Review: Chromag's New Pilot Clipless Pedals

Nov 14, 2022 at 18:18
by Mike Kazimer  

Chromag has long been synonymous with steel hardtails, flat pedals, and colorful handlebars. The addition of a full-suspension kid's bike last year was a surprise to many, and now, in another semi-unexpected twist, the Whistler-based company has added clipless pedals into their product lineup.

As it turns out, 60% of Chromag's employees were already clipping in, so it made sense to expand in that direction. There two versions of the new pedals – the Pilot (reviewed here), and the Pilot BA. Both use the same SPD-compatible clip-in mechanism, but the BA is more DH-oriented, with an even wider aluminum platform and more pins.

Chromag Pilot Details
• Aluminum body, chromoly axle
• 12-degree release angle
• SPD cleat compatible
• Platform dimensions: 87x110mm
• Colors: red, black, purple, gold, blue
• Weight: 513 grams
• MSRP: $184 USD
chromagbikes.com
The regular Pilot still has a fairly large platform – it measures 87 x 110mm, and has four adjustable or removable traction pins on each side. Chromag supplies their own cleats with the pedals, but they'll also work with Shimano's SPD cleats, making it easier to find replacements in a pinch.

There are five different colors to choose from - black, blue, red, purple, gold, or blue. No matter the color, the price remains the same, at $184 USD.


ENTRY & EXIT

Getting into the Pilots requires the same technique that you'd use for pretty much any SPD-compatible design – slide the front of the cleat under the toe bar, and then step straight down. It's a very natural motion, and one that quickly becomes second nature.

However, I did find that getting in (and out) wasn't as effortless as what I'm used to with Shimano's own pedals, or the Hope Union TC pedals that I reviewed recently. Every so often I'd have trouble slotting the cleat underneath the Pilot's toe bar, and there were several occasions when it felt like the cleat was hanging up when I went to get out. I tried Chromag's own cleats as well as a set of Shimano SH51 cleats with the same result.

I experimented with more and less release tension, but that didn't alleviate the issue, and it wasn't shoe dependent either. I think the culprit may be the height of the toe bar – it's not quite as tall as what Shimano uses, which can make it a little harder to find it right away.

Pins might help a little when trying to find the pedal again after clipping out, but the front ones don't do much once you're back in.

To further confirm what I was experiencing, I installed the Pilot on one crank arm, and a Shimano XT pedal on the other. With the XT pedal, my foot seemed to naturally find the sweet spot, allowing me to step down and clip in with one fluid motion. My other foot, the one aiming for the Pilot, didn't have it quite as easy – I'd have to wriggle it around a little to find that toe bar and then step down, making it more of a two step process.

In our big clipless pedal buyer's guide, Shimano's XT pedals get a 9 (out of 10) for ease of entry and exit, a rating I agree with. Using the same scale, I'd give the Pilots an 8. The platform itself is quite generous, even on the smaller of the two options, which is what keeps the Pilots from getting a 7, since it is pretty unlikely that you'll totally slip off during entry. No matter what, clipping in and out doesn't feel as refined as it does with Shimano's pedals.

As far as release tension goes, the adjustment range should accommodate a variety of preferences. For me, I was content setting it approximately 1/4 of the way to max tension.

The front traction pins don't really serve much purpose, and I removed the rearmost pins to ensure they didn't impede my entry or exit. The height of the rear pins can be adjusted to fine-tune the pedal / shoe interface, but I found it easier just to remove them completely. The actual position of the pedal that the shoe contacts is nice and wide, and provides a solid, stable platform underfoot.

The pedals spin on a cartridge bearing and a bushing, with a rubber seal on the inboard portion to keep things clean.

DURABILITY

There are some scuffs on the pedal body, but other than some cosmetic indicators that they've been used the Pilots are still running smoothly. I should note that conditions were fairly dry for much of the test period, but I have had good luck with Chromag's axle design on their flat pedals in the past. The outer rubber seal does a very good job at keeping dirt and water from getting in, although it does make them spin a little less freely than other options.



HOW DO THEY COMPARE?

Pricewise, Chromag's Pilot pedals sit in between Shimano's $130 XT and $190 XTR options. The Pilots have a bigger platform, and thus a heavier weight of 513 grams, versus 429 grams for XT and 386 grams for XTR. There aren't any colors to choose from in Shimano's catalog, and there aren't any traction pins either, which may be enough to attract some riders to camp Chromag.




