Shimano introduced carbon pedal bodies with its 7900 groupset way back in 2008, and over the 13 years since, the various iterations of Shimano Dura-Ace pedals have been a case of continual evolution rather than wholesale revolution.
When these Dura-Ace PD-R9100 pedals were updated from the previous PD-R9000 versions, they maintained much of their proven form and function, but Shimano gave them a wider pedalling platform and an updated bearing design to include a needle roller bearing with no less than three bearing races per pedal.
Of course, R9100 is no longer the latest series of Dura-Ace, but with the recent launch of the 12-speed R9200 groupset, Shimano decided that the existing R9100 Dura-Ace pedals were so good that they didn’t need improving upon, and carried them over into the latest version with nothing more than a change in the barcode on the box.
So with Shimano effectively reiterating that these are the best road bike pedals it has ever made, let’s see how these £234.99 / $280.00 / €269.95 / AU$370.00 pedals stack up against the top-tier competition from Look and Wahoo and decipher whether they’re a worthwhile upgrade from Ultegra.
Design and specifications
The Shimano Dura-Ace pedal isn’t too dissimilar to the Ultegra or 105 options so what sets it apart from its siblings?
While always renowned for durability, Shimano always had a bit of a stigma for its pedals being heavy. Over the past few generations, Shimano has addressed this by trimming the bodies and refining where possible without affecting that all-important durability. This latest model comes in at 234g for the pair (minus cleats) vs 248g & 258g for Ultegra and 105 respectively.
While these aren’t the lightest pedals available – this honour goes to the Wahoo Speedplay Nano at an impressive 170g for the pair – when you factor in the cleats too, Dura-Ace takes the crown, at 272g. Look’s Keo Carbon comes a close second at 274g, and Wahoo’s 81-gram cleats send the Speedplay Nanos tumbling down the table with a total weight of 332g.
As the most performance-orientated pedal in the Shimano range, they include the brand’s blue cleats (two degrees of float) rather than the yellow (six degrees) version that is included with the other pedals in the Shimano range. The cleats are fitted to the shoe with the same three-bolt SPD-SL attachment as the others, but with another nod to watching the grams, Dura-Ace gets machined and hollow bolts, saving a further 1.4 grams over their counterparts.
Another factor setting the Dura-Ace pedals apart is the quality of the bearings and the axle assembly. Of all the pedals on the market, Shimano’s are the only pedals that could be described as easily user-serviceable, with loose ball bearings on an axle that can be adjusted, re-greased and have play removed, all using standard spanners. While the Ultegra and 105 pedals offer a brace of bearings, the Shimano Dura-Ace offer two rows of loose bearings and a needle roller bearing, further improving smoothness and durability.
The Shimano Dura-Ace pedals also offer a lower stack height compared to the other pedals in the range, around 2mm less, which is achieved by situating the largest bearing outside of the pedal body, rather than inside.
In use, I find the Shimano Dura-Ace pedals the easiest to clip into of all pedals. This will, of course, be helped by my familiarity with the product, but it’s also because they are weighted in such a way that they always hang in the correct place for being able to clip in.
Of course, Shimano’s Ultegra and 105 pedals offer a very similar clipping in action, but with the extra refinement to the pedal body of Dura-Ace, the weight difference from front to back is slightly greater, which further exaggerates the position while clipping in and makes it marginally easier. This is then further improved by the super-smooth bearings mentioned earlier.
Look pedals also have a similar action for clipping in, but I found myself occasionally getting the underside of the pedal when putting my foot down, making it a slower process that sometimes required a glance down. Wahoo’s pedals benefit here from having dual-sided entry, which negates this issue entirely, but it’s worth noting that the clipping in process is a slightly different feel: rather than pushing downwards and forwards, the action starts on the outside of the foot, with pressure increasing inwards towards the bike.
With the ultra-wide 65mm pedalling platform (the widest on test) the pedals feel incredibly supportive with no side to side foot roll. The included blue cleats offer a small amount of float at the front of the shoe (two degrees) and are fixed at the rear, so they give you a really secure feeling on the bike, and if you like a really locked-in feeling, the adjustable tension screw is easy to access and operate.
While a lot of the feel could be attributed to the cleat rather than the pedal, the spring tension on the rear of the pedal plays an important part in your overall experience, a pedal with low tension and a fixed cleat will feel looser than a pedal with high tension and cleat with the most float. With the options of float and spring tension, you can fine-tune your experience in a way that is not available with all of the pedals on other platforms.
As a note to that touted durability, I have a pair of Shimano 7800 series Dura-Ace pedals (launched in 2004) still going strong, some 17 years after purchase. I can’t say the same for many other components I purchased that long ago, and they’ve outlasted many, many bikes.
And such is the popularity of the Shimano Dura-Ace pedal, it’s not uncommon to see riders in the professional peloton using these when they are sponsored by another component or pedal manufacturer.
While the Shimano Dura-Ace pedals do offer some marginal gains over the other pedals in the Shimano range, it’s the sum of its parts that set the Dura-Ace pedals apart, but are they worth the upgrade over Shimano Ultegra R8000 pedals?
Ultegra offers around 90 per cent of the performance for just over half the price, and for most of us, that 90 per cent is more than good enough a pedal for our needs.
However, if that 10 per cent counts to you, or you enjoy owning the peak of pedal design by the world’s largest component manufacturer, then it’s equally as hard to say why you wouldn’t pick them.
Serviceability, low weight, durability, and ease of finding spares all add up to a flagship product that is easily one of the best road bike pedals on the market, and since Shimano components can often be found with great discounts online, you’ll likely be able to buy them for cheaper than the competition too.
Tech Specs: Shimano Dura-Ace PD-R9100 pedals
- Price: £234.99 / $280.00 / €269.95 / AU$370.00
- Weight: 117g
- Weight with cleats: 136g