Long before either Look or Time became well known for their high-end frames, both French brands played pioneering roles in the evolution of clipless pedals. Look and Time have stayed true to their national heritage and still maintain pedal production of their products in France. While both the Look Keo Blade and Time Xpresso share the same goal of quality and performance, the way they function is very different.
Look Keo Blade Carbon
When it comes to clipless pedals, Look is undoubtedly the most iconic. Inspired by the clip-in ski bindings they were already famous for, Look turned to cycling in 1984 and were the first to introduce a truly revolutionary pedal system that was the first to move away from the traditional toe clip/strap system. A lot has changed since those early days, and the 235-gram Keo Blade Carbon is the entry-level carbon offering in Look’s three-model family of Blade pedals that comprises their Race category. The pedal body is carbon and houses either a chromoly steel or titanium axle. There is a larger axle and spindle design that has been updated for 2018. This means a larger roller bearing and 25 percent more space between it and the needle bearing that is directly under the pedal platform.
As the name suggests, the retention spring is a carbon blade that is available in three different tension ratings of 12, 16 and 20. The latest version of the tension spring is easy to interchange, and our test pedals shipped with 12s installed with 16s included if we were in need of more tension. In addition to the trio of spring options, Look also offers three cleats with a different amount of angular float: 0 (black), 4.5 (grey) or 9 degrees (red). The grey cleat is the most popular with RBA test riders.
Time Xpresso 10
Within the six-model line of Xpresso pedals, the 199-gram 10 is the first version that uses a carbon pedal body. The 10 features a hollow-steel axle and rotates on steel bearings. Time introduced the patented Iclic design that sets it apart from its competition. This system holds the retention system open until the cleat is in place. The Xpresso 10 utilizes a carbon-blade tension system with three adjustable settings. Time touts their low stack height (from the centerline of the spindle to the base of the shoe) as another key feature.
There are two cleat options—free and fixed, with the free offering the traditional angular float, as well as lateral float. This is designed for most riders and minimizes the risk of knee injury from misaligned cleats. As the name implies, the fixed cleat offers no float and is designed for pure powermongers whose fit is dialed in and who think float is a bad word (it isn’t).
Both the Look and Time systems are based on the three-bolt triangular-style cleat but result in different experiences. While both rely on carbon springs to maintain tension and release, the Time cleats have a few added features when it comes to setup. Your Q-factor will change depending on which cleat you install on which shoe. This can be an added value when trying to fit your bike. Also, when installing the Times, it was very easy to align them straight no matter if the shoe had alignment markers or not.
When setting up the Look cleats, the slotted openings and washers allow for many variations of angles and positions. Both cleats enter the pedal with the toe before stepping back into the pedal to be clipped in. As you step into the back of the Look, the retention arm opens under pressure and then closes on the cleat. The Time Iclic system works almost in the same fashion, but there is a small lever that holds the retention arm open so there is nearly no effort needed to step into the pedal and secure the cleat.
The biggest difference between the two when it comes to pedaling is the float. The Time has the added float laterally, and your foot feels like it is pivoting from the center of the cleat. The Look’s float is all in the rear as it pivots off the front-cleat contact point. This difference doesn’t seem like much, but they each offer a very different and unique outcome.
The release on both systems is distinct, and neither leads to unwanted exit. Due to its Iclic system, once the Time releases, it doesn’t feel like it wants to pull you back in if you are unclipping slow before a stop. The Look, on the other hand, always wants to maintain its closed position.
When pedaling, both offer a great platform with lots of support. The bearings are smooth, and during our testing we have had zero issues with either. The Look uses a needle bearing under the platform of the pedal, and from our experience this leads to very little service or maintenance.
When it comes to choosing pedals, many people stick to what they know, but pedal technology, like everything else in the cycling industry, has evolved considerably, even if the aesthetics haven’t. Smoother float, larger pedal/cleat contact and reliability are all places that we notice the greatest improvement. That’s not to mention that the weight of both these systems is incredibly light as well. The French have led the clipless pedal business for decades with their designs, quality and attention to detail, but it’s their passion to deliver the highest-performance products that keeps both companies on the innovative edge.
If we had to pick one over the other, it would be terribly hard. The Look design has been widely adopted by many other brands and aftermarket companies. This means in a pinch, nearly any shop will have a cleat or pedal that will work with their setup. The retention is secure and always reliable with a distinct in or out. The Time design is unique, and that’s likely thanks to their patented system, but this leads to less widespread availability. The effortless entry into the pedal is very nice and unique to Time, leading to more entry-level riders. This doesn’t mean they are less secure; if anything, the lightest exit setting might be slightly stiffer than the lightest Look. On-the-fly adjustment of the Time is nice, with no extra parts to keep track of if you want to increase the exit tension. All said, though, we would most likely choose the Look for the sole fact that we travel a lot, and finding cleats quickly is priceless.
LOOK KEO BLADE PUNCH LINES
• The pioneer in clipless pedals
• Same Keo cleat with more pedal contact
• Can be harder to align cleats
Weight: 235 grams (pair)
TIME XPRESSO PUNCH LINES
• Effortless entry
• Multiple float directions
• Long cleat makes walking even harder
Weight: 199 grams (pair)