Review: LOOK’s astonishingly light KéO Blade Carbon Ti pedals
It’s always nice when a company that all but created a product category can take a couple of steps back and rethink their core product. With their carbon-sprung KéO Blade pedal range, LOOK have done just that, replacing the (comparatively) heavy wound coil used since the dawn of modern clipless pedals with a slick carbon fiber blade.
Though I knew that the company’s no-cost-spared pedal would be light, it wasn’t until LOOK’s KéO Blade Carbon Ti pedals arrived that I was able to get my head around what 185g per pair (actual) felt like. That’s 35g apiece lighter than Shimano’s latest Dura Ace or Look’s lightest Keo 2 Max models. Despite my small frame, I was actually a bit nervous to bolt something so insubstantial feeling to a bike that is regularly ridden hard and put away dirty. Beyond the strikingly light weight, the bearings were impressively smooth in the way that only really expensive bearings can be. Eleven months later, the Keo Blades have seen thousands of miles in sun, rain, and snow: follow the link to find out how things have gone…
First, the blade. The flat strip of carbon fiber seen at the outside of the pedal provides the force to keep the pedal engaged. Available in 12Nm and 16Nm stiffnesses (more or less corresponding to the standard KéO’s low and high tension settings), the 16Nm blade on our test pair delivers engagement that could only be described as snappy- both in terms of sound and feel. Though it doesn’t take a great deal of force to clip in, there’s absolutely no question as to whether it’s happened. A rider who resides at the lighter end of the spectrum, I would have expected the heavier blade to be a bit of a chore in use- but have had no issues clipping in or out and haven’t felt the desire to be able to fine-tune the release force. Better-equipped shops do have the tools to swap blades, so choosing one or the other isn’t a life-long commitment. Despite such solid engagement, the cleat is able to move with only moderate effort, allowing my cranky knees to easily find a happy position.
The rest of the pedal is less unique- but remains very well executed. The double-sealed bearings are the second-most-impressive thing about the KéO Blades: even after a year’s use, it’s difficult not to compare them favorably to silk. The long-fiber carbon body has held up very well and (printed-on logos aside) hides scars well. The full-width stainless steel contact plate does a fantastic job stability-wise: rocking and flex have never once been an issue. The stack height is a low 15.7mm and the pedal threads are extra long, allowing Q-factor adjustment by way of an optional 2mm spacer between the crank arm and spindle flange. Without the spacer, the distance from the cleat to the crankarm is a comfortable (for me, on Dura Ace cranks) 53mm.
Each set of KéO Blades comes with two sets of ~75g 4.5º cleats as well as one set of cleat covers. Because I can never remember to pack the cleat covers, I chose to run the cleats with the nice co-molded grippy pads (which help to reduce- somewhat- the potential for mid-ride convenience store disaster). Nearly a year on, the right toe grip has just come off (too many ‘cross-style dismounts) and the left
is looking pretty rough has just fallen off too. Sure, the cleats will foul somewhat if too much sand is taken on during a pee break, but that’s a (small) problem that’s hardly LOOK’s alone. For those with finicky knees, the second pair have what look to be Delrin inserts to ensure even smoother float. If I had my druthers, a pair with both smooth float and walking pads would be available. For the price, I’ve got to find something to improve, right?
Oh, and then there’s the price. Cutting edge technology, light weight, and French manufacturing don’t come cheap. Not remotely. Now at
$499 $390 (see below), the KéO Carbon Ti are among the priciest pedals available still some expensive pedals. Fantastic, yes, but as with most top-end gear, there’s not much justification that could hold up defend the original price in print. Happily, LOOK have followed up the KéO Blade Ti with the KéO Blade CrMo. At a moderately more defensible $319 $290 and 227g, the CrMo model manages to undercut Dura Ace pedals both weight and price. So while the KéO Blade Ti grabs the headlines, my recommendation would be for savvy shoppers to go for the CrMo-axle’d version. The weight difference seems much smaller once the cleat weight is accounted for (300g vs. 260) and the satisfying engagement, massive platform, 2-year warranty, and silky bearings all remain the same- making it look like one heck of a deal by comparison.
We’ve learned that Look have since reduced MSRP for the pedals tested to $390 for 2012 and the CrMo model to $290. Hooray!