Pros

+ Wide platform, and there's an even wider option
+ Axle and bearing are well sealed against contamination
+ SPD cleat compatible

Cons

- Entry / release isn't as smooth as Shimano's
- On the heavier side of things





Pinkbike's Take
bigquotesCreating a new clipless pedal that can take on the likes of Shimano is a tough proposition. In this case, Chromag has some work to do before Shimano's spot on the throne is threatened, although it is good to see another option on the market. The Pilot's actuation wasn't as smooth as I would have liked, but they do provide a very stable platform underfoot, and shrugged off plenty of hard hits.  Mike Kazimer








105 Comments

  • 145 4
 Price of XTR, 1/4 pound heavier, doesn't work as well, shiny.

Full review, 11 words.
  • 22 0
 Bigger. 12 words.
  • 100 0
 @bishopsmike, I'd be more impressed if you summarized it in the form of a haiku.
  • 5 0
 @mikekazimer: I was almost there! Beer
  • 157 1
 Something like this?

When the ashes cover the ruins
Of the failed civilization
Pedals from the land of the raising Sun
Will spin smoothly
Still
  • 12 0
 @pakleni: This is the best thing I have ever read on Pinkbike. Thank you.
  • 30 0
 @mikekazimer: a big XTR
and hard to get in and out
look at the colors
  • 9 10
 @mikekazimer:

I'd be more impressed

if you summarized

it in the form of haiku
  • 25 0
 @barp, that's more like it. Someone knows the 5 / 7 / 5 rule.
  • 24 0
 @mikekazimer:

Conundrum, I think
All the cool kids rock Chromag
But they don't clip in
  • 12 1
 @mikekazimer:
Shiny new pedals
Weigh more than a planet
But they have got pins
  • 2 0
 @pakleni: I’m saving this for later!
  • 12 3
 @mikekazimer:
Red large and grippy
Well sealed though heavy and costly
Hard to come un-clippy
  • 2 0
 @mikekazimer: haiku review would be perfect for YouTube shorts…
  • 1 0
 @Maxcommencemal:
Now I had to explain why I was laughing in the office. Thanks a bunch.
  • 2 0
 @pakleni: *rising son
  • 1 0
 @mikekazimer: Here's your review: This cleat is innovative but a design flaw makes it not work nearly as well as Shimano trail spd pedals. Bottom of the line folks, we need to tell Shimano to make a wider trail/enduro spd that actually has the platform in combination to the spd, not against it.
  • 103 3
 Incoming comments about someone's flawless 20+ year old Shimano SPD's in 3...2..1...
  • 244 1
 I've been using the same Shimano SPD since WW1. Still going strong
  • 39 0
 I have some that I got second hand from a British cavalry horse in the Crimean war. Buttery, nicely broken in.
  • 28 0
 I bought my Shimano pedals used from Keith Richards when he switched to wah wah pedals when he was a young one.
  • 11 0
 My SPDs have always been, and will never cease to be.
  • 5 3
 @Someoldfart: I appreciate the use of wah wahs here, this pun might go under the radar
  • 3 0
 @onawalk: I still got a set of wah wahs.beasts back in the day. On clipless saints now. No going back.
  • 7 1
 Time ATAC for life!
  • 2 0
 @dthomp325: Yeah, no TIME to lose with these things
  • 6 0
 Captain Koons hid this uncomfortable hunk of metal in his ass after my father died in the POW camp. These xt pedals are my birthright. And by god they are as clippy today as ever.
  • 4 0
 Picked mine up towards the end of the middle ages, still going strong!
  • 38 0
 Cool plane
  • 15 1
 World champ approved
  • 1 0
 Yeah Reece, but how many runs until the plane isn't visible anymore?
  • 24 0
 Lots of spd pedals out there, but none that make me want to ditch my trusty XTs
  • 21 5
 Or you could just get Chromag Daggas, pedals so grippy they are basically clips Smile
  • 4 0
 best flat pedal on the market if you have bigger feet. and i have tried pretty much every large platform out there.
  • 1 0
 Or like I did, Dagga pins on Scarabs for my small size 40 shoes.
  • 1 0
 @adrennan: Even better than Pedaling Innovation Catalyst Pedals?
  • 1 0
 @tsewhsoj: I have only ever tried those on other peoples bikes like around parking lots and they feel weird to me.
  • 1 1
 @adrennan: I've got six pairs of these. Other pedals feel weird to me.
  • 10 4
 Anther clipless pedal that ignore's Pedal platform to shoe interface...If your going to put a cage around the SPD... make it contact the shoe otherwise might aswell continue rocking 520spd's...

