Review: double-sided pedals

VP Components R62

Price: $90
Tester: Eric McKeegan

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I’ve ridden a lot of these clipless/platform pedals. They are my go-to pedal for bikes that might do double-duty on long rides and casual trips around town. I’ve been using these for over a year now, and you can color me impressed.

I have a few pairs of VP platform pedals that have put up with hard off-road use, and these R62 have proven to be similarly reliable. I’ve used both the included cleats and Shimano’s, and performance is identical with both. I like my clipless pedals tight, and there is plenty of adjustment here, from loose and casual to tight and racy.

The feature that sets these pedals apart are the four traction pins per pedal. Almost all similar pedals (including the XT Tour pedals on the previous page) use raised aluminum nubs that don’t grip as well as I’d like. The VPs stick to everything I tried including dress shoes with slick soles and lugged winter boots.

Even after a year of typically wet weather and a salty winter, the bearings spin freely. While part of me wished for a wider platform for longer rides, during most of those I was clipped in so it didn’t matter. And that smaller platform gets bashed less often on ill-advised late-night singletrack shortcuts. In short, these are the best of this breed of pedals in my experience.

Shimano Deore XT Tour

Price: $120
Tester: Jon Pratt

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Shimano’s XT Tour Pedal, the PD-T780, is designed with two distinct pedaling surfaces: a SPD compatible side and a flat, platform side. Now it doesn’t matter if you are wearing your clipless shoes, or regular sneakers. This is especially nice for an urban bike where you will be using it in different scenarios or on a touring rig for days when you need a break from those more rigid clipless shoes and want to rock out with some sandals.

The platform sides can also help you get through any mechanical issues you might have with your SPD shoes while out on the road. I’ve been using them primarily on my urban bikes and really like the ability to wear an SPD shoe for some of my longer distance jaunts but then switch it up when I want a more comfortable shoe to walk around in or stand for long periods of time. It’s a pain to get ready for a ride and realize you either need to change your shoes, or worse, your pedals—no more!

The built-in, slightly recessed reflectors are a nice touch too. Not only are you more visible out on the road, the reflectors are far less likely to catch on something or just be knocked off. The only negative things I’ve experienced are that the platform side can be a bit slippery when wet and the pedal is sometimes a bit of a pain to flip to the correct side when frequently stopping and starting. Even with those two issues, you’ll probably see them on my bike for years to come.

Crank Brothers Double Shot

Price: $90
Tester: Katherine Fuller

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The primary benefit of the Double Shot is that it’s made for Crank Brothers cleats. That’s not a knock—it just is. As a longtime Crank Brother’s user, I’m glad to see something like this finally available for my cleat of choice.

The actual engagement point is one-sided, meaning it doesn’t spin, but it does have a bit of front-back movement to help you find it. Engagement is simple–the big platform and slight concave shape makes the clip easy for your foot to find–nothing out of the ordinary for longtime Crank Brothers cleat users. This is not a super-high-end pedal, intended mainly for touring, commuting and entry-level riders, but it feels nice. The set weighs right at 400 grams, a tad on the heavy side, but the platform is just the right length and width (not too small) to support your sandal-driven flat-pedal riding adventures.

The platform features a diamond plate center strip that feels a bit like rubber under foot, and a few raised aluminum nubs. Without pins, these pedals aren’t super grippy, but are adequate. I would say they are best for someone who will clip in the majority of the time but still wants some flat-pedal flexibility. On my gravel bike, I appreciate being able to clip out one foot and plant it on a steady platform for peace of mind while descending sketchy singletrack (should I need to quickly put a toe down). The soles of a clipless MTB shoe will also grip the flat side well enough for pushing off steep inclines from a standstill and whatnot, and has often been welcome in that regard.

Available in black/grey or orange/black. Search for them online to find good deals for less than retail pricing.

 

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Review: MKS Lambda / Grip King Pedals

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The Lambda / Grip King pedal is a Rivendell design made by MKS in Japan out of aluminum alloy. Surprisingly lightweight for its size (about 420 grams/pair) and offering a large, supportive platform (5″ x 3″), the Lambda has become popular with commuters and tourers, alike. Standard .125-inch ball bearings makes them easy to service and, so far, they spin very smoothly.

I picked up a pair a few months ago for my whatever bike, on which I generally ride between two and 10 miles at a time. The Lambdas replaced the bike’s original, 1991-vintage mountain bike pedals with toe clips.

