Review: Magpeds use magnets for less-threatening foot retention
While many mountain bikers don't like the idea of having their feet mechanically fastened to so-called clipless pedals, they do nonetheless see the advantages of such a setup. Austria's magped has set out to reach a compromise, with its magnetic platform pedals – I recently got to try a set out, and found myself drawn to them (sorry).
The result of a successful Kickstarter campaign, each magped pedal features a machined aluminum body, sealed bearings, removable steel pins, and neodymium magnets on either side. Actually, the original Sport model just has a magnet on one side, but the newer Enduro version – which was sent to me – has them on both.
Those magnets engage included corrosion-resistant flat steel plates, which get bolted to the underside of the rider's SPD-compatible shoes. As a result, when the rider puts their foot on the pedal, the shoe is magnetically held against it. And because the magnet is mounted on a flexible polymer damper, it's able to move with the plate as the foot subtly tilts relative to the pedal, allowing it to stay in contact and maintain its hold.
That said, a simple outwards-twisting motion of the foot allows it to easily be released. In fact, if you pull straight up from the pedal hard enough (such as when you wipe out), your foot will let go then too.
Enduro buyers can choose between attractive forces of either 150 or 200N. I tried the 200N version, and found that it offered slightly less foot-retention than my Shimano SPD clipless pedals, on which I already keep the retention set quite low. That said, the magnets still kept my feet on the pedals as I bounced over roots and whatnot, plus they allowed me to "pedal in circles" – this means that I was able to deliver power by both pulling and pushing on the pedals on each revolution, instead of just pushing.
And yes, as I was getting used to the magpeds, I did fall over once when I stopped and couldn't get my foot off the pedal in time. As is the case with clipless models, though, it's just a matter of getting used to them.
Additionally, engaging the shoe plates with the magnets is considerably easier than engaging the mechanism on a clipless pedal, which can sometimes take several tries. However, once you do click into a clipless pedal, you know that your foot is right where you want it. By contrast, because the magped shoe plates are so wide, it's possible to end up with your foot being held on the pedal a little off-center – you then have to sort of wiggle it into position, although you end up doing so less often as you get more practise with the pedals.
It should also be noted that initially setting the height of the magnets can be rather tricky. Riders are required to turn an adjustment bolt in the middle of each magnet, but the magnetic force actually repels the hex wrench away from that bolt, requiring users to sort of "sneak it in" from the edge.
Back on the plus side, though, both the plates and the pedals are much less likely than clipless systems to get plugged up with mud. Plus, of course, you can use the magpeds non-magnetically if you want, using plain ol' non-cycling shoes without the plates.
Weight-wise, the set of 200N Enduros that I tried tipped the scales at 536 grams, with the plates adding 58 g. For reference, my SPDs weigh 375 g, with their shoe cleats sitting at 51 g – and a random sampling of four traditional mountain bike platform pedals I looked up came out at an average of 364 g.
Finally, I should acknowledge the other set of magnetic pedals that I've previously reviewed, the MagLOCKs. Their big advantage is that by adding or removing magnets, users can adjust their attractive force, although the magnets are rigidly set inside the pedal. And while they're similar to the magpeds in weight and maximum attractive force, they are perhaps a little less streamlined in form – particularly their shoe plates.
If you're interested in getting a pair of magped Enduros, they're priced at US$188.37 for the 150N model, or $199.67 for the tested 200N version. MagLOCKs go for $164.99 for the original aluminum model, or $104.99 for a lighter plastic-bodied version.