Jim’s Tech Talk
By Jim Langley
At a somewhat budget price point, Look offers several clipless road pedals, their Classic and Max models, which range from $65 to $115, and their Max Carbon, that’s slightly more pricey at $145 (those are suggested retail prices).
The low cost and excellent clipless performance make these inexpensive models popular. I’ve been using the Classics and Maxs (not Carbon) since they first came out and don’t see any need to spend any more.
One of the things I like about them is how easy they are to regrease. All pedals that get ridden enough eventually need a little more grease because the old wears out.
Checking Pedal Condition
How often pedals need this service depends on how you ride, but I recommend adding grease to regularly ridden pedals at least annually. If you ride in the wet a lot, you may need to do it twice a year.
To determine if your pedals could use some more grease you feel for two things: 1) How they turn/spin; and 2) for any lateral play.
When there’s enough grease in the pedals you can turn them by hand while they’re on the bike and feel a slight hydraulic resistance from the grease inside. It takes experience to learn this feeling. If you can’t tell, another test is to hit the pedal with your fingers to make it spin quickly and listen to it. A dry pedal will sound dry from the lack of lubrication.
With the pedals on the bike you can check for any play in the pedal bearings, too. To do this, push and pull on the body of the pedal. Don’t grip them by the moveable clipless jaws or you might feel play from them.
Removing the Pedals
You can also remove the pedals to check them and you’ll need to do that to regrease them. Remember that left pedals are reverse thread. Turn the left pedal clockwise to loosen and remove it. Right pedals are a regular thread. Turn rights counterclockwise to loosen and remove. If you’ve never removed the pedals before, you should watch my video for tips that make the job easier:
Once they’re off the bike, while holding the pedals in your hand you can turn the spindles (pedal axles) slowly to feel for dryness and lack of grease inside the pedal. You can also push and pull on the pedal spindle to feel for any play. (It’s easier to check for this when the pedals are installed on the bike.)
Removing the Spindle
If the pedal feels dry and/or there’s play in the bearings, it’s time to grease the pedals. To do it you must remove the spindle. Don’t worry, the spindle will come out as one piece so there are no small parts to lose.
If you look closely at the spindles, you’ll see the outside of the plastic threaded caps that hold the spindles in the pedals. On the right pedal the cap is splined. On the left, the cap almost looks nut-shaped but if you look carefully you’ll see it, too, has a unique shape.
I’ve never owned Look’s tool for removing these caps to regrease the pedals. I assume they make one but I couldn’t find one online to link you to. What I did find was a Chinese company selling their own tools on eBay.com. Including shipping, the tool sells for $16.39. I don’t know anything about the company, but here’s a photo of the tool and the link: https://www.ebay.com/itm/303942879019.
What I Use
Since I don’t own Look’s tool or the one I just now found on eBay, I use something else to remove the caps and spindles. As a disclaimer though, if you choose to copy me, you must work carefully or else you could damage the plastic caps that hold the spindles in.
What I use for the left pedal cap, which is almost nut-shaped, is an adjustable wrench. For the right pedal cap, the splined side, I use pliers. But first I slip a couple of pieces cut from an old inner tube over the jaws to protect the plastic. I also take great care to ensure I have a good purchase on the plastic before applying any force to remove the cap and the spindle with it.
Removing the Spindles
Besides being careful not to damage the plastic caps, the most important thing to know is that the caps are threaded differently.
The right pedal cap is turned clockwise to loosen it and remove the spindle.
The left pedal cap is turned counterclockwise to loosen it and remove the spindle.
You must get this right or you’ll likely damage the caps. Once the caps loosen you can usually turn them by hand until you can pull the spindles out of the pedals. Keep the left with the left and right with the right so you don’t mix them up.
Greasing the Spindles
With the spindles out of the pedals, you’ll see the inboard sealed bearings that stay installed on the spindles and shouldn’t require service. The other ends of the spindles are what the needle bearings that stay inside the pedals turn on.
With a clean rag, wipe any grease and grime off the spindle and the sealed bearing. Then coat the end of the spindle that goes into the needle bearings with grease and put a light coating on the spindle and sealed bearing. I use Park Tool’s Polylube grease https://amzn.to/3RNOF4u You can see the amount of lube I use on the one freshly greased pedal in the photo. Try not to get any grease on the threaded cap.
Usually Keo pedals are sealed well and grit and dirt doesn’t make its way inside the pedal. So you shouldn’t need to clean the inside of the pedal.
To reassemble the pedal, be sure to put the left spindle in the left pedal and the right in the right. Otherwise, the caps won’t thread in. Also be gentle inserting the spindle since its end has to fit into the small needle bearing inside the pedal. Don’t force it.
Before screwing in the caps, Look recommends using a drop of Loctite 480 https://amzn.to/3DjN5n4 on the cap threads to ensure the pedals don’t loosen when riding. Also, be sure there’s no grease on the threads and especially don’t force the cap in or you could cross-thread and damage it. You should be able to turn the caps in several turns by hand to prevent cross threading.
To finish the job, fully tighten and torque the caps to about 4Nm. Most of the time this simple regreasing procedure will get the pedals spinning smoothly again and also remove any small amount of play that you might have felt before.
Jim Langley is RBR’s Technical Editor. He has been a pro mechanic and cycling writer for more than 40 years. He’s the author of Your Home Bicycle Workshop in the RBR eBookstore. Check out his “cycling aficionado” website at http://www.jimlangley.net, his Q&A blog and updates at Twitter. Jim’s cycling streak ended in February 2022 with a total of 10,269 consecutive daily rides (28 years, 1 month and 11 days of never missing a ride). Click to read Jim’s full bio.