Pedal preferences are influenced by the type of shoes you wear, and I wanted something non-specific that would be comfortable in boots, flip flops, trail runners or even dress shoes. When I decide to pop out for a quick errand, I prefer to just hop on the bike in whatever footwear is closest to the front door. That is the perfect use for the Lambdas and is what they are best at—everyday cycling.

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If, like me, you are used to riding mountain bike-specific flat pedals with mountain-bike specific shoes that, when paired, offer a vice-like grip, then the Lambdas won’t seem all that grabby. Without sharp pins or pointy teeth, they lack an exacting bite and are slippery when wet. (Rivendell sells a $12 set of pedal spikes that you can add. You need to drill the holes and the spikes should self-tap. I might add them in the winter when I’m riding in heavy-soled boots that don’t allow for much pedal feel.)

However, that’s part of why I like them. The Lambdas won’t tear up casual shoes; my foot can easily adjust its position as I cruise around; and I will not be adding to the pedal-pin scar collection on my calves. Lambdas are ideal for mashing about town and don’t require your foot to hunt for that perfect spot. Standing to climb on them feels fantastic, even in soft sandals, thanks to the pedal’s length.

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I like that the Lambdas offer a larger pedaling platform without appearing ridiculously massive, but the lack of side bulk means people with extra-wide feet might not find the Lambdas to be as supportive as I do (my shoe size is an EU 40). One selling point is that the concave sides offer more cornering clearance. I, for one, am not regularly railing my commuter, but that very well could be your thing.

Aesthetically, the battle-axe-meets-cheese-grater look of these pedals falls into the love-em-or-hate-em category. To be honest, I chose them in part for their quirky appearance. The recessed reflectors are a plus, too. I’ve always thought those things to be ugly but useful. On the Lambdas, I can know the reflectors are there without having to see them protruding garishly.

The MKS Lambda / Rivendell Grip King is a great step-up from the small-platform stock pedals on your old bike, especially if you’re not interested in committing to a specific shoe-pedal combo. They will not accept toe clips, but some riders add PowerGrip straps.

Price: Depends. Currently $37.99 from Tree Fort Bikes; $56 direct from Rivendell

 

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Frostbike Report: New and updated components and gear

Frostbike is an annual dealer gathering hosted by Quality Bicycle Products (QBP), the parent company behind several brands such as All City, Foundry, Salsa, Surly and others. The event takes place at QBP headquarters in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in late February and allows shop owners and media types to gather, drink beer and talk shop.

With the Taipei International Cycle Show and Sea Otter looming, not to mention the countless company-specific product launch events now usurping big trade shows, there was not a glut of new product to be explored. Here are some of the new and noteworthy products we stumbled upon.

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Garmin Varia Rearview Radar

$200 (rear monitor/light, only), $300 (rear monitor/light and head unit indicator)

Garmin has so much bike stuff going on that, according to its brochure, you can conceivably hang up to 10 bits of the company’s electronics on your bicycle, from cameras to power meters to remote controls for some of the other items. The highlight of the show was Garmin’s wireless Varia Rearview Radar. The two-piece setup includes a radar device/light for your seatpost and a small indicator for your stem or bars.

The radar can detect vehicles up to 153 yards away and—either on the indicator, or on your existing Garmin Edge computer—will display up to 8 vehicles (or anything moving faster than you), how close each is to your rear tire and how fast they are approaching. The 16-lumen tail light brightens when it detects an oncoming vehicle. Each individual unit has a lifespan of five hours per charge in high power mode. The bundle weighs 3.2 ounces.

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Garmin Varia Smart Bike Lights

$200 (headlight), $70 (one tail light), $300 (headlight, one tail light and remote control)

If you already own a Gamin Edge computer, the smart lights might be your next step. Depending on which Edge model you own, the Varia smart lights will automatically adjust to changing light conditions and your speed. The front light will focus farther down the road as you ride faster while the tail light will shine the brightest if you’re rapidly slowing down.

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Set yourself up with two tail lights and a handlebar-mounted remote control and—voila—your bicycle has turn signals.

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Garmin Varia Vision In-sight Display – $400

If looking down isn’t your thing, turn your sunglasses into a heads-up display. Weighing just 1.1 ounces, the Varia Vision In-sight Display will show directions, performance data, trip information, incoming phone calls and text messages and vehicles approaching from behind, depending on which myriad of devices you pair it with. You can also set it to vibrate to alert you to any of that stuff. The device and its various screens are controlled by a touch panel that is intended work with gloves. A charge should last you eight hours. No word yet on what your ride buddies will think.


