And that 15 degrees will seem like a lot considering that most other systems float gets progressively tighter, meaning you usually only have 1-4 degrees of easy float.

The last adjustment on most pedal systems is usually a trade off. If you need to make the float more free and entry easier, you do it by taking away some of the clip in security by adjusting a tension screw. With the Speedplays, pedal entry is easy (and dual sided) and is also very secure, and it stays that way no matter what, as there is no tension setting.

So that’s it…
This is a pretty easy review to do but you should consider me tainted, as the pedals for everything I ride are Speedplay.

The float is best in the business and the ability to adjust the heel limits (in and out) is unmatched. Even the heavy ones are light, and they are easy in and out, but only easy out when you want them to be.

The one gripe I have with Speedplay isn’t with the pedal, but with the “Lets do the math” marketing pitch that implies that their pedal has a larger more stable platform. Speedplay compare their platform with Look and Shimano’s Cleats surface area when better comparison might just be to compare the wide points on the pedal mounting surfaces and the competitions cleats. Honestly it’s mostly rubbish anyway because the speedplay’s have every bit of the power transfer needed.

Like I said, “the pedals for everything I ride are Speedplay” and I have no stability troubles (and never did), but some people do. To me the pure ease of entry and free float are a much larger plus than the narrower contact spread is a negative, especially since I don’t notice it at all, even in a sprint. And if the massive amounts of power I produce (insert laugh track here. – ed.) are not enough to convince you of the stability and secure clip in, maybe Marty Nothstein’s is? Or Tyler’s? Or how about the under the radar win at Paris Rubaix this year? If you want a race that requires stable solid power, that’s it.

Most of the people (probably 1 in 20) that have complained about the stability when they first get on Speedplays went from bitching at me for suggesting them to thanking me in a few days…

So here’s another suggestion, if you have knee problems, clip in problems, clip out problems, problems with squeaky cleats, are an insane crit guy who needs the extra ground clearance or are nuts enough to think that a (very) little shaved pedal weight will make the difference next time you get on a bike, Go get em. In any case you’ll probably be happy you did!

Where To Get ‘Em
You can find Speedplay stuff anyplace on the planet, but you can get a good price at Glory Cycles.

And for more info and a better description, visit www.Speedplay.com. – And check out their history page – it’s got some cool stuff.

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