October 11, 2010
A selection of flat pedals tested, just in time for the season of slip sliding in the filth...
In our first and rather large online grouptest, Ed and Jon have taken a selection of the best flat pedals out there and over the past few months have found out whether they stepped up to the challenge or got kicked to the kerb.
With flat pedals growing in popularity due to their mud shedding ability and ease of exit when riding the radder side of cycling there is now a massive spread of flats available, but design and construction techniques vary massively – as does the price. Read on to discover what we liked and what we didn’t…
Point One Racing Podium Flats
Looking at the price tag, you might expect these pedals to have titanium axles or a magnesium platform, but the Podiums have neither. Instead they use a 6061 alloy platform and a hollow, tapered cromo axle. Just 13mm thin at the edge, the platform tapers down to 11mm in the middle, giving a concave profile for your foot to sit into and a feeling of being placed in, rather than on the pedal. The tapered axle is exposed although it doesn’t contact the sole of your shoe in use, running on four sealed cartridge bearings with additional O-ring seals which, when combined with tight tolerances, makes them very sticky and reluctant to spin out of the box, although they do free up once used. The platform is extremely wide – wider than most shoes in fact, giving a large surface area which makes the pedal both easy to find underfoot and makes for a stable and comfortable pedalling surface, uphill and down. The pins are thicker-than-usual threaded allen bolts, which screw in from the underneath so it’s still possible to extract damaged pins without resorting to mole grips. The oversize axle flange, which is designed to spread load more evenly to the crank arm, and the way the pedal platform extends right up to it, means that they sit very close to the crankarm – if you’ve lost the pedal washer some cranks come with then these pedals will bind.
The low profile design means that you miss a large number of obstacles that you tend to hit with thicker pedals, although both pins and platform have proved themselves tough enough to shrug off rock strikes with barely a scratch. In action they’re truly brilliant – it’s almost impossible to lose this pedal, even in the roughest terrain – and they have a stable, grippy feel without the need for gigantic sole shredding pins. That combined with superb quality materials and manufacture makes the price more acceptable – and the amazing grip and secure feel makes it seem worthwhile. Also available in black if you like the stealth look.
Overall: They’re expensive but quality workmanship, excellent design, long lasting, well sealed bearings, grippy, low profile and spacious pedalling platform means these are possibly the best functioning flat pedals available now.
Taking the absolute opposite approach to the trend of thin, big and wide pedals, the DD-forces seem to share more in common with the world of clips, with a heavily machined platform that’s not overly thin in terms of depth but much thinner than your average in terms of width, perched on a long exposed axle. The vaguely X shaped configuration has threaded and replaceable allen grub screws of a decent length and they spin on sealed cartridge bearings. In use they’re a bit of a surprise. The lack of width does mean they dig well into shoes, sitting firmly inside the sole and the grip is impressive given the size.
The downfall is that if you’re a flat pedal rider who likes to move their foot about during corners or similar then there’s not much surface area to play with and there’s not much margin for error should your foot begin to move. However, pedalling uphill the small surface area doesn’t lead to a feeling of high pressure under the ball of your foot that you might imagine but the lack of width and taller platform mean you don’t get the same secure and planted feel wide and thin designs offer.
Overall: If you like the perched feel of SPDs but want a flat pedal then these might suit. However, for most they lack the width and foot positioning choice that make flat pedals so useful in the first place.
Superstar Ultra Mag CNC
From: Superstar Components
With a CNC machined magnesium platform and subsequently low 310g weight these pedals offer a lot of value when compared to some others on test. They’re thin at 17mm and the concave pedal surface is nice and wide, these examples running on cromo axles, although a Titanium upgrade is available for £39.99 more. You get a choice of colours, even down to the alloy pins, and the bearings are replaceable sealed cartridges.
Out on the trail they’re a nice, stable and wide place to be and the open platform prevents mud clogging madness. Our only niggle, and for the price it seems churlish to complain about anything, was that over time the white painted finish has started to lift off in places although this doesn’t affect how they work in the slightest. The pedals have been tough enough to deal with rock beatings which is something some magnesium platforms can struggle with, plus pins are easy to replace when you knacker them, due to the spanner fitting. As an aside we do reckon than threaded grub style pins have the edge in sticking to your shoes over the smooth types the Ultra Mags use – but that really comes down to whether you like to be able to easily reposition you foot in sticky shoes or, as we do, prefer the feeling of being nailed on.
