Time Speciale 8 ATAC pedal review | Pretty much perfect?

by 10

Time Speciale 8 ATAC

An early convert to clipless pedals, I’ve been riding variations of Shimano SPD clipless pedals for the best part of 25 years, and in that time I’ve never had an issue with Shimano’s durability, their clip in and release action, or their relative lack of float. Other manufacturers claim to perform better in mud or ice, or to be kinder on the knees, but because I’ve never had a problem with Shimano, these things have never been much of an encouragement to shift my allegiance. I had a brief and ill advised dalliance with Crank Brothers Candy pedals back in the late 00’s, and after buying one too many pedal rebuild kits I found myself back in the safe and comforting bosom of Shimano’s dependable SPDs. So it was with trepidation that I bolted these Time Speciale 8 pedals onto my bike and clipped in. Let’s find out how I got on…

Time Speciale 8 ATAC

Features

  • Enduro specific design
  • 6060 aluminum body
  • Hollow steel axle
  • Stable platform
  • ATAC system for ease of engagement
  • Adjustment of angular sensations, or ”feel”
  • Excellent mud-cleaning thanks to the self-cleaning concept
  • Angular float (+/-5°) and lateral float (6 mm)
  • 4 Adjustable pins for optimal grip
  • Cleats included

Construction

With a mid sized aluminium body and hollow stainless steel axle, the Speciale 8 is aimed firmly at trail and enduro riders. Not too dissimilar in size to a Shimano XT Trail pedal, the Speciale 8 is significantly smaller than the more downhill orientated Speciale 12 but still offers a decent sized platform for supporting your shoes. 

Like all other Time pedals, The Speciale 8’s use Time’s patented ATAC (Auto Tension Adjustment Concept) engagement system, which is very similar to that used by Crank Brothers – a soft brass cleat engages with sprung bars running across the centre of the pedal. Unlike the Crank Brothers mechanism, but similar to Shimano, release tension is adjustable from a barely there touch, to a heavy weight pincer like grip on your shoe.

Clipless pedal
Marginally higher stack height than Shimano SPDs

In addition to the clipping mechanism, there is a large raised platform which engages with the soles of your shoes, and to aid unclipped traction there are four adjustable pins (two per side) on each pedal. Compared to Shimano pedals, the Speciale 8 has a marginally higher stack height, which may be an issue if you’re sensitive to such things, but I didn’t notice any difference between the two. Spinning on sealed bearings and a DU bushing, muck is kept at bay by a heavy duty rubber gasket and after three months of heavy use, the pedals are still spinning freely. Each pedal weighs in at precisely 201g (actual weight, including pins), which is precisely 2g heavier than my old Shimano XT Trail pedals.

Time Speciale 8 ATAC
Cleats can be fitted to either shoe to vary the amount of float

Each of the supplied brass cleats can be fitted on either shoe, offering 13° or 17° of float depending on which way round you choose. I set them up with 13° float, and didn’t have any issues with premature release or knee pain, so saw no reason to try them at 17°, but the option is there if you want it. The only thing to note about the cleats at this stage, is that you can’t position them laterally. Some manufacturers give you complete control over every aspect of your cleat positioning to compensate for different shoes, cranks, chainstays etc for comfort or to just eliminate heel rub, but with these cleats, you’re limited.

In Use

Coming from a lifetime of Shimano use, clipping in required a bit of a rethink, but after a couple of weeks it quickly became second nature, and you know what – I reckon I prefer it. It’s especially noticeable on technical trails, and my feet seem to engage with the pedals a lot quicker. The pedal body offers loads of support when clipped in, with barely any shoe roll, leading to a very secure platform. Float is there, but because of the tight interface between the shoe and pedal, my feet don’t rattle about from side to side. When it comes to taking my feet off the pedals, it’s just a simple twist and release, the same as Shimano, with maybe a slightly softer release. I’ve not had any accidental releases yet, and have still got a long way to go on the adjustment which should allow me to compensate as the cleats wear over time.

Time Speciale 8 ATAC
Adjustable pins, but they don’t do much except scratch my legs.

I’ve always found clipless pedals to be sketchy as hell when unclipped, and these are no better or worse than anything else I’ve ridden. Sure, there are two adjustable pins at the front of each pedal, but because of the way your shoe sits on the pedal when unclipped, they may as well not be there at all. They’re miles away from the shoe when clipped in, and if you do actually unscrew them to the point that they become useful, then they’ll do an even better job of slicing your shins or your calves. Thanks, but no thanks.

Any problems?

