Don’t miss out on the latest CyclingTips updates.
Time’s ATAC mountain bike pedals aren’t as popular as they once were, but they still enjoy a cult-like following for their enviable all-weather functionality, their excellent durability, and generous rotational and lateral float. Time now brings those same qualities to the gravel market with the single-sided Cyclo series, but based on my experience over the past few months, I’m not sure these will enjoy quite the same level of success.
Less is more
On the surface, the Cyclo 10 seems just like a single-sided ATAC, and while the general interface is the same — as is the cleat — such a simplification would be selling the Cyclo 10 short. In reality, it borrows more from the road range of pedals than you might think.
Like on the ATAC, the Cyclo’s retention system basically just consists of two metal bars: one fixed in place, and one that pivots backward so as to grab on to the cleat. The ones on the Cyclo look a fair bit different than what Time uses on any of its off-road models, but the basic premise is still the same, and the cleats are identical. As with the mountain bike ATAC pedals, there’s up to 10 degrees of rotational float, as well as 5 mm of total translational float.
Setting the Cyclo apart, however, is an adaptation of the neat I-clic system that Time uses on its road pedals. Nestled in between those two retention bars is an additional “catch” that sort of behaves like an old-fashioned mousetrap. When you clip out of the pedals, that extra bit holds the rear loop open slightly so that you’re not working against the full force of the retention spring when you go to clip back in. Release tension is adjustable, as usual.
Time houses that mechanism in an angular-looking carbon-reinforced composite body with a stainless steel wear plate. Presumably to help keep the weight (and profile) low, Time equips the Cyclo 10 with a cartridge bearing at the outboard end of the spindle, but an Igus composite bushing at the inboard end.
Showcased here are the top-end Cyclo 10 pedals, which have an actual weight of 251 grams per pair, plus 55 grams for the cleats. There’s also the second-tier Cyclo 6 and Cyclo 2 models, with the primary differences being body construction (glass-filled composite bodies instead of carbon-filled bodies), wear plate material (non-stainless steel on the Cyclo 2), and that’s pretty much it.
Retail price for the Cyclo 10 is quite reasonable at US$120 / AU$200 / £120 / €120.
Quirky, and not necessarily in a good way
Not surprisingly, anyone who already uses Time’s off-road pedals should find themselves in very familiar territory with the Cyclo. There’s the same very fluid float with lots of available movement, the mechanism seems wholly immune to mud, debris, snow, and whatever other detritus you might typically encounter on a gravel ride, and there’s a decent amount of tactile and audible feedback when clipping in and out (more than Crankbrothers, I’d say, but less than Shimano). As I’ve experienced with Time’s road pedals, that I-clic mechanism legitimately works as promised. Entry effort is so remarkably low that you have to do little more than just position the cleat in the right spot before the pedal snaps around it; there’s no additional force required.
Despite the impressively low weight, the Cyclo 10 pedals also feel respectably stout and stable, with no noticeable flex under power, and plenty of stability thanks to that wide platform. Speaking of which, Time was smart to incorporate that stainless steel wear plate. It’s a bummer that it isn’t replaceable, but in fairness to Time, it’s held up well over the past few months nevertheless.
My test samples came with a warning from Time that they were built with “preproduction” seals that fit more tightly than they should. Indeed, these things didn’t spin very well at all at first, but the seals have broken in reasonably well since then and the pedals are moving more freely now. If and when axle service is required, it’s also a straightforward affair with just a single cap on the end to remove, and then an underlying bolt to undo that then gives you access to the whole assembly.
As for the float, there certainly is a lot of it. Even as compared to most mountain bike pedals — Shimano SPD, in particular — there’s a distinct sensation with Time pedals that your feet aren’t so much locked into any one position, but rather that they’re sort of hovering around a small window of movement. Whether that’s a good or bad thing will likely depend on your preferences (and perhaps your anatomical needs), but even if you need a lot of float, there are some key downsides to keep in mind.
A number of fitters I’ve spoken to over the years don’t actually like that lateral float, though, saying most people’s feet just tend to migrate toward the outer edge of the pedals, no matter where they ideally should be. For most people, it’s not an issue, but if you’ve got a very particular position you’re trying to hold, it could potentially manifest in some biomechanical issues.
There’s some weirdness to that float as well. Whereas two-bolt pedal systems from Shimano and Crankbrothers both incorporate a certain amount of totally free rotational movement, Time’s rotational float is always spring-loaded, and constantly trying to return your feet to center. It’s impressively fluid motion, mind you, but there’s still the feeling that the pedals are trying to twist your foot a certain way.
That wouldn’t be a big issue if you could align the cleat to match with where your feet want to be, but Time unfortunately doesn’t provide that level of adjustability (nor has it ever with the ATAC system, in fact, despite how long it’s been around). Granted, Shimano and Crankbrothers don’t explicitly incorporate rotational adjustment, either, but the design of those cleats still allow for more tunability with most shoes, and they also at least include lateral adjustment; you don’t get that with these Time Cyclo (or ATAC) pedals, either. On the plus side, the cleats do seem to wear very well.
Another issue for me was the I-clic mechanism. Although hardly necessary or transformative, I’ve grown to really like this feature on Time’s road pedals; it’s just that little bit easier to get clipped in when starting out.
But the I-clic mechanism on these Cyclos has been oddly prone to premature triggering. Regardless of how accustomed I get to these things, there are still times where the mechanism snaps shut before my cleat is fully in position. I can still clip in at that point, but I then have to work against the full force of the retention system, which obviously defeats the purpose of the I-clic feature. Ultimately, the inconsistent functionality of this version of I-clic slows down the whole process instead of making it faster, which is more than a little annoying.
Adding to that frustration are those composite bushings, which don’t rotate with as little friction as bearings. This is somewhat ironic since Time uses big inboard bearings on its road pedals, and those spin really, really well. And since the Cyclo pedal bodies are so light (and stubby), the Cyclo 10s are sometimes a little hesitant to let the tails hang down as they should when you’re not attached.
Between this and the hit-or-miss nature of the I-clic feature, I found myself wishing on more than a few occasions that I’d had my trusty SPDs installed instead.
Adding the final nail in the coffin for me is the fact that these pedals have been occasionally prone to creaking throughout the test period, which persists even when switching the cleats to different shoes. Lubricating the cleat helps, but it’s only a temporary fix.
Time for an update
I’m still a firm believer in Time’s fundamental ATAC clipless pedal system for all the reasons I mentioned earlier. It’s exceptionally robust and tolerant, it’s intuitive to use, and — assuming you want it — there’s a ton of float on tap.
But I-clic seems like one feature too many in this instance, the intermittent creaking drives me nuts, the bodies just don’t spin as nicely as they should, and as solid a history as Time has with its ATAC interface, I’d argue that it’s still long overdue for an update.
Sorry, Time, but I think it’s back to the drawing board for this one. I had high hopes for these, but if you’re after a single-sided two-bolt pedal system for gravel riding, my pick is still the (now discontinued) Shimano PD-A600. It may be heavier, but it just plain works better.