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Old 09-23-11, 02:12 PM   #1
TallRider
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value of modern road pedals (e.g., SPD-SL) over Look Delta/ARC system?

I posted something along these lines in the Road Cycling forum, but haven't gotten a satisfactory answer, and in my experience folks in the mechanics forum are more knowledgeable so I'm trying here.

As I understand it, the significant improvement of modern road pedals compared to the original Look pedal system is a lower stack height (basically the distance from pedal axle to bottom of shoe). How valuable is this? Is stack height a good reason to upgrade from old Look-style pedals, to a more modern system like Look KEO or Shimano SPD-SL?
(weight is basically a wash, since my Nashbar-branded Look-style pedals are slightly lighter than the Shimano 105 or Ultegra-level SPD-SL pedals)

Note that I'm talking about the original Look "Delta" design that was used by Look until the early 2000's (Look's KEO system debuted in 2004, I think). The Look Delta system was also used by Shimano for a few years in the late 1980's to early 1990's, and is still used in some Nashbar and Performance-branded road pedals.
I understand that there are a lot of viable road pedal systems now and am not here to debate Time vs. Look KEO vs. Shimano SPD-SL vs. Speedplay, etc.

Last edited by TallRider; 09-23-11 at 02:16 PM.
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Old 09-23-11, 02:44 PM   #2
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[QUOTE=TallRider;13269204]I posted ...something along these lines[/URL] in the Road Cycling forum,...and in my experience folks in the mechanics forum are more knowledgeable so I'm trying here.

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Old 09-23-11, 02:57 PM   #3
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The "modern" road pedal as invented by Look was fashioned after ski bindings. Due to this they did not have float. Look came up with the arc system to allow for float and the guy that started Look left and started Time pedals. Time made the leap to biomechanical fit and float.

So if you are comparing preLook pedals to 1980s Look Pedals. The only difference is what the pedals do to your knees.

Here is a good link

Stack height only comes into play, IMHO, when in TTs, Crits, or on the track.
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Old 09-23-11, 03:26 PM   #4
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Delta cleats wear quickly and the cleat-pedal contact surface of the cleat is damaged by walking on them. SPD-SL or Look Keo style pedals are designed differently so that it is not as much of a problem.
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Old 09-23-11, 03:31 PM   #5
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@I_like_cereal - to translate what I'm asking about into your categories, I'm comparing Look Delta/ARC system (which has 9 degrees of float if using the red cleats) to road pedal systems that are still considered current.

The link that you posted was well-done and pretty comprehensive, but doesn't discuss the pre-KEO Look design at all.

My situation is that I have five road bikes (three with me, two at the homes of family members in other parts of the country), all outfitted with Look Delta/ARC-style pedals, and I'm wondering if there's any value to upgrading to a different pedal system, for example now that you can get 105-level Shimano SPD-SL pedals for just over $50. So far I don't see compelling reason to switch.

Most riders don't pedal in a circle and exert nearly all of their force between 1:30 and 5:00 (as visualized on a traditional clock face). And in this scenario for regular riding, the difference in stack height between Look Delta system and, say, SPD-SL pedals isn't all that meaningful.

@Nerull - I have cleat covers to wear over my cleats when off the bike, so haven't had to worry about the wearing-out issue on that front.

Last edited by TallRider; 09-23-11 at 03:38 PM.
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Old 09-23-11, 05:20 PM   #6
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Basically if you want better float for knees, lighter pedal, "better" retention, and a wider platform then upgrade. If you are happy with what you have then do not upgrade. Pedals should last until the bearings fail.

If stack height = contact to the pedal then Times and SPDs have the thinnest, IMHO, cleat to engage.
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Old 09-23-11, 05:34 PM   #7
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I've heard both sides of the stack height question. Pedal makers like to play "my stack height is lower than your stack height" in their ads as if that a huge advantage. I've also read studies that show that stack height differences have little to no effect on pedaling efficiency and power generation even when the stack height was made absurdly high for test purposes.

If I had a bunch of pedals that worked and I liked, there is no way I would replace them just to obtain a small "improvement" in stack height.

Look pedals have their own downsides to me. The cleats are dreadful to walk in, the cleats wear fast if walked in, and the single sided mechanism is unnecessarily difficult to use in regular riding. Those are MY objections. If you aren't bothered by these things, stay with what's paid for.
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Old 09-23-11, 06:43 PM   #8
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I like Shimano SPDs very much. The pedals are weighted to always be hanging in the correct position for you to clip in. For the amount of walking and running ive done, I have not worn down the cleats yet.

Dunno how they compare to other systems though.
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Old 09-23-11, 07:53 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by NukeouT View Post
I like Shimano SPDs very much. The pedals are weighted to always be hanging in the correct position for you to clip in. For the amount of walking and running ive done, I have not worn down the cleats yet.

Dunno how they compare to other systems though.
The original Look pedals were also weighted and hung front up so you could, in theory, just put your foot down and forward and the cleat would find the retainer. Didn't always work and when it didn't the back side of the pedal was slick as glass and it was a struggle to get the pedal flipped over properly while underway. As soon as Speedplay came out with their two-sided pedals, I was a convert.
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Old 09-23-11, 08:46 PM   #10
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I'm currently using :
LOOK Deltas
LOOK Arc 247's
LOOK Saeco 11-16s
Shimano PD-6401's and
Forte CR - 150's

with 3 pairs of shoes. Two pair have red LOOK cleats and one pair have oldstyle black LOOK cleats.
I really don't notice ANY difference switching back and forth among them all as far as height is concerned.
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Old 09-23-11, 09:17 PM   #11
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@shadoman: all of the pedals you mention use the same cleat system (the pre-Keo Look ARC/Delta system) so they're interchangeable, same as mine. I think there are very slight differences in stack height between some of those Look-style pedals, just based on the distance bewteen the axle and the cleat contact surface. But it's pretty negligable as you've found.