Overall: They’re good value, strong, thin, lightweight and work extremely well. What more do you want?
NS Bikes Aerial Pro
Now these are some pretty pedals that are also top notch performers. Let’s get to the important stuff here; they are available in black, gold, grey, red, purple, white or silver/blue as we have here on test. Plenty of scope for matching or clashing then. The silver anodising is very nice on these, but the blue logos wear off quickly. Pedals are one of the most popular add on accessories and looks are pretty important. The Aerial Pro looks great and this not a pedal that you will see on everyone else’s bike. Or maybe you will now.
The full CNC machined 6061 T6 alloy body is tough and the pedal has a solid, quality feel to it without being too heavy. 384g for the pair on our scales is a decent weight and to quote from the NS Bikes blurb, “weight and shape is not everything – our focus during this product’s development was the strength.” Axles are CrMo (the pedantic way to spell cromo) and run 2 sealed cartridge bearings and 1 bushing.
The platform size is 95x95mm with a low profile thickness of 17mm. The body is nicely concave, with an extra slice of alloy taken out of the area over the axle, all of which makes them feel sweet beneath your feet. It is quite an open pedal that clears mud easily enough too.
Pins are only 3mm which makes it easy to move your feet around, presumably matching the dirt jump background of the NS Bikes brand. Pins are grub screws and are grippy, although for really wet conditions mountain biking you might want to put some longer pins in, especially if you’re on a hardtail.
Overall: Tough, grippy and pimp.
Wellgo MG1 Mag
From: Jim Walker
These are a benchmark pedal in this test. At this price and weight and with their performance they are hard to beat. Costing a third of the price of some pedals in the test, those expensive pedals had better be very damn good to beat the Wellgos.
The magnesium body measures 95x90mm with a profile of 22mm. Your foot sits well in the concave body and it is pretty open, so doesn’t mud up. 3mm replaceable grub screws are plenty grippy enough on a full suspension trail bike. A change to longer pins will give even more grip and would be just the ticket for hardcore hardtailers. There are 9 pins each side on the outside and sealed cartridge bearings and DU bushing on chromo axles inside.
At 360g for the pair they are light. This does come at the expense of having a quicker wearing magnesium body. At the end of the day though, pedals are consumable items and the offset of the cheaper price makes these pedals a top spot contender.
They come in a matt grey finish and they don’t look bad at all. If you’re thinking of trying flat pedals you can buy some decent ones for £15-£25, but the price and low weight of the MG1 also puts them in this ‘worth a try’ category. Obviously they should also be on your list if you are a seasoned flat pedal rider as well.
Overall: Price, grip, weight all excellent. This flat pedal wins medals.
DMR V12 Mag
From: Upgrade Bikes
The V12 has been around a long time now and it’d be fair to say that this pedal (and the cheaper, non-cartridge bearing V8) helped bring to the masses the flat pedal revolution the Shimano DX started, with the move away from bearclaw style pedals to the pinned versions of today. The V12 has been tweaked and tightened over the years (a bit like Madonna) and the pedal today uses a magnesium body to save 100g of weight over the alloy version but still uses the same sealed cartridge bearing and bushing design as always and we’ve not had any play in them yet. The axle is cromo steel but if you want to save even more weight then you can get a pair of nitride coated and golden coloured Titanium axles that’ll shave an additional 80g from the weight and £69.99 from your wallet.
The design is a classic for a reason and the V12 is still an excellent platform for descending and pedalling uphill. The magnesium body is tough enough to survive and grip is good, although this is in part down to the extra long screw in Terror Pins (£3.99) this set are fitted with that really dig into your shoes, although the extra length means they can be more prone to damage and then harder to remove. The tapered shape means they’re good at shrugging off strikes without stopping you dead however. There are plenty of colour options available, although we reckon the understated grey finish with blingin’ gold cap works well. It’s only when you compare them against the latest super thin pedals that you realise the advantages of a low profile platform in helping prevent your feet rolling over the axle. To this end DMR have just released the new Vault pedal that’s thinner, lighter and has pins that screw in from the back but still uses the cunning tapered shape.
Overall: The V12 is grippy, tough and is a classic flat for a reason, but we’re looking forward to DMR’s new Vault pedals arriving which improve the design further.
