The Shimano R550 pedals are a feature packed, resin bodied road model that sits below Shimano's new 105 5700-C. The Japanese componentry behemoth is no stranger to using trickle down technology, and features that just a few years ago were only available in its top-of-the-line Dura-Ace range are now available in this lower end sibling.
We recently tested the new 105 carbon pedals and found them very close to their more expensive counterparts – so close, in fact, that we struggled to see why one would spend so much more for the higher-end offerings. Can the same be said for the R550?
The Shimano R550 (bottom) offers a composite construction, wider platform and replaceable metal cleat plate when compared with the R540 (top)
The basic R540 has for a long time been the entry into Shimano’s SPD-R road clipless system. Among recent model updates, the 328g R540 has remained unchanged with standard aluminium construction and plastic cleat surface, basic retention spring adjustment and a standard-width body.
The R550, available in either black or grey, is a new pedal that sits above the base model R540 and below the new 105 carbon pedals. The R550 borrows the ultra-wide platform and replaceable metal cleat plate from the higher models; all that it shares in design with the R540 are its axle and internals.
Clipping in with the supplied three-bolt, three-degree float, yellow cleat is a simple affair and ranks as one of the easiest road pedals to use. There’s a huge range to the adjustable spring tension, enabling you to easily increase the tension as your confidence improves. We do recommend a light chain-lube on the mechanism at first use, because clipping out can otherwise be a little sticky.
Once in, you’re met with a secure hold, and the extra-wide body adds a sense of lateral stability to the foot. The yellow cleats will suit the majority of riders; however other cleats are available aftermarket for people who prefer less free-float and a more locked-in feel.
We had the misfortunate of a crash during testing of the R550, and this certainly highlighted a downside to the lighter-weight composite material used. While metal-bodied pedals would shrug away such an incident, the resin body has a clear chunk of material missing. A quick use of a file and the pedals are useable once more, but it’s something worth noting.
Which model to buy? Many will be torn between the R550 and the 5700-C 105 (both pictured)
So the big question many will ask is, if the R550s are so close to Shimano's 105 carbon pedals, why would you buy the 105’s – or even Ultegra, or Dura-Ace?
The answer's not a simple one, and for many it will come down to a decision over whether all-out durability and low weight is the prime concern, and if replacing the whole pedal every few years is an acceptable option. The R550 resin composite build isn’t as light – at 309g – or durable as the higher-end options, which weigh in at 276g (105 carbon), 256g (Ultegra carbon) and 248g (Dura-Ace). But for many riders, a pair of R540 will last many, many years – and, the odd nick aside, we'd expect the lighter, broader R550 to put in an excellent stint too.