Based on Look's popular Keo cleat system, the Bontrager Elite Road pedals offer a good quality alternative if the French brand's own pedals aren't quite your thing. With a slightly easier, beginner-friendly interface and engagement, they'll appeal to many.
Look's Keo range has been one of the most popular clipless pedals systems for years, right up there with rivals Shimano if you measure success by the number of riders out there using them on the road.
When one of the largest cycling brands decides to make its own pedal range, it often goes about this by basing its systems on a tried and tested concept.
As a Look Keo system user for the better part of the last decade, you could say that I'm something of a seasoned rider on them. I've used third party branded pedals and Look's own Keo 2 Max, Keo 2 Max Carbon and Keo Blade pedals in that time. With the benefit of that experience, the Bontrager Elite Road pedals certainly fit the mould of the Keo 2 Max pedal, if you're going on specs.
With a composite construction (not carbon, but a resin-type material), both achieve similar weights, with the Bontrager set just shaving it at 252g on the road.cc Scales of Truth. Both have an adjustable mechanism via an Allen key port to customise just how tightly it holds your foot in place: the Bontrager Elite's is positioned underneath, while the Keo 2 Max's is placed atop the rear mechanism.
You could argue that the underside positioning is more exposed to road debris and so on, but to be honest when the conditions are poor, the entire pedal takes a fair amount of whatever's coming its way anyway. The screw port is made of a hard alloy that shouldn't be prone to wear, so just make sure the port is clean before trying to adjust the tension to your preference and you'll safeguard against rounding out the screw by accident.
Incidentally, Bontrager doesn't indicate the tension level that these pedals officially provide (except a high-low indicator on their backside), but I could never tell much difference between these and the 8Nm-rated Keo 2 Maxes. Perhaps the Bontrager Elites feel slightly crisper to engage, but it's worth noting that my reference Keo 2 Maxes have seen a bit of mileage over the past year or so, which could have worn them slightly.
Look has always prided itself on providing the best power to weight ratio in its class – that is, in pedal terms, the biggest contact patch from cleat to pedal for the smallest weight, enabling greater power transfer. Here, it would seem that it still holds the crown versus the Bontrager Elites.
The Elite's stainless steel contact zone is visibly smaller and seems to give a smaller contact patch in practice, judging from the wear marks that I've created on my own partially worn cleats. Subjectively, I think that this results in a slightly less direct connection with the pedal, but my perception could easily be a result of being more familiar with my own Look pedal set.
For reference, I use the grey Keo cleats that provide 4.5 degrees of float, while the Bontrager pedals come supplied with red cleats, signifying 9 degrees of float, that are a slight modification on Look's own. For testing purposes, I largely stuck with my own.
Given that Bontrager supplies cleats with the maximum float allowed by the Keo system, with no potentially confusing tension numbers for the adjustable mechanism, you get the sense that Bontrager is looking to simplify the system as much as possible. It even features a hard-wearing chromoly axle with sealed cartridge bearings for reliability.
For clipping in and out, the Bontragers are very easy to get used to, thanks to a slightly larger overall body length and wider front lip to slot the toe end of the cleat into than you find with Look's Keo 2 Maxes. This plays right to the feet of someone who might struggle to engage clipless pedals (or a relative beginner), as they can afford to be that little bit more vague with their foot placement, getting away with 'mashing' their foot in just a little more often.
Even the supplied cleat, which I did try, has a slightly more rounded-off rear lip that helps a little for easier disengagement as you twist your heel outwards.
For someone more practised, in truth, the differences are quite small, but it's easy to see why someone with less confidence could be happier with the Bontrager pedals as they arguably make life slightly easier.
When it comes to value, you might expect that the Bontrager set would undercut the Keo 2 Max on price, but in fact they're almost £6 more expensive. Though they are around 5g lighter per pedal... If that cost makes you baulk, check out our review of the more entry-level Comps.
Overall, I'm left in no doubt that these are high quality, perfectly capable pedals for anything from weekly group rides to long sportives. If you're already a happy Look user, there isn't really a compelling reason to switch, but if you're new to the clipless game and want easier engagement, these are well worth considering.
Good pedals that use the tried and trusted Look Keo design and will appeal to those after an easier engagement
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Bontrager Elite Road Pedal Set
Size tested: 9/15 (15 mm)
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?
Bontrager says: "A lightweight and durable road pedal with adjustable release tension and a composite body compatible with Look Cycle's KÉO® brand cleats."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
- Compatible with Look Cycle's KÉO® brand cleats
- Lightweight and durable composite pedal body design
- Durable Chromoly spindle for long-lasting durability
- Sealed cartridge bearings provide a smooth, reliable feel
- Adjustable release tension
- Includes cleats and mounting hardware
- LOOK® and KÉO® are trademarks of Look Cycle International. Look Cycle International has not endorsed or approved this pedal
Sturdy as they come.
Functional and satisfying.
No qualms with the construction, and they don't mark up too quickly either.
Claimed to be slightly lighter than Look's Keo 2 Max pedals, they aren't bad at all.
Good comfort levels as far as I can tell – direct enough to get good power transfer, not too direct that your feet tire.
Look's own Keo 2 Max pedals (on a par with these pedals as far as I can see) are cheaper, but if you want easier clipping in...
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well, no complaints.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Good all-round ability – no weaknesses.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
A facsimile of a Look product, and more expensive too.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
My main reference point has been the Look Keo 2 Max, and those are £6 cheaper. These are a significant step up from the Comp pedals, though.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes, although it's a tough sell to go with these over Look's own.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, if they were fans of Trek/Bontrager or searching for a Look alternative for slightly easier clipping in.
Use this box to explain your overall score
Classy pedals, no question. For me they lack a compelling reason to switch from Look's own, but if you want pedals that are slightly easier to clip in and out of then they're worth considering.
About the tester
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