Tech letters for November 23, 2001

Edited by John Stevenson

Confounded by carbon fiber? Need to sound off about superlight stuff? Tech letters is the forum for your gear-related questions and opinions. We'll attempt to answer all questions that don't require a PhD in astrophysics or industrial espionage.

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Speedplay pedals and pedals in general continue to attract comment, and we've a rave from a very happy Pegoretti owner. We kick off, though, with a question from Paul, a reader in Sydney, Australia, about cyclo-cross brake set-up. Unfortunately there's no cyclo-cross racing in Australia that we've ever heard of so we can't tell Paul to drop by a local race and take a look at a cross bike to see how things work. Maybe we'll organise some…


Cyclo-cross brakes
Pegoretti frames
Speedplay pedals

Cyclo-cross brakes

In several pictures I have seen that riders opt for MTB style brake levers on their tops of the drop bars. Leon Van Bon had this configuration in the Paris-Roubaix this year as well. I presume that they no longer have any braking from the STI levers. What are the advantages of this set up? Especially in Paris-Roubaix I would presume that braking and cornering on the tops would be a bit hairy to say the least.

Sydney Australia

The levers you're spotted actually fit into the cable run between the main levers and the brakes, so that the rider has the option of using either pair of levers. The advantage is simply that you can brake from the tops, something many riders like to be able to do.

We're aware of two different manufacturers of these levers, Empella in the Netherlands and Paul Component Engineering in the USA.

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Pegoretti frames

I bought a Pegoretti Custom (the red/blue/yellow) steel frame/fork last February. I've been riding and racing since '78 and have owned many bikes; French, Italian and US. My last two bikes were both US-made titanium frames with carbon forks.

The Pegoretti is hands-down the nicest, best-handling, smoothest, most responsive bike I ever rode. Absolutely no buyer's remorse here! While I love the all-steel ride, I would not hesitate to buy one of the other aluminum or carbon-forked steel models (not in my budget for now). Go for the Pegoretti!

Keith Shuey

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Speedplay pedals #1

One problem that hasn't been identified with Speedplays is the springs in the cleat. Because the springs are in the cleat, and not the pedal, it's possible to constrain the springs' movement by overtightening the cleats to the shoes. Similarly, the springs tend to not snap back all the way closed after you've had them on a pair of shoes for some time (probably exacerbated by riding or walking in dirty confines). In fact, Speedplay explicitly addresses this problem with a small note in the box of new pedals that warns you not to overtighten the cleats for fear of constricting the springs. And this runs counter to the cyclist's intuition to tighten parts on the bike with a great deal of force to ensure their safety.

Unfortunately for me, I found out the hard way about this problem by standing up to close a gap in a group ride and literally launching myself over the bars and landing on my face. I suffered pretty severe injuries but fortunately, the kind folks at the local emergency room did an exceptional job of putting Humpty Dumpty back together again, and I've even gotten back into pretty good shape. And to be clear, I'm a 34 year old cat 2 in southern California with several years of experience on the bike.

I felt like it was my fault for not adequately checking and making sure the cleats were well attached to my new Northwave shoes, and I still ride Speedplays, only now with the cleats on properly. I've ridden them for five years and would never go back to the Times and Looks I used to ride. They're light, great on the knees, easy in/out, and great for cornering.

Christian Tregillis

Ouch! Christian, it's good to know that after a big one like that you're about fully recovered and able to take an attitude of passing along what you learned.

I mentioned this issue in passing in the Speedplay Zero review, but it looks like it bears emphasising, and illustrates a more general principal: bike stuff is getting more complex, you must read the manual before you do anything with it.

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Speedplay pedals #2

It seems that the general consensus in this forum (and many others) is that Speedplay pedals, while taking some getting used to, are well loved by the users. As John Lieswyn mentioned "The aluminum plate has nothing to do with the function of the engagement, so it can be worn down without worry." The problem I've found is the wearing down of the screw heads that secure the aluminum plate. If these get too horribly shorn, they will need to be drilled out/off.

Speedplay does make a "Part Snap Spring Housing Clip" which, oddly enough, does not include the aluminum plate or screws... without a doubt, the parts that will wear out first. I have contacted Speedplay about purchasing the aluminum plate, and was referred to the "coffee shop covers", which work well but do wear out and do not prevent "incidental wear" (to and from the bathroom, pushing off after coming to a stop, etc...).

It seems economically advantageous (without being too slimy) for Speedplay to encourage cyclists to purchase the entire cleat system (US $30-$35) instead of the (US 50 cents?) aluminum plate/screws that, in my case, needs replacing twice yearly.

Seattle, WA

Looking at the way our Speedplay samples are wearing, I think I understand what Speedplay is trying to do by only selling complete cleats. The spring moves on the plastic base of the cleat. There must be gradual wear of this part too, and by selling only complete cleats Speedplay makes sure that nobody can continue to use a worn cleat base.

On the Zero cleats the head of the screw is about 1mm below the level of the aluminium, so you should get an acceptable amount of use before it's necessary to reach for the drill.

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Speedplay pedals #3

I have used Speedplay pedals since 1992 when a rep walked in the door of the shop I rode for in Pensacola, Florida. He said he had a pedal system that had full float and it would be great for people with knee problems. Well, after two knee surgeries on a torn ACL from of all things football (yes the American type) I got a pair that day, and have never changed back. I am now on my fourth pair and unless something amazing comes along will be a Speedplay endorser for life. I tried my father in laws SPDs and felt so awkward that I cut the ride short.

Allen Wahlstrom

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Pedals #1

Two words in response to Charles Foley's dilemma of not being able to afford Speedplays for all eight of his bikes: pedal wrench.

Thom Leonard
Lawrence, KS USA

Been there, done that. It works, but it gets tedious pretty quickly. Quick release pedals, that's what we need...

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Pedals #2

I'd like to add my two cents on the pedal debate. I've used a lot of pedal systems but to me it's hard to beat Keywins. With the float in the pedal itself and the attachment mechanisms, you can also walk on the cleats and not affect performance. Very light also!!

JM Barry

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