2018 Flat Pedal Roundup (Part-II)

In Part-I of GRAVELBIKE’s flat pedal round-up, we covered the basics of platform design and profile, materials and bearings, pin types, and installation. Now, in Part-II, we dive into the nitty gritty details of the nine pedals I’ve been testing for the past six months. My seat-of-the-pants test methodology was pretty straightforward: ride each pedal on a variety of terrain including pavement, gravel, and technical off-road trails. The test rigs included several different drop-bar gravel/adventure bikes, as well as my Jeff Jones rigid MTB. When it came to footwear, I relied on Five Ten’s Freerider Pro shoes for the majority of my testing. Weather conditions during the six-month test period included rain, snow, and countless miles of dry, dusty roads and trails.

Different manufacturers often measure pedals in their own unique ways. For consistency, I measured each pedal as illustrated below. The pin-to-pin measurements were taken center-to-center from the farthest points (either side/side or front/back). Height was measured at the front and rear of the platform, which, in my experience, is where the majority of pedal strikes occur. All weights were verified using the stock pin configurations.

Model Weight (pair, grams) Number of Pins (per-side) MSRP (USD)
Crankbrothers Stamp 7 (large) 374 10 $150.00
Fyxation Mesa MP 370 8 $59.95 (Desert) / $69.95 (Subzero)
iSSi Stomp 468 11 $115.00
Pedaling Innovations Catalyst (v3) 520 14 $99.00
RaceFace Chester 360 8 $49.99
Shimano PD-GR500 526 9 $79.99
Spank Oozy Trail 368 9 $129.99
Specialized Boomslang 440 11 $180.00
Velo-Orange Sabot 412 12 $90.00

 

Crankbrothers Stamp 7 (large)

Building a name for themselves with their extensive line of clipless pedals, Crankbrothers rolled out the Stamp platform model in 2016. In addition to the Stamp 7 ($150 MSRP) that I tested, Crankbrothers offers the budget-friendly Stamp 2 ($79.99 MSRP) and Stamp 3 ($99.99 MSRP) models. For maximum weight savings, the Stamp 11 ($300 MSRP)  features a titanium spindle. All Stamp pedals are available in two platform sizes: small for US shoe sizes 5-10 (37-43 EU), and large for US sizes 10-15 (43-49 EU). Since I wear a size 11 (45) shoe, I opted for the Stamp’s larger platform.

In use, the large Stamp felt extremely stable, offering excellent support even with the softest-soled shoes. The pedals’ mild concave and expansive platform worked well for a variety of pedaling styles and shoe profiles. While the Stamp lacks the locked-in feeling found on pedals with deeper concave, repositioning your feet is easier on the Crankbrothers pedal. Additionally, the thinner platform produced fewer rock strikes in technical off-road terrain. Dialing in the pedals’ grip via traction pin height was easy via a 2 mm hex key.

While the other pedals in this test all roll on some form of ball or roller bearings, the Stamp 7 is unique in that it utilizes twin Igus LL-glide bushings (which are technically bearings). By spec’ing glide bushings instead of traditional cartridge bearings, Crankbrothers is able to reduce the Stamp’s platform height, which translates into better ground clearance. Internal and external seals help keep out dirt and water, and the pedals’ lube can be quickly and easily refreshed via the convenient Phillips head grease ports.

Platform size (L x W) 114 mm x 112 mm
Pin-to-Pin (L x W) 95 mm x 81 mm
Platform height 13 mm
Body material Aluminum alloy
Spindle material Chrome-moly steel
Bearings Igus LL-glide bearing
Pin type top mount
Install 8 mm hex

 

Fyxation Mesa MP

They go by various names: composite, nylon, and even plastic. But whatever you call them, these non-metallic pedals have historically been considered inferior. That’s all changed, however, as modern composite pedals deliver performance that’s equal to their metallic counterparts. Originally designed for urban commuters, Fyxation’s Mesa MP lineup has grown to three models: the original MP ($59.95 MSRP), the MP Desert series ($59.95 MSRP), and the MP Subzero ($69.95 MSRP) model. All three pedals feature impact-grade nylon bodies, replaceable metal pins, and chrome-moly spindles that roll on a combination of sealed cartridge bearings and bushings.