@I_like_cereal: I'm skeptical that SPD-SL has a meaningfully larger platform than the Look ARC/Delta system. Both cleats use the same 3-bolt attachment as far as spreading force over the foot (which would only be relevant with a less-stiff sole anyway). The width of the cleat contact area with the pedal surface could matter with side-to-side rocking of the shoe (pronation/supination) but I don't notice any such motion with my Look cleats on any of my pedals.

@HillRider, thanks for the thoughtful response. Great to know that studies show no meaningful effect of stack height on power output. This is consistent with the studies that show that most of a cyclist's power-to-the-pedals comes between 1:30 and 5:00 crankarm position (where you're effectively just pushing down).

I've been fine wearing cleat covers over my Look cleats when walking so that's not really much of a downside for me. I've also been fine with the one-sided system. particularly the old Shimano 7401 pedals and the Look 396 pedals hang at a very easy angle for getting in. The Nashbar knockoffs (which are the lightest) aren't always perfectly-behaved for getting in, but I've never had any problem there.
So it sounds like I'm staying put with my current pedal system.
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Old 09-24-11, 01:38 PM   #12
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Blah blah blah, the current gen SPD-SL have a immediately noticeable contact area increase. You can do a double blind test of this and be 100% accurate every time. Bigger platform = stiffer = faster. Systems like speedplays are even more advantageous because of the extremely low stack height - good for fitting. Axles that can be replaced to account q-factor.

Retrogrouching.
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Old 10-10-11, 03:40 PM   #13
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operator, I fully expect newer pedal systems to be better, and stated so earlier in this thread. The question is how much better, and is it worth updating my steed of road bikes to a new pedal system?
It wouldn't surprise me if you can confidently blind-test the difference between old Look-style system and Shimano SPD-SL pedals.
However, this doesn't necessarily lead to any changes in power output that makes it into the drivetrain, and the same can be said of the stack height issue as HillRider noted above.

Provided a sufficiently stiff-soled shoe, the main value for contact area is less play between cleat and pedal, which diminishes side-to-side rocking (pronation/supination). But Look ARC cleats are already large enough to basically cut out this sort of play in the cleat/pedal interface. (although Look ARC cleats are more likely to wear quickly, which introduces play into the pedal/cleat interface)

Last edited by TallRider; 10-10-11 at 03:54 PM.
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Old 10-10-11, 04:08 PM   #14
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Dunno, basics,: Look cleat is Plastic, smaller SPD cleats are metal.


if the cleat is not recessed , take off your shoes to walk much..

that wears them more than riding ever does..

keep your running shoes to put on to go up to your Podium position.

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Old 10-10-11, 05:15 PM   #15
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The question is how much better, and is it worth updating my steed of road bikes to a new pedal system?
Get a pair of SPD-SL pedals and cleats; change out one bike and one set of shoes; give them a try for a week or two; decide whether the difference is worth it (or even discernable) to you; then either buy a bunch more SPD-SLs or sell one slightly used set. Worst case, you'll probably end up being out no more than $20. There really is no way anyone but you can determine if there is enough difference for them to be worth it. So my question to you: is it worth $20 to find out?
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Old 10-10-11, 10:51 PM   #16
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If you were to consider Speedplays, you could add the fact they look way cool when you're off the bike to the list of slight advantages.
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Old 10-11-11, 06:34 AM   #17
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If you were to consider Speedplays, you could add the fact they look way cool when you're off the bike to the list of slight advantages.
Not all of them. I use Frogs on a couple of my road bikes and they are anything but "cool". They are great pedals but offer little in the way of style points.
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Old 10-11-11, 07:25 AM   #18
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If I had a bunch of pedals that worked and I liked, there is no way I would replace them just to obtain a small "improvement" in stack height....
...If you aren't bothered by these things, stay with what's paid for.
+5 (one for each bike)

I'm from the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" school. From your post it seems you have a decent investment in pedals that are working for you. While you might save weight, or get other subtle benefits from changing, I doubt you'll ever see enough difference to justify changing your fleet over.

I also use an older Look system (Mavic pedals with adjustable float) and agree that the cleats are far less than perfect for walking on, it isn't something I do too much of when riding those bikes, and I can buy an awful lot of replacement cleats for less than the price of new pedals.

My advice is that if you're happy with what you have, don't make yourself unhappy thinking about what you might have.
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Old 09-11-12, 10:54 AM   #19
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Why is it that I've never noticed any significant difference between "play" in the pedals except when I'm clipping out? It doesn't seem to mean a thing to me when I'm riding. Heck, I think there's more play inside my shoe that I get from any pedal system.
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Old 09-11-12, 01:39 PM   #20
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The "added value" you might get if you update from Lood Delta to Look Keo systems is mostly lighter weight. The old Delta style pedals could be close to twice the weight of the newest Keos. As one noted already, stack height will be mostly noticed by racers who deal with much smaller tolerances than the typical recreational rider. I don't think float is an issue with the old ones anymore as I think the design of newer Delta type cleats provide lateral float even on the oldest Delta pedals. So if most of your pedals on your bikes are still Delta style Looks and they all still work properly, I don't think it would be worth trying to update to a newer or different system on some of them as you will just end up having to switch cleats all the time to ride your different bikes with different pedals, as the cleats are not interchangeable.

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Old 09-11-12, 05:04 PM   #21
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You guys do realize this thread ended almost a year ago before you resurected it?
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