Product Review – Pedal Systems: Shimano Dura Ace PD-9000 vs. Time Iclic Carbon

By Cycling Dad:

Verdict (if you are short on time and simply indecisive as I was)

Both systems are rock-solid and have huge fan-bases. Like all Dura Ace components, Shimano’s PD-9000 pedal system is the paradigm of quality, with ultra-smooth bearings and a superb finish. Unless they get obliterated in a really nasty crash, the PD-9000 will likely last a lifetime. The Time Iclic Carbon pedal system does not quite leave the same impression, but also delivers performance right where you need it. At 286 grams including cleats, the Dura Ace pedal system is 12 grams lighter than the Time Iclic Carbon (298 grams), but you have to be ready to pay roughly twice as much for Shimano as for Time. It is a tough decision, but one thing is certain: in combination with the Lightweight Meilensteins, Time will look decidedly more devilish on Cycling Dad’s new S-Works Venge. Spinning Mum can have the Shimanos ;)

We gave the pedal systems to our highly trained testing department here at CyclingParents.com secret world headquarters. Below is the full review.


Time vs. Shimano

Is it a sensible thing to compare Shimano’s 2013 top-end pedal system with the not quite so fresh 2011 upper mid-range model from Time? Tough call, but we did not really have much time to think about this question upfront. At the end of February, I received a call from one of the editors at Roadbike Magazine, telling me that I had been selected for a position in the 2013 Team Alpecin which, among other benefits, provides the opportunity to ride a EUR 10k+ Specialized S-Works Venge for an entire season. The only thing not to be provided in the team kit would be the pedals, as most riders gravitate heavily towards one certain system of their choice. I can deal with that :) .

I have been riding Time since the 90s and loved them ever since. LeMond, Indurain, Pantani, Ullrich, Boonen – they all rode Time… so these pedals can’t be too shabby. And as I am planning to use my Cervelo with the entry-level Iclic Racer pedals on rainy days, it was an easy choice remain faithful to my existing system. There are more upscale models in the Time product range, for example the Xpresso 12 at just 217 grams per pair (weight including cleats), but clearly these come at a price. Also, I got a good value for the slightly dated Iclic Carbons.

The Dura Ace PD-9000 entered the scene when Alex finally decided to give a proper road pedal system a try. She’s been riding the touring-style SPD PD-A520 system until now, but with her new BMC racemachine RM01, clearly a matching pedal system was required.

The incumbent: The Time Iclic Carbon pedal system

The Time Iclic Carbon system comes in an aggressive-looking cardboard box. Included in the set is a pair of cleats and the usual manuals.

The pedal itself looks rather spaceship-like and comes with a matt carbon finish, slightly rough to the touch. It is stunningly lightweight and provides a rather large surface area for the shoe to make contact. This is important especially on long rides and cycle marathons as unequally distributed pressure on the pedal can lead to “hotspots” on the soles of your feet. Remember that any detail that may nag you after three hours may turn into a source of excruciating pain after six hours. As I am aiming for a finishing time around ten hours on the Oetztaler Cycle Marathon, every detail counts. I know that the Time system works for me, so no experiments here.

Time claims that it’s Iclic pedals are the fastest pedal system in the world. This is because the closing mechanism works like a ski binding and automatically builds tension in a carbon spring when stepping out of the pedal. This tension is released when you lower the shoe onto the pedal, securely locking the cleat into position without any additional effort required from the rider. The pedal system allows you to alter the Q-Factor (the distance between the foot and the crank) by circa 2.5mm per shoe, simply by swapping the sides of the (offset) cleats. You also get to enjoy a lateral float of 2.5mm on the pedal and +/- 5 percent angular float, which is an asset if you feel discomfort and/or pain in your knees from long bike rides.

Does the Time pedal system live up to the marketing claims? I’d say it does. When I was a teenager, my knees hurt a lot after riding the (then still fix-positioned) Look pedal system. Part of the discomfort in the knees must have been attributable to growth, but once I changed to Time with its (then unique) float, the discomfort vanished. I still hold a grudge against Look and obviously cherish Time until this day, even though most (all?) pedal manufacturers offer float in their current systems.

However, I must point out one weak spot from my experience with the Iclic system. With the cheaper Iclic Racers, every now and then the cleat does not seem to engage the pedal quite as smoothly as it should, requiring me to step out of and into the pedal one more time. Not a big deal as I am not racing criteriums that tend to be fast directly off the starting line. I am curious to see if the Iclic Carbons will behave differently from the Iclic Racers in this aspect.

Time claims a weight of 225 grams per pair, which I wanted to put to the test. Our scale must be off by 9 grams…

To be honest I was a bit surprised one cleat alone comes at 32 grams. 64 for a set is more than one-fourth of the weight of the pedals. I also forgot to weigh the screws and screw fixtures which surely may add another race-deciding five grams per shoe.

Dear Time Sports, is there no way these cleats can be made less bulky and/or more durable? Remember the good old Time Magnesium Equipe pedal system? I know from today’s perspective they look dull, but hell – spaceships looked like that in the 80s!
What I loved about them is that they came with metal cleats that worked perfectly and would last forever. From an economical perspective, I understand that the latter meant that the system needed to be replaced… but… can’t it just come back with a fresh design?

 

The Challenger: Shimano Dura Ace PD-9000

Shimano sends its top-line pedal system to the starting line packed in a slick, highly glossy cardboard box. They put an attractive middle-aged man holding an iPhone camera on the front of the packaging. It’s modern, it’s flashy. Kind of makes you want to get on your bike and ride. Oddly enough, his head seems to melt into the area right next to the Dura Ace product family brand logo.

Once I opened the box, I had a flashback to my first business trip to Japan. Packaging is important and perfection is the goal. I had interviews with managers of foreign companies in Japan who told me about deliveries of industrial chemicals being rejected by the Japanese customers because a single barrel in an entire delivery was dented or scratched. The appreciation for your customer’s business and your dedication to serving his requirements shows in the packaging. It does not matter if you’re selling candy, cosmetics, industrial equipment or bicycle components. There is much we can learn from Japan. So I was gazing at the individually packaged pedals, the right-hand pedal in a blue sachet labeled R, the left-hand pedal in a red sachet labeled L. Poka Yoke at work.

The Dura Ace PD-9000 pedals feel good to the touch, and they look fast! The release tension can be manually adjusted from soft to strong to match your individual preferences. One thing I cannot show you on the photo is how incredibly smooth those bearings are turning. They also appear to be sealed pretty well from water and particles to enter. Perfection.

Look at this contact surface. It’s huge! Pressure hotspots? Not with Dura Ace!

 

At 248 grams, the Dura Ace pedals certainly are not the lightest in the world. Quality comes at a cost. However, things are put back into perspective when adding the weight of the shoe cleats….

At 19 grams, Shimano managed to shave the weight of its cleats by 13 grams compared to Time’s Iclic… That’s 13 grams – per shoe! 26 grams on the entire system. I also forgot to include the weight of the screws and fixtures here, but even after adding a few grams on both Shimano and Time the difference remains the same. In the end, Shimano’s Dura Ace pedal system is 12 grams lighter than the Time Iclic Carbon (286 grams compared to 298 grams, both excluding screws and fixtures).

I am curious to see how fast Shimano’s cleats will wear in comparison to Time’s. We live on the outskirts of the city, so most riding takes place on rural roads without the need to step out of the pedals a lot, e.g. at traffic lights.

We will give both Time’s Iclic Carbon and the Shimano Dura Ace PD-9000 a thorough test over the coming months and post our summaries below at the end of the season.

Ride safely and stay tuned.