Pedaling Innovations: High-Performing & Comfortable Clipless Pedals

Hank Shell

Catalyst PedalEveryone remembers the first time they ate it on a set of clip in pedals. I remember my first time like it was yesterday. It was crisp November morning at the RAT near Ridgway, Colorado. I was riding a friend’s bike, powering my way upward through stands of juniper and pinyon pine on the trail system’s initial climb. Rounding one of the rocky switchbacks, I suddenly found myself without enough momentum to complete the turn. I jerked my foot outward instinctively, hoping to catch myself on my downhill side. No luck. I hit the ground hard. Damn hard.

Now, it’s pretty easy to bail on a set of clipless pedals, so I’m not really sure why I just told you that story. I guess what I’m getting at is that a lot of bikers think they need to affix their feet to a pedal to be efficient. The putative benefits of such pedals being a more refined pedal stroke through the ball of the foot and the generation of additional power on the upstroke. But, crazy enough, research has shown that not to be true. A 2007 study in the Journal of Biomechanics found no difference in power or economy between a push from the ball of the foot and one from the mid-foot position. Studies in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise and the International Journal of Sports Medicine found that pulling up on the backstroke actually burns more energy than driving hard on the downstroke.

So what’s the upshot of all this? That there’s a better way to pedal. And James Wilson at Pedaling Innovations thinks he’s found it. Wilson’s Catalyst pedal strikes the happy medium between the control and efficiency of a clipless pedal and the freedom of a flat. The idea behind the Catalyst is that a longer pedal, 5 inches to be exact, supports the full arch of the foot. This foundation provides a more stable mid-foot placement and improves pedaling efficiency by recruiting the hip muscles.

“My main motivation for designing the Catalyst Pedal was to apply the science and movement principles I had learned in researching the pedal stroke,” Wilson said. “The result is the world’s first mid-foot optimized pedal, which is what makes it different and better than any other pedal on the market.”

Wilson is an avid biker himself, and like myself, he was inundated with the clipless pedal spiel early on. Unlike me, he had a good idea. Namely, why do we power off of our midfoot when lifting in the gym but not on our bike? As the research shows, there isn’t really a good reason.

So he designed the Catalyst.

Under foot, the Catalyst immediately stands out from other flats in size and stability. Cranking from the mid-foot really engages the hips, and pedal strokes feel much more powerful. It’s especially evident when climbing.

“By working with your body’s natural ways of moving you get more power, balance and comfort,” Wilson said.

If you’re not completely sold on clipless pedals or just want to try a more stable and powerful flat, the Catalyst should definitely be on your list.

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