Designed for winter use, the nylon-bodied Subzero model features electroplated spindles and traction pins. I couldn’t detect any improvement in warmth compared to metal pedals, but the plated pins and spindles didn’t show any corrosion after several weeks’ riding in wet–and occasionally, snowy–weather. Support and traction was identical between the Desert and Subzero models, with the majority of the grip coming from the virtual concave created by pedals’ eight metal pins (per-side). Due to the minimal nature of the platform’s actual concave, shoes with deep siping or tread elements work best with the Fyxation pedals.

One of my four sample pedals arrived with less grease than the others, but servicing the pedal took less than ten minutes. Once topped off, the Fyxation pedals remained trouble-free throughout the test period. Shuttling pedals between the various test bikes really made me appreciate the ability to install Fyxation’s pedals with a conventional 15 mm spanner or 8 mm Allen key (which is something I wish all manufacturers would adopt). As with any pedal that uses nuts to retain the traction pins, it’s a good idea to check the pins’ tightness during the break-in period (although I never experienced any pin loss with either pair of pedals).

Platform size (L x W) 106 mm x 100 mm
Pin-to-Pin (L x W) 83 mm x 78 mm
Platform height 14 mm
Body material Nylon
Spindle material Chrome-moly steel (electroplated on Subzero)
Bearings Sealed cartridge bearings and DU bushings
Pin type Bottom mount (electroplated stainless steel on Subzero)
Install 8 mm hex, 15 mm spanner

 

iSSi Stomp XL

When I reviewed iSSi’s clipless pedals back in 2015, I asked if they had plans to offer a flat, trail-style pedal. While their, “it wouldn’t be out of the question,” reply was somewhat non-committal, I kept my fingers crossed in hopes that the Minnesota-based company would venture into the platform pedal market. Good things must come to those who wait, because earlier this year, iSSi (pronounced E.C.) announced their Stomp XL flat pedal. And like the company’s clipless models, the Stomp ($115 MSRP) comes in a variety of colors, including four limited-edition polished colorways.

Measuring a whopping 120 mm x 109 mm, the Stomp XL’s platform definitely puts the X in XL. The combination of the platforms’ pronounced concave and the pedals’ multi-length pins deliver unparalleled security and support. I found that it took slightly more effort to find the Stomp’s sweet spot when remounting the bike, but once I did, I was rewarded with near-clipless security. The platforms’ added thickness at the edges does, however, make the Stomps slightly more prone to pedal strikes on large rocks or roots. To be fair, though, my trail bike has a lower-than-average bottom bracket, making pedal strike a common occurrence with all but the thinnest pedals.

Inside each Stomp pedal you’ll find two sealed cartridge bearings and one bushing. The pedals’ bearings are positioned on the outer end of the chrome-moly spindles, and the bushing sits inboard. Despite receiving their fair share of abuse, the Stomps’ spindles have remained straight, and the bearings still roll smoothly and without noticeable play after several months’ use. The pedals’ internals can be serviced with a 6 mm Allen key and 8 mm socket, while a 2 mm Allen (included) is required for replacing the iSSi’s traction pins (the pedals come with two spare pins).

Platform size(L x W) 120 mm x 109 mm
Pin-to-Pin(L x W) 100 mm x 95 mm
Platform height 18 mm
Body material Aluminum alloy
Spindle material Chrome-moly steel
Bearings Sealed cartridge bearings and bushings
Pin type Bottom mount (7) & top mount (4)
Install 6 mm hex

 

Pedaling Innovations Catalyst (v3)

In the fourteen months since I first reviewed Pedaling Innovations’ Catalyst pedals, not much about their design has changed. Two more traction pins were added to the middle of the platform, but the overall design remains unchanged. At 143 mm in length, the Catalysts ($99 MSRP) are downright massive. The extra length isn’t just for fashion, though. According to company founder James Wilson, positioning the rider’s arch over the center of the pedal moves stress away from the rider’s calf muscles and Achilles tendons to the rider’s hips. Research has shown that there is virtually no difference in economy of efficiency between the two pedaling styles (ball vs arch), and that the rider’s hips—not quads–are the major drivers of the pedal stroke.

