What if you did your job really well, never whined or caused problems, took heaps of abuse, and kept quiet day after day, year after year? And despite nailing it every single day without complaint, nobody ever noticed?
Welcome to the world of the lowly bike pedal.
The X-Track Race Carbon pedals are the newest SPD-compatible pedals from Look that feature a carbon shell paired with a chromoly spindle. The pedals are lightweight, each weighing 173g on my scale.
The Look X-Track Race Carbon pedals are billed as an XC competition and leisure pedal, one of four in the X-Track Series. The X-Track Race Carbon Ti sits at the top of the line, while the Race and X-Track pedals fall below the X-Track Race Carbon pedals I tested.
The first thing that struck me about the Look X-Track Race Carbon pedals is how sexy they are. And, look, I’m not into having pretty bits and bobbles on my bikes. As my mother would say, “none of that amounts to a hill of beans,” especially when you throw a bike down through the limestone graveyard of death along my home trails. These trails will teach riders darn quick that pretty gets gouged to hell in an instant, and turns ugly and used up before your very eyes. Still, these pedals are lookers.
In the end though, what I want is something that works and I don’t have to think about. After about 3 months of testing, the Look X-Track Race Carbon pedals are holding up well. I certainly don’t have 10,000 miles on them yet, but I do have a good feel for the quality built into these pedals..
And what a good feeling it is.
On the trail
First, the engagement. I found it to be very positive and firm, popping with a crisp snap when locking into the pedals. And yet, there is a suppleness; each encounter is positive, decisive even, but without harshness.
I’m sort of reminded of those audio receivers with the huge weighted knobs that turned on bearings. You could feel the immense weight – something akin to power – but they also turned with such smoothness that it seemed they were under their own control. This feels like that level of engineering and design.
Releasing the cleat confers the same feeling. It’s decisive and quick, but without any undue harshness or accidental releases, even under harsh conditions where body English is applied to rock and roll over chunky terrain.
The Look X-Track Race Carbon pedals feature six degrees of float, all of which is easy going, without any binding, grinding, or harshness. The float is just smooth swinging in both directions, even when rocking beat up Shimano cleats. The pedals offer a tension control adjustment screw to go from ridiculously-easy-ejection to welded-to-your-bike-for-eternity mode.
The pedal platform is solid and stable. Thanks to the “nubs” on the carbon body, there is a touch of shoe grip, and the design helps guide engagement without too much fumbling.
Look claims the best power-to-weight ratio of anything else on the market thanks to the contact area on the X-Track Race Carbon pedals. In fact, Look says the weight-to-contact ratio is the defining characteristic of these pedals. To quote them: “the greater the contact surface, the more efficiently energy is transferred. On the other hand, the greater the contact surface, the more the pedal will weigh.” Sure, all that may be true. But I care about how the pedals feel more than anything. And for me, these pedals feel good because the larger contact area adds stability. I’ll give up a few grams for that.
The Look X-Track Race Carbon pedals do seem to struggle a bit in sandy conditions or when getting into some mud. That’s not to say my experience was all that bad: the open design will be familiar to anyone who has seen the SPD platform, and these perform similarly to others I’ve tested. Still, the carbon body seems to hold on tight to the icky stuff.
The bearings do feel a bit stiff to me. Instead of a sweet, free-floating spin, they tend to turn with some tightness. I’m guessing over time they may loosen some and then settle in. At least, the double weather-resistant seal leads me to believe they won’t stiffen much over time. Based on Look’s reputation and what I can see of the outer seal, the bearings should be just fine for the long haul.
The actual long-term durability of these pedals is still an open question. My test pedals have already suffered some gouges and scuffing even though they have not really been taken to the wood shed. In fact, these have a published weight limit of 220 pounds and include a recommendation of frequent inspections. Sure, that makes sense for any and all bike parts, but it does make me wonder about overall strength and durability.
Overall, the Look X-Track Race Carbon mountain bike pedals are outstanding, though time will tell if they stay that way. But for now, Look has given me something to think about the next time I clip into my old pedals.
Thanks to Look for providing the X-Track Race Carbon pedals for review.