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Speedplay: The Little Pedal with the Big Presence On and Off the Road

  • By Lennard Zinn
  • Published Jul. 6, 2010
  • Updated Oct. 11, 2012 at 5:12 PM EDT

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Speedplay founder and inventor Richard Bryne is always smiling. He smiled during the many years when his road pedals were not being taken as seriously as the big brands with spring-loaded pedals. And as the years have passed, he has had ever more reason to smile, as the astounding litany of success on his pedals mounted.

The prototype Speedplay MTB design has a mousetrap-type spring and strongly resembles a Time or Crank Brothers mechanism, but it has a few unique twists. Photo by Lennard Zinn

This year alone on the road, his pedals adorn the pro world champions in road (Cadel Evans), time trial (Fabian Cancellara) and pursuit (Taylor Phinney) and have won the Giro d’Italia’s overall, points, and best young rider competitions, Paris-Roubaix, Tour of Flanders, Flèche Wallonne, the prologue of this Tour de France, and umpteen stage wins in races ranging from Paris-Nice to the Tours of California and Qatar to the Giro and Tour – well upwards of 150 pro wins in 2010 so far.

San Diego, California-based Bryne has believed in his road pedals unflinchingly all along and has never changed their basic design, despite bike consumers often voting with their dollars that pedals need to be spring-loaded, and despite whatever refinements came along to those spring-loaded pedals. Look started the clip-in pedal revolution with a design adapted from its ski bindings. Look’s pedal designer then left and formed Time, premiering free-float in yet another spring-loaded design. Many other pedals followed with designs similar to these French companies, but not Speedplay. Bryne started with a small, simple disc of a pedal that fit into a hollow in a large cleat into which he built both release and free-float mechanisms, and he has stuck with it.

Off-Road

Sticking with his original design through thick and thin has worked great for Bryne on the road, but it could also be argued that he stuck with the Speedplay Frog design too long off-road. His new mountain pedal is still not available, and Bryne is making no predictions about when it will be available or what it will cost, but prototypes have been in the field for some time.

The design has a mousetrap-type spring and strongly resembles a Time or Crank Brothers mechanism, but it has a few unique twists. Like with the road Zero pedal, the float range is adjustable with the cleat. The cleat is all steel for long wear, and it has a rotating plate with limit screws built into its outer ring to act as stops against an ear protruding from the central mounting disc to dial in the rotational range of motion of the pedal. The pedal has two teeth on it to grab the outer ring of the cleat on either side of a centering nub, and the steel ring’s lateral tabs stabilize the foot across the hardened bumps on the pedal’s central axis; the bumps and tabs stay in contact to maintain that platform stability, while the mounting disc, with the shoe attached, rotates within it. An adjustment screw pushing on the spring affords adjustment of release tension, and a replaceable steel plate allows the rider to keep the contact surfaces new.

I’m eager to try it when it comes available, and my biggest question is that the teeth on the pedal look a bit sharp and potentially shin-gouging.

Technical writer Lennard Zinn is a frame builder (www.zinncycles.com), a former U.S. national team rider and author of numerous books on bikes and bike maintenance including the pair of successful maintenance guides “Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance” – now available also on DVD, and “Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance,” as well as “Zinn and the Art of Triathlon Bikes” and “Zinn’s Cycling Primer: Maintenance Tips and Skill Building for Cyclists.”

Zinn’s regular column is devoted to addressing readers’ technical questions about bikes, their care and feeding and how we as riders can use them as comfortably and efficiently as possible. Readers can send brief technical questions directly to Zinn.

Follow Lennard on Twitter.

FILED UNDER: Bikes and Tech / MTB / News TAGS: / /

Lennard Zinn

Lennard Zinn

Our longtime technical writer joined VeloNews in 1987. He is also a framebuilder, a former U.S. National Team rider, and author of many bicycle books, including Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance and Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance, as well as Zinn and the Art of Triathlon Bikes and Zinn's Cycling Primer: Maintenance Tips and Skill Building for Cyclists. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in physics from Colorado College. Readers can send brief technical questions to Ask LZ.

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