“These are the new ATAC MX4s, Flav. Do you like them?”
“Yeah, BOY. They look good.”
We think so too. These are the pedal we’ve been waiting for from Time! Sitting somewhere in between the lightweight ATAC XC and the beefy ATAC DH pedals, the new composite bodied MX4 is more of a trail pedal. In the same vein as Shimano’s Trail series pedals, it has a larger surface area for increased stability, but without much of a weight penalty.
The MX4 is built around Time’s simple and robust ATAC engagement system. It’s a mechanism that has a loyal following – it’s near impossible to clog up in muddy conditions and it’s exceptionally durable. The ATAC system offers a good deal of lateral float too (6mm), which is a blessing to those with sore knees or riders who like to feel a little more free when they’re clipped in.
Sitting at the lower end of the MX range, the MX4s use a steel axle with a composite body. There’s no adjustability in terms of spring tension, but the cleats are reversible and swapping them round will deliver either 13 0r 17 degrees of release rotation.
As ardent fans of Shimano’s XT and XTR Trail pedals, it’ll be refreshing to give an alternative offering a try. Expect a full test in the coming months.
You can often make one of three assumptions when you spot a rider in Australia using Time ATAC pedals: the rider is French, the rider had knee problems about ten or fifteen years ago (especially if you see the rider using ATACs on their road bike as well), or the rider is following the advice of someone who had knee problems ten or fifteen years ago.
It’s unlikely that most people reading this review are francophones wanting to learn more about their national pedal. We’re going to concentrate on what makes them so recommendable to others instead.
The biggest things that set the Time ATAC XC Carbon 8 pedals apart from its competitors are a wide release angle and excellent mud shedding ability.
Depending on which way you run the cleats the release angle is 13 or 17 degrees. For riders with knee issues this means more movement at the ankles. This places less stress on and around the knee joint by allowing a riding position that is less ‘fixed’
Cleat engagement is quick, simple and provides an audible click. While riders used to Shimano pedals will miss the tighter feeling of the cleat in the pedals, we like that the ATAC system means more freedom to move the angle of the foot on the pedal. This allows us to move nicely with the bike through technical terrain. It also means less chance of accidentally clipping out. See our previous review on the ATAC DH pedals for further comments on the cleats from a rider used to Shimano pedals.
Unfortunately there is also extra movement when you pull up on the pedal, something that is only really noticeable on very steep climbs. It doesn’t happen with the wider platform ATAC ROC line and is something we’d like to see in the next update of the XC range.
The self-cleaning design of the pedal sheds mud easily, as advertised. We’ve clipped in effortlessly in boggy conditions and ridden away from other riders still banging cleats and scraping pedals too many times to count. This makes the ATAC XC 8s easy to recommend to people who like equipment which functions well in all conditions – an especially good option for the committed racer who wants to push forward despite the weather.
The XC 8s feature a lighter, more minimal design in comparison to its predecessors and we were curious to see how they would hold up over several months as a result. The polycarbonate body is certainly more scratched than when they were new, but given the rocky trails we enjoy riding we were glad to see the wear stopped there. The same goes for the stainless steal retention system. Neither have impacted performance, the impact is purely aesthetic.
After a solid year of use we’d expect that the most we need to do with XC 8s is put some grease under the dust cover at the spindle to keep them spinning smoothly. It’s almost like these pedals age a fair bit visually speaking over the first few months then stop. This is were they have the biggest edge over the Crank Brothers Eggbeater – a pedal that also shares the float and mud shedding properties of the Times but tends to need a lot more ongoing maintenance.
We see the XC 8s as a solid option for riders who want a little more float from their pedals or who don’t want to mess around in muddy conditions. We are impressed with the durability so far, and if our collection of older model ATACs are anything to go by, we expect to be using them for a long time yet.
The choice of clipless (clip-in/step-in) pedals is a very personal thing and for most people it is based around the “standard” of the clipless system – predominately Shimano vs Time vs crankbrothers. It’s also almost a life long commitment as well. Similar to the Nikon vs Canon world of photographers – once you have picked a standard you have to stay with it as all your equipment is based around that standard. While not being as expensive as swapping camera equipment, if you do choose to change, you have to change all your pedals and cleats.
We are traditionally Shimano users but recently we picked up a few Time pedals to test and the DH4 was one of those.
The DH4 is Time’s downhill/freeride/enduro targeted pedal and features an oversized chromoly axle and an oversized alloy pedal body to give the pedal extra strength (and weight). Designed for a rider who unclips more, the larger platform adds security, should you not be able to re-engage your pedals before that next obstacle or corner. We found the larger platform good to use and we didn’t slip off the pedal in those few times we weren’t able to re-engage.
When testing a clipless pedal we think the most important elements are the performance of the engagement and release mechanisms, as well as the float. These elements are important for performance, and for some, important in helping prevent injury. Seeing as the latter is a very critical element it is an unfortunate reality that no written words will help you choose the right pedal – buy and try is the best solution.
As with all Time ATAC pedals there isn’t as much adjustability in terms of release tension when compared to Shimano – the Time’s have only two settings for tension (adjusted via a small screw), and we preferred the firmer setting. They do offer, however, adjustable float. Swapping the cleats (from left to right, and visa versa) gives you either 13° or a generous 17° of float. 17° felt like too much for us, especially as we’re accustomed to the more constrictive float settings of a Shimano pedal, so we only used them with 13°.
We have been using the Time DH4 pedals for a while now on our 160mm travel tail bike and have grown to like how they feel. Engagement is positive and you can feel when your foot has been engaged. It is a softer pedal engagement feel than Shimano though and the brass cleats of the Time give it a spongier feel. One other interesting thing we found with Time pedals is the ability to actually move your foot from side-to-side on the pedal. Yes, you’re still clipped in, but you can actually change your foot from being very close to the crank to be away from the crank. We did notice foot movement over time and had to re-adjust our foot on occassions.
One very noticeable feature of the Time system is the use of brass cleats. Often coined as “self lubricating”, we did notice that when it was super dry and dusty on the trails the cleats didn’t feel like they were sticking to the pedal. It’s something we do feel with Shimano pedals but the Time’s always felt smooth. The only negative with the use of brass though is that it’s a softer material than steel so it will wear quicker.
Time pedals are an excellent alternative to Shimano and the ATAC DH4 is a good, strong performer. Overall, they are a little on the heavy side and if you feel you don’t need the large platform then we recommend you getting a smaller lighter model, as you will get all the advantages of the Time system without all the added weight.
…and, you can still open a bottle of beer (or soft drink) with Time pedals. That’s a bonus.