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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Speedplay Pedals

I may have only mentioned it a couple of times if at all here on the blog, but I'm a huge fan of Speedplay pedals. I credit them with saving my knees and allowing me to continue to ride big miles (relative I know, but at least for me).

Bike Noob recently posted a nice piece on Speedplays (Speedplay Pedals - Are They For You) in response to friendly recommendations he received when he was dealing with severe knee pain. Given my view on Speedplay pedals, I left a lengthy comment on his post as a result of reading through the comments and seeing what I thought were a few misconceptions floating around concerning these pedals. I am going to re-post my comments here.

I’ve weighed in before on Speedplay pedals but have no interest in converting others to switch…if you like the pedals you have I’d say stick with them. That being said, Speedplays work for me and I have what I like to call the perfect storm of bad knee conditions: ITB friction syndrome (proper stretching is the key to helping with this one), damage from previously misaligned cleats, a touch of arthritis, and mild chondromalacia (severe if I don’t get my base miles in on the small chainring). I was at my wits end about 10 years ago when the chronic pain became impossible to manage and the only solution outside of possible surgery was to stop riding. Enter Speedplays and result – my knee problems are mostly history. Sure I still deal with aches and pains, but the key is they are now very manageable. So yes, Speedplays work for me and I like to tell others all about them. :-)

With that in mind, there still seems to be a lot of misconceptions concerning Speedplays and I see them right here in the comments. A few need to be addressed:

1. Platform size and stability: the Speedplay platform is about the same size or larger than most other pedals…seriously! The key here is the unique design of the pedal system where the “platform” is designed into the cleat portion of the system. So if you’re looking at the lollipop-shaped pedals and asking how that can be stable, your logic is correct but you’re only considering one part of the pedal system…in this case, the wrong one. I find them to be quite stable and have never experienced the rocking sensation mentioned in Noob’s post (mine are old X/3s…now X/5s…so maybe that’s why). I’m in the market for a new pair…if those have the rocking sensation at least I know there is a solution.

2. Stack height: folks seem to be equating stack height with cornering clearance. It has nothing to do with cornering clearance. Stack height is the distance between the center of the spindle and the top of the cleat, and dictates the amount of distance between the bottom of your foot and the pedal’s spindle. Stack height affects pedaling efficiency, not cornering. Apparently, one can pedal more efficiently the closer their foot is to the spindle…meaning less stack height is better. Speedplays have relatively little stack height. The superior cornering clearance comes from the narrow profile of the pedal compared with others.

3. Additional maintenance: I’ve done nothing, and I mean nothing, to my Speedplays except one exchange of cleats over a 10 year period and they continue to work fine. I admit, I don’t walk around in them a lot. If I planned to, I would buy the cleat covers. Some of my riding buddies have also mentioned additional maintenance as a reason to shy away from Speedplays, but I just don’t find that to be a compelling reason given my experience with them.

4. Dual-sided entry: no misconceptions on this feature, just surprised that no one mentioned it as a benefit. No fumbling around with the pedal to get it on the right side to engage the cleat…just place your foot on the pedal, push and you’re locked in. Very simple in and out.

For those of you not familiar with the Bike Noob blog, I urge you to check it out. He always posts on interesting aspects of the cycling world with well written pieces and always soliciting the views of others. As a result, the comments are also well worth reading. Plus he utilizes a couple of guest bloggers who write about their cycling experiences to keep things even more topical and interesting. Keep up the good work Ray.

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