Shimano has addressed the one major complaint with its previous Dura-Ace pedals with the introduction of the latest PD-7900 model. By swapping in a carbon composite body – but retaining everything that was already so good – they've been able to shave off about 30g for a more competitive 250g actual weight per pair (plus 75g for cleats and hardware). They're as surefooted, solid and bombproof as ever but now a little lighter on the scale.
In with the new but keeping the old
Underfoot, the new pedal is indistinguishable from its heavier aluminum counterpart (and we intentionally ran mixed pairs during testing). Clipping in requires the usual firm – but not overly so – push and you're rewarded with an audible and tactile 'click' when you're properly attached. Unless your cleat is clogged with mud, engagement is smooth and easy, with the big platform offering up a quick, no-look target for your foot.
Once under way, a massive 64mm-wide replaceable stainless steel plate lends superb support for your foot without even the slightest hint of out-of-plane rocking – even more so than Look's recently enlarged KéO platform, which is the same width (but isn't replaceable). The plate provides a smooth surface on which the included six-degree cleats can float to help save your knees but with the slightest hint of resistance to prevent that 'walking on ice' feeling.
Release is as simple and straightforward as always – just twist in or out – and the tension adjustment offers an impressively broad range. New riders (who are unlikely to use these top-end pedals anyway) might find the lower limit to still be a tad firm but sprinters should be plenty happy with the other end of the spectrum.
Café stops highlight another long-standing benefit. The dual-density cleats use a hard plastic compound for a sure and safe engagement plus a smooth float, with softer – and admirably grippy – bits positioned at the very tip and also way out to the sides. This makes walking on dicey stairs and slick polished concrete floors a notably less scary experience.
Long-term durability on more common surfaces like sidewalks and asphalt could be better but in our view, it's a worthy price to pay for safety and at about US$25 a set, Shimano's SPD-SL cleats are still the least expensive of all the major brands.
Speaking of durability, Shimano thankfully have retained the previous Dura-Ace pedal's bulletproof triple-bearing spindle design. Built around a tough steel axle, the cartridge design incorporates three sets of bearings per pedal – two ball and one needle – all of which are easily adjustable and serviceable as needed. We have Dura-Ace pedals that are generations old and aside from needing to replace those older plastic plates on occasion, those are still in service and spinning as freely as new – and utterly silently throughout, with nary a hint of extra maintenance.
Not exactly a bargain but still an excellent long-term investment
Unfortunately, these latest Dura-Ace pedals also bring a substantial price increase to go along with the weight decrease: official retail price is now $349.99 as compared to $299.99 for the alloy version. According to Shimano US press officer Devin Walton, the current PD-7810 model will still be available but perhaps not for long, depending on customer demand.
"We actually continue existing models while there is still reasonable demand," he told us. "That being said, the added benefits of the 7900 will probably quickly displace demand for the PD-7810."
Perhaps, but more value-minded riders may find the 7900 model a tough sell. True, they offer what is likely the best long-term durability of any clipless road pedal we've used but it's tough to argue with the numbers. The standard Look KéO Carbon is roughly half the price and just 259g a set, Speedplay's stainless steel Zero is lighter still and not much more expensive, and even Shimano's own Ultegra offers nearly identical durability, platform and consistency benefits to the Dura-Ace flagship but at half the cost and with an extra 70g or so.
Feel free to knock off a star based on that if you feel the need, but in terms of sheer performance, mechanical function and long-term durability, there's not a single flaw we can find here. Ask us five years from now and we'll probably still be using these.
Weight: 250g/pair (plus 75g for cleats and hardware)
Features: The wide flat profile gives better road clearance and cornering, also allowing wider bearing placement for increased rigidity and uniform load distribution
Silky smooth 3-bearing axle system, two ball- and one wide roller-bearing
Stainless steel pedal body plate for increased durability
Open design allows for easy access and cleat adjustments
Wider shoe cleat has a long life and is easier for walking than other cleats
Large binding target allows quick engagement while wide cleats provides more efficient pedalling
Two types of shoe cleats available: fixed, or 3 degrees of float in each direction
Cyclingnews rating: 5 stars