25th October 2012
Dura-Ace pedals have a great reputation, they’re lightweight, with a wide, stable pedaling platform and quality internals to ensure smoothness and reliability, all combining to make them a favourite of many pro-riders.
New Dura-Ace 9000 pedal (photo courtesy Shimano)
It seems to be the norm now in the modern world of throw away consumerism that when something new comes along, then something only just slightly older becomes a lot, lot cheaper as retailers try to clear stocks to make way for the latest kit. This is nothing but good news for us cyclists. The new Dura Ace 9000 11-speed is on its way and as much as we are excited, we are also well aware that the ‘old’ Dura Ace is going to become very attractive to us ‘everyday’ cyclists.
Nowhere is this more obvious that with the Dura Ace SPD-SL pedals. We have it on good authority that the outgoing 7900 carbon bodied pedal is mechanically, exactly the same as the new Dura Ace 9000 item, which will receive just a cosmetic update. There will be the option of a 4mm longer axle on the 9000 pedals but aside from that there is little difference. Even the list price is identical. However, the 7900 pedals are already being sold online at a huge discount. We have seen pairs available for south of £140, a long way below the £220 rrp.
Dura-Ace 7900 pedals and cleats
As far as upgrades go, pedals, like wheels, are one place where speccing a top tier model can make a big difference to your performance and to the longevity of that particular component. More expensive pedals have better bearings which will stay smoother for longer and so are a wise investment.
So are the Dura-Ace SPD-SL versions actually good pedals? We think they are fantastic. If you do ride this style of pedal, you may or may not be aware that it is a tried and tested design, being an evolution of the original LOOK pedal developed with Bernard Hinault in the 1980’s.
This SPD-SL pedal style was taken up by Shimano in the late 90’s / early 2000’s at the request of Lance Armstrong, who whatever your opinion of the man, certainly knew how to refine his equipment.
Dura-Ace SPD-SL 7800 pedals were narrower than the current versions (photo courtesy ebay)
Shimano Dura Ace pedals had progressed through various iterations from what was basically a LOOK copy (the 7401) to the small, mountain bike inspired SPD (7410), and then very unique SPD-R (7700) before Armstrong, unhappy with the SPD-R (which he only used for one season before going back to the older 7401 model) worked with Shimano to produce the current SPD-SL design.
Shimano Dura-Ace SPD-R pedals
The SPD SL has itself been through 3 different versions. The first 7800 version, with an alloy body and a fairly narrow shape, and then the second generation 7810 offered a wider alloy body for increased stability, a style which was continued to the 7900 and 9000, for which the only real development was the inclusion of a carbon pedal body to further reduce weight.
Shimano Dura-Ace SPD-SL 7810 pedals
The pedal body gives a wide, stable platform and immediately on launch bested its LOOK-i-likie in that it is near impossible to accidentally pull your foot out of the pedal in a sprint, a common issue with earlier LOOK pedals, though no longer as LOOK seem to have worked hard to fix this issue with their KEO pedals.
Shimano’s superiority in this area is no doubt helped by the cleats which, like LOOK cleats, are plastic but, unlike early LOOK cleats, are much more hardwearing with special raised walking/wear sections to make sure that the business end of the cleat stays in good shape and can still do its job.
Whereas LOOK have developed an impressively clever carbon spring on their top of the range KEO pedal, Shimano have stuck with the tried and tested metal spring tensioner on their top tier pedal. It works a treat and I’ve never heard of a problem with it.
Dura-Ace SPD-SL with its much wider pedaling platform than the SPD-R
Shimano managed to make the pedal very slim which aided cornering considerably. It is still possible to ground these pedals but you have to be going some and be totally committed to do so.
As far as the internals are concerned Shimano have pretty much stuck with the original SPD mechanicals, save for some refinement. Inside the modern SPD-SL you will find three sets of bearings, two ball bearing and one roller (needle) bearings. Its a very resilient design that helps transmit load evenly along the tough nickel plated chrome-moly axle spindle. On top of the carbon pedal body there’s a stainless steel plate that helps prevent excessive wear and movement of the cleat.
Dura-Ace SPD 7410 Pedals (photo courtesy Retrobike.co.uk)
No pedal spanner is required as the pedals are fitted to the crank arm using an 8mm allen key. Whilst its rare that there is play in these pedals, if it does materialise then adjusting the bearings is possible but can be quite fiddly. Park Tools do a good servicing summary here.
The original Dura-Ace 7401 pedal was basically a LOOK copy (photo courtesy ebay)
Weight is 250g per pair and another 75gs for the cleats and hardware which is near enough on par with rivals even if now both LOOK and Speedplay offer slightly lighter top of the range pedals.
Two types of cleat are offered: the Yellow cleats float but only 6-degrees, and red cleats are fixed. Both screw firmly into the standard 3-bolt ‘LOOK configuration’ drilling on the soles of most road shoes.
Carbon bodied Dura-Ace 7900 Pedals
Bulletproof is how we’d best describe these pedals, such is the quality that we still have pairs of both the SPD and SPD-R that run as smoothly as the day they were bought. None have had an easy life.
Many pundits will tell you Dura-Ace Pedals are expensive and that Ultegra versions can be had for less than half the price, but as we said when we started this article, you can find the Dura-Ace versions at a reasonable discount at present. If you are going to spend more on anything, this is one area where you really should spend a bit more cash – consider it an investment.
Dura-Ace SPD-SL RRP £229.00