If you think that pedaling with your arch centered over the pedal sounds a little weird, you’re not alone. It took me a while to wrap my head around the idea, and even longer to unlearn my normal pedaling style (ball-of-foot centered over the pedal spindle). Not having access to a power meter, I can’t say whether the Catalyst pedals actually improved my power output. I can, however, tell you that I felt far more stable on the larger pedals. I also found myself pushing slightly higher gears with the Catalyst pedals, and standing more often on long climbs. Despite the pedals’ longer platforms, I found that traction was greatly improved by swapping out the stock traction pins with the included longer pins.

Whether you use Pedaling Innovations’ Catalysts for road, gravel, or mountain biking, be prepared for some unexpected pedal strikes until you get used to the larger platforms. After several months’ testing, my review samples show their share of battle scars. The marks are strictly cosmetic, however, as the spindles remain true, and I haven’t experienced any lost traction pins. After one particularly wet 12-mile commute (complete with flash flood warnings), I did find it necessary to refresh one pedal’s grease. Aside from that one incident, the pedals haven’t required any servicing.

Platform size (L x W) 143 mm x 95 mm
Pin-to-Pin(L x W) 118 mm x 80 mm
Platform height 16 mm
Body material Aluminum alloy
Spindle material Chrome-moly steel
Bearings Sealed cartridge bearings and bushings
Pin type Top mount
Install 6 mm hex, 15 mm spanner

 

Race Face Chester

At first glance, you might be tempted to dismiss Race Face’s Chester ($49.99 MSRP) as just another price-point contender in the flat pedal market. While many riders are drawn to the Chester by its low price and extensive color selection, Race Face’s nylon-bodied pedal shares many features with the company’s pricier, aluminum siblings. From its bottom-loading pins, fully sealed and serviceable bearings, and lightweight composite body, the Chester packs plenty of performance into an affordable package.

Unlike symmetrical platform pedals, the Chester’s nylon body is wider in front. This helps maximize contact where the shoe is widest, and combined with the platform’s concave, produces a cradle-like sweet spot that’s easy to locate. Race Face’s concave is deep enough to help keep the foot centered when pedaling, but not so deep that you can’t switch to an arch-over-spindle position when descending rough terrain. My only complaint–and it’s not specific to the Chester–is that platform’s 100 mm width felt somewhat narrow for my size-11 shoes (a comment I’ve heard from other riders with similarly sized feet).

Between commuting and trail bike duty, my Chesters have seen more than their share of abuse. The nylon bodies, however, look about the same as when I started testing them. The pins have all remained intact, and the bearings don’t feel gritty or rough (despite a maintenance program consisting largely of neglect). At less than fifty bucks, the Chester is an absolute bargain. It’s lighter than many pedals that cost 2-3 times as much, and offers performance that belies its journeyman price.

Platform size (L x W) 110 mm x 100 mm
Pin-to-Pin (L x W) 79 mm x 88 mm
Platform thickness 14 mm
Body material Nylon
Spindle material Chrome-moly steel
Bearings Sealed cartridge bearings and bushings
Pin type Bottom mount
Install 6 mm hex, 15 mm spanner

 

Shimano PD-GR500

Shimano’s PD-GR500 pedal ($79.99 MSRP) is what the company refers to as a non-series component. In a nutshell, non-series items are those components that, while not officially of a particular product line (such as Deore XT or Saint), are compatible across multiple groups. In the case of the PD-GR500, the pedal is intended for casual mountain biking, trail, and all-mountain riding. Despite the pedals’ mountain designation, they’re equally suited to gravel and urban riding.

