deniz merdano chromag pilot BA pedals 10
Review

Chromag Pilot Clipless Pedals

Words Deniz Merdano
Photos Deniz Merdano
Date Nov 15, 2022
Reading time

Chromag Pilot BA spd Pedals

You can walk into a bike industry party and start a brawl just by uttering "Flats or Clips?" It is a battle of glorious proportions considering there are not only brand loyal fanatics but people who have devoted their entire lives to spreading their own gospel about pedal retention.

-"Clips are cheating, man."

-"Foot out, flat out, braaah."

We like to think that we are evolved primates in the NSMB biosphere. While some of us prefer pedals with deadly pins and some of us like the clip in for extra retention. However we've all been on both sides of the pedal fence at some point to not care if one is actually better than the other, but what works best to enhance the riding experience.

Having played for both teams myself, I will readily adapt to any pedal situation as long as they are made well and come in cool colours, so I sent my arms flailing in the air when the latest test bounty was the new Pilot BA clipless pedal from aluminum and steel specialist Chromag.

Massive, red pedals with a shiny Shimano-licensed SPD mechanism jumped out of the box, and I was ready to wander into uncharted pedal territory.

deniz merdano chromag pilot BA pedals 10

110mm front to back, the longest platform of any clip pedal on the market.

deniz merdano chromag pilot BA pedals 11

Time-tested SPD mechanism that uses shimano cleats.

My pedal of choice is the Time Spéciale 8, an Enduro style platform pedal that provides a certain amount of support when I unclip or can't clip in. The Pilot BA is by far the largest pedal platform I've ever encountered. Chromag says the platform is designed to extend past the cleat pocket of the shoes - the only way to make the pins engage with the current crop of DH-oriented shoes. Stability for your feet is key when we are talking about aggressive downhill riding.

The Pilot (the smaller of the two new pedals from Chromag) has a 57.5mm stance while the Pilot BA has a 60mm stance, making them some of the widest pedals on the market. Stance is measured from the crank to the centre of the cleat mechanism and wider numbers will give you more stability when riding downhill. I was worried this would result in a unfavourable pedaling position for the climbs but my knees seemed to line up quite well with my pedal stroke to avoid any soreness. I do run pedal washers on my Time pedals that result in a similar 58mm stance.

The Pilot BAs come in at 298 grams per pedal which is more or less in the middle of the road for a Downhill oriented pedal.

Construction

Chromag is known for their utilitarian bourgeois design with excellent CNC finishing. All their pedals are works of art and the attention to detail is second to none. Ten pins with washers sit proudly on the outer perimeter of the pedal body, accessed by 3mm hex keys. The heads of the hex keys are tucked nicely out of harm's way, allowing you to add and remove pins with ease as your pedals age. The mechanism sits nice and flush in a pocket that is machined away from the centre of the pedal body and is nickel-coated to prevent rust. The springs themselves are coated as well in a shiny package. There is a tension adjustment bolt and a + / - scale to set all 4 adjustments accurately. To be honest, the jewelry like presentation is almost too pretty to put on the bike, knowing what will happen when they find their very first rock on the trail on our contemporarily low bottom bracket steeds.

Opening the pedal up is no issue. You access the 8mm nut that holds the spindle and the pedal body together behind a cap that threads into the pedal body. It is relatively easy to source G3 axle kits from Chromag to perform a service. The bushing end of the pedal body has dual seals to keep the world out and worn bushings can be changed either by getting the Bushing Removal Tool from Chromag or getting creative with whatever tools you have at hand as long as you have fresh ones to install. Be mindful of the surface the DU bushing sits in and do not damage it. New bushings can be pressed in with a DU bushing tool or light taps with the correct size socket or tube.

There is much to love about this kind of simplicity and the double seals work well enough that you will rarely have to bother with bushing replacements.

deniz merdano chromag pilot BA pedals 14

Tension adjustment scale on the SPD mechanism.

deniz merdano chromag pilot BA pedals 13

Riding the Chromag Pilot BA Pedals

An elephant's trunk contains 400,000 neurons. Imagine being able to pick up a needle from the ground with something that weighs close to 400 kilos. My right leg is quite useful in that I can happily pick a 4mm hex tool off the floor with my toes. I refused to wear shoes as a child as I wandered the world with bare feet, however I am not Nina Hoffmann and can not finish a UCI Downhill World Cup race with my shoe hanging on one side of the pedal and my bare foot on the other. The connection between my shoe and the pedal matters.

I generally prefer pedals with generous amounts of float. 13° is what Time pedals give me in stock setting, 17° if I swap them around. I have tried 17 degrees and found it too much for trail riding when a quick dab is needed.

