One of the questions we field most often here at Mountain Bike Action is whether it’s necessary for a rider to clip in using mechanical “clipless” pedals, or if it’s possible to “get away with” riding flats. There’s much debate on this topic. On the one hand, clipless pedals offer a secure connection to a stiff-soled shoe that keeps the rider in complete control of the bike. On the other hand, flat pedals are less intimidating for beginners since they don’t “bolt” you to the bike. They’re also advantageous for advanced riders who have the skills to put a little “English” on the bike when they ride. Maglock wanted to create a compromise to satisfy both schools of thought with an unconventional solution: magnets instead of mechanical clips.
The Maglock pedals are machined from aluminum and use a unique magnetic binding technology. In order for the pedals to work, you simply attach two steel cleats to any SPD-compatible shoe so that the embedded magnets in the pedal body can attract and hold your shoes to the pedals. The Maglocks feature approximately 30 pounds of magnetic attraction with the stock setup. The connection force can be reduced by removing any of the six magnets in the pedal body located under the top plate. The pedals also feature a chromoly spindle and several setscrews to improve traction, much like a standard flat pedal. The Maglock pedals tip the scales at 947 grams, and the cleats weigh 227 grams. The entire Maglock system weighs 1174 grams (about 2.6 pounds) and can be purchased through the company’s website, www.maglockbikepedal.com, for $165.
Field test results:
We installed the Maglock pedals on our Intense Carbine 29er trailbike and bolted the cleats to our FiveTen Kestrel shoes to take advantage of the flat pedal profile with some sticky rubber. Out of the gate the Maglock pedals draw your shoes to them, literally. The strong magnets snap to the steel cleats so easily, we can actually say these are easier to find than a flat pedal. On the trail the Maglocks have a unique feel that delivers more float than any other clipless pedal we’ve ever tried. The cleats keep your shoe from contacting the pins too much, so you feel free to move around the pedal with ease without worry of detaching. Disengaging the pedals is amazingly easy, since you don’t have to rotate your shoe to overcome the mechanism. Instead, simply pull up in any direction and you’re out. The amount of resistance needed to disengage is about the same as with a Shimano SPD pedal set to the easiest setting. Removing some of the magnets under the top plate can reduce that resistance.
The cleat is fairly walkable, with a recessed shoe design like that of the FiveTen. When engaged the shoe’s rubber sole is allowed to contact the pins slightly, although not nearly as much as with a standard flat-pedal design. The cleat feels as if it raises the shoe slightly, allowing only about half the amount of normal engagement. On smooth trails there is more than enough holding power to keep riders feeling comfortable and confident. We even tested these by doing a “squid bunnyhop” (pulling up on the pedals and bars with little technique), and they held in place, no problem. However, on aggressive terrain, it’s difficult to feel connected to the bike, as there is so much float. Longer pins or a lower-profile cleat would solve this issue. Many riders will find the weight to be a significant drawback. These pedals added almost 2 pounds to our bike (including cleats) compared to our Shimano XT Trail setup. However, the feel of a flat pedal that also holds you in place will be enough of a benefit for some to offset the weight penalty. While it doesn’t affect performance, the pedals also pick up iron ore particles on the trail. Don’t be surprised if there are a few rocks and some dirt stuck to the magnetic parts after your ride.
Maglock pedals are the first generation of a unique idea. They work as advertised but could be improved by relying more on the flat-pedal platform instead of the magnet. Aggressive riders will more than likely find the engagement too weak to keep them planted on the roughest trails. With a lower-profile cleat that allowed the rider to use the platform more, this would be dramatically improved. That said, though, riders who are afraid to make the switch to a fully mechanical clipless pedal might like this easy-to-use magnet system that not only keeps you planted to the pedals but is also easier to get out of should you fail to keep the rubber side down.
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