GRAVELBIKE

First Impressions: Speedplay SYZR Pedals

Update: Speedplay has published a SYZR quick start set-up guide which you can read here.

Speedplay‘s SYZR pedals were in development for so long that many riders–myself included–wondered if the unique pedals would ever make it to market. With claims of road-worthy power transfer and superior mud-clearing ability, the San Diego-based company’s pedals achieved a near-mythical status. Then, in 2015, the wait was finally over when the SYZRs officially hit the shelves.

The SYZR may look like your standard off-road clipless pedal, but the design is anything but ordinary. For starters, Speedplay reversed the pedals’ latch mechanisms–SYZRs utilize a pivoting front latch instead of pivoting rear latch. According to Speedplay, this new latch design reduces the likelihood of accidental release when pulling hard on the pedals (because you no longer pull up against the release mechanism). Then there are the cleats. Speedplay threw convention out the window, and moved the pivot mechanism directly inside the cleat, enabling micro-adjustable float adjustment.

Like the company’s road pedals, SYZRs are available with three spindle options–chrome moly ($165), stainless steel ($199), and titanium ($389). All three models feature 55 mm spindles, but spindles are also available separately in 50 mm, 53 mm, 59 mm, and 65mm lengths. Despite their somewhat beefy appearance, the SYZRs are reasonably light. My stainless steel pedals came in one gram under the claimed 312 gram weight, with the cleats weighing 65 grams. By comparison, Crank Brothers‘ Candy 7 pedals are 320 grams, and Shimano‘s Deore XT SPDs tip the scales at 343 grams. While the SYZRs’ cleats are on the large side, I didn’t encounter any incompatibilities with shoes from Five Ten, Louis Garneau, and Pearl Izumi.

Due to the SYZR’s pivoting front latch, clipping-in requires a different motion compared to SPD-style pedals. Instead of the usual heel-down action, you enter the Speedplays with a toe-down/forward motion. If you’ve used the company’s Frog clipless pedals, the feel is somewhat similar. I found it easiest to clip-in with the pedal positioned at the 12-o-clock position, taking advantage of the pedal stroke’s natural forward motion to engage the cleat. The big difference between the Frogs and SYZRs, though, is the latter’s tactile feedback and adjustable tension. Even when set up with easy release tension, there’s no mistaking the distinctive click that accompanies clipping into the SYZRs.

Riding SYZRs for the first time reveals what is probably the pedal system’s greatest asset: superior power transfer. The SYZR’s cleat/pedal interface is 100% metal-on-metal, and unlike conventional MTB clipless pedals, the SYZR doesn’t rely on contact with the sole to transmit power. As a result there’s no play between the shoe and pedal–gone is the fore/aft and side-to-side slop typically found on off-road pedals. I’ve ridden thousands of miles on Speedplay’s road pedals (Light Actions, Zeros), and the SYZRs easily offer the same levels of stability and power transfer.

Like Speedplay’s other clipless pedals, SYZRs feature non-recentering float. Setting the inner and outer limits is easy thanks to the cleats’ twin 2 mm screws. Because all float takes place inside the cleats, there’s no wear to the pedals’ retention latches. And when it’s time to clip out, the cleats’ ceramic rollers ensure a consistent release in all conditions. Initially I was concerned that the complex cleat design would seize up in mud and snow, but after more than four months of consistent, predictable performance, the SYZRs have erased any skepticism.

The SYZRs do have a couple of minor quirks that are worth mentioning. When you unclip, the cleat remains at that particular release angle. If you have the outer release position set to a very wide angle, your foot will need to match that angle when clipping in. This is really only noticeable if you set the cleats up with an extreme, heels-out position. Conversely, if you set the SYZRs up with minimal outward float, your exit and entry positions will be nearly identical. Additionally, because the SYZR’s front latch is hinged, you could–in theory–unclip in certain situations such as descending very rough or technical trails while riding with your toes pointed downward (I’ve yet to experience this in nearly five months of riding the SYZRs).

With its direct power transfer, micro-adjustable float, and open architecture design, Speedplay’s SYZR pedal is ideal for gravel and dirt road riding. No longer do I have to sacrifice stability and power transfer for walkability. In the past, I’d sometimes avoid dirt roads or trails rather than risk clogging my road pedals’ cleats (or turning an ankle due to the shoes’ slippery soles). Not so with the SYZRs–I can go for a ride and not have to worry whether I’ve got the right pedals/shoes for unplanned exploration (or just walking into the convenience store for a drink or snack). Any product that simplifies–and at the same time, improves–my riding experience is a winner in my book.

Disclosure: Speedplay provided review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation in exchange for editorial coverage.

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