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Last autumn we brought you news of a new pedal from Look, with the Keo 2 Max Blade set to make the company's blade-spring technology available at a lower price point. There was a video, too; who knew the French were such fans of dubstep?
We tested the original Keo Blade carbon pedals back in 2010 and Jo was impressed by the performance and the lofty price tag. In 2013 Look released a substantially revised version, the Keo Blade 2, with the carbon spring located centrally rather than on the outer edge, and hence much better protected from knocks.
The new Keo 2 Max Blade (yes, their naming strategy is a little confusing) is really a hybrid of the Keo Blade 2 and the conventionally-sprung Keo 2 Max. Here the spring blade is a glass-fibre composite instead of carbon, available in a couple of versions, with an 8Nm and 12Nm engagement torque respectively.
Unlike coil-sprung pedals, there's no adjustment screw, so the only means of changing the engagement stiffness is by changing the blade. They're available for £17 a set and you'd probably need a dealer to make the switch. The Keo 2 Max Blade pedals are supplied with Keo Grip cleats (compatible with other Keo pedals), with the included grey version giving a 4.5 degree float. Black (zero float) and red (9 degree float) versions also available. Pedal axles are chromoly and each pedal spins on three bearings - two ball bearings and one needle bearing.
Compared to the Keo 2 Max pedals, the platform is marginally wider (60mm as opposed to 57mm) and what Look calls the "platform area" is increased from 340 to 400 mm2. This is the contact area between the cleat and the pedal - the more expensive Keo Blade 2 has a whopping 700mm2. Greater width and a large contact area mean that the load is spread better, and certainly these pedals hold your foot very stably indeed. You could argue that with the huge stiffness of modern carbon-soled shoes this is arguably less significant than it would once have been, but the absence of side-to-side rocking on the pedal is certainly reassuring.
Like most of Look's pedal range, there's a stainless steel plate covering the main contact area, to prolong its life. Unlike Shimano Dura-Ace pedals, this plate isn't replaceable, however, although I'd expect it would be a long while before the plastic cleats make much of an impression on it,even with the addition of road grit in the equation. Stack height (the distance from the centre of the pedal axle to the sole of your shoe) is 14mm, a minor reduction from Keo 2 Max's 15.7mm.
Engagement and disengagement are pretty trouble-free and will be familiar to those who've used other Keo pedals; the shape of the jaws are pretty similar through the range. Unlike the coil-sprung models, the weight of this pedal isn't so concentrated at the rear, but they hang at a similar angle so it's relatively straightforward to clip in without looking, something that can be an issue with Time Xpresso pedals, for example. One thing that I really liked about the blade design is that the underside of the pedal is flatter and less treacherous than most road pedals if you put your weight on it having missed the clip-in.
The 12Nm spring fitted to the test pedals kept a vice-like grip on my cleats, even when climbing or sprinting. Releasing the pedal sometimes required quite a firm twisting motion but this will likely relax a little as the pedal and cleat wear together. Lighter riders will probably prefer the 8Nm spring option.
The composite body and absence of metal spring makes for a fairly lightweight pedal - we weighed them at 125g each (Look claims 308g for a pair including cleats and screws). That puts them right on a par with Shimano Dura-Ace pedals, which have a considerably higher RRP but can be found for a similar price. If that's too heavy for you, the posh Keo 2 Blade comes in at 190g a pair and top-end Time Xpresso pedals are lighter still, although not without their issues.
The spindle and bearing assembly is not serviceable, setting it at odds with a lot of the competition. Look say that it's been tested to withstand two million cycles at 100 rpm with a 90 kg load on the centre of the pedal, or the equivalent of a 1,700 watt sprint for 333 hours, so it should be okay for a while with the sort of loads that you or I are likely to put on it. Certainly the sealing shrugged off the wet conditions we've had lately without any issues and the pedals are still spinning smoothly.
The bottom of the pedal is completely closed-in by the spring blade, with only a slim gap down each side. This makes them a bit more of a dirt trap than more open pedals, but I didn't have particular problems with them clogging up, even when I had to walk through mud.
Look has developed a Keo Fit system where suitably-equipped dealers can get your cleats set up just so, and also give you specific advice about which of the float options best suits you. I didn't try this as I already had Keo cleats set up on a pair of shoes so just used them as they were, but it could be a useful service if you're changing over.
Super-stable pedals bring Look's leaf spring to a lower price; decent weight and pretty easy to live with
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Make and model: Look Keo 2 Max Blade 12
Size tested: Black
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Blade technology applied to the Keo 2 Max: new clip-in/clip-out sensations, aerodynamic profile
Large and wide platform (400 mm� / 60 mm) for excellent pedalling stability and good power transfer
New spindle system providing reduced platform height (14 mm)
2 clip-out tension settings: 8 / 12
A more aerodynamic integrated composite blade pedal
Quick and secure clip in / clip out
Maximum optimised stability and power transfer
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
ROAD - FROM CYCLOSPORTTO COMPETITION
CHROMOLY + STEEL
9/16 X 20 MM
2 BALL BEARINGS, 1 NEEDLE BEARING
PEDAL / CRANK DISTANCE
GREY KEO GRIP CLEATS
0°, 4.5° OR 9° DEPENDING ON CLEAT TYPE (BLACK, GREY OR RED)
120 G. (308 G PER PAIR WITH CLEATS AND SCREWS)
BLACK - WHITE
ONE PAIR OF GREY KEO GRIP CLEATS + FASTENERS (6 SCREWS 5 X 11 MM AND 6 WASHERS)
Love that they're still made in France, too.
Should last well, but you can't strip it down.
There are lighter pedals but these weigh the same as Shimano's top-tier Dura-Ace pedals which is more than respectable.
Three float ranges mean that you should be able to set it up to suit you.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
A definite improvement over the lower-priced Keos I've used before - holds your feet rock solid.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Easy engagement, and the flatter underside means your foot doesn't slide off so easily if you're on the wrong side.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
With the 12Nm spring it was sometimes quite stiff to unclip, and without an adjustment the only thing you can do is swap the spring blade.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Maybe
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Age: 36 Height: 190cm Weight: 78kg
I usually ride: Boardman CX team for the daily commute My best bike is: Rose Xeon CRS
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb,
Jez spends his days making robots that drive cars but is happiest when on two wheels. His roots are in mountain biking but he spends more time nowadays on the road, occasionally racing but more often just riding.