At 19 mm, the GR500’s platform is the thickest pedal in this test. Despite the pedal’s tall profile, the body’s rocker-esque profile helps reduce pedal strike. To keep your feet in place, the Shimano pedals feature a unique concave that’s deepest at the pedals’ outer edges. The GR500’s traction pins’ height can be adjusted via a series of washers and spacers. I found the pedals’ stock pin configuration to be on the short side, and ran the pins without spacers or washers for maximum traction. Despite a platform width of 107 mm, the GR500s felt much narrower in use. Over the course of a ride, I noticed that my feet would gravitate away from center of the pedals, reducing both comfort and grip

Like Shimano’s XT and Saint flat pedals, the GR500s utilizes loose ball bearings instead of the more common cartridge bearings found on competitors’ pedals. While the pedals’ loose ball bearings can be replaced if necessary, special tools are required for adjusting the cones. Thankfully, the GR500s’ seals were extremely effective at keeping dirt and moisture out of the pedals’ bearings.

Platform size (L x W) 103 mm x 107 mm
Pin-to-Pin (L x W) 80 mm x 68 mm
Platform height 19mm
Body material Aluminum alloy
Spindle material Chrome-moly steel
Bearings Loose ball,cup and cone
Pin type Bottom mount
Install 6 mm hex, 15 mm spanner

 

Spank Oozy Trail

When I first considered switching from clipless to platform pedals, Spank’s Oozy Trail ($129 MSRP) was at the top of my list. The pedals’ svelte forged and CNC-machined bodies offer improved ground clearance, while the eighteen steel traction pins (per-pedal) form a virtual concave, delivering added grip and stability. For more than a year, I rode the Oozys almost exclusively, whether it was on pavement, gravel, and dirt. And while I didn’t know it at the time, these would eventually become my baseline for evaluating other flat pedals.

I have to admit that transitioning to flats after nearly 30 years of riding clipless pedals made me more than a little nervous. While I liked the idea of not being mechanically tethered to my bikes’ pedals, I was concerned that I might slip a pedal at the worst possible moment. Thankfully, the Oozys’ tenacious grip erased any doubts that I may have had. In two seasons, I’ve never slipped or rolled the Spank pedals (and it hasn’t been for lack of trying, either). It’s not just me, either, everyone who’s ridden my Oozy-equipped bikes has commented on the pedals’ grip and support.

Despite Spank’s extensive machining of the Oozys’ platforms, the pedals have proven to be extremely durable. I’ve experienced pedal strikes hard enough to stop me dead in my tracks, but any resulting damage has been purely cosmetic. The pedals’ inboard cartridge bearings have never needed servicing, and the outer Igus bushings are still free of any noticeable play.

Platform size (L x W) 110 mm x 112 mm
Pin-to-Pin (L x W) 95 mm x 80 mm
Platform height 12 mm
Body material Forged aluminum alloy
Spindle material Chrome-moly steel
Bearings Sealed cartridge bearings and Igus bushings
Pin type Bottom mount (6) & top mount (3)
Install 8 mm hex

 

Specialized Boomslang

When I first read about Specialized’s Boomslang pedal ($180 MSRP), I thought the funny-sounding name was a typo, and that it was really called the Boomerang. It turns out that I was mistaken; the California-based company named their top-tier flat pedal after a particularly nasty species of snake. Representing several years of research and prototyping, Specialized’s Boomslang pedals were designed to provide downhill mountain bikers with clipless-like grip while maintaining a low profile for maximum ground clearance.

Measuring just 10 mm thick at the center (13 mm at the perimeter), the Boomslang’s platform is one of the thinnest around. Each pedal boasts 22 custom traction pins with a unique undercut profile designed to offer maximum grip. When paired with sticky-soled shoes, the combination feels about as close as you can get to clipless. Plant your foot on the Boomslang pedal and it sticks. Sliding your foot to adjust the position isn’t an option; you have to actually lift your shoe off the pedal to make adjustments. Traction was so good with the Boomslangs that I routinely rode in older shoes with worn soles so that I could more easily move my feet around on longer rides.

