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Time Speciale 12 MTB pedal review – the best of both worlds?

Time’s Speciale 12 pedals are seriously spendy, so why would you pay extra for them compared to the Shimano and Crankbrothers benchmarks?

Time Speciale 12
(Image: © GuyKesTV)

Bike Perfect Verdict

Super durable, widely adjustable, easy clearing and knee friendly, but more awkward entry at first and very expensive.

Pros

  • +

    Float, tension and grip adjustment

  • +

    Legendary durability

  • +

    Secure yet knee friendly feel

  • +

    Work whatever the weather

Cons

  • -

    Very expensive

  • -

    Initially awkward to engage

  • -

    Other pedals have closed the all-weather gap

Our testing explained

For information on Bike Perfect's testing procedures and how our scoring system works, see our how we test page.

Time's Speciale 12 pedal is designed to be the best clipless pedal for the best enduro/trail bikes, so what advantages does it offer to reward its high price? French manufacturer Time have had a cult following amongst filthy weather and sensitive knee riders on the XC and cyclo cross scenes for decades. Even after being acquired by SRAM last year they’re a rare sight, particularly on bigger travel bikes. After months testing their most expensive enduro pedal does it offer the best of both worlds compared to Shimano and Crank Brothers benchmarks?

Time Speciale 12

Unlike Shimano, Time use a moving front gate not a rear one and the open design helps stop clogging. Adjustable front pins are also designed to help unclipped grip (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Design and specifications

Time attribute a lot of the cost to the fully machined, rather than simpler forged, 6061-T6 alloy body. At 96mm long and 69mm across, the widest point the elongated hexagonal cage is close to Shimano’s XT and XTR trail pedals, Crankbrothers Mallet-E benchmarks and Hope’s similarly machined Union TR pedal. At 412g it’s matched weight wise too with XT being 4g lighter, XTR 14g lighter but the Mallet-E being 12g heavier and the Hope adding 28g. 

The proven engagement mechanism is unique to Time though, with a front hoop/gate that pushes forward and a fixed rear hoop/gate. That’s different to Crankbrothers, where both the hoops/gates can move and split apart. While most pedals leave the clipless mechanism completely exposed, here the body also includes a ramp that rises right up to the top of the rear hoop. The Speciale 12 (and the cheaper Speciale 8) are unique in the Time range for having a tension adjuster screw to alter the release spring pressure.

The brass ATAC cleats (included) give 13 or 17 degrees of float before release depending on whether you bolt them into your left or right shoe. Or you can opt for the faster 10 degree release of the ATAC Easy cleats. Either way, you get 5mm of sideways movement too. The body of each pedal also has two adjustable height pins at nose and tail for extra grip.

Time are tight lipped about what bearings or bushings the Speciale 12 spins on, but the seals protecting them are similarly tight lipped and after several months use they feel as smooth as they did straight from the box. Stories of Time pedals lasting a decade or even two or more with minimal maintenance are common too. 

Considering there’s no fancy titanium or magnesium parts making the Speciales extra speciale, they’re definitely very expensive at £110 more than XTR, £100 more than Hope and £75 more than Mallet-E.  

Time Speciale 12

Clip spring tension is finely adjustable, while adjustable rear pins modify rotational grip  (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Performance

Unsurprisingly, the unique clipless mechanism of the Times gives them an action unlike other pedal. Most pedals open up at the back (or both ends) letting you hook into the front first and then stamp down, or just stamp down straight in. With the Speciales you have to toe in (in front of the ramp that protects the rear hoop) and then push forward to engage. That can take quite a few rides to become second nature if you’re coming off SPD style pedals and it’s definitely harder to get into every time than the rotating mechanism of Crankbrothers pedals. The default setting is pretty stiff at first too, so loosening that off really helps with entry. Once you’re clipped in, the ramp and rear platform gives a real secure connection feel whatever tension you’ve set. The tension doesn’t impact the useful amount of ‘free’ rotation and sideways shift if you need to de-stress delicate knees. They don’t offer as most float as the floatiest Crankbrothers cleat options though.

Release is different to other pedals too, with progressive resistance as you near exit rather than a sudden snap out like SPD style pedals. You can also raise or lower the grip pins on the back to reduce rotational grip on the shoe. It’s worth noting that the front pins only ever contact the shoe when you’re toe down and un-clipped. That means they’re more to save you slipping off the front if you miss the clip rather than helping grip in normal circumstances.  

Time have always had an excellent reputation for clearing mud and snow super well so even the worst weather doesn’t affect performance. Then again, Crankbrothers are never bothered by bad conditions while Shimano and their various imitators have evolved to the point that they rarely have issues now either. In other words, mud clearance is not the clear cut advantage it used to be.

They’re slightly deeper than other pedals too, so you’re more likely to ground them out. The good news is that if you do, you’ll generally smack the ramp of the body, not the clipless mechanism. The soft brass cleats will also wear out before they start gnawing away at the steel of the clipless mechanism. That adds another couple of durability bonuses over and above the excellent bearings and seals which all helps the cost look like an investment not an indulgence.

Time Speciale 12

Brass cleats can be switched from left to right to alter release angle (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Verdict

Time’s Speciale 12 pedals offer more adjustment in tension and float than other pedal systems. They’re not bothered by filthy conditions and they’re incredibly durable. That means they’re potentially worth the expensive investment for high mileage and/or sensitive knee’d riders. They are harder to get into than other designs at first though and you can get the same features and benefits in a slightly smaller size in the Speciale 8 for $158 / £132.99. Or very similar basic performance from a pedal like Shimano’s PDM530 for less than 20 percent of the cost.

Time Speciale 12

The ramp on the body helps protect the clipless mechanism and our test pedals have taken a beating with no loss of performance (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Tech specs: Time Speciale 12 pedals

  • Price: $290 / £249.99 / €290
  • Size: 96 x 69 x 19mm
  • Options: Red, blue, grey anodized
  • Weight: 412g pair
Guy Kesteven
Guy Kesteven

Guy Kesteven is Bike Perfect and Cyclingnews’ contributing tech editor. Hatched in Yorkshire he's been hardened by riding round it in all weathers since he was a kid. He spent a few years working in bike shops and warehouses before starting writing and testing for bike mags in 1996. Since then he’s written several million words about several thousand test bikes and a ridiculous amount of riding gear. To make sure he rarely sleeps and to fund his custom tandem habit, he’s also penned a handful of bike-related books and talks to a GoPro for YouTube, too.


Rides: Pace RC295, Cotic FlareMax, Specialized Chisel, Vielo V+1 gravel bike, Nicolai FS Enduro, Landescape custom gravel tandem

Height: 180cm

Weight: 69kg