I have been an on/off user of flat pedals for almost as long as I can remember – right after I first got into mountain biking, and the novelty of clips and straps had swiftly been replaced by the hell (and pain) of grazes and other minor wounds caused by my feet being firmly clipped and strapped to the pedals.
These were mostly caused by not being able to remove myself from the bike after a stair-jump gone wrong. Or a wheelie-drop gone wrong. Or many, many other things gone wrong, if I’m perfectly honest. It took lots of pain and a depressingly long time to learn that if I simply got rid of the toeclips, my life (and in particular the bit of it that involved crashing) would be a lot easier.
So it was that I entered the world of the flatty. Various Shimano DX clones followed, as well as the things themselves. I was a zealous convert, happily laying waste to countless pairs of cheap Vans until my hesitant dabbling with SPDs resulted in much higher bunnyhops and easier disengagement.
And just like that, flatties were second best. Only wheeled out when I didn’t have the clipless shoes with me, or I needed a pub ride. They became a compromise pedal, neither one thing nor the other.
Recently, though, I’ve thought I need to invest a little more time into flatties again. I’ve been riding with people who swear by them, and who wouldn’t touch clipless with a bargepole. I wanted to find out what I’ve been missing, not just on gentle trundles, or pub rides, or trail centres, but on proper tricky singletrack, on steep drops, and (whisper it) jumps.
I like clipless pedals for techy riding. I like the knowledge that I can bring my feet up to my knees and my bike will follow. I like knowing that I can raise my back wheel and scurf it round corners at speed with the flick of an ankle. Having to clip out seemed a small price to pay for so much control. And my old DX pedals used to roll forward dramatically if I didn’t plant my feet just so. It got quite unnerving.
So over the past year or two I’ve been tentatively trying a few more modern flat pedals. And I’ve been enjoying what I’ve found. The Boomslang from Specialized is a thoroughly up-to-date pedal, originally developed in conjunction with downhiller Sam Hill. It’s very low-profile – a scant 10mm thick at the centre, widening to 15mm or so at the edges – which has been achieved by inserting needle bearings at the side of the pedal axle, rather than at the tip, which is what normally happens.
The bearing ‘door’ is therefore on the pedal platform; it’s accessible with a recessed hex bolt for servicing. There is a conventional bearing (albeit a narrow one) at the crank end of the pedal with a resultant bulge – but it’s narrow enough to be pretty unnoticeable when riding.
The pins (there are 11 of them per side) are undercut into an hourglass shape. They are extremely grippy. There are also four more as spares built into the pedal body. I was a little concerned that their shape would mean they would break easily; but no chance. They’ve actually held up better than pins on other pedals I’ve tried, and of course they’re replaceable from the bottom – on a pedal at this price I wouldn’t think to buy grubscrew types. I’ve spent too much of my life trying to remove those from other pedals with the aid of pliers and swearing.
The pedal platform occupies a pretty substantial amount of shoe real-estate, at 108 x 110mm. It feels very stable to ride, and there is an enormous amont of grip available, especially when paired with my Five Tens. The fact that the body is so slender minimised the amount of pedal-strike I experienced, although their substantial area meant that I did bang the pedals occasionally on very hard corners or particularly rocky sections. The slenderness is obviously an advantage in many ways, but I was concerned that the bearings wouldn’t last. Here, too, my fears have been unfounded. I’ve ridden them for months, they’ve never needed servicing and they’re still as solid-feeling as they were out of the box. And they’re reasonably light, too – 440g per pair, including mud.
They’re so slim I was a little concerned there would be a tradeoff in longevity for comfort when I first rode the Boomslangs, but my fears so far have been unfounded. I’m struggling to find anything bad to say about them if I’m honest. They’re not cheap, but they’re in the ballpark for a high quality pedal. Thin, wide, good looking, comfortable, long lasting, grippy, and clever. What’s not to like?
|From:||Specialized - http://www.specialized.com/gb/gb/home|
|Tested:||by Barney for three months|