Ritchey's WCS Carbon Echelon pedals have been updated with, as the name suggests, a carbon body and claw to make them über-light. There's a huge range of tension which is easily adjustable, different cleats are available and they offer a wide base for both comfort and power transfer. They'd have to come down in price to tempt me, though.
The composite body and claw really help to keep the weight down. At only 218g for the pair, they come in 2g lighter than the Look Blade Carbons that I am currently using (and 2g lighter than Ritchey claims). Shimano's Ultegra 6800 are 40g heavier but will save your pocket about £45 at RRP (and about £25 online – they're currently around £88, the Echelons around £113).
The stainless steel cleat plate does a very good job of protecting the pedal body from wear. It's replaceable via two T-10 screws should you experience excessive wear. In my two months of winter riding, I've not seen anything other than superficial wear.
Sealed cartridge bearings have kept the pedals turning very smoothly. The rotation is quite slow. They will stay in one position, unlike my Shimano Ultegra 6800 or Look Keo Blade pedals, which will stop with the heaviest part at the bottom. It doesn't affect riding, so it's not an issue at all.
The bearings have also stood up to washing very well. I get quite careless with high pressured water, but these resisted very well, with no signs of water ingress.
The adjustable tension range is really wide. The low end tension is great for easy unclipping and the extra-strong springs really clamp the cleat for powerful riders. Tensioning the pedals is done via a 3mm Allen bolt at the back of the pedal. At the lower end, I was able to slide my foot out easily, which was great for commuting, but they also felt secure with no accidental unclipping when I wanted to put a bit more power down.
The option to use either Ritchey or Look Keo cleats is very useful for those wanting to fine-tune their fit with different float ranges. The Ritchey cleats supplied are 7°, so I switched them to my preferred 0° fixed Look Keos to get my setup spot on.
I did, however, find that there is cleat rocking when at the lower tension range with Keo cleats. Ritchey sells both 0 and 7-degree replacement cleats, so I would stick with them if you intend to use the pedals with low tension. With the pedals tensioned above the midpoint, there were no issues. Ritchey told me that the issues with the Keo cleats seems to be the small rubber oval in the centre of the cleat. It protrudes, giving just enough space with a low tension setting to allow for the rocking. It suggests you could easily file this down, or just wait for it to wear itself down.
The pedals are very comfortable to use. The wide body allows pressure to be spread evenly, meaning no hotspots under the ball of your foot. Out on the road, they are also very consistent; even with road muck and a good amount of grit in them, they continued to engage and release smoothly.
In terms of value, they sit between the top end Shimano Dura-Ace/titanium axle Look Keo Blades and the more middle range Ultegra/chromoly axle Keo Blades. With an RRP of £165, they should represent a performance benefit over the Ultegras (£119) and the Keo Blades (£139). I couldn't see any improvement; if there is one, it's small. Yes, they provide a comfortable and stiff pedalling platform, but if it was my money I'd choose the Ultegra 6800s. As well as being cheaper, they have more cleat float options.
To sum up, these are very light, comfortable pedals with a huge range of release tensions. The bearings feel as smooth as new, after some horrendous riding conditions and less than careful washing. The price is still a sticking point for me, though. I just can't feel the £45 difference between these and an Ultegra pedal.
Smooth and sturdy bearings and a huge tension range; the price reflects a top-end pedal, but it may be a little too high
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Ritchey WCS Carbon Echelon Pedals
Size tested: n/a
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?
From Ritchey: "The world-beating performance of the Echelon just got better, thanks to the addition of a high-strength carbon fiber body that drops this already lightweight pedal down to an incredible 220 grams a set."
They are lovely pedals to use. They're aimed at performance cyclists, but you'd have to really care about gram saving to buy these.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Body: Carbon thermoplastic
Axle Material: CroMo
Claw: Carbon reinforced thermoplastic
Inner Bearing: Bushing
Middle Bearing: Needle
Outer Bearing: Sealed Cartridge
Float: 7 degrees
Finish: UD matte carbon
The steel plate resisted wear, the bearings weren't fussed by my pressure washer and the claw dealt with all sorts of dirt without issue. They're also very light.
Light, wide, stiff and more than strong enough for safe sprinting.
Grit usually means crunchy and stiff engagement. Not here.
They are really featherweight for this type of pedal. Weight weenies will still go for the Speedplay Nanogram pedals at 130g for the pair.
Nice wide base meant no hot spots from pressure points.
I just can't feel any performance benefits over an Ultegra pedal. Yes, they're 40g lighter for the pair, but they're also £45 more...
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well. I could always clip in, no matter how much grit got into the claw. They are comfortable and withstand washing very well.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The tension range. It's huge. They can be used by sprinters and unconfident unclippers alike.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The price. I can't see a performance benefit that warrants paying an extra £45 over Ultegra 6800 pedals.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? No. I just couldn't see myself spending the extra over Ultegra 6800s.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? The price makes me say no.
Use this box to explain your score
They gain points for reliability, low weight, comfort and a huge range of tensions, but the RRP really brings them down.
About the tester
I usually ride: Cannondale Supersix Di2 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 5-10 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, club rides, general fitness riding, I specialise in the Cafe Ride!
Son of a Marathon runner, Nephew of a National 24hr Champion, the racing genetics have completely passed him by. Liam spends his time plodding his way through cyclocross races, very busy not winning. As an advocate for perfectly clean chains, he can be found cleaning his bike instead of training. A shop mechanic, Liam has many helpful skills, such as being able to identify 'cross tubs by the tread pattern alone. If you bump into him, he'll probably be eating.