Shimano are the big gorilla in the clipless pedal zoo, so perhaps it’s a sign of animal respect that iSSi’s new Trail pedals look, feel and perform just like Shimano equivalent. But iSSi, a small manufacturer out of Minneapolis, do have a few points of difference that may sway riders away from ubiquity of Shimano.
The nearest equivalent pedal in the Shimano range is the XT Trail – the similarities between the XT and iSSi Trail pedals are obvious – so throughout this review we’ll be drawing a lot of comparisons between these two pedals, apologies in advance if you’re not a Shimano user! The size and weight is practically the same (both around 420g/pair) and getting Shimano riders to give the iSSi pedals a go is simple too, because they will work fine with a Shimano cleat. We didn’t ever bother to install the iSSi cleats, because the Shimano cleats already bolted to all our shoes worked perfectly. The entry/release of the pedals is close to identical too, so there’s no adaptation needed there.
[divider]What makes these pedals different?[/divider]
So what are the differences? Most obvious is the colour – you can get both iSSi’s Trail and XC pedals in a rainbow of colours to match or clash with your bike. The downside with a painted pedal is that they become a bit tattered looking pretty quickly if you ride in rocky terrain. Our red pedals look a bit less Ferrari and a bit more pizza delivery Corolla now. Perhaps the polished silver colour option is the best if you’re worried about your bike looking scuffed up.
From a functional perspective, you can get iSSi pedals in two bearing/bushing options; the more expensive ‘Triple’ option runs three sealed bearing, whereas ours has a bearing and bushing combo (like a Shimano). To the pedal’s credit, we’ve had no play develop yet in the bearing/bushing assembly, but servicing is simple with just a 6mm Allen key and 9mm socket needed to take them apart. Riders with massive feet or those with clearance issues (like your heels rubbing on the frame) will appreciate that iSSi offers their pedals in three axle lengths too, with variants that are 6mm or 12mm longer than the 52.2mm standard axle.
But for us the most important difference is in the pedal’s cleat tension adjustment. The iSSi pedals use a 3mm Allen key for adjustment (which we prefer to the Shimano’s 2.5mm) and allow you to ratchet up a higher level of entry/release tension than with a Shimano. This is good if you’re the kind of rider who often pulls out of a pedal, either under power or while throwing the bike about. While we personally don’t run our pedals that tight, we know some people do, and so it’s good to have that option of cranking them up. We also really appreciate the clear tension indicator of the iSSi pedals, which makes it really easy to ensure you’ve got the same tension across both sides of both pedals. In this regard, the iSSi pedals have the edge.
Where Shimano continue to have an edge is in the support stakes. We’ve just received a set of Shimano’s newest XT pedals this past week, and once again Shimano have increased the contact patch between your shoe and pedal to increase foot stability. It’ll be interesting to see if iSSi follow suit in the near future.
All up, we’re impressed. We’re not sure if the iSSi Trail pedals are necessarily better than a Shimano XT, but the performance is so similar that we’d struggle to tell the difference underfoot. The colours, cleat tension adjustment range and axle length options will be enough reason for many riders to give them a try, and having such a close competitor to Shimano’s performance can only be a good thing.