Speedplay Light Action Titanium Pedals
As we installed the cleats on our tester pair of Speedplay Light Action Titanium pedals, our mind raced back to the day when we first set up a clipless pedal system. They were second-generation Look pedals. We had been riding cheap Detto Pietro shoes, the standard of bargain shoes those days, on cheap Ofmega Campy quill knock-off pedals, a not-so-cheap copy in a sea of knock-offs. We had already broken the cages of two pair of Sakae Ringyo Campy knock-offs.
Our purchase had been inspired by Greg LeMond’s use of the Looks in the Spring Classics, and by the fact that we repeatedly pulled out of our toe-clips going around a steep curve near our house when sprinting our friends. We also bought a pair of high-end Duegi shoes with Velcro straps, our first shoe without laces, and a rarity in that era. Cleat position needed to be perfect because “floating” pedals or cleats weren’t even a concept. Set the cleats wrong and knee problems were promised to occur within a few weeks. In order to get the cleat position right, we put our bike on a trainer, took off the pedals, and installed a Fit Kit floating pedal jig that had two bars, one along with the cleat and one on the pedal axle. When the bar alongside the cleat stopped shifting back-and-forth during the trainer ride, the cleats were aligned properly. But because we had been warned to fear knee problems, the first week of rides after installing the pedals we waited for a twinge to occur. And we became paranoid for a week every time we switched into new cleats.
Speedplay, which came along in 1989, promised to end this fear, and banish knee problems forever. It had more "float" than the year-old Time pedal system, no resistance to the float, a lower stack height, better cornering clearance and was lighter to boot. But way back then the new pedal didn’t sit well among "serious" road riders. It was derided as a "tri-geek" pedal, and as having too small a surface area for long-term riding comfort.
As we have written of the Speedplay Zeros, time, team sponsorship, and the Zero design (which debuted in 2000) helped make Speedplay one of the pedal giants. Considering that the Zero design allows people to choose between a fixed design and a floating design, it's perhaps surprising that Speedplay offers the Light Action design.
The original idea behind the Light Action pedal was that it would appeal to beginners. It's a less costly design. It takes less force to engage and twist out of the pedal. But Speedplay probably found that cyclists besides beginners found the Light Action pedals attractive. And so they went from making merely a Cro-Moly axle Light Action to stainless and titanium axle versions as well.
Reading Speedplay's site copy, it's safe to say that they expect even die-hard X2 users to move over to Light Action soon. Speedplay has redesigned the pedals not to have the "beginner" stigma, they’re probably going to convince most of those users in a few years.
With the exception of those who have invested in several pairs of X2s, we think they'll probably move that demographic over. The Light Actions feel just like the older X pedals in terms of spring action and release and they have the added durability of the Zero pedals. One of the great things about the Zero design is how much more durable it is than the X design. The X springs started round and would flatten with use. The flattening came from clicking in and out, and as the springs flattened, the cleat would move around on the pedal and that increased wear on the bow ties and the pedal body. Since the Zero design uses a flat spring that notches into place, the spring doesn't wear as quickly, nor do the bow ties and pedal bodies. An added plus of the flat spring is that it is harder for grit to get caught between the back of the spring and the cleat body, and the body design of both the Zero and Light Action pedals give places for the grit between the cleat and pedal to go.
When you look at the Zero and Light Action cleats, they seem almost identical, save the color and limit screws. But the spring is softer metal on the Light Action cleat. Possibly more important is that the area that the notches in the Light Action click into are different. Take a look at the front and back of the Light Action pedal. You’ll see the metal area where the cleat engages; the Light Action's notches are shallower and have a smoother transition at the end than the Zeros.
The great thing about going with Titanium is the weight savings. We weighed our Light Action pedals at 84g each, 2g heavier than advertised per side. Our cleats, with the three-hole plate and four-hole cleat weighed in a 57g each. 141g per pedal is pretty light, even these days. But, the cost of light here is a weight limit. Speedplay says riders over 185lbs should not ride these pedals
For us, using the pedals felt like a return to the days of riding Speedplay X2's. We had been wondering what it would be like to go from the limited float of the Zeros back to the free float of our old X2's. After a month on the Light Actions, we know. While the ride felt identical to the X2's, we couldn't get accustomed to having our heels periodically slap the outside of our chain stays. It was an annoyance, yes. But a major upside of the Light Action is twisting out of them. The lighter spring and shallower notch made the getting out when tired a good bit easier. It also made un-clipping the outside leg after an unfortunate sliding crash easier.
While we're unsure if we'll stick with the Light Actions, we are impressed. It's a huge plus that the pedal and cleat will take longer to wear out. When we were riding X2s, we could feel the slop increasing the older the pedals got. We even replaced bow ties and pedal bodies in an effort to extend the life of the pedal without completely replacing. The Light Actions Ti's are lighter than the X2 and have greater durability. For those considering the X1, the difference is about 10g a pedal, a difference we think worthwhile for the greater durability. If only these pedals, and carbon-soled shoes, were around when we first went clipless! No paranoia, and we wouldn't have been pedaling around with bricks under our shoes.