August 03, 2008
The Gear Junkie: Look Quartz Carbon Pedal
By STEPHEN REGENOLD
The year was 1984 when Look, a French company known for its ski gear, unveiled an innovation that would forever change the world of cycling. The company’s pï¿½dales automatiques — Francospeak for what today are known as clipless pedals — featured a spring-loaded clamp that’d mate with a cleat bolted on the bottom of a bike shoe.
The resulting harmony of increased power and control granted from a connection to the bike — plus Look pedals’ easy-in, easy-out clip design — literally changed the way people rode. Soon, Tour de France winners were sporting clipless, and the rest is history.
Look’s $199 Quartz Carbon pedal
Today, clipless pedals are standard issue for almost all serious cyclists. But Look, despite its original contribution to the category, has long been overshadowed by Shimano, Crank Brothers and other pedal makers, especially in the mountain-biking realm.
But this year a new Look pedal line for mountain biking was touted to put the French company back out front. The Quartz Carbon line, which consists of three similar models, promised simplicity, performance and durability — a solid place to clip in your shoe and pedal on, no fuss included.
I tested the line’s namesake Quartz Carbon, the middle-of-the-pack $199 model. Made with a carbon body plus thin steel axles, each pedal weighs a scant 4.4 ounces.
A proprietary design that incorporates ball bearings instead of a coil spring allowed the company (www.lookcycle.com) to create what are among the lightest mountain biking pedals on the market of their type. There’s also a lot of space surrounding the axle, keeping mud from clogging up the connection, a problem common with some clipless models.
Compared to most pedals, Quartz Carbons have few features. You cannot adjust the tension of release. There are no visible springs or hex-heads to tighten. Personally, I prefer this simplicity of design, though others might demand more customization.
Clipping in and out is quiet. There is not a hard click when you step down and force the cleat into its place. This may be disconcerting for cyclists used to an audible click to affirm a connection.
Quartz Carbon cleat and shim
Look ships Quartz Carbon pedals with cleats that attach to any shoe made for mountain biking. Small plastic shims come in the kit, and customizing cleat height off the sole is required to allow the pedal to mate correctly to a knobby or smooth tread underfoot.
When configured right, the Look pedal body will rest touching the tread or sole of a shoe, distributing your pedaling power to the carbon body like it’s a mini platform. This setup adds some stability and eliminates the “hot spots” felt underfoot that plague some clipless configurations.
My experience so far has been mostly positive. After three months of hard pounding, the Quartz Carbons still spin great and clip in easy and firm. They stay that way over rocks and jumps, through mud and pedaling for miles on tough singletrack.
For emergency escapes, they unclip not as easily as my other primary pedals, Crank Brothers’ Egg Beater Four Ti model, a top-end pedal that sells north of $400 a pair. The Looks also weigh another ounce or so more than those premium pedals.
But for their price, the Quartz Carbons are smooth performers. They clip solidly underfoot and are so light as to be unnoticeable as a component on your bike.
Whether these “pï¿½dales automatiques” will bring some of the original Look luster back to the mountain biking game remains to be seen. But on my bike — feet spinning, eyes ahead on the trail — the no-fuss Quartz Carbon clipless continue to do their job, mile upon mile, climb after climb.
(Stephen Regenold writes The Gear Junkie column for eleven U.S. newspapers; see www.THEGEARJUNKIE.com for video gear reviews, a daily blog, and an archive of Regenold’s work.)
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