by Scott Bixby, PCI #1684
NY State University Police, University at Buffalo
In May of 2016, IPMBA published a position paper entitled Use of Flat Pedals by Public Safety Cyclists (http://ipmba.org/blog/comments/use-of-flat-pedals-by-public-safety-cyclists-board-position-statement-2016). Former IPMBA board member Mike Harris researched and wrote the paper, and, as far as I’m concerned (and this is my opinion only), it relegated plastic toe clips and straps to permanent obsolescence in the world of public safety cycling!
While reading the paper, you will notice that Mike quoted James Wilson several times and cited some of his work in the references. Since then, James has designed the Catalyst pedal, he and his wife, Kiele, have formed Pedaling Innovations, and they have brought the Catalyst to the market.
I’ve been riding bike patrol since 2005 as part of my duties with the NY State University Police at the University at Buffalo. The Catalyst pedals represent the single best upgrade I’ve made to my patrol bike in that time, and I’d like to tell you why.
Full disclosure: Before I delve further into this review, I need to tell you that I have been working for Pedaling Innovations in a part-time capacity since May of 2018. The business has been steadily growing, so James and Kiele brought me on to help with customer service issues.
With that out in the open, let me also add that I paid full retail price for my first three pairs of Catalyst pedals. That includes the pair that are currently installed on my agency-issued patrol bike.
To be completely honest, I’ve been riding on flat pedals at work since 2013, when I switched to flats on my personal mountain bikes. I had learned of James and his company, MTB Strength Training Systems (https://www.bikejames.com/), through a friend. His “no BS” style and mountain bike-specific training philosophy really resonated with me, so I bought a couple of his training programs. In all his programs, he advocated for flat pedals while riding. After reading his “flat pedal manifesto” (http://www.bikejames.com/strength/the-flat-pedal-revolution-manifesto-how-to-improve-your-riding-with-flat-pedals/), I made the decision to switch to flat pedals.
I had been riding clipless pedals on my personal bike since 1999, based on advice from my brother. I abandoned toe clips and straps on my duty bike in 2008, mainly because I hated plastic toe clips. As I got more involved with teaching, the disadvantages of clipless pedals in public safety cycling became more and more apparent. They made my back and hips hurt when I had to walk a lot. The dismounts that I practiced and taught were more difficult when trying to incorporate an “unclip”. And running after dismounting could also be tricky, depending on the surface.
After all those years riding clipless, you can imagine what those first few rides on flat pedals in 2013 were like. It wasn’t pretty! It was literally like learning how to ride a bike all over again. James acknowledges in his material that the transition is going to be difficult, but he encourages riders to stick with the flat pedals for ten rides. I stuck it out and in the process learned that I had no idea how to lift the rear wheel, or bunny hop, without my feet clipped to the pedals. It took three years to really get comfortable with them.
While this is a pedal review and not an article about skills progression, it is worth mentioning that the boost in confidence from riding flats changed the way I ride and enabled my skills to progress in ways I never would have imagined.
The Catalyst pedals are nothing if not a conversation starter. Quite often when I’m out riding, especially off-duty on my personal mountain bike, another rider will spot the pedals and say, “those are the biggest pedals I’ve ever seen”, or a variation on that theme.
Typically, I’ll respond by asking them if they’ve ever done any squats or dead lifts in the gym. If they respond affirmatively, I ask if they squat or dead lift while standing only on the balls of their feet, with their heels off the ground. Of course, you don’t perform those movements on the balls of your feet; you’d only be able to produce limited power that way!
Head over to https://pedalinginnovations.com/ to read about the design process in great detail. I’ll confirm that the Catalyst does allow me to pedal with more power. But for me, it’s all about the support the pedal provides under both ends of the arches in my feet and the foot comfort that results during a long shift on the bike.
When I first switched to flats, I bought or tested the following flat pedals: Nashbar (unknown model); Shimano MX80 Saint; Spank Spike; Nukeproof Horizon Sam Hill; Wellgo B087; Sun Ringle ZuZu.
After the Catalyst was released, just a few back-to-back comparison rides convinced me that it delivered all the benefits that James had outlined when he released the pedals.
This past spring, I broke my patrol bike. While it was out of service awaiting replacement parts, I decided to ride one of the other bikes in our fleet. I was feeling lazy that day, so when I looked at the plastic toe clips installed in the fleet bike, I decided I didn’t feel like going to get the pedal wrench to swap in my Catalyst pedals. What a mistake! I rode for fifteen minutes and my feet and lower legs started to ache so badly that I turned around, went back to HQ, and immediately installed my Catalyst pedals.
Another aspect of the Catalyst that I really like is the ability to pedal comfortably in any shoe. When I’m out actively patrolling, I wear canvas Five Ten Freeriders. The Freeriders are slightly narrow on my wide feet, so if I’m at work and I know I have a pile of administrative work to do and only a few short patrol rides, I’ll wear my wide-width New Balance cross trainer/trail run shoes. They are more comfortable for standing and walking than the Freeriders, but I can still pedal comfortably thanks to the support of the Catalyst pedals. [Note: IPMBA’s guidelines call for use of purpose-built, sticky-soled shoes with flat pedals.]
I’ve reached the point in the review where I feel as if I have to say something negative about the Catalyst, so here goes! I like grip on the pedals. With the 6mm traction pins that come standard in the Catalyst, I have always felt like the grip was lacking just a little, even when wearing the sticky Five Ten’s.
Fortunately, the Catalyst comes with a bag of 8mm traction pins. Just a few minutes with a 2mm Allen wrench yields grip that rivals that of clipless pedals. Through trial and error, I have discovered that if I install the long pins in the ends and leave the short pins in the middle, the shoe sole will assume a slightly concave profile that amplifies the grip even more.
If I haven’t convinced you yet that you need Catalyst pedals for your police/security/EMS bike, I’ll point out that Pedaling Innovations supports IPMBA and can now be found in the IPMBA Product Purchase Program, offering 30% off MSRP. Visit http://ipmba.org/membership/product-purchase-program for their listing and others, including one for 50% off Five Ten shoes via Adidas Outdoor.
When I started working for James and Kiele, I asked them if they would be interested in participating and they agreed without hesitation. James felt so strongly about supporting IPMBA that he published the accompanying post on the Pedaling Innovations blog.
Thanks for taking the time to read this review!
I can be reached at email@example.com if you have more questions or just want to hear me ramble on about mountain bikes.
Maybe I’ll see you in Fort Worth next April? Stay safe out there!
Photos courtesy Scott Bixby.
Scott is a Lieutenant with the New York State University Police at the University of Buffalo. He has been a member of the bike patrol unit since 2005 and currently serves as its supervisor. He has also been the lead instructor for the UB Police Bike Patrol School since 2017. Scott is an expert level mountain biker and has been riding and racing mountain bikes since 1999. He also runs a bicycle wheel building and bike repair business that can be found at http://www.bluelinebicyclerepair.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(c) 2018 IPMBA. This review appeared in Vol. 27, No. 2 of IPMBA News 2018.