By Tom Demerly.
Few people know the historical significance of Time pedals and the reasons for their advantages. Genetically, the Time i-CLIC is what the optimal clipless was meant to be. The Time pedal comes from the man who invented the popular clipless pedal, Look inventor Jean Beyl. It’s worth understanding the technology in the new Time i-CLIC pedals and why these pedals are so sophisticated, and where they came from.
Time pedal inventor Jean Beyl invented the first spring release ski safety binding in Nevers, France in 1948. Along with the chair lift, they revolutionized recreational skiing. Beyl went on to apply similar thinking to the first popular clipless pedal: he invented Look pedals in 1982 following a failed attempt by Cinelli with their crude M71.
Jean Beyl’s invention, the Look clipless pedal, was a massive success by 1984 but a lack of capital by the company’s financier, Bernard Tapie, constrained Beyl from advancing the design. As a result, Beyl struck out with a new investor and started Time Sport- makers of the Time pedal. Beyl held significant rancor for Look Sports and Tapie, who invested heavily in a health food chain called “La Vie Claire” sponsors of the pro cycling team of Greg LeMond and Bernard Hinault in 1985 and beyond. The original Time Sport products featured the motto “Le Defi” or “The Challenge” in reference to Time’s challenge of Look’s market dominance at the time.
Beyl’s original Look pedal began with a static interface between cleat and pedal. The cleat remained stationary relative to the pedal. Once you clipped in, you couldn’t move your foot rotationally or laterally. In early Look pedals you were, literally, “locked in” until release. Beyl quickly realized that, unlike a ski where the fixed orientation between binding, boot and ski is critical, this was a major limitation in a rotating pedal that transferred drive forces. No other power transmission system used a static, rigid interface.
An insightful ergonomic and mechanical engineer, Beyl recognized fixed position pedals are anatomically and mechanically inefficient and detrimental for a number of reasons. He used rudimentary power testing to learn that a pedal capable of dynamic adjustment during the pedal stroke reduced overuse injuries, increased power transfer from shoe to pedal and released more dependably. Additionally, Beyl learned the significance of dispersing pedal load over a wide area and decreasing the proximity from the rider’s metatarsal to the pedal axle to reduce rocking torque.
Jean Beyl was also the first to intuit that a rider’s foot geometry or angle changed as a result of cadence, and that a rider tended to “toe in” at higher cadences and “heel out” at lower cadences. His early tests indicated that, if a pedal system facilitated this minor movement like a flexible “U” joint in a vehicle drive shaft, the transmission of power over the entire performance envelope was significantly more efficient. The one exception was sprint specialists, who retained a tactile affinity for the rigid interface from pedal to shoe during the first few pedal strokes of a particularly violent acceleration. These riders were (and are) in the overwhelming minority. For the time trialists, climbers and rouleurs the Time Pedal with its “BioPerformance” facilitated measurably better power transfer and even prolonged a top professional’s cycling career by reducing exposure to soft tissue injury in the knee. The concept was so revolutionary that during one Tour de France over 60% of the teams riding used Beyl’s new Time pedal. Of the remaining teams under contract to other pedal manufacturers, most made some ad-hoc modification to include a version of rotational movement into their design. Look even begrudgingly developed a rotational interface termed “Look Arc” still in use today.
The validity of “float” in a pedal was, and remains, beyond debate. For the majority of performance cyclists and perhaps all sport cyclists, pedal float increases performance, safety and reduces the likelihood of overuse injuries. Along with (illegal) performance enhancing drugs, carbon fiber frames and heart monitors, floating pedals were one of the technologies that vaulted average speeds in professional racing forward- and prolonged the career of top cyclists. Even Look sponsored athlete Greg LeMond had switched to Time pedals for his remarkable victory in the Tour de France in 1989. Today, there are more pro cyclists over the age of 32 (geriatric for a pro) than any previous era- competing at higher average speeds. It’s naive to suppose any one factor, such as floating pedals, is the reason. This new reality is an amalgam of factors that does include better, safer floating pedals such as Time.
Additionally, Beyl’s Time pedals addressed the fact that different riders have different width pelvic girdles- their hips are different widths. As a result the time pedal automatically provides a provision for adjusting the side-to-side proximity of a rider’s feet in addition to a static width adjustment in the cleat itself. You don’t need different axle widths or shims. The pedal/cleat interface adapts automatically and can be additionally adjusted at the time of cleat installation. This was particularly important at the time of introduction when there were very few trained bike fitters. Time’s “automatic” cleat adjustment meant a rider could mount pedals themselves in a relatively neutral position and the pedal/cleat interface would do the rest automatically. No other pedal system offers this degree of automatic adjustment.
