The LOOK KEO FLEX is mostly aimed at beginners looking to acquire their first clipless pedals and with nearly 25 years of racing experience under my belt I’m guessing that I’m not exactly their target audience. Most PEZ readers are probably like me too and far from ‘beginner’ status but I’ve helped many friends and family members get into cycling over the years and that moment when they try their first set of clipless pedals can be a watershed moment in their cycling lives. If they like it and don’t fall over at the first set of traffic lights in a blind panic there’s a good chance that they’ll be hooked for life on clipless pedals and never want to go back to those dark days of toe-clips again.
With that in mind, plus the fact that these pedals are completely different than anything else on the market I thought that the FLEX would be a good pedal to test.
It’s One Piece!
What makes them so special then? Well, it’s their patented one piece composite design which combines both the body and lever together. This new design means that the pedal is spring-free which creates some new sensations for cleat insertion and removal and significantly lightens the weight also.
Claimed weight is 122 grams for each pedal which seemed ridiculously light for a $59.99 pedal so the first thing I did when I got them was put them on my scales. Yep, 122 grams. These bad boys are light. In fact, just for fun I put my normal, unnamed, much more expensive pedals on the scales to compare weights. Damn. These $60 pedals are significantly lighter…..
Yep, just 122 grams confirmed. That’s light!
What Do LOOK Say?
When compiling this test I wanted to get the lowdown on the ideas behind this new pedal so I went straight to the source – the Pedal Product Manager at Look France. Guillaume Lenoir d’Espinasse was responsible for the team behind these new pedals and firstly I asked him why he chose the relatively low figure of 8Nm as the clickout tension,
“Yes it was specifically targeted in our specifications. Indeed, 8Nm is particularly adapted to beginners as it is enough to guarantee that your foot will be maintained in the pedal and it is also an easy tension to clip in and clip out. You can find this 8 Nm tension in our Keo Easy pedal and also in our Keo Classic pedal – but you can move it until 12 Nm on that pedal.”
The 8Nm tension certainly suits the Flex’s target market but the big talking point behind these pedals is the one piece design. What did Guillaume have to say about this?
“Our goal behind this pedal was to give access to automatic pedal to beginners. Then, we had to simplify the clip in and clip out system. And the most easiest way to achieve this goal was to rethink the clip in and clip out technology. Then, our engineers have worked on that and the result is that the lever is integrated to the body and the action of clipping is allowed by flexing the two outside clips.
The central lever is important to maintain the cleat when you are engaged and it intervenes also in the clip in and clip out action. This gives you new sensations for cleat insertion and cleat releases. Actually, you should feel it more easy to use.”
Look’s promotional video on their new FLEX pedal.
I think Guillaume and his team have hit the target well with their design. The pedal works perfectly, it’s light, easy to operate and as even beginners are sometimes as vain as the top riders – these pedals look good. Classic black certainly never goes out of fashion and will look good against any paint scheme. A minor point sure, but very important to some.
Classic black, sleek lines and understated graphics add up to a good looking pedal.
Something that the guys at LOOK didn’t mention to me in our exchanges or in any of their publicity on the pedals is the clearance levels of the pedal. I remember when the first clipless pedals came out (yep, showing my cycling age there) and they suffered quite a serious problem of clearance with riders often clipping their pedals in corners due to the bulky nature of the pedal bodies at the time. Being an entry level pedal at a very cheap price point I was pleasantly surprised to find that the pedal isn’t at all bulky and that the pedal on the edges is nicely tapered away giving a clearance rate similar to many topline pedals.
The tapered profile of the pedal leads to a good clearance rate for a budget pedal.
During this two month test I never once scraped my pedals whilst cornering – although it’s something that hopefully an experienced cyclist doesn’t do often anyway! It was reassuring to know though for this beginner’s pedal that it was well designed in this regard as this is something beginner riders don’t always think about when cornering.
The underside of my test pedals, still scratch free….
Over the two months that I tested the pedals I didn’t have any problems with the spindle of the pedals which is often the weak point of a cheaper pedal. The Keo FLEX has a basic yet sturdy setup of a single ball bearing (12mm interior x 21mm exterior) and a bush. This simple setup doesn’t require any maintenance and should in theory last a beginner many thousands of miles of trouble free riding although I luckily didn’t have the opportunity to test it in extreme weather. I did get wet a few times though and the spindle still feels smooth and solid with no obvious problems.
