With gravel bikes taking riders places that a normal road bike wouldn’t, that can mean you’ll have to walk. Not a great idea when you’re wearing carbon soled road slippers! Yes, when the going gets tough, the tough have to get off and walk. Which means if you’re going off-road on your gravel bike you will want to look at an off-road shoe and pedal combo. Here Josh takes a look at the Look X Track Race Pedal.
One of the reasons I got a gravel bike was because I wanted something tougher than a road bike. I wanted to be less worried about the bike in the face of whatever the back country might throw at me. And part of that I knew from the very beginning was that the pedals I wanted on it were SPD. I’ve had a set of off brand SPD compatible pedals for about ten years, and I’ve never once had to worry about them. They float around to whatever bike I have that I want to clip in on, but I also won’t be doing serious miles on. A gravel bike changes that equation a bit, though. My gravel bike is a bike I’ll be doing some serious miles on, but I still want to take advantage of the ease of entry, mud shedding, and durability that SPD pedals offer. It’s this space that the Look X-track Race Carbon pedals really shine.
The Look X-Track Race Carbon pedals are SPD compatible pedals, so if you’ve used other SPD compatible pedals, these aren’t terribly different. Just because the system is the same, though, doesn’t mean that they feel the same. What I immediately noticed, from the very first clip in, was how smooth these are in operation. The engagement is positive and confidence inspiring, and the adjustable tension can be set with a lower release tension than Shimano branded pedals.
While I don’t mind really being locked into road pedals, with off-road pedals, I like to be able to get out in a hurry if it’s looking like I’m about to hit the dirt. Smooth entry and easy release is what I look for in a two bolt pedal, and Look delivers with the X-track lineup. Sure, it’s the same system as others, but Look seems to do a better job.
The other big thing, which Look talks a lot about, is the increased contact patch. In their marketing materials, Look calls out a surface area of 515 mm², but they fail to compare that to anything. I have no idea what the surface area of a Shimano branded SPD pedal might be, but what I can compare is the width. The Look X-Track pedals are 60mm wide while the Shimano PD-M520 I had handy is roughly 45mm wide. An extra 15mm on a pedal is a pretty substantial difference, and it’s really what makes these shine.
You might not have ever really felt the need for more surface area on your pedal, it likely depends on your usage, but even on a relatively short 20 mile ride, it’s noticeably more comfortable. Stretch that out to 50 miles or 100 miles, and those little comforts really add up. Aside from comfort, it also makes it a whole lot easier to pedal for a revolution or two while not clipped in. Starting from a light while in the city or getting going in the middle of a hill are a couple of places this becomes a very important feature.
The Look X-Track Race pedals are offered at four different price points. Across the price points, there are varying materials that offer different weights to correspond to the different prices. I took a look at the Carbon option, which is one step below the top of the range Carbon Ti. It can be found online for around $115. No matter which level you choose, though, you’ll get the same design. That is a design with adjustable release tension, lots of lateral support, a big contact patch, and fantastic engagement feel. The pricing and weight are competitive with Shimano’s offerings, but Look is offering a more feature rich product. This is one of those products I don’t have any trouble recommending.