Look, the age-old cycling brand that pioneered pedals being attached to shoes, has never really had a strong foothold in our dirty world. On the pavement, sure, Look is all over the place, but their involvement in singletrack has been mostly limited to their Quartz pedal and some odd (and very pricey) mountain bikes that don't really exist for anyone in North America. Their fresh X-Track pedal most certainly does exist, however, and Look is hoping that their all-new design will make the Gallic brand more relevant to us mountain bikers.
The cross-country focused X-Track replaces Look's now-retired Quartz pedal, and there are four models that range from the $49.99 USD base model to the "It's only money" Race Carbon Ti version that goes for $249.99 USD. My test set was the "It's only money, but I still need to eat" Race Carbon model that has a $129.99 USD price tag and weigh 346-grams on my scale for the set. There will also be two trail-friendly versions, available later this year with larger platforms for those who feel they need that.
X-Track Race Carbon Details
• Intended use: trail, cross-country
• Carbon pedal body
• Steel spindle
• Float: 6-degrees
• Compatible w/ Shimano SPD cleats
• Weight: 346-grams
• MSRP: $129.99 USD
According to Look, the main focus of their X-Track pedal was to have ''the weight/contact surface ratio as the primary factor when defining the product.'' That's a fancy way of saying that they wanted a relatively large contact area between the shoe and pedal to have as much of our meager horsepower transferred from the former to the latter. This is different than some pedals with large platforms that surround a trail-style pedal, which often make little contact with the shoe, and it's one of the reasons that the X-Track weighs a whisker more than some others, even with the composite body used for my Race Carbon pedals.
So, instead of a body that's been pared down to nothing but what's needed to hold the clippy bits, you'll find a large surface area on each side of the mechanism, at least relative to most anorexic cross-country pedals.
If the clip mechanism looks kinda familiar to you, it's because it's essentially what you'll find on Shimano's pedals, which means that all the X-Track models can be used with SPD cleats. As much as I'm not a fan of Shimano's pedals for their lack of release tension, I'm probably in the minority with that complaint, and it does make a load of sense for Look to go this route. If they had used a proprietary cleat design, you'd likely be SOL if you needed a set and had no access to a well-stocked bike shop: ''Hi, I'm looking for cleats that work with my weird French pedals,'' which would likely be followed by a blank stare. But you can practically get SPD cleats at your local grocery store, so no issues there.
Entry and release tension is adjustable by using a 3mm hex key to preload each of the springs, with seventeen clicks in total that provide a good working range of adjustment.
The inside of the X-track pedal is what you'd expect to see; there are two sealed bearings on the inboard end and a bushing on the outboard side. The composite body is held onto the steel axle via a lock-nut, and sealed with a plastic (ugh, plastic) endcap threads into the end of the body over that.
All that adds up to 346-grams for a set of X-Track Race Carbon pedals. For comparison's sake, HT's Leopard M1 cross-country pedals with steel spindles (just like these Race Carbon jobs) comes in at 299-grams for a set and also cost the same $129.99 USD, and Shimano's XT Race pedals weigh a claimed 343-grams and cost $110 USD. But when it comes to pedals, I'd argue that how they perform and match your needs is far more important than grams and (relatively speaking) even price.
Clipless pedals have a pretty straightforward job. They need to be easy to get into and also easy to get out of... but only when you want them to be easy to get out of. And they have to be relatively lightweight and really reliable. Simples.
Not surprisingly, the X-Track pedal's clip mechanism feels a lot like a Shimano system in how it works underfoot. There's the same solid 'ka-chung' when you enter or exit, and the same motion (that's likely second nature for most of us) is required for each. The 6-degrees of float is also familiar; it's completely free until you come up against the release ramp on the cleat, at which point a firm effort is called for to get out of the mechanism.
There is one noticeable difference, however, in that I didn't suffer a single accidental release since I installed the X-Track pedals on my bike. With Shimano pedals, I routinely unclip a foot without trying, even when everything is new and the tension is maxed out, and you know that those unplanned foot plants often don't end well.
To be fair, I do move my heels a lot while mucking about like an idiot on the trail, and this isn't a complaint that I hear from many other riders. Regardless, with the X-Track pedals, it wasn't ever an issue, despite the mechanism being SPD compatible.
I'll be honest, I didn't expect the carbon body to hold up that well, but it's still chugging along, scars and all. They took a bit of a trashing during the three-day Samarathon stage race in Israel that saw me clip them on rocks about six hundred times while breathing through my eyeballs for 200km, but they've refused to crack. There are a handful of gouges, sure, but I'd wager that the bodies will last forever if they survived my poor line choices through southern Israel's rocky minefields. There's zero bearing play or grittiness, too, and things were still clean as a whistle internally when I stripped them down.
As for Look's claims of them being more efficient thanks to the larger shoe/pedal body interface, I can't say that I noticed that. My well-worn Giro Code VR70 HV shoes sport stiff and racy carbon soles that flex less than Richie Rude had to when he crushed me in the gym (which was hardly at all) so I can't make a call on this one. It makes sense on paper, though.
My single beef with the X-Track Race Carbon pedal is that plastic (er, carbon?) endcap that requires a spanner tool to remove and install. The torque required is quite low, of course, but I cringe anytime I need to use a tool on a plastic fixture. Small beans, just so long as you're careful about it, I guess.