Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Pedaling Innovations Catalyst Pedals

I participated in the Pedaling Innovations Kickstarter campaign for the new Catalyst pedal.  I was intrigued by the concept of a longer flat pedal that better supported my feet for two reasons; first, I often suffer from sore and tired feet after hard efforts or long Enduro and XC races. And second, it seemed the better support for mid foot pedaling and recruiting the larger muscle groups of the upper leg and hip would improve high effort climbing on my single speed. 

In my previous blog posts I talked about my search for the ultimate flat pedal and I spoke highly of the Canfield Brothers Crampon Ultimate pedals.  They have been my gold standard of flat pedals to date and I will make comparisons to them in this review of the Catalyst pedal.

These pedals have a beautiful red anodize finish.  The build quality is excellent which no surprise is since VP manufactures these for Pedaling Innovations.

But, let’s get the obvious out of the way first.  They are heavy, moderately thick, look overbuilt, have odd pin placement, and are absolutely huge.  I am not kidding, I have had them for a couple months now and my mind still can’t wrap itself around the sheer size of these things.  They are nearly 6” long and I joke with my riding buddies that they remind me of the deck of an aircraft carrier.


Heavy depends on your base for comparison.  At 505g they are heavy compared to the Canfield Brothers 342g Aluminum Crampon Ultimate and of course even more exaggerated compared to the 280g Magnesium Crampon Ultimate.   But compared to some old school Kona, Giant, and no name flat pedals I have accumulated over the years they weigh significantly less.   There are probably some studies out on the internet that compare pedal weight and energy consumption while riding.  Real world pedaling by me did not indicate any adverse issues and most of us can lose more body weight and that makes a bigger impact than saving some grams on components.

The pedal bodies start out as a very stout piece of extrusion and are machined into its final state.  It looks like either a thinner walled extrusion could be used if a die already exists or more detailed machining could be done to reduce pedal mass (and possibly add some serrations to surface the shoe contacts).  Additional machining would add manufacturing costs and would eat into profit margin or drive price up slightly for consumers.


Again, It is dependent on your basis of comparison.  The Canfield Ultimate pedals get comments everywhere I ride about how thin they are;  10mm at spindle tapering to 6mm at forward and back edges.  In my experience the thickness combined with the smooth rounded edges and purposefully beveled leading edges have yet to catch any trail side objects and pitch me over the bars.  The Catalyst at 16mm is on par with a lot of pedals in thickness and when compared with old school flats they are thin.  I have not had any increase in pedal strikes with roots and rocks on the trail tread while pedaling with the Catalyst.  While they do have nicely beveled forward and back leading edges most of the corners and edges are a sharp 90 degree angle and not radiused or beveled in any fashion.  This has caused me to crash several times when the corners of pedals or the outside edges have dug into stumps and logs on technical single track and stopped the bike leaving me to continue over the handlebars. 

Pin placement and pin count:

I also find the pin count and placement to be a bit of an issue.  5 pins are too many on the front and back edge of pedal.  Or, more correctly the short and large diameter pins are too closely spaced to allow good pin penetration into my Five Ten sticky rubber.

I recently removed 2 pins leaving 3 widely spaced pins on front and back edges and it improved grip dramatically.  I think you could do 4 wider spaced pins vs. the 5 closely spaced pins.  Also longer and smaller diameter pins would be an improvement for aggressive riders/terrain.

In the middle of the pedal there are only 2 pins forward of spindle and I believe if you added 2 more in the same place behind the spindle it would be an improvement.  This may be a Pacific Northwest issue but given the large surface area of the pedal, and the absolutely smooth surfaces, mud stays between shoe and pedal and you skate around on them.  

How about that size:

They work exactly as promised.  Place the ball of foot on top of the forward inside pin for proper mid foot mounting and the pedal completely disappears underneath my size 10.5 shoes.  The only time the pedal length has become and issue is spinning the cranks while lubing my chain.  If pedal is vertical they will hit the ground as you spin the crank.

Be prepared to answer lots of questions and some possible ridicule from your riding buddies on group rides.  Then prepare for them to ask you in private to try them out.


 I do not see them replacing my Canfield Crampon Ultimate pedals on my geared DH, Enduro, or XC race bikes.  The reasons are simple, the Crampons provide vastly better grip with shoes, better control on extreme terrain, superior pedal clearance,  they don’t get hung up on trail obstacles, improved race pedaling*, and weigh significantly less.

*The thinner profile, better shoe grip, and more ankle mobility allow me to pedal more on really rough terrain and I can hit higher pedal cadence with the Crampons vs. the Catalyst. 

I tested max cadence on my road bike mounted to my trainer and in the same gear I can reach 170 rpm with a mid foot position on the Crampon Ultimates yet only 150 rpm with the Catalyst.  Pedaling is noticeably jerky with the Catalyst above 120 rpm and your foot feels like it is kicking forward when pedal is at the midpoint of the downward pedal stroke (level with the ground).  I noticed out trail riding that my cadence "felt" slower and this test proved it.  If you are a pedal mashing low cadence rider you probably won't notice.

I have smashed all my PR’s on power climbing trails where you basically are off the saddle running uphill.  I even took some Strava KOM’s  (pretty sure they won’t last long knowing who I stole them from) on my local trails.  The mid foot pedal placement and the large stable platform allowed me to significantly increase my standing pedaling power output.  Plus, my foot fatigue while single speeding has gone away as well.

This leaves me with a dilemma as the XC race season quickly approaches; do I run a higher gear and take advantage of the increased power for climbing in single speed races and limit my ability to reach higher top speeds on the flats through high cadence pedaling?


The Catalyst pedal is a fully capable flat pedal that accomplishes what is advertised as far as improved body mechanics, power, and stability.  Retail price seems a tad high for such a basic pedal but comparable to other flat pedals on the market in that price range. 

It is not for weight weenies or those with “thin skin” or a fear of talking to people.  You will attract positive and negative comments and lots of questions on the trail.  In my opinion the design is not the best choice for aggressive Enduro and Downhill racers due to it not being optimized to mitigate pedal strike risk and the reduced pedal to shoe traction vs. more aggressive platform pedals.

For my fellow “flat pedals for medals” riders, if you choose to purchase a pair, don’t even waste your breath trying to discuss or explain these with the Clipless pedal XC and Roadie sheep out there.  Ride on!

Marc Garoutte

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