HT X2 Pedals : First Impressions
HT X2 Pedals
HT pedals have stormed the gates of the pedal establishment under the feet of Aaron Gwin, Jared Graves, and a host of other really fast riders. That’s sparked the interest of a lot of riders along the way. It’s true that the closest I come to #gwining is getting my post-ride beer opened faster than my buddies so let’s call this the everyman’s review of the HT X2 pedals.
I’ve been told on multiple occasions that HT’s performance clip-in pedals are an awesome alternative to long established market players. They combine the best features of Shimano’s SPD pedals, namely adjustable spring tension and positive engagement and disengagement, with the more natural feeling float and dual captured cleat of Crankbrothers.
Removable traction pins. Adjustable pedal spring tension. Multiple cleat options (included). The HT X2 pedals have a high degree of tunability. The cleat is also captured fore and aft for a very supported feeling when clipped in.
The wide platform X2 joins the smaller and lighter T1 pedal in rounding out HT’s performance pedal line. It comes in a range of colours and with quite a few options for customizing function.
Being a new pedal system – and quite different from Shimano or Crankbrothers – I’m breaking the review down into two parts. This is a first look at the pedals themselves and some early observations after a handful of rides. I will follow up in the new year with a full HT X2 pedal review once I’ve had the opportunity to beat on them.
Speaking of tunability, the HT X2 pedals come stock with two sets of cleats. The X-1 cleats offer a similar clipped-in feel to Shimano SH-51 cleats with the same 4-degrees of Float. The X-1F doubles the float to 8-degrees for more natural body-english that is akin to Crankbrothers. There is a notable difference between the two on the trail.
The HT X2 pedals include two sets of cleats the X-1 and X-1F. The X-1F cleats have double the float at 8-degrees vs. 4-degrees for the X-1. On the trail the difference is easily felt.
The pedals include two lengths of cleat bolts and a stack of shims to customize how proud they stand relative to the sole of the shoe.
Inside the HT X2 pedal
Also included in the box is a long 8mm socket to facilitate rebuilding the pedals. In my mind including the tool necessary to rebuild the pedal is HT’s way of suggesting it’s a good idea to pull them apart and change the grease semi-frequently. I also do this with my Shimano pedals.
In this case I just pulled the pedals apart to have a look and I did not add any grease at this time. The axle assembly is greased from the factory and everything spins smoothly – though initially very tightly. Pulling both pedals apart for a re-grease, assuming no DU or bearing needs to be changed, is about a one beer job.
About Those Pins
The HT X2 pedals come with an assortment of pins to customize the grip available from the pedal body. They also include a hex key for install.
I’ve played around with various configurations. I found that the rear pins restricted clipping out with multiple different shoes so I have removed them. The front pins, on the other hand, do not affect clip-in/out performance so I have left them installed. They are an asset in situations where non-clipped grip is desirable such as restarting on steep pitches or riding in the snow.
I’ve tried multiple pin configurations and I’ve settled on no pins at the back of the pedal body and the full three pins at the front.
Don’t Try This At… Anywhere
The alternate title could be ‘don’t be stupid’ but let me explain. Playing around with pedal tension. Talking at the same time. Definitely not paying attention, and OOooooooops. It turns out that there is no stop on the spring tension adjuster.
Once the spring tension screw fell out. On a ride. Because I’m a gumby. It definitely wasn’t just going back in easily. The springs on the HT X2 pedals are FIRM.
I found out the hard (or is that stupid?) way that the spring tension screw doesn’t have a stop. Anyone whose going to do the same should have a T-10 torx key with them.
After a few attempts at loading the pedal spring enough to get the tension adjuster screw back in it was time to step back and assess the situation. Luckily I’ve been packing a T-10 torx key with the Fix It Sticks Replaceable. I removed the steel plates holding the springs in place and that provided enough play to re-insert the tension screw. Re-install the plates and onward to happy trails. This is absolutely not the fault of the pedals.
Choose your Shoes
No matter which of the two cleats you use, HT X2 pedals work significantly better with a shoe with a rocker sole. Being a DH-oriented pedal the first set of shoes I tried them with were my Five Tens. Release was great but engagement required too much force.
Making the cleats more proud, by installing the included shims, was a significant improvement to clip-in performance. However, this led to issues with walkability. This was not an ideal shoe and pedal combination no matter how the cleats are positioned.
The X2 pedals did not function well with my Five Ten shoes. Clipping out was fine but the clip-in process required too much force and fiddling.
Chris at NRG, the distributor for HT in Canada, was very helpful in this situation. In order to engage properly with the HT X2 pedal a toe-in motion works better than the standard ‘stomp on it’ motion of Shimano or Crankbrothers pedals. After years of clipping in the same way it took me a couple of rides but the clip-in process did get much more consistent.
The biggest performance change came when I swapped the cleats over to my sh*t-kicked Giro Empire shoes.
The curvature of the rocker sole of my Giro Empire shoes positions the cleat perfectly for entry into the HT X2.
With the curvature of the sole on my Empire shoes the HT cleats engage easily with the pedals. It is still a more deliberate entry than a Shimano pedal but some of that is a slight retraining of the clip-in process as noted.
My first experiences with the HT X2 pedals were on my single speed. I’ve never used a pedal with more positive retention. The way the X2 loads the cleat fore and aft gets rid of any annoying play I experience with other pedals.
On the Intense Primer in the snow I am very impressed with how well the pedals clear snow combined with my Empire shoes.
I’ve been riding Shimano pedals for years with a brief sojourn pedaling Crankbrothers Mallets. After a number of rides I’m feeling confident with engaging in the H2s. With the proper shoes I’m very happy with the performance.
For the full test I plan to use both sets of cleats and a few pairs of shoes to highlight performance options. I’ll also talk about durability after months of hard use and go into entry and exit performance once I’m truly familiar with the pedals. Thus far I love the very supported feel when clipped in.
Awesome alternative choices for clip-in pedals.