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Rever mtb1 and mcx1 disc brakes

mtn1 – $164.99 (complete kit for one wheel), mcx1 – $149 (complete kit for one wheel)

Rever’s mechanical disc brakes are not brand-new, but they were updated for Frostbike to include calipers designed for Shimano’s flat-mount standard in the case of the mcx1 drop-bar model. We simply like the idea of high-end mechanical disc brakes that are designed to be easy to service. Why? If you’re riding in extremely cold temperatures, extra-grimy conditions, foreign countries or doing long-distance bikepacking, hydraulic disc brakes might be more fuss and trouble than they’re worth.

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Rever’s brakes feature dual-piston design for better adjustment, stopping power, modulation and easy installment. The brake pads can be swapped without removing the wheels or disconnecting the cables. Each kit has everything you need to set up one wheel, including 160 mm brake rotors for both road and mountain.


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Teravail Lickskillet – $65 (60 TPI), $85 (120 TPI/Premium)

Teravail is a new tire brand from QBP focused on all-road and gravel tires with understated graphics. New to the lineup is the 700c Lickskillet all-road tire in 28c or 32c. It’s tubeless compatible and features grooves specifically designed for grip and water dispersement. The 60 TPI version features flat protection under the tread while the 120 TPI model takes that protection from bead to bead. The 700×32 version can be run with as little as 45 PSI.

The tire is named for the infamous Lickskillet road near Boulder, Colorado. While only one mile long, the dirt road’s average grade is 14 percent with a max grade of 18 percent, and it tops out at over 8,000 feet. The Lickskillet 28c weighs 270 grams; the 32c weighs 350 grams. The Premium version of each, featuring that extra flat protection, weighs 5 grams more.


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iSSi Flip Pedal – $75

The new iSSi pedal is a party on one side and business on the other—you choose which is which. The Flip is both clipless and platform with adjustable spring tension, SPD cleats and 4 degrees of float. As with all iSSi pedals, you can swap out the spindles to customize your Q-factor with one of three spindle lengths. Available soon in six colors.


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Portland Design Works (PDW) Bindle Rack – price unknown (about $100)

PDW’s lightweight aluminum Bindle Rack was previewed at Interbike but as of March 1 is still not available. The clever Bindle is designed to support a rear dry bag, tent bag or similar via a seatpost clamp and seat rail cinch straps that keep items from drooping onto your rear tire or legs. Integrated compression straps hold your gear snugly. The whole thing allows you to forego a rear rack or a dedicated bikepacking saddle bag that might be too restrictive for your needs.


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Bont Vaypor + – $400 (estimated)

Bont’s high-end Vaypor + road shoe was designed particularly for all-day comfort with a soft Kangaroo leather upper, one-piece carbon chassis, memory foam padding and a BOA retention system. The entire sole of the shoe is heat moldable for a custom fit. The shoes feature ventilation holes across the tongue, along the top of the forefoot, and through the front bumper and arch area of the shoe. The Vaypor + weighs 230 grams and has a stack height of just 3.6 mm. New colors include brown, orange and blue in addition to black and white. A custom color program is available but will push the price of these kicks over $500.


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Lezyne Steel Travel Floor Drive pump – $60

Small apartments, cramped cubicles, backseats of cars, bike bags. There are plenty of tight spaces where you might want to stash a floor pump. Lezyne has you covered with its streamlined, machined aluminum Travel Floor Drive that lays flat. It weighs 2.4 pounds, maxes out at 160 PSI and works on Presta, Schrader and Dunlop valves.


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Surly Straggle-Check Bag – $170

Surly Bikes dropped a new frame bag specifically for its Cross Check and Straggler models, but it will probably work with other bikes, too, considering the triangle frame design is rather ubiquitous. The bag is made of Polyant VX sail cloth by Revelate Designs and features a hydration port, foam bumpers to protect the frame paint and a large main compartment with a map pocket.


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Velo Orange Mojave Cage – $28

The stainless steel Mojave Cage isn’t brand-new; it’s simply a nifty idea. The cage features five holes on the mounting tab and is designed to carry a 40 oz Kleen Kanteen or 32 ounce Nalgene bottle. Since 16 ounces of water weighs just a hair over one pound, using one of these to carry your designer bottle of cucumber water to work takes a couple of pounds off your back. It also means you can haul more water on tour, which was the inspiration for the design and the name.


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Revelate Designs Terrapin – $90 (holster), $38 (drybag)

The Terrapin is one of Revelate’s big seatpost bags for bikepacking. The Terrapin support holster was updated for 2016 and is now RF (radio frequency) welded to be completely waterproof.

