I’ve tried several different mountain bike pedals lately. As my riding has evolved and I’ve tried new and more challenging terrain, I realized there were occasions when the pedals I’ve preferred previously weren’t exactly ideal. Some of them were lighter than the fingers of a pickpocket. That tended to make them small as well. Light is good for going uphill and small is terrific for not tagging the pedal on a rock or tree stump. But as I’ve encountered more and more situations that are dicey enough that I want one foot clipped out and just resting on the pedal, some of those tiny pedals don’t have a lot of surface area to rest a shoe that isn’t clipped in. On more than one occasion I had a foot shoot off just as I was being bounced around.
That wasn’t even my second favorite.
When I ran across the Baldwins from Xpedo I experienced an oddly conflicted reaction to them. They simultaneously looked like exactly what I needed and yet too large, too industrial for my needs, a butcher knife for a letter opener.
Then I tried them.
The first thing I want to mention about my experience with these pedals is that a heel-down entry was possible even without having a front gate on the pedal or the tension set to muscle relaxer. So many pedals I’ve tried won’t allow you to catch the rear of the cleat first and engage the pedal that way unless the tension is turned down too much to make the pedal effective at retaining feet. The Baldwins allowed me to keep the tension up plenty high so my feet couldn’t get bounced out accidentally, and yet I had no problem engaging either the front or rear of the cleat first.
Keeping the tension reasonably high also meant that on those occasions I wanted to tackle a descent with one foot out, getting bounced around never once resulted in my foot becoming unintentionally engaged. That happened at some point on most other pedals. Either my foot got bounced off or accidentally engaged, neither of which were terrific results.
The very features that made the Baldwin seem a bit more serious than perhaps I warranted turned out to be some of its best points. The fact that the cage around the pedal itself has little edges and corners to increase the ability of the shoe to hang on to the pedal made a big difference in clipped-out riding. The point was driven home in riding my bike with sneakers on. The last time I felt such a stable platform without cleats may have been prior to puberty.
The most obvious competitor to this pedal has been Shimano’s PD M985, the XTR trail pedal. That pedal has taken some knocks, though, for poor bearing seals and short bearing life. The Baldwin features three cartridge bearings. I began riding these pedals just before a tour I did in Oregon (still working on that feature) and I’ve put some significant mileage on these things since then. So far, the seals are holding up well but the bearings spin easily making the pedal easy to orient by just putting your foot down.
The cleats included with the Baldwins look almost identical to the old SPD road cleat; they are, however, wider. While I wondered about the wisdom of using such a big cleat, it was a brilliant stroke as the cleat engages a more of the pedal, giving you an even more solid purchase. I can’t say that any mountain pedal/cleat combination ever provided me with such a stable platform.
While you can get this pedal with a titanium spindle, I like the extra strength that comes with using a Chrome-Moly spindle. Some stuff doesn’t need to be ultra-lightweight, and in the case of the Baldwin, going ti only saves 40g off the already lighter-than-XTR 332g of my Baldwins, which was bang on the money with what Xpedo claimed the weight would be.
It’s possible to spend silly money on a pair of pedals, hundreds of dollars. For all the complaints I get about reviewing stuff that costs more than a semester at a private school, the Baldwins are refreshingly affordable thanks to their $119 suggested retail price. The pedal body comes in four colors: black, gray, gold and pink. I really fell for the gold (orange), but knew they’d look silly on my bike, so I went for the gray. Now that I have these on my bike, I’m disinclined to try anything else. That’s the truest measure of how good a product is—when you don’t want to keep looking.