The Catalyst pedal comes from James Wilson, the proprietor of MTB Strength Training Systems. The Pedaling Innovations venture began after he thought of a new way to help translate the power he created in the gym onto his bike. He found that there was a missing link between the barefooted stance he used in the gym when swinging around kettlebells and various other lumps of iron and the way he could use the same movement patterns to propel his bike forwards on the trail. The solution to this problem resulted in the creation of a larger pedal platform. The Catalyst pedals aren't lightweight at 505 grams, but after shelling out $119 USD, they are the only pedal on the market that come with a 30 day, no quibble, money back guarantee.
Catalyst Pedal Details
• Intended use: improving pedalling dynamics by using a large platform to support the foot
• 6061 aluminum
• Dual sealed bearings and DU bushing internals
• 128mm x 95mm platform
• 16mm thickness
• Red, blue, black or grey colors
• 30-day money back guarantee
• Weight: 505 grams
• MSRP: $119 USD
The Catalyst pedal doesn't do any singing or dancing, and this is probably because their designer is a gym rat and bike rider, not an engineer. A simple affair, they are extruded and machined from 6061 series aluminum into a 16mm thick platform. Dual sealed bearings and DU bushings keep things spinning on the cro-mo axle. There are five pins at the front and rear of the platform, and two more between the axle and leading edge of the pedal. At 95mm wide they are comparable to others, but the huge 128mm length is the largest on the market.Setup and Science
The Pedaling Innovations web page cites a number of scientific studies
that helped spark the creation of a pedal with such an oversized platform. To summarize, the key points describe the hips as the main driving force behind a strong downwards pedal stroke, and state that from a biomechanical standpoint there is nothing to be gained from pulling up on the pedals on the backstroke. Mountain bikers are told to center the ball of their foot over the pedal axle, and traditional technique sees pedal strokes focusing on the quadriceps. According to the James Wilson, positioning the axle under the middle of the foot can improve the way hip flexors, glutes and hamstrings fire.
The theory of placing the ball of the foot in line with the axle comes from the way we run or jump as a human; we push off the ball of the foot and toes for movements where we take off from the ground. For movements where our feet don't leave the ground, it's said to be better to keep the foot flat on the floor, supporting either end of the arch at the ball and heel. James says the pedal stroke is similar to squatting or deadlifting in the gym - try squatting with a heavy weight at the gym balancing on your toes versus keeping your feet flat on the floor.
Wouldn't a stiff soled shoe accomplish the same thing as the Catalyst pedal? Well, not quite. Using a stiff sole will help to support the foot, but the calf muscle and Achilles' tendon still need to be recruited to push down on the pedals. Having to keep tension in this area will subtract from the amount of power we can produce in the hips, and next to zero power can be added from these small muscles. The Catalyst pedal is designed to be long enough to give support at both ends of the foot for most people, although basketball players might need something even bigger; I used the pedal with a size 10.5 US Five Ten Impact VXi shoe.
| You might have to spend some time readjusting your foot position.|
A short pedal placed under the ball of the foot requires the calf muscle and Achilles tendon to be flexed in order to pedal and balance.
Placing a larger platform in a more central position under the foot could mean increased pedal power.
I have been following James' downloadable MTB Strength Training plans for a number of years now and believe they have helped me to improve my pedalling technique. The majority of the training focuses on using plenty of kettlebell swings, squats and exercises designed to improve hip movements and increase the effectiveness of each pedal stroke. Riding with a mid-foot position rather than pushing with the ball of your foot is crucial for using the Catalyst pedal, and a technique that I had a head start on. If you don't have this style dialled in, it may take longer for you to reap any benefits from the extra size, and continuing to use a quad dominant stroke with the ball of your foot placed over the axle won't bring about much of a benefit over a standard pedal. Getting onto the trail I had no problem moving my foot a few centimeters forward as recommended, and it became second nature within a couple of rides. I should also note that I'm a long term flat pedal user and when using clips I always have the cleats positioned as far backward as possible.
I had three concerns when the pedals arrived: would they affect the way I try to keep my heels down on rough downhill sections as my foot would be further forward, would maneuvers that use a 'scooping motion' like bunny hops be more difficult, and would they clip every obstacle in sight with their massiveness? No problems arose with any of these. Keeping my heels dropped wasn't an issue and I even felt more balanced on the bike. Hopping, turning and jumping felt barely different to any other flat pedals and I didn't find them striking the ground any more often than normal. Within two rides I felt like I had gained more power with no extra training, and when putting in hard, standing efforts on the pedals, I found it much easier to maintain form and posture and a strong pedalling technique. Going from normal flats to the Catalysts feels like another step up in terms of keeping my form on point. Also, the extra support from the pedals means that slimmer, more flexible shoes can be used without worrying about them curling over the pedal's leading and trailing edges.
Grip wise I didn't find the Catalyst to be great for getting involved in the real rough stuff - the pins are pretty short so I upgraded to some slightly longer pins to increase traction. I would compare grip levels to a DMR V12 or Nukeproof Neutron, whereas I feel more comfortable riding downhill on a more aggressive pedal like a DMR Vault or Nukeproof Horizon. Along with longer pins for more extreme riding, I would like to see some shorter pins or texture in the middle of the pedal as the huge flat surface in the middle can feel a little slippery underfoot. This large surface area could also pose a problem with mud build up in adverse conditions.
The Catalyst is a monster, but needs bigger pins to match. The 128mm long body has a small amount of concave and is 16mm thick at the axle. Pinkbike’s Take:
|The Catalyst changed my view on flat pedals by making it feel as if I had more power, better balance, and the ability to maintain my form for longer periods of time during sustained physical efforts. I do wish they had better grip - as a result they are more suited to trail/all mountain riding than aggressive downhill in their standard form. Still, if I can improve my riding by simply changing my pedals, I'll take it. And don't forget that there is a 30-day money back guarantee, which makes it even easier to try a pair and see if they work for you. - Paul Aston|