Ah Dura Ace, the unobtanium of the bike world. The best of the best. Reserved for the pros.
Having Shimano’s Dura Ace components on your bike means you are a champ, or at least want to look like one. And perhaps most importantly, that you can afford to!
The cost:benefit curve goes pretty wild at the top end in the bike world, and Dura Ace is ALWAYS at the top end.
Surely anyone in their right mind wouldn’t believe the snake oil sellers and buy Dura Ace? Would they?
So I got some…
Obviously I didn’t pay full whack for these (new they were USD 350! 😲), and instead bought them as faulty, because one of the pedals had play in the spindle. Not content with buying stuff second hand, I buy broken stuff second hand!
Thinking myself a bit handy, I thought I’d have a go at fixing them up, using them and in the process, find out what all the fuss is about.
Would they be snake oil as suspected or would I have a nirvana epiphany moment?
This isn’t the first time I’ve fiddled with Dura Ace pedals, though the last ones (PD-7401) were decades behind these, being the first clipless pedals Shimano released (actually designed by Look…).
Things have moved on. A lot.
One of the pedals indeed had some play as described, so I took it apart and rebuilt it, regreasing the spindle and bearings, and rode them for 1,500-2,000kms on the Giant TCR without incident.
Quite honestly, I didn’t really detect any difference to my cheaper Shimano road pedals.
You clip in, and then ignore them. Like socks.
In fact, they were so unremarkable, I didn’t even write a blog post about them!
Yes they’re lighter (250g the pair) than Shimano’s cheaper clipless pedals, but we’re talking a difference of far fewer grams than the water in your water bottle, or that extra helping of ice cream you really didn’t need but… you know… treat yourself, you’ve earned it!
Yes they look cool, with their funky matt carbon/plastic weirdness and metal plate on the top. But they’re UNDER YOUR SHOE. NO-ONE CAN SEE THEM.
Yes, they sound cool when clipping in. Honestly you’d have to be a real bike geek to notice, but I do, and I must confess I enjoy their crisp “clack” at every green traffic light or water top-up.
But here comes the rub.
Turns out they’re a high maintenance girlfriend.
After those uneventful thousands of kms, last week I noticed a crunch in my left pedal, but figured it was a stone in a cleat as it didn’t repeat over 100+kms and 1,800m climbing. Then a few days later, within minutes of starting a ride, I noticed the pedal body was quite loose and felt awful. I popped into my LBS just before a club ride and they did a quick pit stop fix. Which only lasted about 20kms into a hilly 60km ride.
That was pretty nerve-racking and the idea of a one-legged return home over various hills just before sundown without lights really did not appeal. Trying to avoid putting pressure on the left spindle surely gave me the weirdest cadence anyone has ever seen 😂.
At every stop I’d check the play, which would bizarrely increase and decrease throughout the ride. With every wobble and occasional crunch of the pedal I could imagine bearings gouging a new race inside the peal housing and wince at the thought… But it didn’t fall off, and I got home…
Which brings us to the title of this post (thank you for your patience…) and the subsequent repair.
Like the Mavic Aksium freehub service I did the other week, it transpires that servicing these pedals isn’t so difficult and took me all of 10 minutes from start to finish.
Here’s a brief guide. You’ll need:
- A 20mm spanner (wrench), or an adjustable spanner which goes to 20mm
- An 8mm hex / allen key to get the pedal off (not a pedal spanner like most other Shimano pedals)
- Some grease
- Some kitchen paper towels to clean gunk and keep track of those teeny tiny bearings
Don’t bother removing the circlip inside here. The bearings can be removed, cleaned, regreased and reinserted with the circlip in place.
Basically, adjusting the spindle play on these pedals is exactly like servicing an old cup and cone wheel hub. Except even easier, because you don’t even need a (17mm in this case if you really want to) cone spanner/wrench, but can use your fingers to adjust the gap.
Just keep the spindle level, and screw the pedal body back on, not too tightly. Adjust the bearing gap nut with your fingers, then use your 20mm spanner to tighten the large nut onto the pedal body.
If it’s too tight, or too loose (it’ll never be perfect on the first attempt), loosen off or tighten the adjustment cone nut a bit more with your fingers. Noting that the gap will close a bit once you tighten the pedal body to the nut…
There should be no play to only slightly imperceptible play, and definitely no crunching or notchy feel (too tight).
I took the bike out for a 50km test ride with some light climbing, and the pedals were back to normal performance. Meaning I forgot all about them after 10 minutes.
So we’re back where we started. I bought the pedals with play, fixed them, they worked for a year, developed play again, and I fixed them again…
But really, if they simply ask for 10 minutes of your time every few thousand kms, these pedals are not really a high maintenance girlfriend after all.
However, that being said, this is time which no other (cheaper) Shimano pedal has ever demanded of me.
The Ultegra PD-6610 pedals that came with my Lemond Chambery have been incredibly neglected over the years and tens of thousands of kms ridden in ALL conditions, and have never skipped a beat.
I bought a pair of PD-R540 low end clipless pedals as a spare set some time ago, and these things perform absolutely comparably to the Dura Ace pedals as far as any normal human being is concerned.
Also, you can treat them as badly as you like, and they’ll keep working away, without a whimper. True stoic workhorses.
So really, for me this says a lot about Shimano’s lower end stuff. For a fraction of the cost of their top end gear, you can get (very marginally) heavier pedals, that look a little less cool, and don’t sound quite as good to a bike nerd, but that will never ask anything of you.
Hurrah then for Shimano. Dura Ace is fine of course, but Shimano’s everyman gear is where it’s at for me in terms of value and quality.
Except at a traffic light, under my shoe, I can’t tell the difference between any of these.
They’re all excellent.
Or if freehubs are more your bag, check these out: Mavic Aksium Elite