Time’s newest pedal is the current i-CLIC. Available in four versions, the Time i-CLIC Titan Carbon, Time i-CLIC Carbon, Time i-CLIC Racer and Time i-CLIC, each one features the same bio-performance features that include:
|TRUST Concept Anti-Release System.||Accidental release prevented not by additional spring tension (and resulting harder pedal disengagement) but by pedal body configuration. Easier to enter and exit, harder to accidentally release.|
|BioPerformance: Angular Float.||Angle of the foot changes under re-centering force in response to pedaling force: Result is optimal foot angle on pedal to increase power and reduce injuries- automatically and dynamically.|
|BioPerformance: Lateral Float (Dynamic).||Side to side (lateral) float is set automatically within a total 1 cm range (2.5 mm per shoe side per pedal) over both pedals for optimal adjustment to rider hip width.|
|Q-Factor Adjust: Lateral Adjustment Fixed.||Side to Side proximity of cleats fully adjustable between a wide range of 5mm, 2.5 mm per side.|
|SENSOR Pedal adjustment: Adjustment of re-centering force.||Provides 3 distinct adjustments of re-centering force from light to firm to precisely tune the pedal’s rotational support to your taste- no free rotation or “ice skating” sensation like Speedplay.|
|Oversized Platform: Rotational stability.||447 square millimeter (claimed) pedal surface provides roll stability: Your foot can’t “roll” or rock (pronate/supinate) when engaged. Foot stays secure and level, protects knees.|
|BioPosition: Close proximity of pedal axle.||Low pedal/cleat design positions your foot and metatarsal closer to the pedal axle for lower rocking torque and better bike fit (corresponding lower saddle height).|
The differences between the pedal models are materials, weight and price. All four models incorporate the same bio-mechanical features. Here’s the breakdown:
Time i-CLIC Titan Carbon:
Hollow titanium axle for reduced axle weight. Carbon impregnated pedal body for reduced weight, increased durability and stiffness. Carbon fiber retention spring (blade) for lighter weight and better response. Claimed weight (not verified) 179 grams per pair. $449.95
Time i-CLIC Carbon:
As above with no titanium axle. Uses Cro-Moly axle. Actual measured weight 234 grams per pair (pedals only) $249.99
Time i-CLIC Racer:
As above but no carbon impregnated pedal body. Includes carbon spring. Claimed weight (not verified) 255 grams per pair. $179.95
As above but no carbon spring. Actual measured weight 261 grams per pair (pedals only). $139.95
We detected a small difference in weight between the cleats on the Time i-CLIC Carbon and the Time i-CLIC of 5 grams per pair. The cleats do appear to use a partially different polymer in one layer, possibly contributing to this anomaly.
Compared to other brands the Time i-CLIC pedal weights are comparable across the board.
I’ve ridden Time pedals in all models since their introduction and briefly worked for Time Sport USA under J.P. Pascal and Doug Knox as one of their Technical Representatives. As such I configured pedal systems for elite athletes and gave dealer presentations on the pedal technology. I also have three knee surgeries from a torn anterior cruciate ligament and lateral collateral ligament. I’ve raced the pedals on the road as a category 1 rider in Europe and done about 180 triathlons including 5 Ironmans on Time pedals. I’ve also used Look Keo, Speedplay Zero and X Series, Aerolite (remember those?), Shimano Dura-Ace and Sampson clipless pedals. I always go back to Time because of the biomechanical features.
The Time i-CLIC is not entirely without flaw however, and it is fair to mention that no pedal system is. The minor anomaly with the Time i-CLIC is the possibility of a nose-up or “stalled” engagement. When you attempt to clip into the pedal it is extremely easy- so easy the rear portion may engage without the toe portion of the cleat engaged. This compromises the rotational movement of the pedal and changes the release characteristics. You’re only partially clipped in and it doesn’t feel right. TriSports.com Founder Seton Claggett discovered this during his trial of the pedals and demonstrated it to me during a ride. It was easily replicated in our tests. The remedy may be as simple as learning a clip in protocol that engages the toe/front of the cleat/pedal first, then pressing the heel downward as with a Look and Shimano road style clip-in. This is an annoyance but practice may eliminate it. Part of the reason for this may be the flexibility of the cleat itself.
The Time i-CLIC cleat is called a “Café Cleat” acknowledging that it has 3 bumpers or stabilizers that are intended to walk on. These three bumpers have no interaction with the pedal, they are only for traction when walking. The bumpers do wear somewhat quickly with extended walking but are better than any other road cleat system for traction. No road pedal is truly “walkable” or intended for extended walking (that’s what SPD or MTB style pedals and shoes are intended for) but the Time Café Cleat on the i-CLIC is the easiest of the road pedals to walk in.
The cleat does conform easily to the radius of any shoe sole without affecting its ability to engage the pedal. This is different than systems like Speedplay that require a series of shims to maintain an absolutely flat cleat. The Time i-CLIC Café Cleat is simply easier to install and adjust than most other cleats. Do read the instructions for installing the appropriate cleat, left and right, to the appropriate shoe as this controls the amount of fixed (not adjustable) Q-Factor you have- how narrow or wide the pedal stance is.
With exposure to all other popularly available pedal systems I do acknowledge their individual strengths but I feel Time does the best job of incorporating all the tangible anatomical and mechanical features and benefits into one package. There are a boggling amount of features on these pedals all elegantly executed. The one drawback is the possibility of partial engagement or clip-in, a minor affair in this reviewers opinion that is addressed with user proficiency.
There is a tangible argument to be made for the Time i-CLIC being the most advanced vision of the performance clipless pedal given its lineage and origin from the man who invented the popular clipless pedal. I’m willing to buy into that thinking. I’ll suggest this latest edition of the Time pedal, “Le Defi!”, the challenge, is a valid challenger to all pedal comers and a day-to-day favorite of this reviewer.