Having solely run Shimano’s SPD clipless pedals for many years, I’ve become familiar with the way their retention mechanisms interact with the small metal cleats bolted to my shoes. For my kind of riding, the SPD system is a great fit. I can’t quite say the same for Shimano’s pedal spindles, however. On both the Deore XT PD-T780 and the PD-M530, I’ve run into issues affecting one pedal of each pair’s ability to spin smoothly. While I know how to service them by myself, bafflingly, the problems have kept coming back.
Instead of running these pedals to the ground with unaddressed ills, I decided to try something else. The French company Look, creator of the clipless pedal and shoe system, is a force to reckon with on three-bolt road bike cleat systems with its Keo lineup. On the two-bolt mountain bike side, however, it’s had to play catchup to Shimano SPD for years before finally giving up and joining the Japanese titan with its own line of SPD-compatible clipless pedals.
These are what I have on hand today: the Look X-Track pedals. The X-Track pedal lineup itself consists of many models, climbing hierarchically in price and material quality, as well as pedal platform size. I got myself the most basic model on eBay at discount.
- Cleat compatibility: Shimano SPD, Look X-Track, Look X-Track Easy
- Construction: Aluminum body; “Chromoly+” steel spindle; two cartridge bearings and one bushing
- Pedal platform dimensions (claimed): 57 mm width; 350 mm2 area
- Pedal stance width (Q-factor): 53 mm
- 6 degrees of float; 13 degrees release angle
- Intended for cross-country (XC) mountain bike use
- Weight (claimed): 200 g per pedal + 25 g cleat hardware per shoe
- Suggested retail price: US$55 (PhP2750)
The packaging is pretty beat-up on my pair, but what matters is what’s inside. You get the pedals, plus a pair of Look’s own X-Track cleats – which themselves are also SPD-compatible. I set them aside as spares as my current cleats are still good. Any instruction manuals these pedals were supposed to come with weren’t present in my box…but hey, I saved $10 off retail price in return, I guess?
Unlike Shimano pedals, which are usually disassembled from the inboard side, these have a dust cap on the outboard side which is removed to access the rotating assembly. Loosening an 8 mm nut then opens it up for servicing and/or replacement.
Look claims the X-Track pedals in this smaller XC form factor offer a larger platform area compared to their Shimano counterparts, at a purported 350 mm2. I wasn’t sure how they got this figure until I took another look at the box. This measured area is highlighted in white in one of the product feature icons, corresponding to the raised area of the pedals flanking the clipless mechanism left and right. This terminates with the edge of the chrome waffle grid area up front, where the pedal platform steps down about 2 mm.
By comparison, the trail/all-mountain-use M530 pedal set is physically larger, but has an external cage which makes up the bulk of the size difference. This external cage tapers off and away from the pedal platform area, and doesn’t make actual contact with your shoe when you’re clipped in.
Another difference with Shimano pedals is in how these X-Tracks don’t spin as freely when flicked by hand. This would normally indicate an issue with either bad bearings, excess preload, or dirty grease on a Shimano pedal, but on here it’s just how Look rolls. Actually turning the cranks with these pedals yields smooth and quiet operation, with none of the gritty action I got with both the left pedals on the M530s and T780s.
Clicking cleats into pedals is a surprisingly soft action, perhaps even besting Shimano’s, with the feeling of clipped-in security is about just 90% of those – especially when used with the SH56 multi-release SPD cleat. Like most SPD pedals, the retention spring can be tightened or loosened with a 3 mm hex hey.
Underfoot, the X-Track feels quite good. I was surprised to find I did not miss the external cage on the M530s. I can still put down the watts just as well on these physically smaller pedals. I’m not certain how much difference there is in terms of float, but at 6 degrees, the X-Tracks seem to offer a bit more of it, which will help riders with dodgy knees. This added cleat float takes a bit of getting used to, but becomes familiar after fifteen minutes of riding.
That said, the differences aren’t dramatic. The improvements Look brings to the table with these pedals are welcome, albeit incremental. Some of the quirks of other SPD pedals find their way on the X-Tracks too, such as the way the SH56 multi-release cleats can disengage unexpectedly if I curl up a relaxed, raised foot outward at an angle. (Disclaimer: I have yet to try SH51 single-release cleats.)
My X-Tracks are still fairly new, but I like what Look has done here. SPD cleat compatibility might have been the best thing they’ve done with their mountain bike pedals in terms of removing barriers to entry. I tend to not think about them at all while riding, which is very high praise for anything on a bike that serves as a contact point with your body. I don’t own any road cycling shoes or pedals, so I can’t make say how the pedal platform on these compares, but I will say these feel solid and supportive underfoot, while spinning smoothly and offering a welcome amount of float.
For my use case, which is primarily road riding and indoor training, I think these pedals should hold up just fine. That said, James Raison of La Velocita has a pair of the X-Track Race Carbon pedals which he takes on multiple gravel rides, and those have kept on trucking, so that should be a much better test of their longevity than anything I’ll put these through. We’ll see.