The pedal landscape is certainly an interesting one. Despite the de-facto hegemony of the established players - namely Look, Shimano, Speedplay, and Time - several new manufacturers are coming into the game trying to get a piece of the action. In order to impress, they're going to have to come up with something unique - something special to offer.
And that brings us to the subject of this review - the new Xpedo Thrust 8 pedals. Xpedo has been around for a while, but only recently begun to market its products in the United States. The company has a very wide variety of product offerings, but I'm focusing here on the Thrust series, which is a Look-style (three-bolt cleat) design. In fact, the Thrust series is actually compatible with Look Keo cleats - so any shoes you have with those cleats in already will be able to clip into the Thrust pedals.
If it ain't broke ...
At 173g and $239 retail, Xpedo is presenting a serious competitor to the top-end pedals from Look and Shimano.
So the big question is why you'd WANT to throw the dice with a relatively new (to the USA) brand trying to compete with the tried-and-true pedals already out there. The reasons are very simple: lower price and lower weight. The Thrust 8, Xpedo's top-of-the-line pedal shown here, has a titanium spindle, injected-molded carbon-composite body, and three sealed-cartridge bearings for reliabilty and durability. It retails for $239, nearly $200 less than the Keo blade, but comes in at just 173g, almost 20 grams lighter than what Look claims for its Keo Blade Ti. And unlike Speedplay pedals, you aren't simply trading pedal weight for cleat weight - as mentioned, the Xpedo pedals can actually use a Look pedal, meaning there's no weight difference.
Keo compatibility also means that it's easy to get replacement cleats. Most shops stock Look cleats, so if you ever need extras, they won't be hard to find.
How does it ride?
Like most road pedals, the Xpedo features adjustable tension, easily set with a single bolt.
Of course, all of this is meaningless if the pedal doesn't perform as expected. How do these stack up in reality? They're good. They're solid. In fact, I have a hard time telling these apart from some other pedals. Over the last year, I've grown to be quite fond of fixed pedals (no float), and as a nice surprise, the Thrust 8 comes stock with both types of cleats. So I mounted up the black (fixed) ones, and off I went.
The first impression I had was that I wondered if I had put on the wrong cleats, because I wasn't really feeling "fixed" in the pedals. What I discovered was that I simply didn't have the tension dialed down enough. The cleats have a tension adjustment bolt in the back, which determined how tightly the pedals hold you in place. A few quick turns of that bolt, and I was happily fixed in place on the pedals, riding on a nice solid platform. And it ought to feel good - it's based on a pedal concept that's been refined by several major brands over the last several decades. I'll note that they perhaps felt a little less solid (as in, I felt a teensy bit more flex underfoot) than my old beat-up Ultegras, but I can't be certain that isn't just a matter of perception. I wasn't using any precision measuring equipment to quantify that feeling.
The other difference between the Thrust 8 and the Aerolites I've been using is that the Xpedo's have a wider stance, also called the Q-factor. That is, my feet are farther away from the crank than with the Aerolites. I've come to prefer the narrower Q, and the Thrust's aren't adjustable to be any narrower. That being said, the 53mm Q-factor of the Thrust 8 is more or less in line with other standard offerings in the market. Though many brands like Speedplay, Time, and Keywin offer adjustable Q-Factor cranks, or offer after-market spindles to change the pedal stance.
Xpedo has paid a lot of attention to detail - even branding the cleat bolts.