Look is one highly innovative French firm, and the original inventor of the clipless pedal. For a long time they have been a real force to reckon with in the world of road clipless pedals with the Look Keo. However, they have always been on the fringe of the mountain bike pedal range, previously with the Quartz pedal. With the entry of the new S-Track pedal I think that could all change...
Look appear to have taken the check-list of minor faults with the Shimano products and ironed them out completely whilst producing the Look S-Track. This is a pedal that provides a light, secure and high quality contact point with your bike. Over the last two months I've been testing out a set on my mountain bike, I have to say I'm rather impressed.
Build Quality, Weight and Looks!
For starters, just look at them! (no pun intended). The injected carbon fibre body, aluminium deflectors and spring wire system both look the part and play a crucial part in the great performance of this pedal system. The pedal is designed and built in France to the highest standard. Inside, there are 2 ball bearings and a needle bearing in each pedal unit; all of which are sealed in with a lip seal and independent bearing seals. This is a product built to last!
Mountain bike clipless pedals face a difficult problem; unlike road pedals they need to have small cleats to fit between the grippy lugs on the sole of mtb shoes and to aid mud clearance. However, the result is that they have a low cleat-to-pedal contact area, which impedes power transfer. The Look S-Track is designed to overcome this problem...
Innovative Cleat Design: The cleat is the first area that has been adapted to aid contact between the foot and the pedal. The cleat itself is around the same size as a Shimano SPD cleat, however it looks and performs fundamentally differently. Firstly you get a pack of spacers to go between the cleat and the sole of the shoe; these ensure that the cleat is spaced down from the sole and therefore contacts the plate on the pedal. The second feature is the replaceable rubber "feet" on the cleats; these mean that when the cleat does contact the plate of the pedal, it does so with a shock-absorbing contact point and it is not a metal-on-metal loose clunky contact. These two features provide the overall effect that the cleat engages with the pedal directly and with minimal movement, therefore minimising power loss.
It's not just the contact point problem that has been re-considered with the S-Track though, so too has the engagement system. The Shimano SPD system relies on an adjustable spring on the rear of the pedal that is forced out and then clips back when you push your foot into the pedal. The problem with the system is that over time the spring loses its elasticity and you need to adjust it to get the optimal retention rate. The S-Track pedal, similar to Crank Brothers pedals, uses a bar system that you clip into. The benefit of this is that you can rotate the foot slightly with reasonable force, but it is held securely fore-and-aft. Engagement is slightly less positive than with the Shimano design, largely due to the rubber pads on the cleat dampening the metal "clunk" engagement, but once you are used to it the system works very well. The real benefit it that there is no adjustment to be made; you don't have to pre-set spring tension or float, the system simply holds your foot securely how it needs to be held (in-line to pedal motion).
The Look S-Track is an innovative design, which looks great and works very well. It clears mud respectfully, it has a considerably better power transfer once set up with the correct shims between sole and cleat, and it is improved even further by the versatility provided by the removable cage design. The pedals aren't cheap, retailing at £130 RRP, but you have to consider them an investment; they really are built to last, and are the chosen pedal of world champion athletes such as Christoph Sauser. There is no denying that the S-Track will be a very strong competitor for the higher end Shimano and Crank Brothers models.
The Look S-Track Race Pedals are available from Wiggle Bike Shop (Link)