In 1998, Campagnolo unleashed its new "Pro-Fit" pedals on the cycling world. In this edition of Tech Talk, we offer two points of view:

For an illustration (borrowed from the official Campagnolo website), click here.


By Tim Laflin

Campy's newest offering and the Competition

Not even a year ago I was speaking to the technical department at Campagnolo USA and giving them a list of stuff they should quit making. The pedals were on the top of that list. Now it is my turn to eat crow. Campy used to take a 10 year old look design pedal and sell it for a ridiculous amount of money. Nobody in their right mind would spend the money for them. They were expensive and heavy. That has all changed. The 1998 pedals are totally new. It appears that Look may have had some influence in the design, but the pedals look nothing like anything out there. The next big question is what are they and what are they not?

The Cleat:

I appears that there is some Look influence in the cleat design for the shoe. The standard Look cleat is gone, but the shoe interface is the same. The three screw with sliding track is kept, so you will most likely be able to use them on any shoe known to man (except SPD-only type shoes). The cleat is wide like the older Look cleat to give good shoe support. If you do not ride a completely rigid shoe the flex in the ball of the foot will not make a hot spot on those long rides. The more flexible the shoe you ride, the more important the cleat width is. Some riders complain that the SPD (one of the smallest cleats) makes the ball of the foot hurt after several hours.

The Pedal Features:

Campy has addressed so many issues in older pedals that you have to really take a step back and wonder why nobody else tried it first.

Unweighted disengagement:

The new pedal body has a two smallish ramps that make the pedal increasingly harder to disengage with force applied. This means that the more pressure you are placing on the pedal the harder you will need to twist to make the cleat disengage. Why do I care? I have been in more than one crit sprint when somebody is rocking the bike hard and steps out of an older Look pedal or an SPD. The danger in most pedals is that there is very little feed-back to the rider at the point of disengagement. Time pedals give a progressive resistance until release which is better than most. The problem with Time is that the force required to get in and out of the pedal is usually more than the casual or light weight rider likes. The other problem that Time suffers is the constant return force that keeps centering your foot to the pedal. I would not say the Time pedal is free-floating like a red Look cleat. Campy fixed this with the ramps on the cleat base of the pedal. To disengage the pedal the cleat must twist and move up the post ramps at the same time to release. What this does for the rider is to make it increasingly more difficult to twist the cleat to get out as more pressure is applied to the pedal. Will I get stuck in the pedal? No, with a small amount of downward pressure on the pedal you will still pop right out. The point is, when you have enough weight on the pedal that you do not want to come out even if you twist hard enough to disengage most pedals, you will not come out. If the pedal did let you out at that point, you most likely would be singing a few octave above your normal self while straddling the top tube at 35mph. This is something that no other pedal on the market offers.

Adjustable Release Tension:

This is a big one! Why is it that the cleat retention and engagement springs are tied together on all the other pedals? If I want the holding power of a bench vise I need to get my wife to back over my foot with the car to get the cleat into the pedal. I usually have to jump up and down on the pedal to get in. Conversely, if I want and easy entry, I also get an easy exit. I hate it when that happens. Campy has split the springs: the entry spring is set apart from the exit spring with different springs working the vertical engagement and the horizontal disengagement. This means you can give your wife a set for Christmas and she will be able to step into them without your help. I made the mistake of giving my wife a set of Time pedals that she couldn't engage, because she did not weigh enough to push the cleat into the pedal. The other point is that you can now exit at what ever level of pressure you want and still keep the easy entry. You most likely will not need to crank this up like your old pedals due to the post ramps that prevent accidental disengagement.

Shoe Sole to Axle Center:

What? The distance the pedal body and cleat move your foot above the center of the axle. This has been kept to a minimum. At 10mm it is comparable to the benchmark of Time. The Time pedal is still the winner in this category at 9.5mm followed closely by Bebop at 11mm and then the rest of the low stack pedals and cleats. Most of the newer pedals have a decent number. There are a few exceptions, but be careful that the advertiser gives not only the rise from the center of pedal axle to the top of the pedal body, but also the amount of rise on the cleat. There are a lot of cleats out there that move the shoe up quite a bit. Look style cleats move up the shoe sole quite a bit. Campy has not kept the cleat rise to a minimum and this is an area of improvement they need to look at . By the same token the rise in the sole of a Time shoe is not small either. A Sidi road shoe with Time adapter on has less rise than the time shoe. A manufacturer will quote the best number only! Most SPD style cleats and pedals are worse than the more road specific competitors. Do I really care how much rise is in the pedal system? It is a big deal in feel of the bike while standing and during hard efforts. As you pedal, any energy that is not directed exactly vertical to the pedal axle is magnified by the distance your effort is applied above the axle center. It is a basic force times lever arm dilemma. You waste energy compensating for this sort of rolling off the pedal effect to keep your shoe stationary. This magnification also comes back to you in a less smooth pedal stroke and a decreased coupling feel of your foot to the pedal. The result is a bike that may feel less solid under your feet. Any rider can benefit from this improvement, but the better your technique the less effect this distance has. The bottom line here is you need to add up all the numbers and not just the number for the pedal. This will vary with shoes and cleats so if this is something you want to pursue choose wisely.

What am I paying for?

