First Impressions: MKS US-B Nuevo Pedals

Mikashima Industrial Co, LTD–aka, MKS–is known for their track, quill, and platform pedals. The Japanese company, which has been manufacturing pedals for more than 60 years, now offers clipless models as well. One of their more recent designs, the US-B, gained attention due to the pedals’ ATAC-like design and triple-sealed bearings. MKS will be releasing an updated version–the aptly named US-B Nuevo–later this year, and GRAVELBIKE had the opportunity to test prototypes of the company’s new pedal.

GRAVELBIKE.com gravel grinder MKS clipless pedals NJS US-B Nuevo MTB 29er mountain bike

The white cleat guides will be replaced with black guides on production models.

The Nuevo shares the original US-B’s reinforced composite body, chrome-moly axle, adjustable release tension, and triple-sealed bearings. To make clipping-in easier, the Nuevo features additional cleat guides, which attach to the pedals’ rear retention loops. These guides add approximately 50g, and bump the Nuevo’s weight up to 424g for the pair (with the cleats and mounting hardware adding another 48g). According to MKS, production models will be available in black, blue, or red (all featuring black cleat guides), and retail for less than $100.

For our testing, we paired the MKS pedals with Louis Garneau’s T-Flex MTB shoes. This combination proved to be extremely stable, and didn’t require any modifications or additions to the shoes’ soles. Depending on how you install the Nuevo’s cleats, they can be configured for 12° or 15° release angles. We tested both options, but preferred the 12° configuration. If the MKS cleats look familiar, it’s because they’re compatible with Time’s ATAC clipless pedals. Mechanics will rejoice in the fact that the Nuevos can be installed with a 15mm spanner or 6mm hex key.

Clipping info the US-B pedals was immediately followed with distinct tactile–and audible–feedback. With the MKS pedals, there was no guessing if we were clipped in or not. The pedals’ front retention bars are slightly taller, and that made it easier for the cleats to engage, or catch. Once the front of the cleat was engaged, stepping down was the only action required to fully clip-in. The Nuevo pedals feature adjustable release tension, and even on the lightest setting, we never unclipped unintentionally. Adjusting the tension is easy with the included 10mm spanner (an open-end wrench also works), but we’d like to see MKS add markings to indicate the current tension.

In use, the US-B Nuevo pedals felt much like Time’s ATAC system. This comes as no surprise, however, as the MKS and ATAC cleats are interchangeable. While rotational float was similar, the MKS pedals’ retention had a slightly stiffer feel as you approached the release angle. Mud proved to be no problem for the MKS pedals, even with the cleat guides blocking portions of the retention bars’ openings. We didn’t detect any slop or rocking as the cleats wore, and the pedals were squeak-free during our test period.It’s too early to comment on the bearings’ long-term durability, but the pedals are easily serviced with a 6mm hex key and 9mm socket.

We rode the Nuevo pedals with and without the cleat guides, and found that the guides did make clipping-in easier. After five or six rides, we noticed that clipping-in required slightly more effort. Inspecting the pedals, we discovered that the guides’ mounting bolts had become loose, and the guides had shifted position on the retention bars. A few turns of a 2.5mm hex key later, and the guides were back in place. We did make it a point to periodically check the bolts’ tightness, but we’d like to see MKS add split washers or locking compound to the bolts at the factory.

With their sub-$100 price tag, the MKS US-B Nuevo pedals are an outstanding bargain. Whether you’re an experienced rider, or are looking for your first pair of clipless pedals, these pedals deliver a level of performance that’s well above their price point. Replacement cleats are affordably priced, and we like the fact that you can use ATAC cleats if OEM cleats aren’t available.

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

First Impressions: Panaracer Gravelking 700×32 Tires

When Panaracer introduced their Gravelking tires in spring of 2014, the go-anywhere tires generated lots of excitement and positive reviews. Our review of the 28mm Gravelking tire quickly become one of GRAVELBIKE’s most widely read articles. Some riders, however, wanted a larger tire with more aggressive tread than the original Gravelking. In response to those requests, Panaracer will begin offering the Gravelking in a 700x32mm version ($44.95 MSRP) in late November, 2014.

GRAVELBIKE.com gravel grinder Panaracer Gravelking 700x32 tire

While the 32mm Gravelking sports a completely new tread pattern, it retains the same casing, folding Aramid bead, and ZSG (Zero Slip Grip) natural rubber found on the narrower Gravelking tires. Our sample tires weighed 305g and 310g; under Panaracer’s claimed weight of 320g. At maximum pressure (95 psi), the tires measured 32mm-33mm, depending on the rims’ width.