They squeak! No really, they do. A by product of the tight fit and large platform, means that they sometimes squeak when pedalling. At this stage I don’t know if it’s unique to the Giro Terraduro Mids I’m running, or if it’s a more general problem specific to the pedal. It’s certainly annoying, but I definitely appreciate the stability provided by the pedals, so I’ll put up with it for now and hope that a bit of winter grit silences them.

Time Speciale 8 ATAC
Ooops

I’ve had a couple of other more pressing issues with the pedals, the main one being a bent retaining bar on one side of the left pedal. I didn’t notice it when it happened, I just felt less secure sometimes and it was only in the car park afterwards that I actually clocked what was wrong. Fortunately, 30 seconds with a set of pliers saw the offending bar bent back into place, and all was back to normal. I can also see a slight wobble on both axles. It’s not noticeable enough that it affects me when pedalling, and the bearings are still spinning ok, so I’m happy to ignore it for now. Maybe I just need to work on my pedalling action and try to avoid rock strikes a bit more?

Barely three months old.

Lastly, the soft brass cleats are looking pretty worn after only a few months use. I understand that this is a conscious design decision so the replaceable cleats wear out before the non-replaceable pedal mechanism, but still. Steel cleats last for years, and seeing as most of my rides involve a degree of hike-a-bike, it’d be nice if these were a touch more durable.

Time Speciale 8. Battered and bruised, but still going strong.

Conclusion

In spite of the squeaking platform and ineffectual pins, I really like these pedals. I very quickly adapted to the Time ATAC mechanism, and I prefer the clipped in feel of these to any other clipless pedal I’ve ridden. I’m also a huge fan of the speed with which you can get clipped in on technical terrain – it seems to be a more natural movement than Shimano in particular. The bodies are doing their best to shrug off rock strikes and the bearings seem to be holding up well too, although we’re just about to enter the depths of winter so we shall see. I’m certainly hoping they last, as I’m in no hurry to put my trusty Shimano SPDs back on my bike. There are other pedals out there that offer a bit more security when not clipped in, but for me these are pretty much perfect, and deserve to be at the top of your shopping list if you’re looking for a new set of pedals. Highly recommended.

Review Info

Brand: Time
Product: ATAC Speciale 8
From: Extra UK, extrauk.co.uk
Price: £139.99
Tested: by James Vincent for Four months

Having ridden bikes for as long as he can remember, James takes a certain twisted pleasure in carrying his bike to the most inaccessible locations he can find, before attempting to ride back down again, preferably with both feet on the pedals. After seeing the light on a recent road trip to Austria, James walked away from the stresses of running a design agency, picked up a camera and is several years deep into a mid life crisis that shows no sign of abating. As a photographer, he enjoys nothing more than climbing trees and asking others to follow his sketchy lines while expecting them to make it look as natural and stylish as possible. He has come to realise this is infinitely more fun than being tied to a desk, and is in no hurry to go back.

More posts from James

Comments (10)

    For anyone not used to time pedals (road or mtb) the cleats are designed to wear quickly into to your foots natural position on the pedal. That way your natural position becomes the default with float either side.

    Used time for years. Those cleats in the picture are barely worn in!

    I’ve used time pedals for years as well. The cleats last for ages no matter what they look like. I have had a pedal/shoe combination that squeaked as well though. I assume it’s down to a deeper tread on the sole.

    Odd to give such praise when you experienced binding, cleat and axle assembly durability issues in 3 months?

    I found the same – I loved ATACs until they changed to the square rails (and the subsequent return to round rails). Originals lasted really well and I loved their action. But durability became really poor, so I switched all bikes to Shimano just after the £ had crashed against the Yen, and so they’d practically doubled in price. ☹️

    @flossie – that’s good to know, thanks.

    @supersessions9-2 – I guess I’m just used to Shimano cleats. To my eyes these look soft round the edges already. Still working ok though so time will tell (sorry, not sorry).

    @sillyoldman – I didn’t experience any binding, in fact I love the security the pedals gave me. As for the cleat wear, I’m happy to accept the wear as an acceptable trade off for keeping the pedals lasting longer. Why recommend something with all these ‘issues’? Because to me, these are the best clipless pedals I’ve ridden and the issues are very minor and don’t detract from the overall performance of the pedal.

    Cheers

    @justinbeiber Fair enough. I meant issues with the binding mechanism by the way – you’d sent you’d bent a rail.

    Said not send?

    @sillyoldman – ah yes. If I hadn’t been able to fix it so easily then that would have been a deal breaker. It would have been nice not to damage it in the first place, but that I was able to fix it and not need to replace any parts is a good thing in my opinion

    Should have been some lol emojis on the end of that!

Leave Reply