This is a review of our experience using clipless platform style flat pedals with no special bike shoes or cleats. But first we must explain why we made the change. Since our first tandem we have both used Speedplay Frogs, a mountain bike pedal that offers more “play” and recessed cleats so we could walk in our cycling shoes. They discontinued making them a few years ago and at some point we knew we’d need to try something new. We’ve both tried the typical SPD pedals on indoor spinning bikes and I (Sheila) found them too stiff and hard to get in and out of. Besides, you cannot walk in your shoes with these cleats. So when we happened across someone on a tandem Facebook group touting these unique platform pedals I clicked the link to check them out.

Pedaling Innovation’s website explains why they created Catalyst Pedals and why they believe they’re superior. There’s a lot to explore there. If you’re curious I suggest you start by watching the brief video with founder, James Wilson, at the top of the page. He’s a personal trainer and mountain biker. He’s provided a lot of research information. You can also see the FAQ about why you do not have to pull up on pedals which is the first question we usually get.

In a nutshell, they’re like other mountain bike pedals, flat with pins, but a bit longer, enough so that the whole arch of your foot fits on them. The intended benefit in this shift is to engage different muscles and take the load off the Achilles tendon. For us it means we don’t have to wear stiff biking shoes and we’re not locked onto the pedals. We immediately recognized that we could get by with only a single pair of shoes for both cycling and walking. This is a huge advantage when doing a self-supported tour and/or if you want to bike to a hike.

So how is it riding with these unusual pedals?
They definitely take some getting used to. The company says to expect it to take 4-6 rides. On the first ride I was very nervous. My regular shoes have a flare on the heel and I think it hit the crank arm once or twice. I worried about positioning my foot correctly and put blue tape on my shoes so I could line up where the front and back of the pedal should be. After riding the tandem 42K miles focusing on pedaling in circles and pulling up on the pedals, when you are not attached, that action causes the foot to “fly” off the pedal! By the fourth ride that didn’t happen nearly as much. As of this writing we’re at 149 miles in five rides.

One tip I read in someone’s comment was to practice pulling your toes up while pedaling which emphasizes using the arch instead. That helped. And when we’re going over bumps, when I know in advance, I stand, otherwise my feet sometimes get bumped off the pedals. Again, not as often as I get used to using them. We’re still figuring out the best shoes to wear. It’s looking like our old Keene Cycling Sandals (also no longer made) will work well for both cycling and walking with the old Frogs removed. I’ve heard of one guy who rides in Crocs! Sounds weird but anything is possible.

Many point out they are heavy but we have never worried about weight on the bike anyhow so that’s not a concern to us. They cost half-again as much as our old pedals but of course that’s not relevant either since we can no longer get them. They have a 30 day return policy so we didn’t want to order them until the weather improved so we could get enough riding on them to know if we wanted to keep them. At only 4 rides we’re pretty sure we will keep them. They’re not entirely second nature yet but we think and hope they will be. Someone said they are a “catalyst to conversation”. We’ll see if we find that true at the upcoming Northwest Tandem Rally. I imagine so.

Other reviews

Looking back on ETC’s 20th Anniversary