Riding Gravel Pedal Round-Up: Ritchey WCS Micro Road – by Grannygear
Editor’s Note: Grannygear returns with his thoughts on the Ritchey WCS Micro Road pedals in the Round-Up series. Please check out his introduction to this series by clicking HERE.
We touched on the details in the opening post for the Ritchey pedals, so it was time to get on these and get to pedaling.
The most striking thing with the Ritchey WCS Micro Road pedal is the very minimal profile they offer when you get them mounted into the crank. They seem to be barely there, although something like a Crank Brothers Egg Beater pedal would give that same feeling. I like the gold anodized styling. They have the look and feel of a quality build and they spin well in the hand with a smooth action.
The cleats were easy to mount into the shoe just like any SPD style cleat. At first glance, I thought I might be able to use the Ritchey WCS Micro Road pedal cleat with a Shimano SPD pedal, but it was not to be. There were subtle differences in shape with the Ritchey cleat that would not allow me to click into the Shimano SPD pedal. I angled the cleats in on the shoe to mimic the way I run SPD cleats. This offers me a “heels in” pedaling position. I left the spring tension on the pedals the way it came out of the box which seemed to be the way to go for me.
I ran these for many miles from local quickie rides to multi-hour loops with lots of climbing. I even did some fast, (well, sort of fast), road work. Then, at the end of the test, I did a “build your own mud puddle in the front yard” test. This I did for a way to test the step in/step out function in mud with the Ritchey cleats and pedals. Following is what I found to be in the “good” and the “less than good” categories.
- Clicking in to the pedals was very easy and direct. I seldom had to hunt around for the right cleat position before I was engaged and pedaling. Entry pressure was “just right”- not too vague or too stiff- but you know you are “there”.
- The pedals hung “heels down” for the most part so that usually required only a quick glance, if that, to affirm the pedals position. I say “usually“. More on that in a bit.
- Although the pedaling surface of the Ritchey WCS Micro Road pedal is pretty minimal, I was using a very stiff racing shoe, so I did not feel any undue pressure on the sole.
- As a single sided, very tiny pedal, the cornering clearance is pretty high and if you were using this pedal in a more adventurous situation. the chance of rock strikes with a gravel bike that has a low bottom bracket would be pretty slim.
- Pedaling with these pedals was a very direct, smooth, and secure feeling experience. I never felt like I was going to unclip by accident. I know it is silly to say that a pedal made it feel like the power was getting to the ground well, but that was my impression.
The Less Than Good:
- If you are not clipped in, that is a very small bit of metal to balance your foot on.
- Since it is a single sided pedal, the backside is doing nothing for you but holding up the front side of the pedal, right? So you really don’t want to try to balance your shoe on the backside of this pedal. Although the Ritchey WCS Micro Road pedal typically hangs “heel down”, usually you can just stab it and go without worrying about missing it. But there were times, like when I was at speed on a fast descent and I had unclipped my inside foot, just in case. When I exited the corner, the pedal was in a random place, so I had to take my eyes off what I really wanted to be focused on momentarily. I wanted to be focused dead ahead for the survival of the species, but instead I had to look at my pedal to see how I had to clip in.
- You like float? These feel like they have very little float. I would say it feels like NO FLOAT, and I am referring to a rotational type of float here. The Ritchey stats say there is 5° of float on tap, so while there is some float, as soon as I twist my ankle I feel like I am working against the spring retention of the release mechanism. Wiggle room? Not so much.
The mud performance was pretty disappointing. Although the pedal would likely clear sticky mud through the open space under the cleat, I was only getting a 50% success rate, at best, when trying to click in with a grimy shoe. Even when applying high downward/rotational pressure, like you might see when trying to grind your foot down on the pedal to click in, a good bit of the time I could not force my way into the pedal. You can see in the image that I was not all that packed up with mud either. However; I could always get out if I could get in.
So what are we to think here? There is a lot to like about the WCS Micro Road pedal. It is darn light, good looking, and has tons of pedaling clearance. Your foot ends up being pretty close to the pedal spindles too, more so than thicker bodied pedals. The entry and release are very good. I bet a lot of hard core roadies would like this pedal very much. It would make a pretty good commuter pedal too. Whether the mud performance is a priority for you depends upon your requirements and locale. This is a non-issue from my viewpoint. The lack of free float is a concern for me though.
On two longer rides I ended up with joint pain in the right knee. That’s something that can happen with me, but it is rare. It may have meant my cleat wasn’t placed just right, but I am pretty in tune with that, and the placement felt neutral to me. It also could have meant that I needed more “wobble” in my pedal stroke to keep my knees happy. Hard to say though. I know a lot of riders that enjoy a solid, “locked in” feeling at the pedal/cleat interface. I will say that I have never found the amount of free rotational float in an SPD pedal to be less than I needed. In comparison, the WCS Micro Road pedals feel much more constrained. Contrast this with the Time ATAC with the double sided build, reasonable weight, amazing mud performance, and rather luxurious amount of float…… Well, that’s a hard combo to beat for hard core gravel bike use.
The Ritchey WCS Micro Road Pedals are a unique beast. One has to weigh the positives against the negatives, and if that balance sheet looks good for you, then I would advise to run them. I find myself often in situations where the road is barely there and unclipping happens often. So, I like the convenience of two sided pedal offerings. However; if I found myself riding smoother gravel roads and in dry conditions, then the single sided deal is no biggie. You’d better get the cleat position just right though. I wonder if a cleat option for more float, say 10°, wouldn’t be a good idea?
The WCS Micro Road pedals are gorgeous to look at, weigh little more than a bare spindle, and have very good entry/exit feel. I also feel that they have a great appeal for an “All Road” on the new breed of road bikes that take a 32mm-38mm tire. Especially for the rider looking for a clipless pedal system that allows for walking without that awkward cleat of a typical Look style road pedal.
We are waiting for one more set of pedals to come in so stay tuned for that.
Note: The Ritchey WCS pedals were sent to Grannygear for test and review on RidingGravel.com at no charge. We are not being paid nor bribed for this review and we will strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.
About The Author: Grannygear hails from SoCal and spent most of his cycling days as a mountain biker from the formative years of mountain biking all the way up to the present day. His day job is in the tech sector, but he has spent time writing about off road 4X4’s, 29″ mountain bikes, and cycling in general. Grannygear and Guitar Ted have worked off and on together since 2009 after a chance meeting at Interbike. With gravel cycling on the rise, Grannygear has been exploring how this genre’ works in SoCal and now does guest pieces for RidingGravel.com in his spare time.