Contact-point products that don’t mess with my body or head the first ride out deserve some special recognition. Shimano’s new carbon PD-7900 Dura-Ace pedals slide neatly into that category; they are inconspicuous and wholly forgettable, as all good pedals seem to be. If I forget about them, they must not be annoying me.
I’ve used Shimano SPD-SL’s on-and-off for a few years now, and have always been a fan of the simple, robust design, positive engagement and “firm” hold they provide, particularly with the red float-less cleats. The old Dura-Ace 7810’s only real flaw was weight – they fell well in arrears of lighter (and often cheaper) setups from Time, Look, and plenty of others. The aluminum body, stainless steel wear plate and spindles that made them so robust, and provided the solid feel I loved, also weighed them down, tipping the scales at about 280 grams.
The new carbon Dura-Ace pedals have been in development for quite some time. We first spotted prototypes of the pedals on a few Skil-Shimano and Garmin-Transitions bikes in the 2009 Tour de France, and have seen them popping up on pro bikes ever since. So when a final-draft prototype set came across my desk not too long ago, I was hopeful that Shimano used the years of testing to create a similar solid feel with the new, much lighter, carbon body. They did indeed.
Shimano says the prototype set I’ve been riding is exactly the same as what has been shipping to consumers this fall. The latest version drops a little over 30 grams off last year’s aluminum PD-7810 model, coming in at 247 grams on the VeloNews scale. That’s nowhere near the lightest out there, but at least they’re now a bit more competitive with some other options. Look’s much cheaper Keo 2 MAX Carbon comes in at 244g, and their Blade with CrMo axle is 230 grams for a pair (190 grams for Ti axle). Time’s I-Clic ranges from 180 to 260 grams, depending on model.
So Shimano’s latest offering falls in line with some of the most expensive sets available in terms of cost, but it remains 30-70 grams heavier. However, feathery weight isn’t why you pick these pedals.
The carbon PD-7900 maintains the same body shape as the aluminum Dura-Ace PD-7810, with one of the widest platforms available, 66mm across. The 7900 uses the same SPD-SL cleats as always, available in fixed float (red) and 6˚ float (yellow). Like the 7810, the 7900 ditches the silly plastic wear plate of the older SPD-SL’s (PD-7800 and previous) in favor of a stainless steel version, which is still replaceable. Though I can’t imagine ever needing to replace it.
The 7900 sticks with a stainless steel spindle, taking a weight penalty in favor of a stiffer, more durable pedal. The pedals spin on two ball and one roller bearing, a combination that has proved hard-wearing in the previous version.
There isn’t a whole lot to be said about the ride quality of a good pedal, they simply perform as you want them to. A lack of apparent flaws is the most noteworthy attribute. That said, the 7900’s hold onto your foot securely, with no up-and-down motion, and feel stiff under load. They’re lighter than previous iterations, while maintaining the same super-solid feel that the latest batch of SPD-SL’s has been known for.
That wide body provides one of the most stable pedals I have ever had the pleasure of riding. The pedal provides a platform for the entire width of the cleat. For reference, the sole of my shoes is about 10cm wide, so the 7900 cleat and pedal takes up approximately 2/3rds of the total width of my shoe.
Hooking the front of the pedal with your cleat to clip in is simple. Once clipped in, stack height is relatively low. The cleats have large rubber knobs that protect the pedal contact surfaces and make walking relatively painless.
Release tension is adjustable, as it always has been with Shimano pedals. With the red fixed-float cleats and the tension adjusted to about the middle of its range, the 7900’s were confidence inspiring in sprints. I imagine that with the tension dialed all the way up even the most gorilla-like among us would have trouble yanking out of these pedals.
Shimano Dura-Ace carbon pedals are not perfect. At about $350 retail, they are significantly more expensive than weight-class competitors, and about the same price as pedals that are appreciably lighter. They don’t offer the same level of float as some other options, like Speedplay, and some knees won’t appreciate the relatively tight feel even with the 6˚ float cleats. Clipping in and out requires some force – much more than Time’s I-Clic for example. But anyone looking for a solid, firm pedal from a company renowned for their durable products should take a hard look at the new carbon Dura-Ace PD7900’s.
Shimano Dura-Ace PD-7900 Carbon pedals
The Scoop: Same great SPD-SL shape and solid feel with a new, lighter carbon body
Pros: Wide body, solid feel, steel wear plate, solid retention, three year warranty
Cons:Expensive, not super light, float may be inadequate for some