Pedals, The Forgotten Touch Point

Pedals are underrated as contact points. We reckon they’re at least as import as handlebars, grips or tape, and the saddle. Most new bikes nowadays don’t even come with pedals, because so many people are ‘clipping in’, and when new bikes do come with pedals, they’re corny plastic showroom pedals. There’s a subtle but refreshing trend toward folks have rediscovering that riding with platform pedals is way more pleasurable than clipping in, at least in our little slice of the industry. Here’s the rub: there’s a ton of platform pedals out there. How to choose the best pair?

Bigger is better.   Not all platform pedals have huge platforms. But a huge platform is exactly what you want. The bigger the platform is, the more comfortable the pedal is. It’s really simple. Let’s break it down: I (James) have small-for-a-dude feet. Size 40 aka 8 in US sizing. The width of my foot is 100mm across the widest part of my foot. My foot is way longer than 100mm. The sole of my shoe is 110mm across. If I wanted to support my foot on a pedal, would I be better off getting a pedal that was 80mm wide, or 100mm wide? How about 50mm long, or 100mm long? Which one would support my foot better? There is currently no such thing as a pedal that’s too big, for any foot, except maybe a kid’s foot. Doesn’t exist.

Eliminate hot spots and sleepy feet.   More surface area means pressure points are more like pressure areas. Pressure gets spread out, and is less likely to cause hot spots or numb toes. Ride in comfortable shoes. I like Birkenstocks, Tevas and Chacos, in that order for summer riding. If it’s cold out, I ride in insulated winter boots. They all work great. Running shoes work ok. Flat soled shoes that are semi roomy are best. Wear wool socks or no socks, just don’t wear synthetic socks unless you are into foot funk.  

I have smallish feet. Kat has size 38 aka ladies 7 feet. We both ride 100mm square pedals. If someone made good 110mm square pedals, we’d ride those instead. There is no disadvantage to big pedals unless you are a Crit racer who corners while pedaling hard at high speed. I’ve ridden fixed on big pedals. On paved roads, off road, commuting: bigger is always better.

Traction:   Lots of platform pedals are not grippy. That’s never ok. Not even for cruising around town. It’s most ok then, but still not ok. Grippy pedals mean your feet won’t slip if you hit a bump, or it starts to rain. They stay where they should. You can bunny hop much more easily with grippy pedals. We like replaceable traction spikes. Will they gouge your leg? Sure, just like a chainring will, if you are not careful. Remember they are there, and you will be fine.

Rebuildability and durability. Big platform pedals cost a lot. If they don’t last, or aren’t serviceable, they are a waste of money. Traction pins should be replaceable. Bearings and bushings should last a long time, but when they wear out, they should be easily replaced, without special tools.

Looks. Lots of ugly pedals out there are slathered in graphics. We like fun looking pedals, but huge logos are for NASCAR, not for pedals on good lookin’ bikes. If you can read the logo from 6 feet away, it’s too big.

We have a only a few pedals we fully endorse. There are others out there that we have dismissed for one reason or another, even from the same manufacturer.

We’re currently riding Spank Oozy pedals, Deity Deity's Black Kat and Deftrap Pedals and Wolf Tooth Waveform pedals. They feel different, but each feel good. They’re all around 100mm square, low stack height, easy to service. They can take hard rock hits. They look nice. The Wolf Tooth pedals are a bit more glam than the Deity pedals, and they're the only US made pedals on the list. They all feel good with soft shoes or hiking boots. All are customizable in terms of traction. No clear winner. Get the pair that looks like it will fit your program best.

Here’s a quick list of pedals we have tried, moved on from, and why:

VP Gripsters and VP 001’s (too small, tiny bearings)

Xpedo SRPY (too small, not grippy enough, tiny bearings)

MKS Grip King, with and without traction pins added (no traction, not wide enough, not sealed)

MKS Allways (best of the MKS line, but not big enough, and not enough traction)

MKS Touring Lite (no traction, not sealed, really small)

MKS Touring (see above)

Eclat Surge (lots of traction, but use a huge wrench to install, and not as big as they could be)

Raceface Chester (not durable, too small)

Stolen Throttle (not durable, look cheap, crappy bearings, no traction)

Blackops Torqlite (horrible expensive bearings, good size and traction though)

Bassett BMX pedals (good, but huge stack height, expensive)

Deity TMAC (not as durable as the Black Kats, otherwise good

Deity Blade Runner (good name, too small, not enough bearings) 

Sun ringle Platforms (Heavy, not as big as they could be)

Odyssey Bear Trap (Cheap bearings, really sharp, don’t hold up on rocks, too short front to back)

These pedals certainly do have application for some riders, but we’ve found that’s typically the exception.