The LOOK product testing is the same for the FLEX as for all their pedals; which is a rotation test lasting 1 million cycles at 100 r.p.m. with a load of 90 kg on the centre of the pedal and off-centre rotation (which creates a shock at each revolution). So for a beginner doing a few miles per day I’d suggest that they’ll be wearing out either themselves or the rest of the bike before they wear out these pedals.
But How Do They Ride?
Coming in at such a low weight and being one piece is all well and good but it’s their performance on the bike which is the most important so the big question is obviously – How do they ride? First thing that I noticed when clipping in with the red cleats provided (9° movement) was the reassuring very positive ‘click’.
As these pedals are aimed at beginner riders and/or riders new to clipless pedals, this very loud click when engaging in the pedal is perfect as it’s obvious to one and all that you are in fact ‘clicked in’. In the quick video I made below you can distinctly hear the click and also get a clearer view of the one-piece construction of this unique pedal.
So once you’ve clicked in, the feeling in the pedal is one of security. It certainly never felt like I was going to suffer any accidental pull outs from the pedal despite the fact that the relatively low exit force needed to clip out is set (and unchangeable) at 8Nm. My personal pedals that I’ve clocked up many miles on are 12Nm and I thought that maybe I would really feel the difference and experience accidental clipouts but it never happened once during my 2 month test.
That said though, the 8Nm clip out force is noticeable at every stop light or coffee stop that I came across as I only needed a very slight movement to the left or right to disengage from the pedal – something that once again would be very reassuring to somebody that was new to clipless pedals.
I personally wasn’t a huge fan of the red cleats as I prefer less movement so I switched to the grey cleats which give you 4.5° and they felt a little more ‘natural’ to me. Just like other LOOK Keo pedals you can use either black (0°), grey (4.5°) or red (9°) with the Keo Flex so you’ll be sure to find the cleat style that is best for you.
For an entry level pedal it’s difficult to nitpick too much about any possible problems as this pedal does exactly what’s it’s designed to do for an excellent price. There is one thing that I picked up on the very first use though and that’s the fact that the lightweight of these pedals can actually be a disadvantage when entering the pedal.
The problem is that when you exit the pedal the one piece design has led to a pedal of generally even weight on both the front and back end of the pedal therefore the pedal doesn’t ‘hang down’ like a typical LOOK pedal would. This then makes cleat engagement slightly more difficult, depending upon where the pedal ended up.
Let me explain in pictures:
Here’s another bike I had in the workshop with some older model Keo pedals. You’ll notice that the front of the pedal points skywards when you are not engaged in the pedal.
Now here’s the Flex pedals on my test bike. In this instance I’ve clicked out of the pedal at a perfect horizontal angle and because of the lack of weight difference the pedal just stays in this position. It does not point to the sky like other LOOK pedals would.
Now here’s an example where the pedal has been bumped to an upside down position and unfortunately it will now stay in this position, making the next clip in more difficult.
This is a minor point of course and a simple look down before you clip in and a quick kick with the toe will get the pedal into the right position.
All in all this is a sturdy, basic pedal at a very good price that is the perfect introduction pedal for beginner riders. I’d also suggest that it could be a cheap pedal for commuters that currently used another version of LOOK’s Keo range on their road bike and didn’t want to buy a different pair of shoes for the occasional commute.
With such a light weight some of you may be thinking that this could be the perfect pedal for your race bike but for me personally I think the 8Nm clip out force needed would not be enough for racing conditions. Although I never experienced any accidental clip-outs in the two month test, I did test them in the off-season and I think if I was sprinting out of corners constantly or just sprinting for the finish line I would prefer a pedal with a higher tension. For a beginner or leisure rider though these would be the perfect pedals to start out with before perhaps graduating up to a different pedal down the line.
As far as value for money is concerned you certainly couldn’t go wrong and the extremely low weight for this end of the market was a pleasant surprise. The negative that the pedal didn’t naturally return to an easy clip in position is a minor point and interestingly the 2 relatively inexperienced riders that I asked to try out the pedals for me one day didn’t even notice.
For a recommended retail price of US$59.99 the LOOK Keo Flex pedals could certainly be worth a look.
For more info check out lookcycle.com