Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Look Keo Easy pedal review

A few weeks ago I took advantage of a good deal at REI to get some clipless pedals. Now that I've had them for a while and had a chance to put them through their paces I figured I'd pass on what I found out so far.

Have you ever seen the commercials where the little kid is trying to read the ingredients of some food product they're about to eat, but need mom to tell them what the big words mean? This is sort of how I felt when I tried to figure out what my Look Keo Easy pedals were made of. I wanted to know what exactly I was relying on to put my 300+ pounds of weight against while pedaling as hard as I can though training and races.

The Keo site says that the pedal is made of a composite material, but didn't provide a lot more detail. Doing some digging I found that it was a "polyamide resin comprised of glass fibers, Nylon 6,6 and an MX nylon".  While it doesn't tell me a great deal as someone without a PhD in Chemistry, it tells me it's some kind of really strong plastic-like substance mixed with fiberglass. That's good enough for me, because it should mean it's strong and yet light.

Installing the pedals was interesting. Normal pedals use a tool called a pedal wrench to put tools on. Being that the Look Keo pedals don't have the flat sides on the axle to support the usage of the pedal wrench, and the instructions didn't include anything for actually installing the pedals, I was at a bit of a loss on the installation process. So I went to the internet and found something surprising; inside the axle of the pedal is drilled to support using a hex wrench to install the pedals. Thankfully, Hex wrenches are an extremely common tool for bicycles and I have a bunch of them, and was able to install the pedals quickly from that point.

I should take a step back here for those of you who don't cycle regularly or aren't up on the intricacies of modern pedal design. There are really 3 kinds of pedals: flat or platforms, pedals with clips, and what are called clipless pedals. Flat or platform pedals are the kind that come with most bicycles, we've all seen them. Pedals with clips are just that; flat or platform pedals with that have an attached "clip" to slide the front of your foot into. There is usually an adjustable belt at the highest point of the clip to ensure a snug fit. Lastly, there are clipless pedals, which is actually a terrible misnomer. Clipless pedals allow the rider through the use of special bicycle shoes to attach their foot more directly to the pedal via use of a cleat on the shoe that literally clips into the pedal. The Look Keo Easy pedals are this last type of pedal, and came with cleats to install on my bicycle shoes.

Installing the cleats was significantly easier than the pedals, as it's just three screws into the bottom of the shoe to attach the cleats. The cleats are made of a softer composite, so they are far more likely to need replaced. The portion of the cleat that attaches to the bicycle is made of a harder silicone, so it securely attaches and has less give than the remainder of the clip. Plus the silicone limits the friction caused when trying to unclip the cleat from the pedal.

The reason I looked to move to clipless pedals is that with my larger feet, my shoes didn't fit very well into the clips on my platform pedals. This made it difficult for me to get the ball of my feet securely on the platform, causing me to pedal mostly with my toes. Now that I have the clipless system I can adjust (within an certain range) where the cleat sits on the foot.

Once I got everything hooked up and adjusted to where I like them, there was the manner of learning how to get clipped in without killing myself. This is far and away the most difficult part of moving to clipless pedals; just getting your clips in and getting underway without falling over.The pedals, due to the weight of the springs in the clip (rear) end of the pedal tend to hang in a way that isn't conducive to getting clipped in. You have to use your foot to get it straightened out and then clip in. This is pretty easy when you're standing still for the first one. It's far more complex to attempt while moving to get the other foot in.

What adds to the complexity is that while you're learning to get clipped in, you have to learn to unclip as well; sometimes rather quickly. Trying to get clipped in while moving slowly makes it really easy to tip over and if you can't get your other foot unclipped in time, you're going to wind up getting hurt. Thankfully, when I fell while trying to clip in, I landed on a row of shrubs, keeping me mostly upright and allowing me to figure out how to unclip my other foot before I wound up on the ground.

Eventually, I figured out how to get clipped in without falling down and once fully underway, I loved using the new pedals immediately. The bike feels more responsive all the way around,  as I'm getting power from every part of my pedal stroke. The old pedal clips let up a lot of force on the upstroke of each foot, so I might be getting power from one side, but when both were in motion there was no way I was transferring all of my effort to the bike.

