The original mountain bike pedal, the one that started it all, the Shimano PD-M737, was a pedal of such clairvoyant utility that it not only defined the genre of the mountain pedal forever, it also transcended it. It set the two-hole drill pattern for all mountain shoes which, considering the myriad drillings available for road shoes, is a feat on the order of getting the UCI to accept responsibility of any kind. Not only was the 737 popular with mountain bikers who wanted all the advantages of clipless pedals without the liabilities of trying to flip a road pedal over, it caught on with the touring segment of the road market. These riders wanted the advantages of clipless pedals and the fact they didn’t have to flip them over to clip in was handy, but the real selling point was that off the bike, they didn’t suffer the gait of a Mallard.
It’s rare that anything pulls off such a double whammy, but to do both in the same year of release is unheard of. Consider that when Bruce Springsteen hit the scene he was the model for a new, rawer, more personal rock and roll. Today, he’s a national institution. But in 1974, he was just an unshaven slacker you wouldn’t let date your daughter.
The 737 was the slacker you threw your daughter and gave the keys to your prized Mustang.
That’s not to say the 737 had no flaws. The bearings wore out, making the pedal sloppy and noisy. Worse, a pair weighed more than the conscience of young George Washington, post cherry tree. But they had one feature that make them vastly superior to every other competitor that entered the market until Time hit with their Atac. To engage the pedal, all you had to do was put your foot on it. There was no requirement that you catch the pedal toe-first. You could catch either the front or the rear of cleat on the pedal to engage; there were gates at both ends of the pedal. A double-sided pedal with gates both front and rear results in four gates per pedal, which is why they their mass was enough to bend light. Heavy or not, it’s a feature that Time and Crank Brothers both thought enough of to design into their pedals, but somehow, later Shimano pedals lost that feature.
It’s like selling a car with no stereo. You just don’t do that. If you’re not going to include a sound system, then the engine had better be its own sound system. That’s how Ferrari can get away with such an omission, but I digress.
I began riding a set of Ritchey’s WCS Paradigm Mountain Pedals this summer, first putting them on my mountain bike and then switching them to my ‘cross bike when I began to plan for the ‘cross season. Why did I switch a 223g set of pedals to a 19-lb. cyclocross rig? Easy. I wanted to make it lighter.
Kidding … sorta.
Sure, the pair weighed less than even one of the 737s (I’m not exaggerating—a pair of 737s weighed more than 500g), but the real reason is that I noticed on my first ride on the Paradigms that they had restored the double engagement feature I so loved. That mattered to me for cyclocross because following a dismount, getting back into your pedals so you can go top-fuel dragster on the gas is as imperative as sunlight.
Unfortunately, following my crash, I learned that my face has veto power over entry fees. Wow; I didn’t see that coming.
Ritchey products, like few others on the market, have an identity that’s more easily read than their genes. WCS products may not be cheap, but they share a uniform emaciation, stripped of anything remotely ornamental. In as much as these products are beautiful (and I do find them attractive), it’s because they are all business, kinda like an old-school circular saw—no protective slides and auto-switches. It doesn’t hurt that with so little to the pedal it sheds mud like cooking oil on Teflon.
As a result, there’s less to the spindles than the brain activity of a coma patient. They are secured to the cranks with an 8mm Allen wrench, and while they go on easy enough, I’ve always hated removing pedals that don’t have flats, but that would add weight, wouldn’t it?
Part of the particular genius of the Paradigms is that they feature only two gates. The front gate for one side also serves as the rear gate for the other side. One stone, two birds.
They feature three bearings: a sealed cartridge bearing at the end of the spindle, a long-lasting and load-bearing needle bearing in the middle and then a lightweight bushing for the inner bearing. Also contributing to what should be a very long-lived pedal is the chrome-moly spindle.
Float for these pedals is four degrees. It’s not a huge amount for those whose joints creak and quake, but it has proven to be enough for me and eliminates the slop that can make other pedal systems less efficient. Spring retention is adjustable, natch.
Even though these pedals are part of Ritchey’s top-of-the-line WCS line, I was a bit surprised that they only retail for $159.95. They’ll last longer than your next TV and thanks to their simple silver-and-gold look, they have yet to appear out-of-place on any bike I’ve mounted them.
It’s a typical Ritchey product: Somebody else’s idea, perfected.