Pedaling Innovations Catalyst

Sometimes a new product drops into the marketplace through the force of will of the people behind the concept, and so it is with the Pedaling Innovations' flat pedals.

The Catalyst pedal is the brainchild of James Wilson, a US-based strength and conditioning coach who’s ridden since the turn of the century. He’s a vigorous defender of the notion that larger flat pedals improve pedalling power by supporting both ends of your foot arch while also improving efficiency due to the mid-foot placement over the axle, aiding both stability and comfort.

Right away, you can see the idea behind the stability and comfort claim of the pedals. These things are simply the largest flat pedals I have ever laid eyes on. They dwarf every other style of flat pedal I've ever used, including the large Shimano DX clip-in pedals that I'm currently wedded to.

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I've switched back and forth between clip-in and flat pedals for years. In fact, I learnt my craft on flat pedals but I quickly switched into SPD-style clip pedals and shoes when they came on the scene way back in the dim, dark, distant 1990s. With the advent of soft-soled shoes like the Five-Ten, however, I've dabbled in the black art of flat pedalling, but with mixed results.

The Pedaling Innovations' alloy pedals offer a 143mm x 95mm platform, and are 16mm thick with an almost ridiculous 18 adjustable pins per side. The pedals are built by renowned Taiwanese pedal producer VP.

As you can imagine, the Pedaling Innovations' pedals aren't light, with our test set weighing in at a moderately chunky 523g for the pair, against a claim of 510g. Compare this to the Shimano DX at 550g and a typical flat pedal from Chromag, which weighs in at 423g.

Aesthetically there's no getting around the fact that these are an unusual-looking pedal, and there's no doubt you'll be asked questions about them out on trail.

When the Five-Ten rubber meets the Pedaling Innovations' platforms, the first impression is one of solidity - there's a lot of foot under your pedal. I have a size US11 hoof, and I find that the Pedalling Innovations' pedals do provide a lot of support. However, straight away I noticed that the pin placement, though plentiful, isn't necessarily perfect. I feel as if I'm missing grip right across the centre line of the axle, and I'm also finding it a struggle to get purchase on the outside corners of each pedal.

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Fortunately, there is a bag of longer replacement pins provided in the box, so a quick modification to install longer pins on the outside edge, as well as one in the centre of the front and rear, helps to provide a little bit more underfoot grip.
The claims these pedals improve your performance over clip pedals are voluminous, and can be found at the Pedaling Innovations' website. It's far too long to go into here, but suffice to say James Wilson, PA's founder, is very much an acolyte of this broader, larger, longer flat pedal notion.

As a guy with bigger feet, I certainly ascribe to the idea that my foot doesn't bend around the axle anywhere near as much on a larger pedal. However, I'm not 100% convinced that these are the pedals for me. For one thing, a lack of concave - a deliberate design because of the increased length of the pedal body, says James - means that I find it hard for my foot to lock to the pedal as readily as I find with a pedal that bows more in the middle. It feels that while the ball of my foot is well supported, the front and the rear of my shoes (in my case Danny MacAskill Five-Tens) isn’t finding the stability required.

As well, a natural tendency for most flat-pedal riders – especially on gravity runs – is to drop the ankles to help drive the rear tyre into the dirt, and the Catalysts make this harder to achieve, thanks to a fulcrum effect of having more of your foot’s weight positioned forward. I know that James will counter this by suggesting that the position of the rider’s foot on the pedal needs to change in relation to the axle - i.e., the ball of your foot needs to be ahead of the axle line - and I’m certainly not disagreeing with that notion.

However, I’d argue that I’m right in the key demographics for buying these pedals - older rider looking to ease knee and hip stress – and try as I might, I find it really hard to keep my foot far enough forward on the platform to 'activate’ the claimed advantages. It feels unnatural and like I have less control of the bike after decades of relying on my front-of-foot to dictate my pedalling.

I thoroughly expected these pedals to hang up on every single rock, root, blade of grass and piece of dirt at our local test loop, but it was a pleasant surprise to find that this couldn't be further from the case. In many ways, the pedals actually provided a little bit more clearance than the SPD DXs that I've been using. Sure, I struck the pedals a few times, but that's just par for the course with modern trail bikes and low bottom brackets, but these pedals are absolutely no worse than any others on the market.

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MBA says
If you have bigger-than-average feet and you struggle with clip-in pedals, then this is absolutely the right product for you. In fact, I'd go as far as to say your dreams have come true. As for the rest of us? Well, if you're a flat-pedal user and you're happy with the platform you have, then the size of the Pedaling Innovations' platforms aren't necessarily the be all and end all.

A good flat pedal for your foot has a lot to do with the concave, in my opinion, and the Pedaling Innovations' pedals deliberately aren't on the same plane as some of the other more established competitors in this area.

However, if you're an older rider with knee or hip issues, and locking into a pedal isn't an option, then this broad, easy-to-use pedal may be the solution. The cost of entry isn't so high as to prevent you from giving it a try, either.

The Pedaling Innovations Catalysts certainly prove a worthy addition to the pedal product roster, but I’d suggest going in with an open mind as to how it might change your individual riding experience.

Weight: 523g (pair, w/ supplied pins)
Price: $174
Website: www.mtbdirect.com.au

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