are CB enduro/dh the only pedal that actually provides pedal on shoe contact? Theres a reason its the choice of many DH/Enduro Pros despite not being sponsored by CB...

edit: I should also mention that CB offer a much wider q factor for us guys who have a wide stance and dont like looking like a upside down triangle on the bike like many clip riders
  • 2 1
 the Pilot has a q factor of 57.5mm, and the Pilot BA has a q factor of 60mm - the CB Mallet E LS and DH both have a q factor of 57mm
  • 4 5
 @skarsy: but basically zero pedal to shoe contact...

not sure why anyone would downvote me lol... should be asking for the same thing... lame
  • 1 0
 The funn mambas contact your shoe
  • 1 0
 @nfontanella: I tried them with spesh, shimano and CB shoes and they didnt other than just beside the cleat and they continued that SPD icy feeling.
  • 1 0
 One thing to keep in mind is that that photo of his shoe clipped into the pedal is most likely him not actually standing or really loading it up. It might look different if he were riding or standing, no? Just a thought. That’s an idea coming from a life long flat pedal rider though. What do I know haha
  • 1 0
 @robbiekane: clipless shoes don't flex like flat pedal shoes
  • 1 0
 @nfontanella: good point. Like I said, I’m a flat pedal guy Smile
  • 4 0
 How is the pin/ platform contact? I currently run crankbros pedals because I'm a big fan of the "flat pedal" feel while also being clipped in, but if I was to guess looking at the one picture you have of the shoe & pedal this interface offers little to no contact with the pins of the pedal.
  • 2 0
 Hope union gc, like a flatpedal with similar to shimano clip feeling.
  • 3 1
 Have been riding them for a bit and there are definitely marks in the soles of my shoes from the contact of the pins, both front and back. I have tried them without pins and find that I still get the benefits of the large platform, but the float feels a bit more "free". With the pins, you can still clip out no problem, but it feels a bit more locked in place and resistant to twisting, like a flat pedal. It is all shoe dependent, and not sure whether or not that photo was taken with the rider's bodyweight on the pedal, as that also flattens the shoe and pushes the pins into the sole. I found my ideal combo to be the stock pin setup, but everyone will be different!
  • 1 0
 I've been running the mamba's since 2015..good pin to shoe contact

www.funnmtb.com/products/category/pedals
  • 1 0
 Again, maybe this is because it’s most likely a photo of his shoe clipped in while just sitting and not really riding or loading up the pedal.
  • 5 0
 A better comparison would have been against the Shimano Saint pedal in my opinion. Saints are bulletproof, and are so easy to service.
  • 3 0
 I think that would be the other Chromag pedal
  • 3 0
 "and there aren't any traction pins either [on the Shimanos], which may be enough to attract some riders to camp Chromag."

That's because those Shimano cages aren't there for fore-aft support, they're there to protect the clip mechanism.
  • 2 0
 I used spds for years. Made the move to flats two years ago and now when I used my spds and 3 year old giros I feel like foot is so far back and connected by a little pin to the pedal. Basically it feels awful. The only reason I think to go back to spds are for my hardtail, but not sure I wanna go back and forth. Are new shoes etc. better now? Do platform pedals feel better and more connected to the bike? Only if I was on nonstop sketch jank or mainly hardtailing would I go back ,but maybe I'm missing something.
  • 2 0
 100% the same experience. After 10 years of riding clipless, I decided to "mix it up" 3 years ago and try flats. I absolutely loved it. The secure feeling of the large format underfoot, combined with the ability to try technical sections with the confidence of being able to immediately put a foot down has me sold.