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The Terrapin Drybag also gets RF welding and an air purge valve for simple compression. It is also now made of 210 denier mini diamond ripstop fabric to be more durable and available in more colors, including red. Together, the pair weighs 19 ounces.

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Also new from Revelate is a limited edition white camo color on all of its frame bags that will appear in bike shops soon.


We also previewed new and updated bicycles from Frostbike. If you missed that, find them here.

 

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Recommendo: Flat pedals for touring and bikepacking

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Like many gear-oriented guys I know, when I first got into cycling I went all in. I bought the spandex shorts, the fingerless gloves, and of course, those wacky clip-in pedals. But now that I’m a little older and wiser, or at least a lot more pragmatic, I’ve taken a shine to flat pedals for touring and bikepacking adventures.

I think about it this way: when I’m out and about exploring, ultimate power transfer to the pedals isn’t my top priority. I would gladly trade a few watts for the ability to get off my bike and explore a waterfall, drop into a cafe or set up camp without having to walk in clipless shoes or carry an extra pair.

So flat pedals it is, but I’m certainly not going to ride on the freebie plastic things that are probably going to snap in half in the middle of nowhere. Luckily high quality options abound, thanks to mountain bike riders and their durability requirements. These three pedals are designed largely for aggressive mountain bike riding, but I’ve borrowed them for a bit from our sister magazine, Dirt Rag, for use on road and off-road adventures.

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Spank Spike – $130

These are the pedals that kindled my love for high-end flats. They have a huge platform and look great. The three-quarter axle is hollow tapered steel with a bushing on the outboard side and a sealed bearing on the inboard side. While the big inboard bearing keeps things spinning nicely, it isn’t big enough to cause any annoying run on the instep of your foot. I measured the spread of the pins—where you’re feet actually make contact— with my Feedback Sports calipers and it is approximately 100 mm front to back and 102 mm side to side.

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The lack of a pedal wrench spot on the axle also means the Q-factor is kept narrow. The aluminum body is available in six colors and the 20 pins thread in from the opposite side for easy replacement or adjustment. The body is essentially flat and measured just more than 12 mm thick. The Spikes weigh in at 439 grams per pair, and like each of the pedals in this group they are completely serviceable and rebuildable.


 

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Specialized Boomslang – $180

Years in the making, the Boomslang pedals are typical of Specialized products in that they are high tech and sleek. The aluminum body is all swoops and curves and has a slightly concave shape I measured at more than 13 mm at the edges and 11 mm at the inside. Rather than use an outboard bushing it uses a unique design in that the outer needle bearing is accessed through a little trap door held in place by the pins. The inner bearing is a standard, sealed radial unit.

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Each pedals has 22 pins with an hourglass shape that allows them to snap off in a controlled manner. If they do, there are four extras threaded into each pedal on the side. I measured their spread at 90 mm front to back and 105 mm side to side. The Boomslang pedals are a bit smaller and feel a bit thicker than the others in this group, perhaps because of the height of the pins. Some drawbacks are that they require a special spanner tool to access the inner bearing and the middle pins cannot be removed because they hold the door to the outer bearing in place. Like Henry Ford’s finest, they’re only available only in black.


 

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VP Harrier – $120

I thought the Spike and Boomslang pedals were big until I saw the Harriers. These things are HUGE. They use a chromoly axle and an outboard bushing, but the inner bearing is an Igus polymer bearing which is much smaller and thinner than a sealed radial bearing. This means there barely bulge at all where the axle meets the crank arm.

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Each pedal has six pins per side that thread in from the opposite side, plus four pointy pins that use a standard box wrench. I measured the pins at 91 mm front to rear and 107 mm side to side. The squared off shape of the body maximizes real estate, something I appreciate when riding in boots. In addition to this deep red they’re also available in black or silver.

Conclusion

All of these pedals are high-end offerings designed to be battered on trails and ridden hard, so I have no doubt they are all plenty durable enough for touring. The VP Harriers get my vote because of their huge platform, lower weight and simplified bearing design. Plus they’re the least expensive in this group.

What kind of pedals do you use for touring?

 

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Review: Spank Spike pedals

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Flat pedals are something of a rare sight around the Bicycle Times office. From full-lycra to full-face mountain bike rides, chances are we’re clipping in.

All this cleat-lovin’ makes it even more interesting that when the Spike pedals from Spank showed up at the office there was a bit of a scrum to see who would get to ride them. With a massive platform and 10 adjustable pins per side, it was pretty clear they would be taking traction to a whole new level.

Read the full review.

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