Flat pedals are available in a dizzying array of colors and sizes. As their popularity has increased, manufacturers have developed a number of lighter, thinner, and larger models. In recent years, they’ve also experimented with a number of different materials and internals to help increase grip and longevity, but the basic design has remained the same.
Interview: Crankbrothers, Spank and Syntace
This year, two manufacturers have launched what may be the newest trend in flat pedals. Their new “size specific” platforms are designed to perform best within a specific range of shoe sizes. To learn more about the origins of the concept and how it’s been executed, we reached out to Spank, Crankbrothers and Syntace.
What are size specific pedals?
Crankbrothers: Size specific pedals offer the optimal interface between pedal and shoe; maximizing grip and stability, eliminating unnecessary weight & excess material that can cause rock-strikes, crashes, etc
Spank: Our size specific pedals are the Spoon Flat Pedals Spoon 90 / Spoon 100 / Spoon 110). They all measure 115mm from front to back. This means that all sizes provide sufficient support along the base of the foot (more for younger riders comparatively), and allow a comfortable range of foot placement fore/aft. The width of each size ranges from 90mm to 100mm, to 110mm (hence the names).
Syntace: Size specific pedals are pedals with different platform area size. We offer small, medium and large size pedals.
Where did the concept originate?
Crankbrothers: One of our main objectives for the 2016 pedal line was to engineer the optimal interface between pedal and shoe. We achieved this on our clipless pedals by introducing integrated traction pad technology (on Mallet E and Candy 7 & 11 pedals) that allows for customization of the contact points and optimization of the fit and feel for any clipless mtb shoe.
When it came to the Stamp, we set out with the same goal: to engineer the optimal interface. However, with flats, what you’re really talking about is the surface area that comes into contact with the shoe. Our pro riders, as well as the riders here in the office, have shoe sizes ranging from 8 to 15, so we understood the challenge. We set out to find the optimal surface area that would maximize traction and stability while minimizing weight and rock-strikes for a variety of sizes. We analyzed the width and contact surface areas of mtb shoe sizes 5-15. That exercise led to the discovery that one-size-fits all is not the best approach, and that size-specific pedals offer optimal pedal/shoe interface for flat pedal riders.
Spank: The concept originated when we started to support a small team of up and coming kids riders. We spent a lot of time talking with the parents and kids, about what bugged them most about their bikes/builds. A few things came up over and over again….overweight under spec’d wheels, oversized pedals, cockpit controls meant for bigger hands, etc. So, we started with pedals and wheels. With pedals, everyone hoped that riders of all sizes to have the ability to put their feet down on the pedals without too much attention, and always hit the sweet spot for traction and support (rather than constant readjustment to find your comfort position).
Interestingly enough, once we started to work on pedals of various sizes just over a year ago, and discussed that with our adult pro riders, a few of them commented that they also wished they had pedals which were more aptly sized to their feet. Some considered that grip would improve, and some simply were tired of pedals that hung out beyond the sides of their shoes all the time, catching on objects. This confirmed that 3 sizes would be required to fit everyone as perfectly as possible.
Syntace: Its just common sense. You also can’t have only one frame size for all riders. Different riders have different shoe sizes. Bigger shoes need more support than small shoes. It is also a matter of your riding style. If you ride in technical terrain and want the best possible grip and foot support you can choose a bigger pedal.
How did you test their effectiveness?
Crankbrothers: Richie Schley and Hans Rey were both involved in product development and feedback. We also work with a network of test-riders around the world to test pedals in a wide variety of environments, and integrate their feedback into our development process.
Spank: To find the right sizes, we worked with international shoe sole standards, as well as with samples from 5.10. The goal was to find the right widths to optimize traction with the given pin pattern, with clear shoe size ranges. The Spoon 90 was designed to work with shoes sizes 6 (USA mens) and under, which we found matched up with the widest range of younger or female riders’ foot sizes. The Spoon 100 is the same width as our Spike pedals, and will work best with sizes 7-10. Then for guys with bigger feet/shoes, we made sure that the Spoon 110 was wide enough that even a size 12 or 13 shoe will be fully supported, but works perfectly with sizes 11 and up. Of course we had to test both fit here in the lab, and fit/function in the field with various riders of different sizes before going to production.