Thanks to their adoption by mountain bikers, BMXers, and urban riders, flat pedals have enjoyed a major resurgence in popularity. Unlike those oldschool platform pedals, modern flats deliver vastly improved grip and performance that often rivals their clipless counterparts. One key contributor to flat pedals’ performance is size. Bigger platforms offer additional support, which translates into better grip and more comfort. Unfortunately, bigger almost always means heavier. It’s not uncommon for a pair of MTB-style pedals to weigh 400 grams or more. To reduce the weight, manufacturers often scale down the platform size (reducing traction) or utilize exotic materials (increasing cost). But Taiwanese pedal giant Xpedo flips the script by offering weight-conscious riders an affordable option with the company’s $79 SPRY platform model.
Clipless pedals have long been touted as the preferred choice for competitive and recreational riding, but more and more adventure riders are making the switch to flat pedals. Why? Flats offer convenience, comfort, and versatility that clipless pedals just can’t match. And now, with the Catalyst ($99 MSRP) from Pedaling Innovations, you can add increased support and pedaling efficiency to the list of flat pedals’ benefits.
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.
While Crank Brothers’ Candy and Eggbeater pedals may be familiar to many of GRAVELBIKE’s readers, I must admit that I’m woefully late to the party when it comes to the Calfornia-based company’s line of pedals. Recently, however, my curiosity got the best of me when I was looking for a pedal similar to Time’s ATAC, but with less side-to-slide float. Crank Brothers’ Candy pedals appeared to fulfill those requirements, so I decided to give them a try.
In addition to the Candy 3 pedals ($120 MSRP) that I tested, Crank Brothers offers three other models that range in price from $60/pair (Candy 1), all the way up to $350/pair (Candy 11). The model 3 pedals feature needle and cartridge bearings (an upgrade from the cartridge/bushing combo found on the Candy 1 and 2 pedals), and cast-steel retention wings. While the materials used for the springs and bodies vary, all Candy pedals include the company’s premium brass cleats. My sample Candy 3 pedals weighed 318g/pair, with the cleats and hardware adding another 30g.
Like all Crank Brothers clipless pedals, the diminutive cleats can be configured for a 15° or 20° release. To change the release angle, one only needs to swap the cleats from left to right (and vice-versa). Unlike many of their competitors’ clipless pedals, Crank Brothers pedals do not have adjustable release tension (the company claims that their patented cleat design eliminates the need for spring tension adjustment). The stock cleats feature 6° of angular float (aka, rotation), but an optional 0°-float cleat is also available.
Clipping into the Candy pedals is easy thanks to the unique, rotating-wing design. In addition to conventional toe-down entry, you can scrape the cleat along the top of the pedal from either direction. I found entry to be easiest when using a combination of downward and forward motion. Once clipped in, the pedals’ bodies provided plenty of support for my cycling shoes’ soles, eliminating any rocking or unwanted flex. This added stability can affect ease of entry, however. For shoes with very deep tread, Crank Brothers includes shims which provide additional clearance between the shoes and pedals. In some rare cases, you may need to sand or trim the tread to eliminate any interference between the sole and pedal body.
As I mentioned above, my desire for reduced lateral float is what originally prompted me to try the Candy pedals. While the Crank Brothers cleats do provide a small amount of lateral movement, it’s less than the 6mm float found on Time’s ATAC pedals. Even with additional stability provided by the pedal’s body, angular float/rotation felt less restrictive than Shimano’s SPD clipless system. Although I was initially concerned with the lack of tension adjustment on the Crank Brothers pedals, I never unclipped accidentally.
To keep your pedals running smoothly, Crank Brothers offers rebuild kits which include replacement seals and bearings (instructional videos can be found on the company’s website). It’s too soon to report on long-term durability, but I can tell you that the pedals did survive a crash that left me with a cracked helmet and plenty of road rash. If I do have one gripe about the Candys, it’s that they require an 8mm hex key for installation or removal. This is, however, not unique to Crank Brothers, as several other companies’ pedals eschew conventional pedal wrench/spanner flats.
Disclosure: Crank Brothers provided review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation for this review.
It seems that I have an affinity for French clipless pedals. Back in the early/mid-90s I used LOOK’s funky MP90 and S2S pedals. When Time introduced the original ATAC (Auto Tension Adjustment Concept) pedals circa 1996, I (happily) made the switch. Fast forward to late-2013, and I’m riding Time pedals once again. This time, it’s the company’s ATAC XC8 Carbon model.
The heart of Time’s ATAC system is a two-bar design that is self-cleaning, and allows angular rotation (±5°), as well as lateral float (6mm). ATAC cleats offer 13° or 17° release angles, and the pedals’ release tension is adjustable with a small, flat-blade screwdriver. Time lists the Carbon 8’s weight as 284g, and our sample pair weighed 288g (the cleats and mounting hardware came in at 46g). The XC8–like the company’s XC6 and XC12 pedals–uses an 8mm allen wrench for installation.
Clipping into ATACs requires a toe-down, forward motion that’s not unlike scraping gum off the bottom of your shoe. There’s no wondering if you’re clipped in or not, as the pedals provide a very distinct click (both audible and tactile) when the cleats are engaged. The cross-country ATACs may not have the substantial platforms/bodies of Time’s MX or DX brethren, but the XC offers improved ground and rock clearance while still offering enough surface area for unclipped pedaling.
Once clipped into the Carbon 8s, you immediately notice the increased freedom of movement afforded by the ATAC system. You can apply body English by rotating (or sliding) your foot, but without the risk of the pedal releasing unintentionally. Coming from 15 years of riding Speedplay Frog pedals, my feet (and knees) were used to roaming freely, so the ATACs’ float made switching over quick and easy. Even with the Time’s ample float, however, I never felt like I was expending unnecessary energy keeping my feet positioned correctly for proper pedaling technique.
Nearly any clipless pedal designed for off-road use can perform well in dry conditions, but the real test comes when things get muddy (or worse). Time’s open retention system allows gunk to be easily pushed through the loops, while the cleats’ simple shape is less likely to trap debris. With the ATAC XC pedals, I could traipse through mud, snow, and even ice, and still clip in easily and reliably. As the cleats broke in, entry and exit became even smoother.
During this review period, I tested the XC8 pedals with Louis Garneau’s T-Flex LS-100 and SIDI’s Dominator 5 shoes. Neither shoe required any modification to accommodate the ATAC cleats. Despite the cleats’ diminutive profile, I never noticed any hot-spots with either of the aforementioned shoes. While it’s too soon to comment on the Time’s long-term durability, the company offers a wide range of replacement parts.