The SPuD alternative – A.T.A.C. –ing Frogs|
Sunday, November 04, 2001
If emulation is the sincerest form of flattery, Shimano should be down right giddy. Without question the Shimano "Spud" pedal design is one of the most copied designs in the annals of the bike industry. And for good reason, the pedals generally perform dutifully and are available at attractive price points. Frequently, Shimano (or knock offs) are original equipment on many bikes. Beware, they have an Achilles heal – muddy conditions.
You know what I mean. Slogging through the mud, you need to dab then – DOH! You can’t get back into the pedals without emptying half your water bottle and breaking 3 sticks trying to clean out the pedals. Don’t fret - there are alternatives available!
It’s well known that Time makes perhaps the most popular non-SPD pedal. We checked out the Time offering a while back. Now with 6 models to choose from you to can ride virtually the same pedal as multi-time world champ Miguel Martinez. What’s the difference in the models?
A.T.A.C. Titan Carbon (352g/pair) - Titanium axle, Composite body with carbon fiber reinforcing, Cadillac of the line, m.s.r.p $289.95
A.T.A.C. Carbon World Champion (396g/pair) - Steel axle, Composite body with carbon fiber reinforcing, Cool World Champion colors on plate, Available in a less flashy model without W.C. rainbow, m.s.r.p $154.95
A.T.A.C. (400g/pair) - Composite body, Steel axle, m.s.r.p $129.95
A.T.A.C. Alium HP (412g/pair) - High Polished aluminum body, Chrome steel axle, m.s.r.p. $109.95
A.T.A.C. Alium (416g/pair) - Aluminum body, Steel axle, available in 4 colors (blue, red, yellow or black), m.s.r.p. $94.95
What makes the Time so cool is that they all perform. Each uses the Auto Tension Adjustment Concept (A.T.A.C.) allowing 15 or 20 degrees of float depending on cleat placement. Each is double sided and self-cleaning with /- 5 degrees of angular float and /- 3mm of lateral float. Times also have a slightly larger platform than other SPD alternatives. This is great when you need to get back on your bike fast (e.g. races, cyclo-cross or hunters).
The key to maintaining performance in muddy conditions is the low spring tension rate. Entry effort is reduced and more consistent than high-tension designs. After severe riding conditions I have cleaned the pedals and applied a drop or two of lube – that’s it! No disassembly required. Ever try to rebuild a Shimano SPD pedal? It can be ugly, messy and if you drop one of those super-tiny bearings – Good Luck!
There comes a time when you need to break from the crowd. Maybe you did it sometime in your youth. That's great but this ain't a right of passage story. This is about breaking from the pack when it comes to your gear. In cycling we all know the "Big S" has a stranglehold but it doesn't mean you can't explore other options. We're not talking about no name knock-offs of existing technology but new ideas and concepts. The Frog pedal system from Speedplay is one such concept worth checking out.
The small package can be a bit intimidating. The pedal's footprint (no pun intended) has the appearance of being significantly smaller that the TIME A.T.A.C. and most Shimano offerings. The truth is the size isn't so much smaller but the simplicity of design is remarkable.
Our tester found that the switch from SPD's to Frogs was easy. The pedal had a smaller foot print and more float which did take some getting used to, but once familiar with it, our rider was all smiles.
We liked the simplicity in design of the Frogs. Based on the other pedal systems we’ve tried, a simple design lends itself to better performance in poor conditions. Less moving parts means less opportunity for something to "stop moving" when muck is compressed into the mechanism.
Maintenance is super easy! A built-in grease injector port allows you to put a drop of lube right where you need it.
One aspect that wasn’t so great is that not all makes of shoes are compatible. Some popular shoes from Sidi, Carnac, Northwave and others will require minor modifications or trimming of the sole material. A few older shoes are simply not compatible. If you have questions about your shoe, call the Speedplay Tech Dept. toll free at 1-800-468-6694.
Speedplay Frog (250g/pair, 46g cleat) – a 17-4 stainless steel spindle, 1 needle bearing, 1 cartridge bearing, free float with no centering action, 20 degree release angle and standard mounting. m.s.r.p - $129
Speedplay Frog Ti (204g/pair, 46g cleat) – a 6-4 titanium spindle and the rest is the same as the Frog. Note: Speedplay does express a 185 lbs. rider limit for their Frog Ti model. m.s.r.p. - $179
This is a tough one. Both Time and Speedplay have done excellent in presenting a valid alterative to Shimano’s way-too-prevalent SPD design.
Performance wise this is a draw. Take your pick. They’re both awesome pedal systems. They both work in mud. Overall a slight nod goes to Time for more price points and better shoe compatibility even though Speedplay does have a solid edge in weight. Having a multi-time world champion on your product doesn’t hurt either.
Others worth Mentioning
Bebop makes three models of the ultra simple design. Similar to Speedplay in that the cleat is where the action is. Do your research first because the Bebops are not compatible with all shoes. For more information, visit their web site at Bebop.com/
We haven’t tried these yet but they’re so funky looking we had to mention them - The Eggbeaters! Touted as a 4-sided pedal, these are worth a look for sure. Only 13 parts make up the pedal and three of those are O-rings. A great name and pretty darn obvious by looking at the picture how the name came about. For more information, visit their web site at Crankbros.com.