The pedals come in three levels. Record, Chorus and Athena. The rest of the gruppos get the Athena level pedal (Avanti and Mirage). As expected the Record pedals are the lightest and get sealed bearings (3 per pedal) and a Titanium axle with aluminum retainer. The triple bearing setup here helps minimize flex in the Ti axle. The Chorus is almost identical, but heavier than the Record because of a steel axle and retainer. The Chorus uses a cup and cone style ball bearing setup instead of sealed bearings. It physically looks very similar to the Record. The Athena uses a steel axle, but gets 2 sealed bearings per pedal instead of the more costly cup and cone setup that Chorus gets. The Athena also gets a cheaper plastic axle retainer that requires a special tool that Record and Chorus do not need, because the designers saw fit to use a standard hex bolt style retainer. This Athena retainer is very Shimano-like design like the old 737 off road pedals. Shame on Campy.

I have not had a chance to disassemble the pedals as of yet, but you should find that in true Campy philosophy the bearings are easy to service. It can think of several examples like Look and Time pedals that are basically impossible to replace the inner axle bearings on. Campy now has a good offering to the market that is long over due. Shimano is a step behind this one.


Illustration source:
www.campagnolo.com


Our Road Test

June '99 update!

Is the cycling world ready for yet another style of clipless pedal? Look exploded onto the scene in the early 80s, freeing riders from the cleat-and-strap system that had fastened shoes to pedals since the turn of the century and making riding both safer and more comfortable. Then came Time, followed by ShimaNO and its SPD system. Others, including Speedplay, round out the selection now available.

So along comes Campagnolo, which is scheduled--at long last--to start shipping its Pro-Fit pedals to a distributors in October '98. How will they be received?

To try to answer that question, we asked the boys in Vicenza to ship us a pari--which they did, arriving in mid-September (they were most certainly the first on our block!).

A few initial observations:

  • The pedals are certainly different from anything else out there. As Tim points out above, the cleating mechanism is unlike anything else on the market--sort of a hybrid of Time and Look. The pedals are fairly small, but have a wide area on which the cleat sits.
  • In terms of weight, the pedals are very light. They're somewhat heavier than the Speedplay Titanium pedals they replaced on my personal bike, but then just about anything would be. They're much lighter than even the lightest Look or Time pedals.
  • The cleat, at first glance, looks exactly like a Look model--the overall shape is the same, and they mount to a standard 3-hole Look pattern (unlike ShimaNO's latest pedal, which requires a special bolt pattern only they offer). However, the cleat is actually a two-piece design: a small, metal cleat piece (much like the rear cleat in the Time design) nestles inside the outer plastic Look-shaped cleat. The metal portion of the cleat features bevelled edges to make cleating in easier, and a rubber insert to reduce metal-to-metal contact on the pedal and cut down on vibration.
  • The Record pedals feature a painted finish. That's too bad, considering the fact that no matter how hard you try, you're going to step on the bottom of the pedal once in a while, and the paint is going to get scratched. Sure, most pedals on the market today are painted, but it would have been nice to put a polished finish on Campy's flagship model. The rear end of the pedal is a black plastic cover which contains a tiny clear window through which the cleat tension indicator can be seen. Unlike a Look pedal, the back of the Pro-Fits doesn't move.
  • Projecting from the pedal just aft of center is a "U"-shaped metal bar, which latches onto the metal cleat insert to hold everything together. One rider who saw the pedals predicted that this rather small contact point looks like it will be subject to high wear and tear, and in fact Campagnolo's current small parts catalog shows it as a replaceable item.

My first impressions after riding the pedals:

  • Overall, this is a very nice design. According to Campagnolo, the pedals have a split cleat in/cleat out tension system, which uses a single, low spring tension for cleating in and an adjustable tension for uncleating. The pedals come with the uncleating tension set at the lowest level, and based on my experience, that's all you'll need. Unless you're a very rough rider, it's going to be tough to accidentially uncleat from these guys. When I set the tension at about 1/3 of max (there's a little window at the back to show where you're at), I found it annoyingly hard to get out. Maybe I'm spoiled by my Speedplays, which are very easy to cleat in and out of--longtime Look users might like the tension adjustment more than I do.
  • Once cleated in, the pedals provide a very firm connection between show and pedal. I can't detect any type of up-down play at all, and the fairly wide contact area provides a vary stable platform to ride on. In this area, the Pro-Fits exceed the performance of Speedplay, which has a smaller contact area and is more prone to side-to-side rocking.
  • The distance between the cleat and the top of the pedal spindle is relatively small, although Speedplay again has the advantage with a very low shoe-to-spindle measurement. I ride with Sidi Genius shoes, to which I needed to add an adaptor plate to use the Pro-Fit cleat; overall, I needed to raise my seat 1/4-inch to make up for the additional hardware in the shoes.
  • The much-vaunted "float" in the pedals (about 14 degrees) is the minimum I would consider acceptable. On the plus side, the pedals do not attempt to recenter; on the minus side, the float is less than half that of Speedplays.
  • One long-term test result is a confirmation of reports we've received from other riders about the Pro-Fit cleats: They wear out very quickly. We're about five months into our road test, and the cleat on the shoe we uncleat when stopping is almost worn out at the front. That's unacceptably quick wear, as far as we're concerned, and it's clear that Campy needs to improve the material they use in the cleats. (Replacement cleats are relatively cheap--about $18--but they should still last longer than they now do.)

So, are the Record Pro-Fits worth the $200+ they will fetch when your local bike shop carries them? Tough to say. They're certainly a nice design--watch this space for more long-term testing!

June '99: We're about eight months into our road test, so here are a few more observations:

  • Campagnolo must do something about those cleats. Our "uncleating-side" cleat (the one that touches down at stops) lasts about 2,000 miles before it needs to be replaced. Replacement cleats are available, but they should last longer. Campagnolo, are you listening?
  • The mechanisms are still working perfectly. Not a single glitch, although we still miss the easy in-and-out of our old Speedplay pedals.

This page created on December 16, 1997

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