The Magnet Powered Pedal
How do you help to keep your feet on the pedals if you don't want to clip-in and definitely don't want to use toe straps? Magnets could be the answer, according to David Williams, founder of Utah-based Wasatch Bike Components. Williams called on his mechanical engineering background to design the MagLOCK pedal that employs, you guessed it, magnets to help hold your feet in place. The basic idea goes like this: a number of rare earth magnets are located on the pedal, while a flat steel cleat is bolted onto the bottom of the shoe. The two components obviously want to be together, which means that your feet want to stay put on the pedals.
Given that they're stuffed full of rather heavy magnets, it's no surprise that a set of MagLOCK pedals aren't light - 974 grams for the prototype version that you see here, or 547 grams without the magnets. Williams knows that figure will make his pedal a no-go for many riders and he says that he's okay with that, but also that the more forgiving nature of his design means that some downhillers will look past the heft. He also explained that lower limb amputees have found that the design allows them to attach and detach much easier than with a more traditional clipless system due to what he says is a more natural, pronating motion to release the foot. Picture rolling your foot off rather then rotating your heel out.
The large steel cleat is held onto the pedal by ten powerful magnets. Each magnet slides into cylindrical holes in the pedal body. Riders can remove magnets to lower the attractive force between the cleat and pedal.
The aluminum pedal body has ten openings, five in front of the axle and five behind it, that serve as home to cylindrical magnets. The magnets slide in from either side, and a stainless steel plate (the clear option pictured here is also available) is bolted on over top that holds them all in place. Williams says that keeping all ten magnets in each pedal results about 30 - 35lb of attractive force that, while not holding your feet as securely as a true clipless setup, is said to be enough to greatly aid in keeping your feet in place when jumping or riding over rough ground. Riders have the option of removing the cover to slide out magnets in order to adjust the holding power, which could be handy for beginners or people who want even more freedom. The six screws that hold the plate in place also act as locaters for the cleat, making it a no-brainer to get your foot in the proper spot.
The other part of the equation is the steel cleats that bolt to the bottom of your shoes via a standard SPD bolt pattern. The 974 gram weight for a set of MagLOCK pedals doesn't factor in the cleats, which is clearly going to be heavier than a standard SPD version, although weight won't likely be too much of a concern for anyone considering the MagLOCK pedal. The cleat looks a bit ungainly in its current form, but Williams is working on that, including a design that would incorporate a spring-loaded steel section that would retract when the rider isn't on the pedal, therefore not interfering with walking, but be pulled out by the magnetic force when you put your foot over the pedal.
The MagLOCK pedal is neither thin nor light, at 974 grams for a set with all of the magnets installed. Are magnets the missing link between traditional platform pedals and current clipless designs?
The MagLOCK pedal has a lot going for it, including plenty of free float, adjustable retention power and, according to Williams, much more forgiving performance than a standard clipless setup. That last point might make the pedal ideal for those just starting out, but also for riders who don't count grams and long ago swore off using clipless pedals but want a bit more security than what a pair of sticky soled shoes can offer. Williams isn't looking to license his patented design to other companies, he explained, instead preferring to steer the ship on his own. A successful Kickstarter campaign
saw many funders sign up for the $120 USD dollar pedal, and they can expect to receive the first production examples within the month.