First Impressions: Time ATAC XC8 Carbon Pedals

It seems that I have an affinity for French clipless pedals. Back in the early/mid-90s I used LOOK’s funky MP90 and S2S pedals. When Time introduced the original ATAC (Auto Tension Adjustment Concept) pedals circa 1996, I (happily) made the switch. Fast forward to late-2013, and I’m riding Time pedals once again. This time, it’s the company’s ATAC XC8 Carbon model.

The heart of Time’s ATAC system is a two-bar design that is self-cleaning, and allows angular rotation (±5°), as well as lateral float (6mm). ATAC cleats offer 13° or 17° release angles, and the pedals’ release tension is adjustable with a small, flat-blade screwdriver. Time lists the Carbon 8’s weight as 284g, and our sample pair weighed 288g (the cleats and mounting hardware came in at 46g). The XC8–like the company’s XC6 and XC12 pedals–uses an 8mm allen wrench for installation.

GRAVELBIKE.com gravel grinder Time ATAC XC Carbon 8 pedal Sugino ZX801D

The carbon body offers a good blend of support and ground clearance.

Clipping into ATACs requires a toe-down, forward motion that’s not unlike scraping gum off the bottom of your shoe. There’s no wondering if you’re clipped in or not, as the pedals provide a very distinct click (both audible and tactile) when the cleats are engaged. The cross-country ATACs may not have the substantial platforms/bodies of Time’s MX or DX brethren, but the XC offers improved ground and rock clearance while still offering enough surface area for unclipped pedaling.

Once clipped into the Carbon 8s, you immediately notice the increased freedom of movement afforded by the ATAC system. You can apply body English by rotating (or sliding) your foot, but without the risk of the pedal releasing unintentionally. Coming from 15 years of riding Speedplay Frog pedals, my feet (and knees) were used to roaming freely, so the ATACs’ float made switching over quick and easy. Even with the Time’s ample float, however, I never felt like I was expending unnecessary energy keeping my feet positioned correctly for proper pedaling technique.

GRAVELBIKE.com gravel grinder Time ATAC XC Carbon Louis Garneau T-Flex LS-100 BOA

Changing the release angle is achieved by swapping the cleats from left to right.

Nearly any clipless pedal designed for off-road use can perform well in dry conditions, but the real test comes when things get muddy (or worse). Time’s open retention system allows gunk to be easily pushed through the loops, while the cleats’ simple shape is less likely to trap debris. With the ATAC XC pedals, I could traipse through mud, snow, and even ice, and still clip in easily and reliably. As the cleats broke in, entry and exit became even smoother.

During this review period, I tested the XC8 pedals with Louis Garneau’s T-Flex LS-100 and SIDI’s Dominator 5 shoes. Neither shoe required any modification to accommodate the ATAC cleats. Despite the cleats’ diminutive profile, I never noticed any hot-spots with either of the aforementioned shoes. While it’s too soon to comment on the Time’s long-term durability, the company offers a wide range of replacement parts.

Disclosure: Time Sport and Louis Garneau provided product samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation for this review.

5 thoughts on “First Impressions: Time ATAC XC8 Carbon Pedals

    • If you want/need lots of unrestricted (i.e. friction-free) float, frogs are the way to go. I have found that frogs can be difficult to clip into when it’s muddy or snowy, however. For dedicated off-road use, I prefer the MKS clipless pedals that I’ve been testing the past couple of months. The MKS pedals have more tactile feedback when clipping in, and are far less likely to release accidentally.

      That said, for road riding, I really like Speedplay’s Light Action pedals with dedicated road shoes. While not ideal for off-the-bike walking, etc, they offer excellent support and stability.

      • I tried Speedplay Zeros briefly and loved them, except for the giant cleat on the bottom of your foot. I really want a bike shoe that I can walk on for commuting and that’s drawn me to the Frog. I’m guessing the Frogs are a little different to the Zeros, but it sounds like the friction-free float is still there and that’s what I’m looking for to avoid knee issues. I’m not too worried about mud and snow issues, so I think I’ll give the Frogs a try.

        Thanks for your feedback.

        • It sounds like the frogs would work well for the type of riding you’re describing. Make sure you keep the bearings greased and the cleats lubed. For the latter, I use a spray silicone lube applied to a rag, which I then use to wipe down the cleat and pedal body (rings). I find that spraying lube directly on the frog cleats isn’t necessary.

          • I feel like I’ve read that exact comment somewhere else while researching the Frogs :-) You must have posted a review somewhere.

            I know function is 100% the most important thing, but I wish Speedplay had given the Frogs a little love over the last decade. They are pretty ugly compared to the Zeros. Seems like Speedplay want them to go away, but people keep buying them.

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