Kit review – Time ATAC XC4 pedals

Time ATAC XC4 pedals overall rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

A kit review for pedals? Yes! Because ATAC XC4 aren’t your normal bicycle pedals. In a world dominated by Shimano pedals, ATAC XC4 pedals offers numerous advantages.

Knee problems can be solved by pedals?

During an Audax ride I did in 2023, I was chatting with a rider wearing a Paris-Brest-Paris jersey. During his last PBP ride (he’s done it a few times) he had to ride with his right foot unclipped. This was due to knee pain, and he rode like that for over 300 km, before he could clip in again.

As someone nursing a torn meniscus, I too suffer from knee problems. You see, SPD pedals offer very limited float, and that can have a lasting impact on your knees. I’m not at all suggesting that years of riding with SPD pedals caused my knee issues, but I suspect my SPD pedals didn’t help.

I need to be clear here: no pedals will resolve knee problems caused by a poor bike setup. However, if your bike is correctly set up, and you still experience knee problems, a change of pedals might just be the solution you’re after.

The XC system

Someone on Twitter suggested I try Time ATAC XC pedals, and that set me off researching. Apparently, these pedals were extremely popular at some stage, but I haven’t heard of them before. It turns out that seemingly most cyclists who ride with SPD pedals haven’t heard of them before, either!

What makes them so good? Here’s where I can start waxing lyrical about lightweight these are, and how good they are at clearing any mud they might get encrusted with. Those are valid points, and especially MTBers, gravel riders, or CX riders can benefit greatly from the way these pedals can continue to function well, even when caked in mud.

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I can point out that these pedals are fully serviceable – simply remove the end-cap and the lock nut, and you’re good to go. I can even point out that the XC system’s cleats works with any 2-bolt SPD-compatible shoes, meaning you don’t need to change your shoes.

Cycle touring

However good all those points are, WillCycle mainly focuses on cycle touring and cycle camping. When cycle touring, you can often be doing long days in the saddle, on a laden bike, and your knees may start complaining, if riding with SPD pedals.

However, the added float offered by the XC pedals means that many people who switched to ATAC XC pedals find their knees are rather grateful! In fact, the primary reason I switched to these was because others told me it’d be good for my knees. Several months of using XC4 pedals proved them to be good for my knees, too.

The small print

XC pedals use a different cleat, and the release tension is controlled not by the pedal, but by the cleat. On some higher-end XC pedals, there is additional tension control on the pedal, but in the main, it’s down to the cleats. The pedals ship with a 10-degree cleat, but you can buy 13-degree and 17-degree cleats too.

I’m happy with the default 10-degree cleats, and I’ve never struggled to unclip, nor did I ever unclip by accident.

The pedals require more pressure to clip in than SPD pedals, but you soon learn to stomp down on them. When the pedal engages the cleat, there’s a satisfying click.

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Do note that the XC4 pedals have a 90kg weight limit. If you’re near that weight anyway, and sometimes ride with a backpack, you can easily exceed that. I don’t expect it to be a cliff-edge cut-off, but is worth bearing in mind.

The cleats have a slightly lower profile than SPD cleats. That means they’re less likely to wear against the ground when walking in your SPD shoes. I certainly found walking in my normal 2-bolt SPD-compatible shoes to be better, when using the Time cleats.

Float

You’ll her a lot of talk about pedal float, but what is it actually? Simply put, it refers to the ability for your foot to be able to rotate, while remaining securely clipped in. Depending on how your body functions, you may, or may not, need much float from your pedals.

Verdict

I have no hesitation in recommending these pedals, and remain very impressed with the pair I bought. You can buy them here, or from any good retailer. I have since also heard back from others who ride with these pedals, and they used descriptions like “fit and forget” and “bombproof”. One guy has a set of these pedals that are 25 years old, and are still in regular use!

Please note that this post contains an affiliate link, You won’t pay anything extra by clicking the link, but a tiny amount of the overall price will go to me, instead of to Mr Bezos. Basically, by clicking the link (and actually buying the pedals) you’ll be giving me some of Mr Bezos’ money, while you get a superb set of pedals, at an excellent price. Win – win – win!

2 thoughts on “Kit review – Time ATAC XC4 pedals”

  1. It should be noted that excess floats can actually make knee problems worse if there is too much mobility. It depends on your issue. In general most knee issues we see are due to cleats being set up at the wrong angle, and float should be used as a second solution, not the primary. That being said, they are good pedals (and the Time road style pedals are our favourite too), and the added float can be useful for many.

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  2. I swear by my atac pedals. I’ve had various incarnations of them for maybe 30 years now. I’ve not even maintained them. I am on my second pair of cleats though. Imagine the cost I’ve saved on Looks !

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