Earlier this spring when we reviewed road pedals in the June 2010 issue of VeloNews, we neglected to include any pedals from Exustar. It wasn’t intentional. But even after reviewing a nice pair of mountain bike shoes for our sister site Singletrack.com last year, we just forgot that the company’s extensive line of products included capable road pedals for serious cyclists.
I suspect it’s a common situation for this company. Exustar isn’t often mentioned in the same conversation as Shimano, Time, Speedplay, Look, and Mavic. For now the brand is small and slowly building its reputation. But with a little luck and pedals like what we finally got our hands on, the word will spread as Exustar builds a bigger presence in the U.S.A. and beyond.
What’s impressive about the E-PR200CKTi pedals that I tested (aside from the name, which reads more like a serial number than a model name) is the price-to-weight ratio. For a retail price of $240, you’re getting pedals that weigh just 88 grams each. That’s 176 grams per pair (without cleats), making them as light as any we’ve come across. Yet they cost only half as much as the comparably feathery Look Keo Blades or Time’s I-Clic Titan Carbons.
Remarkably, the Exustar combination of extremely light weight and low price doesn’t come with any significant compromises. Short of a few minor nitpicks, I’d have no problem recommending them to my friends. They’re surprisingly good.
Exustar E-PR200CKTi road pedals
The Scoop: Very light Look-style carbon and titanium road pedals.
Pros: Very light, solid pedal platform, adjustable retention and smooth bearings.
Cons: Not as refined on entry and release.
More info: www.qcycle.com and www.ecyclingstore.com
Exustar’s flagship offering follows the standard Look-style pattern. The body and retention claw are made from carbon fiber injected into a mold. The pedal spindles are CNC-machined titanium and spin on sealed cartridge bearings. The cleats are a standard delta-shaped Look-style variant made from hard plastic.
In contrast to Look’s Keo Blade, Time’s I-Clic Titan Carbon, and Speedplay Zero pedals, the release tension on Exustar’s E-PR200CKTi is adjustable. Dialing the release tension up or down requires a 2.5mm Allen wrench and there’s a tension indicator on the back of the retention claw.
The pedal body is wide, with a broad, flat cleat contact surface. The cleat contact area is carbon fiber, just like the rest of the pedal body (in contrast to Look or Shimano pedals, which have a stainless steel cleat contact plate).
Installation and cleat setup are easy — no different from any other Look-style pedals. The cleats are unique in my experience. They have a rubber bumper in the center that extends past the flat cleat surface. Bill Imielski at Q-Cycle explained that the bumper was originally designed to help keep the cleat in place when tightened against a hard, smooth carbon shoe sole. But now that most carbon and nylon shoe soles have textured cleat interfaces to prevent the cleat slipping, the circular rubber bumper is somewhat redundant and not essential to the pedal’s performance.
I confess to having low expectations from the beginning, mostly because the Exustar name doesn’t resonate deeply among the pantheon of established brands in cycling. But I was pleasantly surprised, even stunned at how well they work and how light they are. Aside from a subtle but perceptible lack of refinement compared to the big name brands, these pedals stand up as a solid option.
Entry isn’t quite as smooth or easy as Look, Time, or Shimano, but it’s not bad either. Finding the pedal and getting lined up is easy, but I found it took slightly more pressure to engage than I’m used to. It felt as if the rubber bumper on the bottom of the cleat occasionally interfered with easy clip-in. Imielski suggested that the rubber bumper could be removed, but I didn’t have a chance to try it.
Recent Wrenched & Ridden columns:
Schwalbe Ultremo HT tubular tires
Time I-Clic Carbon pedals
Rolf Prima Aspin Sl wheelset
Hutchinson Atom Comp clincher tires
Zipp 303 wheels with Vittoria Pave Evo CG tires
Mavic Ksyrium K10 wheels and tires
Prologo Nago Evo TTR saddle
fi’zi:k Cyrano seatpost
Gore RideOn cable system
Time Hi-Tense wheels
Ritchey WCS Alloy 1-bolt seatpost and Streem saddles
Likewise, clipping out isn’t quite as smooth as it could be. Again, I think it’s the rubber bumper on the cleat that’s creating some friction between the cleat and pedal body. It makes for a little more effort in exiting the pedals, but nothing untoward by any stretch. Release is consistent and firm. I would be shocked if anyone accidentally pulled out of these in a sprint. Even at medium tension, they require a little extra effort to get out of.
But what you might miss in terms of smooth refinement of entry and exit, you’ll love in terms of absolute solidity. The pedal platform feels wide, concrete, and very positive. I’m a long time fan of Shimano’s SPD-SL pedals for their wide platform and secure retention, and Exustar’s pedals are right up there in both departments. No hint of lateral play or pressure points from an unduly small cleat interface.
That’s what I like so much about these pedals — they’re just dead solid. They offer a remarkably stable feel that belies their light weight. Sure, getting in and out you might notice a little less refinement than Shimano offers, but it’s far from problematic. And the solid feel of these babies is right up there with Shimano, but at a weight that’s several ounces lighter.
What else? The bearings feel outstanding. Very smooth and better grease fill than I’ve found in some of the big names (Shimano excepted). I wouldn’t be surprised if these went a few years before needing service.
The float isn’t very free at all. There are about 5-7 degrees of angular float, but it’s very sticky, unlike what I’ve experienced from Look, Mavic, and Speedplay. The Exustars feel similar to brand new Shimano SPD-SL in that you can move your heels in and out a bit, but they don’t move freely. Again, I would blame the rubber bumper on the cleat. However, it’s not a problem for me as I tend to find a comfortable spot for my feet and then they stay there.
The cleats are a bit slippery to walk on, despite a layer of what’s supposed to be a softer, anti-slip layer on the cleat surface. It was bad at first, but once the bottom of the cleat got scuffed up, I didn’t notice any hazard.
Pedal spindle-to-shoe sole stack height is OK, but not as low as the Time I-Clic I’ve been riding. I had to raise my saddle about 3mm.
Due to mid-summer travel commitments, I only managed about 25 hours on these pedals. I’ve been told that the original Look Keo Carbon pedal bodies wore out and got sloppy after just a few months. I haven’t had any problems like that on the Exustars. Since they lack a metal plate for cleat interface, I’d be curious to see how they hold up longer term. But so far, wear on the pedal body has been virtually non-existent.
I dig ‘em. They’re very light, very solid, mechanically sound, and not too expensive. Sign me up!