For most mountain bikers, or cyclists in general, points of contact are rather personal components on their bikes. Ask a handful of riders what their favorite saddle, grip or pedal is and you’ll get a much wider array of answers than you would if you asked what their favorite fork is. Perhaps even more so than grips and saddles, clipless pedals have a funny way of creating brand loyalty. Whether it’s SPD, Crank Brothers, or Time, most riders find what works for them and stick with it. I have loads of friends who love Crank Brothers pedals, but the first time I tried them, I had a handful of idiotic crashes because I didn’t get my feet out of the pedals in time. Aware of the shortcomings of my $400/month health insurance here in America, like any responsible adult, I went right back to what I was used to – Times. So, the long winded introduction is a disclaimer to let you know that Times are already my preferred clipless pedal.
With that in mind, I still ride a pair of Time pedals that I’ve romped on for close to two decades, as well as their current entry level, the plastic caged MX2 pedals. I grew up racing on the East Coast, where the pedals were quite popular; largely due to how well they handled mud, which quite was common due to the horrible weather. So – when Time announced a new gravity oriented, high end pedal my ears perked. At $275, I did get a bit of sticker shock, but knowing the brand’s reputation I knew it would be worth taking a second look and inquiring about a long term test, to which our friends at Time obliged.
- 6061-T6 Aluminum body
- 100% made in France
- 404 grams (verified) without cleats
- 8 adjustable pins per pedal (4 per side)
- 13º / 17º reversible cleats (45 grams)
- Oversized hollow steel axle
- Steel bearings
- Micro adjustable tension
- $275.00 USD (recently updated)
With the Speciale, two things are new for Time – traction pins, and adjustable tension. ATAC is an acronym for Auto Tension Adjustment Concept, and as you could imagine, Time pedals used to rely on a pre-set tension that automatically adjusted. Just above and to the left of the “SP” etching, you can see a small 2mm set screw. This applies or relieves tension to the active spring which engages with the front of the cleat, thus adjusting ease of entry and exit.
In the setup phase, there is some inevitable dabbling with cleat placement based on personal preference, and how limited you are by your shoes’ cleat pocket and the real estate it provides. In the case of the Five Ten Hellcat Pro, shown above, there is loads of room for adjustment, but getting in was initially difficult…
Unsure if the hangup was due to needing a spacer to get my cleat further outboard, or if the traction pins were barring me from an easy entry, I started with the easiest adjustment and buried the traction pins most of the way. As you can see in the photo above, the default position under tension, is for the back of the pedal to be pressed up against the sole of the shoe. It’s worth noting that at the time I installed the Speciales, the shoes were also new, but upon bottoming the rearward traction pins, entry did get a bit easier…
On the trail
It’s arguably better to break in the soles of a new set of shoes than it is to space your cleats out and have them riding high. And so, after a healthy break-in period comprised of 2-3 big rides, everything settled in nicely. Having a tension adjustment was a bit foreign as the adjustment free interface of Time ATAC feels more like home. I ended up setting the adjustment in the middle and running the brass cleats in the standard release setting. The cleats can be reversed for a slightly earlier, but more difficult release with a bit less float. Part of what I like about the Time cleat design is that with the provided stock cleat in the standard position, it feels more difficult to disengage when turning your heel inboard (versus outboard), toward the bike. If you’re like most people, right after you hit the apex of a turn, your outer foot’s heel cranks toward the bike as it oversteers upon exiting the turn. For some reason, with SPD cleats, I have an issue with disengaging when this happens.
Anyhow – getting back to the Speciale specifically, the roomy platform and pins made it easy to find the shoe’s cleat pocket. In classic Time style, it required minimal effort to get in, but once you are in, the feeling is quite snug and secure, so you won’t unclip unintentionally. In all honesty, the traction pins totally lead me on and made it seem like it would be easier to just ride along, sloppily and unclipped, with big bad pins digging in and holding me in place. In reality, this wasn’t really the case, but the pins do add to the overall traction, so there is no sense in downplaying their importance. My preference for Time’s clipless pedals stems not only from their durability, but also from their performance in horrendous conditions. A few weeks ago I flew back to the East Coast to race the U.S. Open. While these pedals are aimed at “Enduro”, they don’t look to be any less up to the task for DH level riding when compared to other gravity offerings from Time. Anyhow, I spent a day riding them in sloppy, muddy conditions (before switching to flats, purely to make it down the hill) and in classic Time style, they had no issues with clearing mud and muck. Clipping in and out of Time pedals is just as effortless in bone dry conditions as it is in mud and muck. The only exception being that like any clipless pedal, if a decent sized pebble decides to get stuck in your cleat pocket, you’re screwed.
In the grand scheme of things, $275 is a bit on the pricy side for a set of on pedals, but without any exaggeration, they will most likely last way more than a decade. No, really. The adjustable cleat tension and traction pin height is definitely a bonus, but I’d be lying if I claimed that you could just blast down the trails, unclipped without a care in the world due to their increased traction. Alas, that’s not a likely attribute of any clipless pedal, for that matter. In the long run, this is another invincible, brilliantly designed clipless pedal from Time. The price is a bit tough to swallow, but the Speciale does pack in some nice features like a longer lasting 6061-T6 body, the aforementioned traction pins, and the first ever (for Time) adjustable tension. If you’re a :”buy it once and get it over with” type, these are worth a look…particularly if you often ride in crappy conditions.