Being a big guy I worried initially about the pedals being made of something other than metal, but so far they seem strong and dependable. Putting full weight on each foot, pedaling as hard as i can, and I heard no creaks, detected no lack energy transfer on the upswing. In fact I still deal with a little fear about what happens in a stituation where there's a problem with the road or a sudden mechanical failure with a tire and I need to get unclipped quickly. Hopefully that won't happen, because I'm not sure how fast I can react. But in all other regards this change was definitely worth it.


- Hope I didn't bore anyone with all that. I know it's a lot to chew on and many folks come here just for my daily weightloss struggles. But these tools give me  and added advantage in working to complete my goals. For the folks who are triathletes or cyclists, i think this is valuable information. If folks disagree, feel free to say so in the comments. I'm a big boy and can take it.

- I did 30 minutes of intervals last night, and wound up running 8 out of the 30 minutes. I'm getting faster as I managed 2.2 miles in just about 30 minutes. The new RunKeeper application works really nicely, and I'll need to get an armband for my phone for sure.


  1. So ben how is it going with the pedals? I'm about to try clipless thanks for the review.. Have you been having more success getting in and out? thanks Dwight in New Orleans

  2. Dwight -

    It takes a little practice but you can get to the point where you can do it pretty easily. I won't go so far as to say I'm an expert, but I feel comfortable enough to use them during my race on 5/9 without any concerns.

    Thanks for reading and thanks for commenting!

  3. I have an advantage in that I've been ridding in clipless pedals for over 10 years and I've always used a look pedal. I transitioned to the keo 3 seasons ago and love the pedals. You'll become much more adept to clipping in and out as your ride more and it will be second nature.

    Here's to many future great rides with the new shoes/pedals!

  4. If one were to identify a single component of a bike that makes a huge difference, it is clipless pedals. This one (relatively) cheap and easy to install component helps so much with both power and endurance - being able to use more/different muscles helps enormously.

    Just remember - EVERYONE who has changed to clipless has had a stack when trying to unclip. The key is to try and do it:
    a) when no one is looking (REALLY difficult - most stops happen where people are around, eg traffic lights)
    b) without hurting yourself (contrary to logic, try not to extend a body part, eg knee, elbow, but rather try and roll the impact along your body - hopefully this is not something you will need to practice often!)


  5. Derek - Is there some way to make it easier to get the pedal to sit in the position you want it in for clipping in? Once I get the left foot in, I often have to spend a minute or two getting the right pedal to sit how I want in order to clip in.

    Grant - That's good advice, and at the same time knowing that it';s likely I'll fall doesn't provide much comfort LOL. I just am hoping to get through this coming race without a major tumble. I haven't yet gone 10 miles full speed, though I will probably look to do that today.

  6. Hi I have been reading your blog for awhile now, and have enjoyed your honesty in your journey. I too am I large guy and took up cycling last year. I went with mountain bike pedals for the reason that they have 4 sided entry. This makes the transition from platform pedals to clipless pedals a lot easier. Anyways you can checkout my review of them here: . Thanks, and keep up the hard work. There certainly is a great reward to getting physically fir.

  7. Jeff,

    I read your review, and your point specifically about essentially universal entry on a MTB pedal makes a lot of sense. I hadn't thought to look at the "egg beater" style pedals because frankly I knew i wanted pedals but i decided to make the purchase just the day before because I'd been itching to upgrade my ride in some way, knowing I wouldn't be buying a new bike for quite a while.

  8. This is a great review of the clipless pedal system as a whole, do you have any more specific opinions on this particular model of pedal?

  9. When I first wrote this review, I didn't have a lot of experience with clipless pedals, so I probably could have prefaced that better.

    That said, now that I do have experience, this particular model seems like an ideal bargain especially for beginners or folks looking for entry into a clipless system. The only problem I have comes from the cleats; their made of plastic and seem like they'll need replacement about once per season, unless you simply dont walk on them at all.

    Maybe a smaller person would have less issue with this, but on concrete or asphalt, they scratch up pretty quickly. They aren't very thick and this is clearly the weakest part of the system.

    If you don't mind spending $20 a year on replacement cleats, the pedals themselves seem plenty durable for long term use.

    Does that help?

  10. I love these! Thanks for the advice!

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  12. Dude get the covers for the cleats and you wont have a problem with the cleats getting beat up the covers are like 10 bucks. i have been competing in cycle racing since i was 10 and have about 9 years in the race circuit. this are among one of my favs. but you cant adjust how tight they are i like mine really tight. an easy way to get out is to twist your ankle in and it should pop out fast.