Wrenched & Ridden bike reviews: Time I-Clic Carbon road pedals

Zack Vestal gives Time's new carbon-sprung I-Clic pedals a spin

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Tech: Power to the Pedals
The June issue spread

For an article in the June 2010 issue of VeloNews magazine, we assembled six pairs of the latest and greatest in road pedals and tested five of them. If you missed the issue, too bad — we got up close and personal with Look’s $500 Keo Blades, Mavic’s Race SL Ti, and Ritchey’s WCS Echelon pedals, plus two others.

But Time’s new I-Clic pedals were in such demand from retailers earlier this spring that we couldn’t get a pair in the hands of testers until after the story was written. In fact, we barely got them into the building on time for photography to make the magazine.

(For that matter, we inadvertently neglected Exustar’s 88-gram, carbon and titanium E-PR200CKTi pedals entirely. They, too, are now in our hands and on a bike for testing).

Now that I’ve cranked almost a month of saddle time with Time’s I-Clics, it’s time to issue a verdict. My opinion is mixed, but far more positive than negative. With just a few minor tweaks, they’d be outstanding.

If that sounds too equivocal, consider this: after riding the test pair, I’ve gone and ordered up a second set with my own credit card. Even if they’re not totally perfect for me, they suit the particulars of my setup enough to justify their cost, and they get the job done quite well.

The Wrenching

Like Look’s Kéo Blade, Time’s range of four I-Clic pedal models depends on carbon fiber leaf springs for retention. But rather than bowing inward like the Blade, Time’s I-Clic carbon spring bends down, flexing like a ruler held over the edge of a desk and pushed toward the floor.

There’s more to the I-Clic story than just the carbon spring. I-Clic pedals are the first we’ve seen in which the rear latch is cocked like the hammer of a gun in the open position. Stepping into the pedals releases a trigger, allowing the clasp to snap down on the cleat almost instantly. When the rider twists out of the pedals, the clasp opens and is re-cocked in the open position.

Time is making four models of the I-Clic pedals, starting with the entry-level I-Clic Fiberflex at just $140 and 260 grams per pair. Various applications of carbon fiber and titanium raise the prices and drop weight accordingly, topping out with the I-Clic Titan Carbon at $460 and only 180 grams per pair. The cleats add only 25 grams each and Time says it’s the lightest complete combination of pedals and cleats available.

I rode the $250 234-gram I-Clic Carbon pedals.

Time’s signature Bioposition (stack height from shoe sole to pedal axle) remains a low 13 mm. The range of movement includes 5 degrees of angular float and 2.5 mm of lateral float. Time also claims an oversized 447mm2 (square millimeter) pedaling platform and slightly asymmetric cleats that permit 2.5mm of Q-factor adjustability (by swapping the left cleat to the right shoe, and vice versa).

The cleat is large, at 9cm long and 6.5cm wide. It uses the familiar Look-style 3-hole bolt pattern for mounting. Time calls it a “café cleat,” because it has large pads that project behind and beyond the retention clips. The pads at the three corners of the cleat keep the business ends of the cleat away from contact with the ground and are tipped with non-slip material for safe walking.

Platform area
A view of the large platform area

The Riding

This is my first experience on Time pedals. I rode Speedplay a long time ago, then several iterations of Shimano SPD-R pedals for the last eight years, and lately I’ve spent a lot of time with Look’s Kéo Blades. The I-Clics are nothing like any of the above, but they’re nice.

Apparently one complaint that’s cropped up in the past among Time riders is difficulty clipping in, so the I-Clic line was developed specifically for ease of entry. It works great. Getting in to the I-Clics is fast and easy. The front of the cleat hangs well below the shoe sole, so snagging the leading edge of the pedal is no problem. And when the pedal’s retention clasp is cocked in the open position, it snaps down instantly on the cleat with almost no pressure.

It’s possible for the pedal’s retention clasp to wind up in the closed position. I accidentally triggered a couple of times while messing around at a stoplight. But it’s no problem — you just step into the pedal as normal and clip in with barely perceptible additional effort.

