There are a some key parts of your bike that everyone has a favourite item for – and with good reason. Typically, these are your contact points – your saddle, your bike shorts, your grips, handlebars, shoes, pedals – and your tyres too. Your legs are the strongest part of your body, and having the right shoe and pedal setup can really increase your handling confidence and pedalling efficiency on the bike.
Since starting mountain biking, I have gone from flats, toe-clips and straps, early Shimano models (M535), Time ATAC, Crank Bros Eggbeaters, Crank Bros Candy, VP, and then back to possibly the best Shimano pedal, the M970. I was on the one set of those for 4 years. I stuck with Shimano for cleat and pedal durability, weight that was low enough, and a pedal that was reliable enough in mud and wet sand. The Time ATAC pedals had a great feel, but I never enjoyed the feeling of your feet pushing to the outside of the pedal. Other pedals I tried didn’t manage to stay together for long enough.
The latest range of Shimano pedals, such as the XT and XTR editions, just don’t have the durability of their past designs. Thankfully, they are serviceable. But you need to stay on top of your servicing of the bearings to keep them free from play and the damage that can cause – not only to your knees but to the pedals themselves.
Time have redesigned their pedals numerous times since I was riding some bright red ATAC’s almost 10 years ago. They still have a lot of float – and depending which way you set the cleats up you can have either 13 or 17 degrees of float. After flailing around with 17, I went back to 13 degrees. As I favour a secure placement in the right position, as opposed to lots of float to allow my pedal stroke to shift around, I much preferred the 13 degree setting.
The XC 8 pedals are also a lot lighter than my ATAC pedals. When the Eggbeater hit the market in 2002 the low weight benchmark was reset. The XC 8 Carbon pedals are 288grams, and there is a slightly lighter but much more expensive Titanium axles model available too. The chromoly axle, carbonate body and simple retention system help keep the weight low.
Beyond the float options that are set via cleat orientation, you can adjust the release tension. There are two flat blade screwdriver slots on the side of the pedal, one for each side you can clip into. Tightening this up will increase the release tension. Small adjustments make a big difference! I put about two turns in to get the higher tension I prefer.
Fitting was easy, with an 8mm allen key on the back side of the pedal. With grease on the threads, they were easy to get on and off with a moderate length allen key, when travelling with my bike or swapping from hard tail, to dual suspension, or to my ‘cross bike.
In use, there was a brief period of getting adjusted to the feel of the Time pedals. They did have a slight ‘walking on ice’ feel with the greater amount of float at first. This feeling dissipated quite quickly as I became accustomed to their action and feel both for clipping in, riding, and releasing. With the 13 degree release angle, it is a larger movement to release, but one that feels more consistent and not the ‘dead stop’ that you hit with a Shimano pedal.
The bars of the Time pedal that hold the cleat in place are now notched, which greatly prevents the lateral migration of the earlier ATAC models. If you’re a little bit ‘Princess and the Pea’ about your fit like I am, this is a fantastic improvement – and one that was introduced at one of their previous design updates. Of note, the pedal body is a little taller than the current Shimano M980 pedal, so you’re not quite so close to the pedal axle. It’s just about the same as XT though.
With the testing period covering use in a variety of areas, maintenance on the pedals came to the fore. The very dry conditions experience in the early stages of the ABSA Cape Epic created a lot of noise from the pedals. Repeated use of s teflon spray lube, and then a heavy chain lube on the springs daily did reduce this.
A trip to Taree in wet conditions proved the Time ATAC XC 8’s abilities to clip in well despite a high load of mud – but the trick of tapping the sole of your shoes against the side of your pedal still does more to clear excess trail crap from your shoe and cleat than the design does. It’s hard to expect miracles when your shoe is double the weight due to clay based mud. The next month involved three prominent Marathon races along the East Coast of Australia – and little more can be said about the pedals save for the fact that I didn’t need to think about them. Their action was consistent, there was no more noise from them, and only after 3 months use was there a barely noticeable amount of play in one of the pedals. And this is quite an easy thing to service with the right tools.
What was noticeable was the play of my shoe in the pedal – when clipped in, my shoes were starting to rattle around. Although the soles aren’t new, they are not heavily worn out. With 1-2mm more material on the outer sole of my shoe this may have not occurred. Unfortunately, this play did prevent me from running cleat protection plates under the cleats, which prevent the bars of the pedal biting into the sole of your shoes.
This damage is avoidable with the use of a plastic or brass plate underneath the cleat, but this may drastically change the stability of your shoe/pedal interface.
I really enjoyed the action and ease of adjustment with the Time ATAC XC 8 Carbon pedals – but before investing in a set I would look at how well they would work with my shoes, to make sure they have the right feel. They work very well in a range of conditions, and spare parts are available for servicing them. With some pedals priced as ‘use, wear out and replace’ it’s nice to know you don’t need to contribute to the local land fill.
Look at the website for all Time products for further details, or contact your local bikeshop.