Over the past couple of weeks, we have been putting the Pedaling Innovations Catalyst flats through some testing on the Evil “The Insurgent”. Pedaling Innovations looked to take a very different approach to the design of flat pedals and how our feet interact with the platform.
The man behind this idea is James Wilson who is also behind MTB Strength Training which has helped a lot of Bike198 readers with becoming stronger and more efficient on the bike. James, like a lot of riders, like to ride flat pedals on the trail.
I actually enjoy wearing flats for the ability to use my legs for balancing and so I can wear shoes like the Five Ten‘s that are actually nice to walk in. Especially if you are riding really technical trails…it is a lot easier to hike a bike, cross creeks and other obstacles if you have a shoe that you can actually walk in. So lets take a look at the Pedaling Innovations flats and how they stack up against other flat pedals on the market.
The Idea Behind the Design
So what makes this pedal different than every other flat on the market? Right off the bat you can see how much longer this flat is in comparison to any other you have seen. It is LONG. In comparison to the Race Face Chester, it is 1.5 inches longer overall but only 8 grams more in weight. The Chester is also a poly material vs. the aluminum frame of the Catalyst. In the picture below you can see the weight of a single pedal is 0.58 lbs or 270 grams. The Catalyst in black, blue or red.
In talking with James (and as you can see in a video on the website), the design has a very specific purpose. The design of the Pedaling Innovations Catalyst is intended to support the arch of your foot on both sides for the most stability and efficiency while pedaling. He came up with this idea while working out at the gym and noticing that you get the most power from a centered, balanced base.
The pedal design takes your foot and moves it forward so you are not pushing down with balls of your feet but the center. The increased length of the pedal allows your foot to have this position. Through this design, you are supposed to engage your hip muscles more which will give you a more powerful and efficient pedal stroke. Think of it as more of an efficient rotation that should utilize the strongest parts of your legs, hips and lower back.
By providing a platform that lets you support both ends of the arch of your foot, the Catalyst Pedal supports your foot the same way the ground would, allowing for a more balanced, stable foot position and increased power transfer into the drivetrain.
Here is a quick diagram of what he is looking to accomplish.
You can find more of the design/science end of the pedal on his website along with a rather long video of James explaining everything on a bike so you can see the pedal stroke. Since all of that info is there…I’ll move onto how they actually ride.
The Review: Pedaling Innovations Flat Pedals
As soon as you get on the bike, you can tell these are different than normal flats. The longer platform is immediately noticed and it actually takes some time to train your legs to come down on the center of the pedal instead of resting the balls of your feet directly over or slight forward of the pedal axle. While this may not seem like a big deal, for guys like me that have been riding flats for years…it took some getting used to. I really had to retrain my muscle memory to setup on the pedal in a different way.
Once you get used to the foot placement, you really can get a sense of what James is trying to accomplish. Your foot really feels more supported on the pedal just tooling around. This was all well and good on the driveway of my house but the real test would be how they acted on the trail.
The Good: Catalyst Flat Pedals
I took them out for a couple of rides in varying terrain from technical climbs to technical descents and all of the pedaling sections in between. The first thing I really noticed was that my pedal stroke was more efficient than with other flats I have ridden. It really started to mimic more of my clipless stroke that involved more sweeping rather than mashing. Normally when I take a ride out on flats, I am prepared to lose much of the efficiency in technical climbs that riding clipless provides but there was much less falloff of that with these flats.
On technical descents, jumps and drops…the longer platform made me feel more connected with the bike. This would be expected as my foot had more surface area contact with the pedal that it would with other smaller flats. As you can see by the picture above, the way the pedal centers around the arch of your foot makes for a very stable base to push through the bike.
There are also a lot of threaded pins that really gripped the bottom of my Five Ten‘s. There was zero issue with unexpected movements and many times I had to do the “Five Ten shuffle” (What friends of mine and I call having to remove your shoe from the pedal to shift position. When pedals grip this well…it feels as though it is connected). I never even felt the need to use the extended 8mm threaded studs that are included in the packaging.
At $89 dollars for the set, you are paying a little bit of a premium for the design and construction in comparison with other cheap poly flats on the market but they are cheaper than the boutique aluminum framed options. That puts the pricing dead in the center of the market which is a great place to be.
The Bad: Catalyst Flat Pedals
It isn’t all roses though. The increased length of the pedal did increase the opportunity for pedal strikes thanks to the extra material so forward of the axle. Especially on bikes with low bottom brackets like the Insurgent, you have to plan your pedal stroke more carefully on technical assents. Luckily the pedal has a really low profile…which helps…but the extended length makes the pedal act thicker than it is. In pedaling sections and downhill, it is far less of an issue.
Also, since these pedals are designed to have your foot placed more forward of the pedal axle (centered instead of biased back), I did find that I needed to adjust the saddle on the post a little bit more forward or optimal seating while climbing. I will also need several more rides to really train my foot to land centered. Towards the end of the last ride it became more automatic but the mental aspect of changing how I have ridden pedals since the early 90’s is taking an adjustment.
The Recap: Catalyst Flat Pedals
Overall I really like this set of flats and they will become my go-to setup when I want to run a flat pedal setup. The weight is really good for the size and materials and the grip of the pedals keep your foot glued to the platform. The small negatives really do not outweigh the efficiency and power I felt out of the setup in comparison with other flat pedals I have ridden.
James is actually so confident in his idea that he has a 100% money back guarantee if you don’t agree after riding them. He probably does that because his return rate has to be crazy low. These are a great set of flats.