It's hardly surprising that the Radial Forte Pro Carbon pedals look like Looks. They are Looks. Ilford's Radial Cycles has gone to the French innovator and asked it to come up with a top quality pedal that costs less than half as much as its own carbon platform. With the Look Keo Max 2 available online at heavy discounts, will the Forte be strong enough to lure away the discerning rider? From my experience, it deserves to.
I have to admit I've never felt a need to stray from Shimano for my pedals, as in so many other areas. They're always competitively priced, well made and just work. My current Ultegras are well into their fourth year and I've never taken so much as a grease gun to them, but they're as smooth as the day they were fitted. But I also don't mind admitting these Radials may usurp them.
When I opened the box I thought I was looking at £100 worth of pedals, particularly as I turned the lovely, smooth spindle bearings. The tidy construction and neat graphics add to the quality impression.
The main reason I like them so much, though, is that they are so easy to locate and clip into – none of the groping around with the foot to locate the cleat into the binding that I've had with the Shimanos. It's an instinctive docking procedure with a resounding snap to tell you that you are home. Once in, the feeling is of a secure attachment to your bike, with absolutely no slop. We shall see if that remains the case in the long run.
The plate is made from 'wear resistant aluminium' as opposed to the Max 2's stainless steel and if there's one place where the budget might show through it's here.
Underfoot, the pedals seem to offer plenty of support. What shoes you use always impacts on the feel of a pedal, but in my experience these were pretty well 'invisible', which is a good thing. You don't want lumps, pressure points, hot spots or odd curves and creases to distract you when you ride.
Radial says the cleats have 7 degrees of float; they didn't feel particularly 'floaty' to me, but that may be down to the absence of sloppiness. There was apparently enough float to protect me from pain in the knees from riding in an unfamiliar position.
Release spring tension is adjusted using a 2.5mm Allen tool and is very simple and accessible. I had to back the screw off a good couple of turns before the release was comfortable for me, after which there was still no fear of becoming accidentally disconnected.
They're a few grams heavier than a Keo Max 2 or a carbon Ultegra, but there's very little in it. True, if you shop around you can find the Look-branded pedal at only £20 more, but provided over the long term they turn out to be as resilient as Radial claims, the Fortes could be even better value.
In the crowded arena of road pedals, these Look-alikes have a lot to live up to. So far, they seem to be rising to the challenge
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Radial Forte Pro Carbon Clipless Pedals
Size tested: 82 x 92mm, 7° float
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?
Here's what Radial has to say:
"The Forte Pro is our sleek road pedal that offers the best possible connection between you and your bike. Its wide platform profile allows better power transfer between the pedal and cleat. The larger contact area allows for easy engagement and ensures a secure and comfortable fit.
"The Forte Pro pedal has also been designed with durability in mind. It has LSL and sealed ball bearings to make sure it is always spinning smoothly whilst a wear resistant aluminum stamp plate built in to the HiPAC carbon composite body ensures a stable interface all year round.
"To accommodate the natural movement within the ankle on a normal pedal stroke the Forte road cleats have a 7° float, allowing this movement whilst being fully engaged."
That certainly sounds like the product I tested, and I look forward to seeing how they stand up to longer-term use.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Body: HiPAC Carbon
Axle: CNC Machined Cro-Mo
Bearing: LSL and sealed ball bearings
Binding: Adjustable tension (80-180kgf.cm)
Cleat: Forte Road 7° float
Size: 82 x 92mm
Weight 265g (without cleat and hardwear)
Very impressive build quality as far as I can tell so far. The bearings are very smooth and the pedal moulding is clean. The plates are aluminium and not replaceable, though Radial says they are "wear resistant".
Easy to clip in, stable and secure underfoot, and easy to get out again.
The sealed bearings and carbon composite construction look excellent. Are they as durable as my trusty Shimano Ultegras (four years without any maintenance and still spinning smoothly!)? Only time can tell...
Only the plates give any suggestion they may not have a long life but I am happy to be proved wrong.
265g per pair compares with 252g Look Keo 2 Max, 255g Shimano Ultegra; 340g including cleats and hardware (cf 346g Look Keo Classic 2).
Once in, I stopped noticing them. No hotspots, pressure points or awkward knee angles.
£40 for a carbon pedal? Amazing. Only the less-well-known brand name and unknown long-term reliability may dissuade you from taking a punt on these in favour of a discounted Look.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Excellent – very easy to get in and out, secure in use with no slop, enough float to keep the knees comfortable, and "invisible" under the foot.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Quality construction, easy to locate and clip in, comfortable in use, smooth bearings.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
For the money, it's hard to fault these pedals. Radial makes a selling point of their all-weather durability so we shall see if they turn out to be a false economy, but both looks and performance-wise they're really good.
About the tester
I usually ride: Cannondale CAAD10 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mountain biking