Many mountain bikers swear by the pedalling efficiency of so-called clipless pedals, in which a steel cleat on the bottom of each shoe engages a spring-loaded mechanism in the pedal. Some other riders, however, just don't like the idea of being "snapped in" like that. It was with this in mind that cyclist Dave Williams created MagLOCK pedals. They're non-threatening platform pedals, that keep the user's feet in place using magnets instead of mechanisms. We recently had a chance to try them out, and generally liked what they had to offer.
Each MagLOCK pedal features an anodized aluminum body with weight-saving cutouts, along with 10 removable cylindrical neodymium magnets inside. Those magnets are attracted to rectangular steel cleats attached to the bottom of each shoe – this means that cycling-specific shoes with cleat mounts must be used, if riders want the magnetic effect.
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As with mechanical clipless pedals, riders release their feet from the MagLOCKs simply by pronating the foot outward. It's about as easy as disengaging from Shimano's popular SPD system when set to very low retention – the difference is, we found that the MagLOCKS kept our shoes in place on the pedals better than SPDs set to such a level.
All that being said, it must be admitted that lifting one's foot off of a regular platform pedal is easier still.
By removing a metal cover plate, users can take out the magnets one by one, until they reach a level of magnetic attraction with which they're comfortable. With all 10 magnets in place, each pedal has an attractive force of 35 lb (16 kg). We found that five magnets per pedal was about right for us. This allowed us to "pedal in circles" (i.e: pushing and pulling on the pedals, instead of just mashing down on them) and kept our feet from being bucked off the pedals while going over rough terrain, yet still allowed for easy disengagement.
We also appreciated the generous amount of float provided by the MagLOCKs. This means that our feet were able to swivel laterally a fair bit relative to each pedal, instead of being unyieldingly locked into one position. There is no way of adjusting the float, however.
As far as gripes go, one is that the magnet-removal process can be quite … trying. Despite following the instructions, we found it fairly difficult to keep the magnets from violently snapping onto one another, once they'd been pulled out of their cubby holes. By contrast, turning the spring-tensioning screw on a set of SPDs is much easier. Fortunately, it's a process that most users should have to go through just once.
The other detractor of the MagLOCKs is their weight. Each of our pedals tipped the scales at 18 oz (510 g) with all the magnets on board, as compared to an 8-oz (227-g) SPD and a 6.5-oz (184-g) platform pedal that we had on hand. The cleats are likewise pretty hefty – 3.5 oz (99 g) for a MagLOCK, as opposed to less than 1 oz (28 g) for an SPD cleat. Additionally, because the MagLOCK cleats are so large, we had to cut away some extra rubber from the "cleat area" in the soles of the shoes we were using in order to accommodate them.
Just out of curiosity, we did try using the smaller SPD cleats with the MagLOCK pedals, but even with all 10 magnets in place, there just wasn't enough retention.
All in all, though, we think that MagLOCKs are a good compromise for riders who want to move up from straight platforms, but who are still a little leery of conventional clipless systems – especially if they use even less magnets than we did, at least to start. The MagLOCKs also work perfectly fine as regular pedals with plain ol' street shoes, plus they could be particularly good for snow-going fatbikers – SPDs and other systems sometimes get jammed up with snow, but we had no problem with the very simple MagLOCKs doing so.
With that application in mind, perhaps a sleeker, lighter version of the pedals might be a good idea, that does away with the extra weight and bulk of the platform, leaving just a cleat receptacle with the magnets inside.
MagLOCK pedals are available now via the link below, priced at US$140 a pair.
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