Review: Look S-Track Race Mountain Bike Pedals

Shimano M520 SPD pedals have long been the standard for mountain bike clipless pedals; they are durable, easy to use and good value. However, like even the higher end Shimano SPD models, the M520 presents a number of compromises. For example, they're quite heavy, not great at mud clearing and their spring adjustment can take quite a bit of fine tuning; not to mention the contact area with the cleats is relatively small.

Look is one highly innovative French firm, and the original inventor of the clipless pedal. For a long time they have been a real force to reckon with in the world of road clipless pedals with the Look Keo. 
However, they have always been on the fringe of the mountain bike pedal range, previously with the Quartz pedal. With the entry of the new S-Track pedal I think that could all change...

Look appear to have taken the 
check-list of minor faults with the Shimano products and ironed them out completely whilst producing the Look S-Track. This is a pedal that provides a light, secure and high quality contact point with your bike. Over the last two months I've been testing out a set on my mountain bike, I have to say I'm rather impressed.

Build Quality, Weight and Looks!
For starters, just look at them! (no pun intended). The injected carbon fibre body, aluminium deflectors and spring wire system both look the part and play a crucial part in the great performance of this pedal system. The pedal is designed and built in France to the highest standard. Inside, there are 2 ball bearings and a needle bearing in each pedal unit; all of which are sealed in with a lip seal and independent bearing seals. This is a product built to last! 


Maximum Contact Area
Mountain bike clipless pedals face a difficult problem; unlike road pedals they need to have small cleats to fit between the grippy lugs on the sole of mtb shoes and to aid mud clearance. However, the result is that they have a low cleat-to-pedal contact area, which impedes power transfer. The Look S-Track is designed to overcome this problem...

Innovative Cleat Design: The cleat is the first area that has been adapted to aid contact between the foot and the pedal. The cleat itself is around the same size as a Shimano SPD cleat, however it looks and performs fundamentally differently. Firstly you get a pack of spacers to go between the cleat and the sole of the shoe; these ensure that the cleat is spaced down from the sole and therefore contacts the plate on the pedal. The second feature is the replaceable rubber "feet" on the cleats; these mean that when the cleat does contact the plate of the pedal, it does so with a shock-absorbing contact point and it is not a metal-on-metal loose clunky contact. These two features provide the overall effect that the cleat engages with the pedal directly and with minimal movement, therefore minimising power loss.

Versatile Cage Design: The second feature that dramatically increases the contact area between the foot and the pedal is the innovative removable cage design that comes with the Look S-Track Race pedals. The crampon cage fits over the pedal body and is secured by four allen key bolts. The cage means that the pedal then contacts the sole of the shoe to a significantly greater extent (see third large photo below), as well as protecting the pedals from bumps and knocks. The removable cage adds a whole new dimension to the clipless pedal; effectively turning it into an 'All-Mountain' platform pedal in a matter of minutes. In terms of power transfer and foot stability, it makes it superb.

Minimal Adjustment
It's not just the contact point problem that has been re-considered with the S-Track though, so too has the engagement system. The Shimano SPD system relies on an adjustable spring on the rear of the pedal that is forced out and then clips back when you push your foot into the pedal. The problem with the system is that over time the spring loses its elasticity and you need to adjust it to get the optimal retention rate. The S-Track pedal, similar to Crank Brothers pedals, uses a bar system that you clip into. The benefit of this is that you can rotate the foot slightly with reasonable force, but it is held securely fore-and-aft. Engagement is slightly less positive than with the Shimano design, largely due to the rubber pads on the cleat dampening the metal "clunk" engagement, but once you are used to it the system works very well. The real benefit it that there is no adjustment to be made; you don't have to pre-set spring tension or float, the system simply holds your foot securely how it needs to be held (in-line to pedal motion).

Overall
The Look S-Track is an innovative design, which looks great and works very well. It clears mud respectfully, it has a considerably better power transfer once set up with the correct shims between sole and cleat, and it is improved even further by the versatility provided by the removable cage design. The pedals aren't cheap, retailing at £130 RRP, but you have to consider them an investment; they really are built to last, and are the chosen pedal of world champion athletes such as Christoph Sauser. There is no denying that the S-Track will be a very strong competitor for the higher end Shimano and Crank Brothers models.

The Look S-Track Race Pedals are available from Wiggle Bike Shop (Link)




Comments

  1. Hi Tim, I have been using the S-track for the last few weeks but I have had to go back to using my old Quartz pedals. I'm a big fan of the Look Quartz and have had them on my old stolen Inbred and on my SSCX Pompino for the last few years now and was expecting great things from the new S-Track so when I recently built up my new 29er Lurcher the S-Track was just the pedal for it. The build quality of Look pedals are excellent and the bearings last for ever which I can 100% vouch for but I just haven't been able to get on with these pedals. I haven't been able to get the cleats set up right, either not being able to clip in without a faff or problems when trying to un-clip and nearly coming a cropper a few times. I have also had problems with the red rubber spacer folding up and fouling the cleat. I haven't tried them with the cage as you have so I can't say if that makes a difference but as it's the cleats that was causing the problems I doubt it ? I don't know if you are aware that the springs are adjustable via the torx bolt under each spring (a great feature) which I even tried adjusting to see if this helped but I just ended up either being locked into the pedal or my feet un-clipping when I pulled up on the pedals. Like I said I'm going back to my Quartz for now but would like to give the S-Track another try because they are a great pedal if you can get them to work for you, which I have said to other people when they have asked me about them, and I'm a fan of Look pedals. I would be interested if you did a follow up at some time to see if you continue to get on with them ?

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  2. Hi David,
    The spring on the S-Tracks should not be adjusted, I don't know why really, but it is quite definitive in the instructions, and the guys at Look were pretty specific about it.

    Judging by your experience it unfortunately looks like once it is adjusted it is hard to get it back to a happy medium, and you end up with one of the extremes of the spectrum of spring retention.

    I don't know what to suggest with the rubber spacers, except that they have tiny holes in the rubber material, which must be matched with small pins on the bottom of the cleat. If you do this it holds the spacer firmly in place, and I don't see that it would fold up too easily. Although, I admit they are quite flimsy looking.

    I'll post a comment back on here in a few months when I've ridden the pedals in more extreme conditions and see how they perform in those. Very sorry that you're not had a good experience with them.

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  3. Thanks for great information you write it very clean. I am very lucky to get this tips from you

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