By Jon Pratt
I switch back and forth between clipless and platform pedals to test various shoe / pedal combinations at work, but when I’m out riding for pure pleasure, you’ll find me on flats more often than not. I’ve always liked the ability to adjust my foot position based on the terrain I’m riding, and I experience less pain with flats because my feet are not locked into a single position like they are with clipless pedals. It’s my unscientific opinion that I’m likely to have less repetitive stress injuries on ligaments and joints because I can change the force and direction of the stresses associated with pedaling. Then again, maybe I’m just crazy.
Back to the matter at hand—the Catalyst pedals. Compared to the platform pedals I usually have on my bike, they are roughly the same width at the crank, but are significantly longer. Where my regular pedals are 97 mm long, the Catalysts are 143 mm. That’s quite a large 47 percent difference.
This is where the theory behind the Catalyst pedal is rooted. The increased surface area of the pedal allows for more support towards the heel of your foot. This places your arch over the spindle. With support in front of, and behind, the arch, you can drive down through the pedal—reducing stress on the ankle and engaging the hips more efficiently. There is a ton more information about the science behind this on the Pedaling Innovations website, including an in-depth video explaining everything. Go check it out if you are interested.
When I first started using the pedals, I didn’t really get it. It took more than a few rides for me to become comfortable with pedaling down instead of forward, especially on hills. When it became more of a routine, I did notice certain things. I was experiencing less leg and joint soreness after my rides. I’m assuming this is because I more relaxed with applying force to my pedals, and thus to my lower body.
Also, when climbing with regular platform pedals, I tend to arch forward, bending at the ankle and really driving through the pedal. The Catalysts made me feel like I was on a stairmaster or something; just walking up a incline flat-footed—it’s odd. It feels slightly unnatural on a bike, but more like your leg operates off the bike.
I also threw these pedals on my gravel bike to do an overnight bikepacking trip along the GAP trail here in Pittsburgh. On a long-distance, basically flat ride, the extra surface area of the Catalysts made a huge difference. I experienced less discomfort, needed to stand and stretch less, and was able to pedal for longer periods of time with less effort. I’ve done this same ride many times before, and after this trip I was noticeably less tired.
Of course with all that extra material, the Catalysts are going to be a bit heftier. At 258 grams per pedal, they carry around an extra 82 grams apiece. Full disclosure: All these pedals have some dirt and grime on them, so yours will be slightly lighter out of the box.
After spending a good amount of time with the Catalyst pedals, I think there is something to this madness. Maybe it’s just the placebo effect, but I’m pretty confident it’s more than that.