The debate over pedal kickback is ongoing, and depending on who you ask it's either a minor, almost imperceptible phenomenon, or a major issue that needs to immediately be addressed with an idler. Pinkbike's Seb Stott recently wrote an article detailing exactly why you shouldn't worry about it.
If you shouldn't worry, is it actually noticeable? Pinkbike reader Matt Morrison took matters into his own hands, and even created his own data acquisition setup and software. It's great to see riders go this far to try and figure out if what they're feeling can be backed up by data. - Mike Kazimer Words: Matt Morrison
You have probably heard of pedal kickback. But, like me, you probably aren’t sure if it actually happens out on the trail. No amount of Pinkbike articles, YouTube videos, or trailside debates on the topic could really tell me if I ever experience it while riding. So I decided to directly measure pedal kickback events out on the trail. I spent a few months developing a data acquisition system and a suite of software tools for the job.
I made sensors for the bike that enabled me to compute when pedal kickback occurred while riding. Funnily enough, the most important of these sensors was a simple button on my handlebars. I pressed it when I suspected I felt pedal kickback at my feet. This “rider feedback” button is crucial because we can collect data all day long, but if we cannot ultimately correlate these quantitative results with any meaningful rider feedback, the data doesn’t really mean anything. We are generally saturated with data and yet starved for understanding—and for this test, what I craved was understanding
I really had no idea what to expect from the results, but I had a hunch that occasional bouts of harshness felt at my feet while riding might be due to pedal kickback. I ran five laps at my local trail network and did two runs of a fairly large, slow-speed drop in the area. The general consensus is that slow-speed drops are where the rider is most liable to experience pedal kickback, so I was glad to get this data included in my field test.
Hunting for pedal kickback events (photo: Zack Watkins)
The video explains all the fine details, but, long story short, pedal kickback happens! There were several instances of perceptible pedal kickback during the field test. This means pedal kickback not only occurred but I also hit the feedback button, indicating I actually felt it as well. I can’t extrapolate the results beyond the scope of my test, but at least I proved to myself that pedal kickback happens for me. Let me know what I got right, what I got wrong, and what topic I should research next.
Another huck liable to produce pedal kickback (photo: Nick Mullen)Cass Labs