About a year ago I threw my old clipless pedals back on the bike and gave it a ride. Hated every second of it. That feeling of standing on spindles effectively ruined that ride.
  • 1 0
 @KJP1230: It's amazing what you get used to. The only time I miss my spds are on some technical climbs and on chattery downs on the hardtail, but I don't wanna lose that connected feeling on the berms etc. With spds I feel like my foot is actually gonna slip off, even though it doesn't.
  • 1 0
 You try crank bros? They feel a lot more like a flat pedal
  • 1 0
 @nfontanella: not since 1998 ha
  • 20 17
 It would be great if you'd list a Canadian price pinkbike. You're based in squamish, chromag is based in whistler and a lot of chromags die hard fans are Canadian.
  • 5 0
 They're $215 Canadian.
  • 31 2
 @mikekazimer: There are also a lot of French speaking Canadians, could you please post the article in French for all the chromag die hard fans who speak french?
  • 5 1
 @misteraustin: what about the nations that already lived there before the invaders came?
  • 4 2
 @Sethimus: They also entered the area (across the Bering Strait). Why not translate it to bear and buffalo lingo?
  • 2 1
 @misteraustin: That counts as French? (runs)
  • 2 0
 Competition in the market is always good but I really see no reason why someone would buy these over XT pedals. Unless you want pretty colors to match the other colors you have.
  • 1 0
 @mikekazimer Did you happen to try these with a shim? I'm already hearing that similar to Crank Brothers, these need a shim under the cleats and then they're great. Obviously it probably depends on the shoe, but for me, it's a huge night/day difference with my CB Mallet E's. Wondering if it's the same with these?
  • 4 0
 I still find it surprising that the wheel was invented after Shimano SPDs. My fossilised ones are still going strong.
  • 1 0
 It feels like there's little distinction between so many mtb products and pedals exemplify that. How many pedals can you think of that have a spindle which looks exactly like that, one or two bearings on the inside, a bushing on the outside, and a rubber seal? Basically all the major brands - and the parts all look the same. I'd be shocked if they didn't all come out of the same handful of factories.
  • 3 2
 Hope union gc are my new go tos. Its a cool mix between the best parts of ht, shimano and cb without the quirks. Highly recommended if you like an actual platform on a clip pedal.
  • 1 0
 Real Question - How does the Q factor on the Chromag compare to the SPD's? It is my biggest bone to pick is that most pedal makes except ISSI do not make wider axles for people who have larger feet and heel in.
  • 1 1
 So Shimano did what Shimano does best. They patented the pivoting platform and then threw the design into Mount Doom, to be forever burnt along with The One Ring. The VP-133 DHs were among the scarce models that managed to sport the legendary design, outside of PD-M636s, 536s and a few others. Now we all have to settle for uncomfortable, rigid platforms.
  • 4 0
 @pakleni: PD-M647? PD-M424? Still in existence, still with the pop up mechanism. Love my PD-M647 DX pedals. Have had the same set on my last four enduro rigs.
bike.shimano.com/en-US/product/component/shimano/PD-M647.html
  • 1 0
 @gnarnaimo: DMR uses the same system and is actually raced at WC level by David Trummer -should be ok.
  • 2 0
 Inferior clone of existing product. This is how the bike industry is crushing it!!
  • 2 0
 No crank guard on the carbons Bold move!
  • 1 0
 I thought Daggas were clipless, at least once they wore perfect pin patterns into your shoes
  • 7 9
 Who cares if they're objectively not as good as Shimano? Not everyone cares about having the "best", which is fine too. Chromag is a great example with a few of their products. They not be the "best" or lightest, but they look great and will be solid.

I have a Ranger stem and Cutlass bar on my Spur and sure I could get something way lighter and "better" (sure OneUp's carbon bar would be lighter and more compliant) but I like Chromag's aesthetic and they're solidly built and I know I can rely on them Smile
  • 9 1
 They’re expensive as hell though. If there are issues with the mechanism that literally defines the function of the pedal, why would pay for “the aesthetic”?

Not about having the best here. Just comparing them to an industry standard that doesn’t take an extra $100 for smooth lines and color options.

I love Chromag and use plenty of their products
  • 3 3
 They are expensive, yes, but why not choose them if you want them? I have a set of XT's, they're awesome, they're good value, but I never look at them and think "phwooooaaaaarrrrrr!"

Maybe it's just me, but if the the function is 95% there of the benchmark (which it sounds like it is from Kaz's review), why not splurge a bit for something you want, even if that is only because they look cool and from a brand you like to support? I'd rather give my cash to someone like Chromag over the biggest brands out there.
  • 2 2
 Still can not believe that the only kind of pedals that has any single thing to do with clips are called clipless pedals. Please.
  • 2 0
 I like em. I’ll give them a go. They are in stock which is nice.
  • 1 0
 Their other pedals are best in the industry so I'm assuming these are gonna be just as good.
  • 1 0
 Looks kinda same as my Hope Gravity ones with the same problem => pins are kinda useless and dont touch the shoe
  • 1 0
 I thought we came to our senses with calling pedals with clips, clipless.
  • 2 1
 So:
- Heavier
- Don’t work as well.
  • 1 0
 - Expensive.
  • 1 0
 Light, Fast and cheap. pick none.
  • 1 0
 Yeah, but how do they compare to my 14-year-old Time Atac Freerides?
  • 1 2
 Lol
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