So Long, Speedplay Syzr Pedals!

I’ve been riding a used pair of Syzrs for the past few months (since began our season of the mud), and I’m officially calling it quits. In their quest to perfect the mountain bike pedal, Speedplay did a number of things right. They made a pedal with a great deal of float and an admirable amount of adjustability for different bicycle fit needs (things that can’t be said about every mountain bike pedal) on a recessed cleat platform. The pedal and cleats are made from high-end, durable materials, and in ideal conditions perform well. Clipping in and out is smooth and easy (once I got used to their quirks). My foot feels well supported. Power transfer is solid. Adjustments can be made pretty painlessly. However, it seems to me they forgot to account for one of the most fundamental needs of off road riding: reliability in the muck.

I’ve noticed two major issues with the Speedplay Syzr clipless pedal system in less than ideal conditions (really the only conditions I’ve had the opportunity to ride them in): 

First, the cleat can sometimes bind up and lose all float. Yup. Put your foot down in the mud, and you might step back into a perfectly rigid, fixed position, utterly floatless pedal. Which you may find particularly frustrating considering all that float is one of the pedals’ big selling points (something I’m not sure I’m totally sold on in the first place). It’s a bit erratic, too. It hasn’t happened to me every time I’ve stepped in the mud on a ride—sometimes the float just seems to stiffen up from the grit—but it has happened eventually to at least one pedal on every muddy ride I’ve ridden with the Syzrs. And once it’s stuck, it’s stuck. I haven’t been able to force the cleat to loosen up by kicking off the mud, snapping in and out of the pedals repeatedly, or trying with all my might to force the cleat to move through the float. They don’t budge. The only thing that has worked to free them up is to remove the cleat from the shoe, clean all the mud out (I accomplish this with an ultrasonic cleaning machine) and re-lube the dude—not the most convenient procedure when you’re out on a ride, much less say a multi-day off-road tour.

Second, and related (though not entirely in perfect conjunction) sometimes the mud bound cleat will suddenly require a great deal more force to release from the pedal—at times a downright difficult, and occasionally impossible amount of force. This issue is even worse (and considerably more dangerous), in my opinion, than sudden and unpredictable loss of float, and has resulted in a couple of low speed spills and once a very tender sprained ankle. Again, the cleat hasn’t locked into the pedal every time I’ve stopped on a muddy gravel road during a ride. And it doesn’t always immediately accompany the stiffening up or complete loss of float. Although, in my experience if I’m already struggling with one of the two issues on a ride, the other seems pretty inevitable.

I was concerned that maybe I was doing something wrong, or perhaps there was something wrong with my pedals or cleats. So I did a bit of Google sleuthing, and in-depth review research. What I found is that not every Syzr user appears to run into these issues, but they were common enough complaints to convince me that swapping to a fresh pair of cleats wasn’t going to fix my bound up and locked in problems. 

The Syzrs are a premium pedal (with a premium price tag to match) and many people I’ve talked to swear by them. For folks who are already Speedplay devotees, who’ve come to expect a high level of float and adjustability from their clipless pedals, who in fact need it for their comfort on the bike, but still want a recessed cleat, the Syzrs will fit the bill (especially if they’re not planning to ride much off-road). For my use, the design is simply flawed. All that float and adjustability comes at the cost of reliability. If you want a clipless pedal system you can count on in the mud and grit and grime, then I’m afraid the Syzr may not be the pedal for you. 

Disclaimer: The ideas and opinions here are, as ever, solely my own. They are entirely unsolicited and lamentably uncompensated. The pedals, however, weren’t mine. They were on long-term loan from a friend.