First Impressions: iSSi Clipless Pedals

How does a new company stand out in the sea of off-road clipless pedals? Well, if you’re iSSi, you do it by offering SPD-compatible pedals in a variety of sizes and colors. In addition to their original XC-style pedal, the Minneapolis-based company now offers a mid-sized Trail model. iSSi pedals are available with your choice of sealed bearings and bushings or with three sealed bearings. For maximum pedaling efficiency and comfort, spindles come in standard (52.5 mm), +6, or +12 widths. And for those fashion-conscious riders, iSSi pedals are available in eight colors.

I tested the minimalist iSSi II pedal ($75.00 MAP) in the bright silver colorway. With so many colors available, you’re probably wondering why I chose the plain silver finish. To be honest, I originally requested some of iSSi’s other colors, but due to their popularity, they happened to be sold out. So whoever said that cyclists don’t care about their bikes’ looks was either wrong or lying. At 308 grams for the pair, our sample pedals with 52.5 mm spindles came in under the advertised 312 gram weight. The Shimano SPD-compatible cleats weighed in at 52 grams including mounting hardware.

Right out of the box, clipping into the iSSi pedals proved easy and intuitive. As the cleats and retention claws broke in, entry became smoother and required less effort. Even with the pedals’ adjustable tension set to their easiest, audible and tactile feedback left no doubt that the cleats had engaged properly. Testing the iSSi pedals with mountain bike shoes from Five Ten, Louis Garneau, and Pearl Izumi didn’t reveal any difficulties clipping in or out. Despite running the release tension at the stock (i.e. lightest) setting, I never experienced any unwanted or unplanned exits. Unlike some pedals, the iSSi pedals’ tension builds up gradually as you approach the release angle (which is very easy to detect). This allows for plenty of body English in technical terrain, but doesn’t require that you crank down the tension to keep your feet securely planted (which can make entry more difficult).

With the majority of my testing taking place during late summer and early fall, dry trails were the norm. What little mud I did encounter didn’t affect entry or exit, but look for a follow-up review after the iSSi pedals have been through a typical Colorado winter. Despite a lack of wet weather testing, the pedals’ seals and bearings did survive multiple bouts with my gas-powered pressure washer. Should you need to service your pedals, only a 6 mm hex key and 9 mm socket are required. Like many clipless pedals on the market, the iSSi’s pedals are installed or removed with an 8 mm kex key. While I definitely prefer traditional wrench flats, swapping the pedals between multiple bikes was easy with the aid of a shop-length Allen wrench.

If you find traditional clipless pedals (or cranks, for that matter) to be too narrow, iSSi offers both models with +6 and +12 spindles. These add an extra 6 mm or 12 mm per-side, which can be particularly useful on fat bikes or for riders who have large feet or unique biomechanical requirements.  Best of all, the wider versions cost significantly less than similar pedals from competitors. I tested the stock 52.5 mm spindles with the aforementioned shoes, and found the clearance to be adequate on road, gravel, and mountain bikes (despite my heels-in pedal stroke).

Whether you’re looking for a wider stance or just want to add some color to your bike, iSSi’s line of pedals has a lot to offer. Stay tuned for a follow-up review after I’ve been able to log some winter miles on the iSSi pedals.

Disclosure: iSSi provided review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation in exchange for editorial coverage.

Under Test: GT Grade Bicycle

GT triple triangle GT head tube

GT Bicycles may be synonymous with mountain bikes and BMX, but the company is looking to make a name for themselves in the growing all-road market. Dubbed Enduroad, all seven models feature the brand’s iconic triple triangle frame design. Prices range from $880 for the Shimano Claris-equipped model to $3,800 for their carbon-framed Ultegra model. Pictured above is the $990 Grade Alloy Sora, which features a Shimano/FSA drivetrain, Tektro disc brakes, and a carbon fork.

Stay tuned…

Interbike 2015: A Mixed Bag gravel grinder Interbike 2015

Tools of the trade.

