Shimano PD-R540 Pedals
By Jon Sharp
When I think of pedals and Shimano, I think of SPD. SPD revolutionized clipless pedal systemsparticularly for mountain bikes. Once people realized they could walk/hike in their shoes and still have a solid engagement when on the bike, the idea caught on fast. Those on the road never seemed to mind if they could walk in their road shoes or not, but clipless pedals caught on in both sides of the camp.
Before Shimano sent us their PD-R540 pedalsand their wonderful SH-R151 carbon-soled shoesI never had much desire to use true "road bike" clipless pedals. Of course I heard all the arguments for those large clunky cleats: Better engagement, more stability on a larger platform, etc. The problem is, I didn't buy into it. I mean, with a good stiff shoe, what does it matter the size of the cleat/platform?
The first thing I noticed about the pedals, I noticed in my living room. I was, of course, playing around with them and looking at how they worked. Now, I've tested enough pedals in my day to know that it is a bad idea to clip shoes to a pedal when said pedal isn't attached to the bike, but my curiosity got the better of me. This was a mistake. For the life of me, I couldn't get the shoes off the pedals. This is a small example of just how solid the engagement is with these pedals. Though the tension is adjustable, it was set at the lowest (easiest to disengage) setting (and I left it that way).
Once on the bike, though, I never had any real problem getting out of the pedalsnot that I'd ride off road with them or anything. It was only after switching back to some SPD-type pedals (some 800 miles later) that I appreciated the difference. Especially with the very stiff R151 shoes.
Not all is perfect with the R540s. Leaning more towards the low-end of their pedal line-up, the R540 is built with a chrome-moly spindle and resin body. Performance-wise, this is fine, but they do weigh in at a hefty 330 grams. Also, though I never had problems releasing, the float is what I'd call "sticky." Not smooth and free. On the other hand, I've found that often accompanying free-floating pedals is a little rock and slop. In part, I think this contributes to the solid feel I found so welcoming with this pedal.
Summary: Though I'm sure not as smooth and light as its higher-grade cousin (the Dura-Ace level PD-7800), for $89.99 the R540 is a solid performer. If you haven't bought a true wide-platform road pedal, I recommend this one.
Jon Sharp is a contributing editor for GearReview.com.
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