Beautifully made, with a very clever adjustable, free-floating cleat, and lots of carefully-thought-out details, Speedplay Syzrs might be the ultimate luxury touring pedals except for some niggling problems.
The Syzrs' claim to fame is their unique cleat, which adopts an important aspect of Speedplay's road pedals: free, adjustable float. Speedplay's lollipop-shaped road pedals have the engagement mechanism in the cleat, so the pedal itself is a minimal disc that just has to spin on its axle. This means there's plenty of scope for your feet to move on the pedal.
The Syzr adapts this idea to a pedal for two-bolt shoes. The engagement mechanism is in the pedal, but instead of relying on the cleat moving on the pedal body to provide rotational float, the cleat's engagement tabs turn on a circular centre piece that bolts to the shoe.
As with the popular Speedplay Zeros, the Syzrs' rotational float can be adjusted with a couple of grub screws in the cleat. You can have anything from zero to 10 degrees of float, and you can use the float adjustment to adjust the angle of your foot on the pedal.
That means, among other things, the cleat is substantially larger than any other two-bolt system. Your shoes don't need to rest on the pedals, as with most systems, because the cleat takes all of the loads.
That makes the Syzrs very comfortable. All your pedalling effort goes through the part of the shoe best able to take it – the steel cleat nut – and none through the more flexible parts of the sole. I had comfy feet throughout a 50-mile ride that mixed asphalt and dirt roads.
This is the big advantage of the Syzrs, which provide a combination of a very solid connection to the pedal with that Speedplay trademark adjustable free float.
However, the details needed to achieve that can lead to some problems.
One strange design choice is that the sprung catch that comprises the entry and release mechanism is at the front of the pedal rather than at the back. This means that in some situations it's possible to come out of the Syzrs when you don't want to. This mostly happens off-road, because that's when those situations most often arise. I didn't manage to get ejected from them on tarmac.
Anything that throws your weight forward pushes the front of the cleat against the catch. Sometimes that's enough to open it and release the cleat, especially if your feet are also moving sideways at the time. That's why this problem arises far more on dirt than on the road; your feet don't spend much time off-axis when you're riding blacktop.
The problem is largely fixed by increasing the tension, using the T10 Torx screws tucked away inside the pedal body. However, that increases the effort needed to get out of the Syzrs and bangs you up against the unusual feel of their exit action.
Getting out of the Syzrs is very sudden. With most clipless pedal systems you can feel the mechanism start to let you go. With the Syzrs, you twist your foot and it's like flicking a switch – click! and you're out. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it does take some getting used to.
Speedplay's quick start guide for the Syzr's warns against setting the release tension too high, but recommends you spend a couple or three weeks getting used to the feel and action of the Syzrs, and adjust the tension carefully so that the pedals work in your full range of riding conditions.
Nevertheless, I like the Syzrs for mixed road and dirt-road riding. That's riding that only very rarely involves hoofing it and getting the cleats wet and muddy.
You bang up against the Syzr's limitations when you hit muddy conditions, though. They can get baulky when wet or muddy, becoming hard to enter or exit. I say 'can' because it's not always a problem. The consistency of the mud makes a difference. Runnier mud flows out of the way, but sticky mud just gums up the works.
They're also very expensive. At £230 they're more than twice the price of Shimano's £99.99 XTR pedals.
For some riders, the Syzrs will be the perfect pedals. If you want a system for riding tarmac and dirt roads that works with two-bolt shoes so you can walk easily when you're off the bike, and you like the free float of Speedplay's road pedals, you'll get on very well with Syzrs.
However, the inconsistent behaviour in mud, and the need to finely balance the tension adjustment against the problems that arise from the mechanism being at the front of the pedal rather than the back, mean I wouldn't use Syzrs for mountain biking or cyclo-cross. Other pedals simply work better in those applications.
That makes it very hard to give the Syzrs a useful rating, because how well you get on with them will depend very sensitively on your particular riding style and conditions. That's true for many bits of bike kit, of course, but it's really severe here.
Beautifully made mountain bike-style pedals with some problem quirks
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Speedplay Syzr Pedals Stainless
Size tested: 55mm
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Speedplay has LOTS to say about the Syzrs, see below. The executive summary is that these are mountain bike pedals that give a firmer connection between the shoe and pedal than other designs, and provide the adjustable free float you get with Speedplay's road pedals.
This they do, and those qualities are very commendable. But the feel of the Syzrs on entry and exit is unlike any other clipless pedal, and they take careful tweaking to get them working well.
At Speedplay, we were born with the need for speed - both on-road and off. After inventing the most technically-advanced road pedals, we set out to develop a state-of-the-art, off-road pedal system that is equally capable on the road. Designed for riders who are dissatisfied with traditional MTB pedals and want more than just a basic connection, the Speedplay SYZR is the result of a our effort to develop the ultimate, made-to-go-anywhere clipless pedal system.
Until now, cyclists could only choose between road or MTB clipless pedals. Road pedals offer the stable platform and power efficiency riders want, but they don't work in mud. Off-road pedals are made for mud and walking, but their inferior connection is wobbly and wastes power.
To eliminate the problem of wasted power, the SYZR uses a 4-point contact, cinched together by downforce, to create a rock-solid connection not found in any other MTB system. The SYZR combines a stable connection, previously found only in road pedals, with the functionality of an MTB pedal to deliver optimal efficiency on any surface. SYZRs also include the renowned fit, feel and user-friendly features that cyclists have come to expect from Speedplay.