Clipping out is just as easy. Rather than a hard point against which twisting out becomes more difficult, Time built the pedals so that resistance increases smoothly and progressively as you twist your foot. At 15 degrees of angular rotation, the cleat pops easily but firmly out of the pedal. It’s exceptionally smooth and seamless.

Release spring tension is not adjustable in the traditional sense. Time says that the wide release angle, rather than adjustable spring tension, provides security against accidental release. However, there is a cam screw on the side of the clasp at the rear of the pedal that preloads the carbon leaf spring. The spring preload can be dialed up to provide more resistance to angular movement.

Café style
Café style

The pedal platform feels great. It’s wide and stable, and I really like the low cleat stack height. Additionally, the large cleat contact surface against the shoe sole seems to distribute pedal pressure broadly across the shoe. No trace of hot spots, undue pressure against my foot, or tingly toes. While the large cleat looks ungainly on the shoe, it walks just fine. The wide, tacky stabilizers make clacking around on a linoleum or tile floor feel totally secure.

The adjustable Q-factor with the cleats is cool, too. It’s a subtle difference but I noticed it when I swapped the cleats from one shoe to the other. I placed the cleats for the lowest Q-factor. The 2.5mm of side-to-side float is nice, but I would rather see adjustable side-to-side cleat placement on the shoe. Most cleats with other pedals offer this feature, allowing you to precisely determine how far from the cranks your feet will sit. The I-Clic cleat allows angular and fore/aft adjustment, but no lateral adjustment. If I could, I would position the cleat to move my feet even closer to the cranks.

Time I-Clic Carbon road pedals
Retail price: $250
The Scoop: Time’s latest lightweight pedal, with a carbon fiber retention spring
Pros: Lightweight, wide and stable platform, easy entry and release.
Cons: Angular float overly constrained by re-centering spring tension.
More info: www.time-sport.com

One especially nice aspect to the cleats is a wide range of fore/aft adjustability. It’s why I bought another pair of I-Clics. I ride Mavic’s ultra-light Huez shoes, but the cleat mounting bolt holes are too far forward on the shoe. Happily, I-Clic cleats have enough fore/aft range to slide way back and put the ball of my foot 1cm forward of the pedal spindle, where I like it.

On the other hand, my gripe with these pedals is the lack of completely free angular float. Most of the angular float is constrained by re-centering pressure from the retention spring. Time says that riders should get five degrees of unrestricted angular float, but to me it feels like much less before the carbon spring starts pushing my heels back to center.

It’s not that my feet want to swing left and right with each pedal stroke. But I like unrestricted angular float for two reasons. One, cleat placement on the shoe doesn’t have to be dead perfect. With enough free angular float, there’s wiggle room so your feet can find their natural spot on the pedals. Two, I seem to want to change the angle of my feet depending on the output. Climbing hard in the saddle, I seem to go a little duck-footed, leaning my ankles toward the cranks. But riding hard in the drops on the nose of the saddle, my left foot wants to swing outward just a little, a little pigeon-toed like Chris Horner. Free float allows this mid-ride adjustment of foot angle.

On the other hand, Time’s mostly re-centering float gave me problems for the first two weeks I rode them. I was constantly fiddling with the cleat placement to get my feet in a comfortable spot. Even the very gentle re-centering pressure of the spring was enough to make me uncomfortable until I got the cleats just dead perfect.

I didn’t have any durability problems in the roughly four weeks I’ve spent on the I-Clic Carbons. The bearings stayed super-smooth and they feel adequately greased to go the distance. After extensive use, we’ve seen breakage of the front toe hook on Time’s RXS pedals, but no issues with the I-Clics in my month of riding.

That’s it — a little more unrestricted, free angular float and I’d be in heaven. I’ve got the cleats dialed so it’s not a big problem — it just took a long time to get there. Now that I’ve got it sorted out, I’m eagerly awaiting the arrival of the lighter, I-Clic Titan Carbons I bought for my race bike.

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.