Last week I attended the annual Interbike trade show in Las Vegas. Even though this was definitely not my first rodeo, I was a bit overwhelmed by the sheer volume of products on display. As such, it’s taken a little longer than usual to compose my thoughts on all the new bikes and gear, as well as the show itself. So in no particular order, here are the highlights–and lowlights–of this year’s Interbike show.

I spoke to a lot of people about this, and I’ve read what others have written about the subject. As a 50-something male, however, anything I write would be meaningless compared to this article by Surly’s Christina Julian. Let’s hope that the 2016 show is free of controversy, and instead, celebrates the freedom that bicycles bring to everyone.

Tires: fat, tubeless, light–pick two
The good news here is that more and more companies are offering gravel-friendly tires. The not-so-good news is that some of those tires are simply bigger versions of their existing ‘cross tires, or scaled-down versions of their mtb models. Manufacturers seem reluctant to offer supple, high-volume tires with traditional road tread patterns. That said, I did see some very interesting tires from Clement, Maxxis, and Schwalbe, and hope to review them when samples become available. Tubeless options are becoming a bit less scarce, but they tend to be the exception rather than the rule.

Price-Conscious Completes
High-spec bikes (and their correspondingly high prices) usually get all the attention, but I saw several companies–including ChargeGT, and Jamis–showing well-equipped bikes retailing for under $1000. Yes, a grand is a lot of money, but bikes touting aluminum frames, carbon forks, and disc brakes would have retailed for hundreds more only a year or two ago. Look for GRAVELBIKE’s review of the $990 GT Grade Alloy Sora and $1209 Marin Gestalt 2 bikes in the coming months. gravel grinder Charge Plug Interbike 2015

The nicely appointed Charge Plug 2 retails for $999.99.

SRAM may have announced their wireless RED eTap components two weeks prior, but that didn’t stop the electronic group from earning Interbike’s best-in-show honors in the road category. In a move that surprised many (including yours truly), eTap forgoes the company’s popular DoubleTap paradigm in favor of a new, advanced shifting logic. Inspired by race car paddle shifters, tapping the right lever moves the chain to a harder gear, and tapping the left lever shifts to an easier gear. To shift the front derailleur, the rider taps both levers at the same time. While it may sound confusing at first, it’s actually quite intuitive once you start using the system. There’s currently no WiFLi option available, but I wouldn’t be surprised if SRAM already has a version under test that’s compatible with wide-range cassettes.

SRAM eTap and Nemo

SRAM displayed a RED eTap derailleur in a fish tank to illustrate how the unit was unaffected by water. The derailleur functioned just fine, and the fish seemed unfazed by the proceedings.

The Return of Hi-Viz
Now, some will say that it never left, but hi-viz clothing and accessories are back and bigger than ever. Pearl Izumi may have introduced their screaming-yellow jacket 25 years ago, but their new BioViz™ garments raise the bar for visibility. BioViz utilizes a combination of true fluorescent colors for daytime visibility and strategically placed reflective markers for optimal nighttime performance. Louis Garneau took a slightly different approach with their RTR (Reclaim The Road) line. The company’s new Blink RTR jacket combines hi-viz colors, reflective-printed inserts, and glow-in-the-dark elements for even more visibility. The hi-viz trend doesn’t stop at your feet, either. Nearly every shoe manufacturer now offers road and MTB models in hi-viz colorways, with Giro taking it one step further (bad pun intended) by offering two shoes with fully reflective uppers.

Everybody’s Got Baggage
Like many products in the bicycle industry, bikepacking bags came about because someone wanted a better mousetrap, or in this case, a better bike bag. Now, nearly every bag manufactuer (big or small) has jumped on the bikepack bag bandwagon (say that three times fast). That hasn’t stopped OGs like Revelate Designs from dropping new, revolutionary products such as the Wampak hydration pack or adding air purge valves to their seat packs. Bikepacking-style bags may be all the rage, but the traditional rack-and-pannier combo is anything but dead. Arkel, Blackburn, Lone PeakOrtlieb, Thule, and Vaude all had a wide range of panniers on display.

Thanks to everyone who took the time to answer my endless questions, talk shop, and commiserate about the high cost of convention center food. See you all next year!