Crank Brothers 5050XX
These are Crank Brothers’ DH/freeride flat pedal and they do seem to be designed to live a hard life appropriate to their target market. The 90x93mm pedal body is 6061-t6 aluminium and only shows signs of light scratches from testing. In profile they are 21mm at the widest point. Weight is 592g for the pair.
The leading edge plates of the pedal are replaceable and a spare set of plates are included when you buy. The spares are a different colour to the originals, so there is the option to customise the look, as well as being for replacing the original set when (or if) they wear out. Removing the plates also gives easy access to the pins for adjustment or replacement.
The axles are forged chromoly steel running on a sealed cartridge and needle roller bearing. A small amount of play developed in both pedals, however a quick flush out and replacement of grease cured this. It is a very simple job which can be done with the pedal attached to the cranks. There is a 2 year warranty on this product and to quote from the blurb, “we are reasonable people and we believe in our product, so if you give us a reasonable explanation, we might fix or even replace your rider error damaged pedals”.
The 5050s are very grippy with a combination of a good concave shape and grippy pins. The pins screw right through the pedal plates, which means you can vary the length sticking out between 1 to 6mm. Also included is an extra set of pins, although these are smooth cone headed pins, so they are not as grippy as the grub screws which come fitted.
Overall: Smart looking hardcore, grippy pedals which are easy to maintain.
Tioga Surefoot MX Pro
From: Extra UK
With a 6061-T6 CNC machined alloy body this is a tough nut pedal, which has shrugged off pedal strikes through this test with only slight scratching. The cartridge bearings have also remained smooth and free from play. Axles are cromo, or Chromium molybdenum if you’re not into that whole brevity thing.
At 500g for the pair, the Tioga pedals are not in the featherweight category. They do look like they’ll still be around after most of the rest of the bike has worn out though. You can get these pedals either in black or white.
The platform is generous at 86x100mm and 24mm deep. It is nicely concave and uses 5mm grippy grub screws for it’s pins. The pedal comes with 10 pins fitted to each side. There are 6 extra holes that you can screw pins into on each side, so you can custom tune your pin placement and the number of pins. Overall this is a very grippy pedal and works well on a hardtail. This is praise indeed as your feet are going to be bouncing and searching for all the grip they can find. However we did find that the way the platform is off set in relation to the axle and the deep cut away ‘leading edge’ of the pedal means that you have to keep the arch of your foot over the middle of the pedal. If you don’t you risk your foot rolling off the back of the pedal. Obviously you can move your feet around on flat pedals and you can have the ball of your foot over the axle for climbs, then shift to having the arch there for descents.
Overall: Grippy, tough and good value but watch where you place your feet.
The Straitline SC pedals have a good amount of heritage, having been designed with input from trials legend Jeff Lenosky. They use an extruded alloy platform, heavily machined and with chamfered edges to reduce mud build up. They use a pretty standard forward leaning design that’s nice and wide, giving an extremely solid and spacious platform for your foot. They aren’t thick but compared to the designs of some of the other pedals on test they aren’t amongst the thinnest any more. This isn’t all a bad thing as the pedal body isn’t a fragile item and houses a decent sized cromo axle, nitrided to reduce wear. That is very difference is the IGUS Iglide bearing system which uses polymer bushes instead of ball bearings. Straitline claim no lubricant is needed and as well as being lighter they also last longer than normal bearings. Either way, this isn’t a problem as you can strip the SC pedals apart quickly using just a screwdriver. Sealing is also good and the system gave us no trouble while on test.
There’s a good range of colours available, including this lovely pink plus green, blue, bronze, grey, red and white. If you’ve got cash to burn you can also get the Jeff Lenosky signature model which has 24 carat gold plated pedal studs.
Talking of studs, the 14 hex sided studs that screw in from the top are extremely grippy and should prove easy to replace when you smash them into things. In fact the only hassle was in fitting, as they seem use an imperial head rather than metric, which led to some skinned knuckles and a bit of blood when the spanner slipped. The horrible noise of alloy on rock isn’t as troubling as it first seems with the Straitlines and we didn’t have to change the pins because these pedals can really suck up the punishment. The body is nicely designed to deflect strikes and the pins seem either avoid or shrug off damage.
Overall: Tough, grippy and rather pretty, they’ll last a lifetime..