Friday, June 10, 2016

Equipment - Exustar Pedals

Note: I bought these pedals myself and paid more than the current MSRP for them.

Back in the late 90s I was trying to wean myself off of the Aerolite pedals. They were super light - about 70 grams per PAIR with the cleats - but I was running out of cleats and my drilled out shoes were pretty played out. Aerolites were about the most user-unfriendly pedals ever, so there was that. Finally I was pretty poor and couldn't afford to buy the in-vogue Look or Time pedals.

The Shimano SPD-Rs were very high quality pedals but they had one big drawback - the cleat often moved before the pedal would let go of said cleat. This meant that there were times where I had to ask for help unclipping from my own pedals. I usually hit the outside of my heel with a fist to unclip; just twisting my leg usually moved the cleat rather than unclipping me. I had the tension set to almost minimum, just enough to hold my feet in. Obviously this wasn't ideal.

However, at that time, the SPD-Rs were attractive to me for a different reason - price. They were super inexpensive because of their poor unclipping performance. Wholesalers sold them for less than half price. In addition I had a number of friends who tried and hated them and they gave me their pedals. I quickly built up a collection of 3 sets of Dura Ace axle pedals. Because all the wear items are steel, both on the pedal and the shoe, these pedals will last forever.

SPD-R pedals on my track bike, back before it had a real crank on it.
(This crank is a triple crankset, used temporarily while I tried out track racing)

About 10 years ago I moved from the SPD-Rs to the Look Keo Carbon pedals. The incident that really pushed me was when I had to have two people help me unclip on a group ride. I literally couldn't unclip on my own, and I started worrying if I could unclip when I rode. It was really stressful and not good at all.

When I tried the Look Keo Carbon I was happily surprised. I could release from the Keos easily without risking twisting the cleat on the shoe. I did have to max out the tension on the Keo Carbon to keep my shoes clipped in, but I didn't think that was a big deal.

The Keo Carbons.

A few years later, as my pedals started to show signs of wear, I went and bought two sets of the Look Keo 2 Max pedals. These were supposed to be the new and improved Keo Carbon. The Keo 2 Max had a metal plate on the top so the cleat wouldn't wear the pedal and ease unclipping.

(I think it's called the Keo 2 Max, it's the metal plate topped version of the Keo Carbon but with a regular plastic body. I'll call them the Keo 2 Max going forward.)

Keo 2 Max on the cranks.
I didn't bother getting a better picture of the pedals.

When I went to the Keo 2 Max I experienced a spate of unclipping incidents. I unclipped while seated, while standing, all in higher power situations. I thought it was a worn cleat (at some point my cleats were worn) or inadequate tension (I maxed out the tensions).

I reinstalled the Keo Carbons rather quickly and the unclipping incidents stopped immediately. I put the Keo 2 Max pedals on my mountain bike (which I ride on the road). Using the pedals back to back I realized that the Keo 2 Max was so easy to unclip that I was unclipping inadvertently, even on the mountain bike. The Keo Carbons held my shoes much better.

With the Keo Carbons long discontinued I didn't know what to do. The pedals were pretty worn but I continued using them. If I had to I could always go back to the SPD-Rs, which I had on my track bike. I could also go to the Shimano pedal, which others have recommended. However I wanted to stay with the Keo cleat, only because I had so many cleats. And it'd be easier to experiment if I didn't have to change the cleats, just the pedals.

I asked someone in the know for advice. He suggested trying the Exustar pedals. Look users reported the Exustar pedals a bit harder to unclip, but for me that would be ideal. I bought a couple pairs of the pedals.

And promptly misplaced them.

Fast forward a year or two to a few months ago. I was organizing some innertubes and found the Exustar pedals buried in the dozen or two innertubes. I pretty much immediately put the nicer Exustar pedals onto the bike. I was pleasantly surprised to see that I only needed about half tension to replicate the release tension of the maxed out Keo Carbons.

Exustar pedal.
White shows dirtiness quickly - these pedals are virtually brand new.

This is the Exustar E-PR2 pedal in white. They're inexpensive - MSRP $91 - and are basically a Keo Carbon type pedal. No metal plate on the pedal body, a wider platform than the PR1 (which is like the Keo Classic). Their PR3 pedals have the metal plate. The PR1 and PR3 are available with a titanium axle. For me, after breaking a titanium BB axle, I won't do titanium axles anymore, plus the weight savings are negligible in the scheme of things.

If the pedals look like the Garmin Vector powermeter pedals, you're right. Exustar makes the pedal body for Garmin, and it's basically this body except with the metal plate, the PR3. To be exact Exustar's regular pedal model with the metal plate is the Exustar E-PR3ST.

Pedals hanging.

As most pedals the PR2s hand with the nose up. This way you can slip your foot forward and you'll clip right into the pedals. The key is not to hit bumps or jerk the pedals around, else the pedals will spin.

I didn't change my cleats over so I'm still using the Keo cleats. I have many sets of cleats that I've bought over the years so I have probably 5-8 years of cleat supply on hand.

So far the PR2s have been fine for me. They're just as easy to clip in as my Look Keos but they hold my foot much more securely. I used the pedals both times I raced this year and they've been totally fine.


StevenCX said...

I love these pedals as well for all the same reasons.

Anonymous said...

I was gonna get spd-sl but after seeing exustar price (50 euros pretty cheap for Denmark) and your review, I give it a shot. If it doesnt creak, it is a steal for me :)

Aki said...

I can't speak for durability but other than that I have no problems with them. The pedals seem to fly under the radar because they're not a mainstream brand. I'm very happy with mine, that's for sure.

I've had zero creaking. I had some with one of the Keos but I did something, maybe it was the rubber pad in the cleat? Anyway no creaking in any of my pedals for a while.