LOOK S-Track Race Review
LOOK S-Track Race pedals
Straight out of the box and you can see that the LOOK S-Track Race pedals should be a winner when it comes to muddy conditions. LOOK have designed the S-Track to clear mud as easily as possible and after my last ‘cross season that can only be a good thing. The pedal body is smooth and uncluttered, apart from the ‘deflectors’ which are designed to protect the pedals from damage. A stainless steel upper should keep the wear down in this area.
That stainless steel section of the pedal is designed with two steps in it either side of a central raised section where the cleat sits. Those cleats have replaceable, raised elastomer bumpers built into them that should keep them firmly pressed onto the pedal and stop any feeling of skating around. They will wear out though and LOOK include a second set with the pedals. Presumably replacement cleats will include the bumpers.
Either side of the central raised section, the lower sections are designed so that your shoes tread should rest them, increasing the overall contact area to 460mm². Because all shoes have different tread depths, LOOK have included a set of shims to help you fine tune the height of your cleat. There are 8 shims in total, in 3 heights; 05mm, 1mm and 2mm. It’s not vital that you use both contact sections, but it will give a larger, more stable platform for your foot and reduce pressure on your foot directly above the cleat.
On first set up of the cleats I went with no shims, but if you’ve got carbon soled shoes LOOK do recommend using the 0.5mm shim. I’m assuming this is to protect the carbon. This part is going to require some trial and error, as tread depth and the width available for your cleat between the raised tread will vary from shoe to shoe. I found that while I could run the LOOK S-Track Race pedals with no shims, the cleat area of my Northwave shoes wasn’t wide enough to allow easy dis-engagement.
Two options were available: I could put more shims under the cleat until it was clear of the obstruction, but then I wouldn’t be using the full contact area available to press down on. Also with the cleats proud of the shoes tread they were subject to more wear. You can see this in the photos where the elastomers have already suffered some minor damage.
Or, option 2, perform some minor surgery on the tread around the central area. I’ve done this on other shoes to fit various pedals before, so it’s not a problem specific to the S-Tracks. A little hacking later and they were dis-engaging without any problems.
Once you’re set up and running the LOOK S-Track Race pedal employs the familiar step in and press down action to engage. It’s a very positive click, so there’s no “am I in or not?”. Tension is non-adjustable, but I haven’t experienced any unintentional dis-engagements, so not a problem. The bumpers do help to keep the cleat firmly pressed against the pedal, which helps give a very solid feel to the ride; there’s no clattering around.
As I alluded to at the start of this review, the thing with pedals is that if they are doing their job right, then you don’t notice them. The S-Tracks fell into this category. Once I had sorted out the dis-engagement problem, they ran sweet and smooth. While there wasn’t the amount of mud about during our test as earlier in the year, they handled what there was without any clogging.
LOOK have also produced an optional attachment, called the S-Track cage, that can be fitted around the S-Track pedal. This comes in two halves and screws together, turning the S-Track into a platform pedal. Fitting is easy and once on, gives a much larger contact area for your foot. LOOK have aimed the Cage at the ‘All Mountain and Enduro’ riders out there, who often want a larger platform for steep and technical sections and who don’t generally worry about mud. However, as we’ve seen with other pedal systems, such as the Crank Brothers Candy, a lot of pro cyclo-cross riders also prefer such a set-up. I haven’t tried these in a race yet but as a ‘cross rider I found these perfect for nipping down the shops in “normal” shoes – not so much technical as practical!
After a few weeks of testing the deflectors are starting to show some wear, but this is mainly cosmetic. The LOOK S-Track Race is equipped with 2 sets of ball bearings and one set of needle bearings. Past the end plug you have a lip seal and waterproof seals on the bearings, which should give the S-Tracks some life in wet conditions. There’s +/-3° of float, to save your knees and at 145g they are plenty light enough. The titanium axle version will shave an extra 20g, if you really need to.
So, overall impressions of the LOOK S-Track Race pedals are excellent. My normal off road pedals are a well used pair of Time Atac pedals, which have been through two bearing changes but are still performing. The S-Track’s torsion bar does look similar to the Atac’s but uses a much simpler, cleaner torsion bar. The Time design I found to be very good in the mud and LOOK’s version seems to offer an improved design, that should be just what I want come the ‘cross season. I’ll provide an update once I’ve raced them.