Nothing underscores the need for a more versatile pedal system than the convergence of road and MTB bicycles into one multi-purpose, go-anywhere machine. Similarly, SYZR pedals bridge the technology gap between road and MTB pedals to strike the perfect balance for riding on both dirt and pavement. SYZRs deliver all of the convenience of recessed-cleats without the wobbly connection and power-wasting performance compromise of traditional MTB pedals.
Sadly, traditional MTB pedal designs all suffer from the same performance drawback. For MTB shoes to provide traction when walking, the pedal ends up contacting the spongy tread of the shoe. As a result, these MTB systems transfer power through the rubbery tread instead of through the cleat like a road pedal. This causes a considerable amount of energy to be lost due to sole compression during power transfer. Think about it, it's like putting a power-robbing sponge between the shoe and the pedal. Even when these pedal systems are paired with a stiff carbon-sole shoe, power is still wasted with every pedal stroke.
Purpose-built to bring Speedplay's race-proven performance to off-road pedals, the SYZR packages the most technically advanced features into a high-quality, lightweight pedal system that's perfect wherever adventure takes you.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Speedplay also says:
Active Cleat Stabilization
Current MTB pedals are wobbly and have "play" between the cleat and pedal. The SYZR is the first and only design that eliminates the "play" that riders hate. To ensure a precision connection between the pedal and cleat, the SYZR has a unique 4-point contact that's cinched together by down-force to eliminate slop from the connection. These 4-point contacts have stabilizer feet that rest on the outboard edges of the pedal for unprecedented side-to-side platform stability.
By locating an adjustable pivot mechanism directly inside the cleat, SYZR pedals are the only off-road pedal system to provide a user-customizable, 10-degree range of float. Cleat set-up is easy too, since there is no need to loosen and reposition the cleat to make angular adjustments.
In addition to exceptional durability, solid ceramic contact inserts in the cleat prevent metal-to-metal seizing in wet and dusty conditions. The ceramic materials in SYZR cleats are much harder and more durable than any metal.
Developed to ensure that SYZR cleats provide consistent release, Roller-Cams are located on all four corners of the cleats to allow the contact surfaces of the engagement mechanism to roll apart instead of sliding apart like other systems.
Special funnel-shaped wings on the leading edge of the cleats are used to guide the cleat into the pedal's latch mechanism for faster, easier engagement. The cleat funnel guides eliminate the need to look down when engaging the pedal by effectively increasing the size of the system's "target area", making the pedals easier to locate and clip-in by feel.
For personalized performance, SYZR pedals are designed to offer a range of custom-fit options for riders with special ergonomic or biomechanical requirements. In addition to micro-adjustable float and adjustable spring tension, SYZRs are also available in five spindle lengths and numerous leg-length discrepancy options.
A Speedplay first and a breakthrough in performance for clipless MTB systems, Direct-Drive eliminates the energy waste of previous MTB designs by channeling power to the pedal directly through the cleat. All other MTB designs waste valuable energy by transferring power through the spongy rubber tread of the shoes. Direct-Drive ensures that 100% of rider power is transferred efficiently to the pedal. Additionally, because the rubber tread is not used as the contact for the pedal, wear to the shoe sole does not degrade performance.
The SYZR's special, open configuration ensures consistent engagement and prevents the cleats and pedals from clogging or binding with mud.
Like all Speedplay Pedal Systems, SYZR pedals use high-quality precision bearings, never cheap plastic or bronze bushings. SYZR pedals feature double-sealed precision needle and cartridge bearings for low rolling resistance and longevity.
Built-in Grease Port
Makes routine maintenance fast and easy.
Three Spindle Material Choices
Available with chrome-moly, stainless steel, or titanium spindles.
Compatible with all recessed-cleat shoes
Unlike some MTB systems, SYZR pedals will not damage shoe soles as there is no pedal-to-sole contact when riding.
The SYZR shares the same familiar aspects of fit and feel as Speedplay Zero pedals, but is designed to work in mud and fits recessed-cleat shoes.
Superbly made, the overall fit and finish is very good indeed.
I've given the Syzrs 5 (average) because they're very good in some respects and poor in others. For any sort of road cycling where you want to use walkable shoes, they're very good, and the same is true for dirt road riding and easy trail riding. Basically, if you can ride a drop-bar bike on it, you'll be fine with the Syzrs. When things get messier, though, you probably want to steer clear. Mountain biking or cyclo-cross? Stick with what you already use.
Comparable to Shimano's top-of-the-line SPD pedals.
Again an 'average' because if they suit your riding, they're very good and if they don't, they're far too expensive for what they are.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well for general riding; less well when things got muddy.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The quality of finish and manufacture, and the adjustable free float.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Things getting baulky when they got muddy.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? For mixed road and dirt-road riding, yes. For mountain biking, no.
Use this box to explain your score
Overall, I have to rate the Syzrs 'average' because while they're good in some respects they are poor in others. You pay handsomely for the adjustable float too; they're not quite the most expensive double-sided two-bolt pedals around but they're well up there, and significantly pricier than Shimano's flagship XTR pedals.
That said, they'd probably rate 3.5 stars if I were judging them solely as a pedal for tarmac and dirt road riding. If that's what you do, then they're definitely worth a look.
About the tester
I usually ride: Scapin Style My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, general fitness riding, mountain biking
Acknowledged by the Telegraph as a leading cycling journalist, John Stevenson has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.
He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.
Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc editor Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.
John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.
He joined road.cc in 2013 and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.