As pedals become thinner, there’s less room for full-sized bearings. Most low-prodile pedals utilize bushings or tiny cartridge bearings, but the Boomslang features a patent-pending, unthreaded spindle that enables the use of outboard needle bearings. The needle bearings are accessed via a hatch in the platform, which is secured via two of the pedal’s traction pins. Servicing the main (inner) bearing, however, requires a special tool to unthread the axle assembly from the pedal body.

Platform size (L x W) 109 mm x 111 mm
Pin-to-Pin (L x W) 88 mm x 83 mm
Platform height 13 mm
Body material Aluminum alloy
Spindle material Chrome-moly steel
Bearings Sealed cartridge and needle bearings
Pin type Bottom mount
Install 8 mm hex

 

Velo-Orange Sabot

What’s a sabot? Well, according to google it’s a, “simple shoe, shaped and hollowed out from a single block of wood.” But if you ask the folks at Velo Orange, the Sabot ($90 MSRP) is a platform pedal that’s designed to be comfortable when riding in thin-soled shoes. Like many of Velo Orange’s products, the Sabot features a heavily polished silver finish. Inside the extruded and CNC-machined platforms you’ll find chrome-moly spindles that roll on replaceable sealed cartridge bearings. Finishing off the design are 24 traction pins (per-pedal) whose unique profile is designed to offer wet-weather grip while not damaging the soles of dress shoes.

It’s hard to beat the Sabot when it comes to aesthetics. The pedals’ silver finish is flawless, and the etched Velo Orange logo is classy and understated. OK, they’re pretty, but how do the Sabots perform? Quite well, actually. Velo Orange’s pedal doesn’t offer the support or traction found on larger, more aggressive competitors, but that’s not how it was designed. For urban use, commuting, touring, and light off-roading, the Sabot definitely delivers the goods. The Sabot’s pins may lack the bite of their pointier counterparts, but they’re positioned such that they offer more than enough grip for the aforementioned use cases. While I generally preferred stiffer-soled shoes, switching from Five Ten Freerider Pros to waffle-sole Vans made a noticeable improvement in the Sabots’ grip.

Nearly every pedal at the sub-$100 price point relies on a combination of bearings and bushings. Not so with this one. Inside the Sabot you’ll find no less than three sealed cartridge bearings. Give the pedal a spin and you can feel the bearings’ smoothness. I couldn’t detect any actual difference in performance while riding, but the bearings did make it easier to flip the pedal over when fitted with toe clips or straps (a feature that is unique to the Sabot). And if those bearings happen to wear out, you can purchase a full rebuild kit from Velo Orange for less than twenty bucks.

Platform size (L x W) 100 mm x 100 mm
Pin-to-Pin (L x W) 84 mm x 57 mm
Platform thickness 18 mm
Body material Aluminum alloy
Spindle material Chrome-moly steel
Bearings Sealed cartridge bearings
Pin type Top mount
Install 6 mm hex, 15 mm spanner

 


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

2 thoughts on “2018 Flat Pedal Roundup (Part-II)

  1. Hi,

    Good job and well-detailed reviews.

    I have some doubts about the pedals for a gravel bike.

    I want something using cleats because I am thinking to ride long distances, but also, I will be riding short distances for which I will not need a bike shoe.

    How do you see options like the look X-track enrage or similars?

    1. I’m currently testing LOOK’S X-Track En-Rage pedals, and really like them for use with clipless shoes. I tried them briefly with regular shoes (i.e. flat-pedal MTB shoes), and did’t care for that combination.

      Modern flat pedals and shoes work really well for long distance riding. The may not be able to match clipless 100% for power output, etc, but the comfort and convenience factors outweigh any perceived loss of efficiency.

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