Installing the Gravelking tires was completely uneventful. The tires mounted true and hop-free, with no need for cajoling or aids such as soap-and water. Unlike the narrower Gravelkings, which have a noticeably round cross-section, the 32mm version has a slightly flatter profile. Fitting the 32mm Gravelkings on wider rims (23-26mm outer dimension) produced a distinctly u-shaped casing. We didn’t test the new tires’ ability to be run without tubes, but the beads seated easily on tubeless-compatible rims using only a Blackburn floor pump.

On paved roads, the 32mm Gravelkings rode smoother, faster, and quieter than anticipated. The tightly spaced tread, combined with Panaracer’s supple 126tpi casing yielded a ride that outperformed many tires with less aggressive tread patterns. During hard cornering, we didn’t notice any loss of traction or slippage when transitioning from center to side knobs. Although Panaracer lists a maximum pressure of 95psi for the new Gravelkings, we never ran them above 80 psi on pavement. It’s too soon to comment on long-term durability, but tread wear has been minimal after several weeks of commuting duty.

When it comes to dirt and gravel, the 32mm Gravelking handles like a much wider tire. While it obviously can’t offer the flotation or rim protection afforded by higher-volume tires, it certainly feels wider. Hardpack dirt, and loose-over-hard, is where the new Panaracer tire really shines. Drop the pressure to 50-60 psi, and you can comfortably–and confidently–cruise dirt roads and non-technical trails. In very deep gravel, or soft, loamy soil, the tire’s performance begins to suffer, though. For those conditions, you’re better off choosing a tire with taller, more widely spaced knobs.

Panaracer’s 32mm Gravelking does a great job bridging the gap between traditional road and ‘cross tires. The increased traction doesn’t come with a substantial speed penalty, and the tire transitions easily–and predictably–between paved and unpaved terrain.

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

First Impressions: Blackburn Design Central 100 & 20 Lights

Now that daylight saving time has come to an end for the year, many of us will either start or end our rides in the dark (at least for the next few months). Whether you’re rolling at dawn or dusk, Blackburn Design’s Central 100 and 20 rechargeable LED lights are designed to keep you visible from all directions.

Constructed to ANSI FL-1 standards, the Blackburn Central lights feature extruded alloy shells, micro-USB charging ports, silicone mounting straps, and lens-mounted integrated power switches. Central lights are available individually ($34.99 MSRP), or as a front/rear set ($64.99 MSRP).

GRAVELBIKE.com gravel grinder Blackburn Design Central 100 20 LED blinky blinkie lights

One of the first things we noticed about the Central lights was their compact size. Measuring approximately 75mm x 35mm–and less than 25mm thick (not including the silicone mount)–the lights could easily be stowed in seat packs or slipped into pockets. Don’t let the small format fool you, though, as both models put out an impressive amount of light–100 lumens up front, and 20 lumens in back.

The Central lights fall into Blackburn’s safety light category, but they’re a definite step above typical be-seen lights. Unlike some competitors’ models, which attempt to double as see-by lights, the Central lights throw a bright, consistent wash of light that offers excellent coverage and off-axis visibility (thanks in part to the translucent bezels found on both models). This extended visibility is a real plus, as the silicone mounting strap offers little in the way of angular adjustment.

During our testing, we confirmed the accuracy of Blackburn’s quoted run and recharge times (although we didn’t verify run times past 24 hours). Recharging was simple with the included USB cable; which, by the way, was long enough that it didn’t require any Jenga-like gymnastics. Note that the 100/20 combo includes only one charging cable, so you’ll need an additional cable if you want to charge both lights at the same time. Because these lights don’t rely traditional AA or AAA batteries (which can be swapped out), the built-in fuel gauge provides handy visual feedback on when it’s time for a recharge.

Blackburn’s Central lights are a good choice for riders seeking versatile, well-built, rechargeable be-seen lights. The silicone mounting straps and wire attachment clips offer a variety of secure mounting options, and the lights’ sturdy alloy shells have survived being dropped and stepped on. Most importantly, though, Central lights do a damn good job of keeping you visible–whether it’s from the front, rear, or side.

Central 100 Central 20
Lumens 100 20
Weight 60g 60g
Modes High, low, strobe High, steady flash, strobe
Run Times 3.2 hours (high), 7 hours (low), 21 hours (strobe) 25 hours (high), 42 hours (flash), 76 hours (strobe)
Recharge Time 4 hours 4 hours

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