Over the last couple decades, I have used a variety of pedals from many manufacturers, both widely known and obscure. The one big name that has escaped my cranks until now was venerable French component manufacturer Time. When the opportunity came up to review Time’s current offerings, I was jazzed to be able to round out my pedal experience with this brand I’d heard so much about but never experienced. Time designed the ATAC MX8 for the aggressive trail/enduro-style rider, so it’s aimed right at me and it became my natural choice.
Time for ATAC MX8 Tech Talk
Like all Time mountain bike pedals, the ATAC MX8s employ Time’s Auto Tension Adjustment Concept (hence the acronym name ATAC). The idea behind ATAC is to provide a system which allows optimal rotational and optimal float along with a wide entry window and secure cleat retention, all while maximizing power transfer. The springs themselves resemble Crank Brothers Egg Beaters, but unlike Egg Beaters, the upper and lower springs operate independently from one another.
The most unique feature of the ATAC MX8 is the ability to change the release angle depending on how each asymmetrical cleat is mounted on. You have your choice of a relatively-easy 13° release angle, which is especially helpful for newer riders or those not fully comfortable being clipped in while riding technical terrain, and a 17° release angle for riders wanting maximum security in retention.
In terms of construction, the ATAC MX8 mates a carbon fiber body to an oversize hollow steel axle to achieve the best combination of weight savings and enduro-level durability. At 364 grams per pair, they clock in at a very respectable fighting weight for a clipless/platform combo.The platform itself is midsized to large relative to other combo pedals.
In the spirit of Henry Ford’s Model T, you can get the ATAC MX8 in any color you want, so long as you want black. The ATAC MX8 doesn’t have a flat pedal wrench option; installation/removal is done with an 8mm hex wrench in the inner axle.
Time for ATAC MX8 Trail Talk
The first thing I look for in any clipless pedal is how it strikes a balance between entry ease and release retention. The ATAC MX8 makes zero compromises on either end of that spectrum. The ATAC system works as advertised, allowing for the easiest entry of any clipless pedal I’ve every tried. No worries about getting your foot in exactly the right spot: as long as you’re in the neighborhood, the spring engages the cleat without fuss.
On the other end of the spectrum, there’s no worries about premature or unwanted release as the spring holds the cleat with confidence-building security. This showed up when ripping high-G turns over rough terrain where I might inadvertently slip out of other clipless springs and, even more to my pleasure, when lifting the bike into the air for sudden huckortunities on the trail. There’s nothing spookier than foot and pedal achieving unwanted separation while in flight, but the ATAC MX8s always held my foot in perfect, unshakable contact with the cleat and platform alike.
Just like a good ski binding, when safety demands the release, The ATAC MX8 also does so without fuss. It is worth noting that there really is a significant difference in release difficulty between the 13° and the 17° settings. The 13° setting may be inadequate for an advanced rider who goes through a lot of aggressive body english when ripping through high speed rock gardens or even low speed technical sections with lots of tight maneuvering required. Conversely, the 17° setting could be problematic for a rider who isn’t fully competent and comfortable extricating himself from a clipless pedal, especially in technical terrain.
Time to Talk About the Platform
More often than not, clipless/platform combos end up being poor compromises, shedding too much of the best elements of both. This is not the case with the ATAC MX8. It still doesn’t give all the benefit of a true platform pedal with good pegs mated to a nice, sticky soled platform shoe. However, it comes much closer than most combo pedals, and does so while sacrificing none of the benefits (save for a slight weight penalty) of a pure clipless pedal.
For most combos, the retention system prevents good, full contact with the platform, often making it superfluous; either that, or elevating the platform for easy engagement makes it more difficult to engage the cleat into the spring. The ATAC MX8 somehow makes it as easy to engage the cleat as any other Time pedal, and easier than any other non-Time pedal I’ve tried, but possible to employ the platform at the same time. This is especially helpful during those dicey moments when trying to reengage a cleat while starting out in highly technical sections. With the ATAC MX8, never once did I even think about walking to the next smooth section to clip in, even on super steep downhills.
The one caveat to this marvelous capability is that it does require the right shoe. A super stiff carbon-soled shoe isn’t going to flex enough to make perfect use of the platform. To be able to maximize the clipless/platform combo, the shoe must have a semi-flexible sole which can simultaneously sink into the clip in the center, while the perimeter reaches around to grab the points of the platform.
Power transfer of the ATAC MX8 is also excellent, with no wasted motion or inefficient energy dissipation. The ATACs also shed mud and muck in a way SPD users could only dream of.
MSRP for the ATAC MX8 is a hefty $250, but they can generally be found for significantly less. If you still want an enduro-worthy pedal but want to save another 50 grams, Time makes the ATAC MX12 with a titanium axle at an even stiffer $400 (again, usually available for quite a bit less). On the other end, if you’re looking for all the outstanding ATAC MX combo features and don’t mind carrying a little extra weight, the ATAC MX4 runs approximately half the price of the MX8.
Time for the Bottom Line
With all the clipless, flat, and combo pedals I’ve ridden over the years, I have found most of them to offer fine performance and was quite happy riding almost all of them. However, there was always a nit or two I could pick–something that kept them from being perfect in my book. Most were excellent, few were outstanding, none were flawless.
After two months on the ATAC MX8s, I can find not a single nit, not even a minute one, to pick at. I even used them for my day of airing it out at the Angel Fire bike park, and had never felt so secure. For me, these are truly perfect pedals and I daresay they would be for virtually any aggressive trail or enduro rider.
Thanks to Time for providing the ATAC MX8 pedals for review.