The Chromag cleats went straight on a pair of Shimano AM9 Shoes that are designed for a pedal like this. Stiff and flat-soled, the AM9 begs for some platform and pins to rest its lugs on. After a quick test session in the backyard, I met up with some fast people for a ride. February was dry and cold here on the coast, and the trails were running really fast. There was quite of bit of traction to be found and with dry roots, I didn't hesitate to double up certain trail features. Making such daring moves will occasionally put me in the wrong line and I will quickly pull a foot out and stabilize myself. I found this to be a little trickier with the Pilot BAs. With my cleats positioned all the way back, it can be difficult to find them with my usual pedal setup so I was prepared for that. What I wasn't prepared for was that even if the cleat found the clip mechanism, the force required to actuate the lock was difficult to summon on the trail. With my weight shifting up and down, I was struggling to clip back into the pedal. The mental obstacle of not easily clipping back in was bigger than the physical one. With 5 tall pins and a massive platform, the Pilot BAs ride seriously close to a flat pedal setup, so there was plenty of support and traction whether I was clipped in or not. Moving my cleats forward by half a cm made clipping in and out much smoother. I also experimented with various spring tensions and found the higher settings to be far too possessive of my shoes. I tipped over when failing to unclip 2 or 3 times before I decided I'd had enough and loosened the retention to middle to low.

Overall, I liked my time on the Pilot BAs and am quite happy to see Chromag take on another challenge from their Whistler think-tank, however I think there is still some work required to refine this setup. Perhaps with a proprietary cleat and retention setup to really set them apart from the crowd. I'm sure capturing the loyal Shimano SPD crowd with a familiar cleat is easier but I feel like most of the people who ride DH are either on Crankbrothers or Time cleats. (I have not done a thorough local research to confirm or deny this)

If I was in the market for new SPD pedals to attach myself to, I would put the Pilots to the top of the search list. Pilot BAs would be a close second. I found the platform to be big and supportive, suited very well to DH riding. For the Trails, I would prefer the smaller footprint of the Regular Pilots.

deniz merdano chromag pilot BA

Heels down and plow.

Graham Driedger's Take on the Pilot BA

Deniz asked if I wanted to try a new set of pedals from Chromag. Like, Daggas Mate? Not quite. Turns out, Chromag has been developing an SPD platform for the past while. At first glance, the Pilot BA reminded me of a modernized Shimano 636 - A proper DH pedal, with an SPD mech in the middle. The SPD compatible retention mechanism is familiar looking, but glints with high quality chrome plating, and adds a tension indicator – nice. I can now see the tension at the indicator instead of guessing (and now wonder where I'm at, tension-wise, on my XT Trail Pedals). The blue anodized, 110mm long, full-fat clipless pedal shares many similarities with the Chromag Scarab, and features 5 pins per side. I only ran the Pilot BA with the two pins aft of the clipless mech and zero up front. This was an attempt to keep cleat engagement smooth, but to also allow my foot to dab with ample traction if I wasn't clipped in.

Captain Obvious would tell you the idea of a flat pedal surround is to keep your foot on the damn pedal, whether you're clipped in or not. He's right, but my experience with the Pilot BA wasn't completely intuitive. I'll blame that on my clipless pedal reference being Shimano XT Trails, and my muscle memory telling me exactly where to put my foot for a quick click in. Due to the large platform of the Pilot BA, I had to hunt around a little bit more than usual to engage the cleat. I'd also need some less roached SPD cleats, so new ones were installed, and, click: smooth engagement. The mechanism shed winter mud easily, and when the cleat pocket in my shoe was full of debris, I'd have a grippy flat pedal to ride. Eventually I'd clear the dirt, and clip back in, getting more familiar with the cleat position.

I've been more or less ambidextrous between flats and clipless pedals for the past year, then the Pilot BA came along. Now I'm fully committed to clipless, and I'll eventually switch back to flats when my foot position is getting lazy and I'm not dropping my heels enough in corners. Until then, I'll let the clipless mechanism keep my feet in the pedals, precisely where I want them to be, every time.

Newcomers to clipless pedals, DH racers, and anyone who wants a large platform surrounding their clipless pedal would be wise to consider the Pilot BA. Chromag's quality and attention to detail is top shelf, and sits in a range few other pedals share.  

Chromag Pilot BA: 220 CAD // available in Black, Purple, Red, Gold, and Blue
Chromag Pilot: 215 CAD // available in Black, Purple, Red, Gold, and Blue

Related Stories

Trending on NSMB

Comments

craw
Cr4w
1 week, 5 days ago
0

Very interesting. I run LOOK X-TRACK RAGE+ MTB PEDALS pedals (what a name!) because they have super high spring tension available. Any comments on how the Chromag pedals' tension range compares to Shimano?

Reply

denomerdano
Deniz Merdano
1 week, 5 days ago
+1 Cr4w

Higher retention than any shimano I've encountered. Probably similar and slightly higher than XTR or DXR pedals..

Reply

Jotegir
Lu Kz
1 week, 4 days ago
0

seeing as you guys haven't mentioned it... I wonder how they compare to the clipless Saint pedal? IMO the DXR is now 100% obsolete for MTB applications.

Reply

denomerdano
Deniz Merdano
1 week, 4 days ago
0

Saint has fairly loose retention compared to XTR or even XT. IMHO.

The shop I frequent sells quite a bit of DXR pedals for the shore riders. dead or alive, they are moving.

Reply

Jotegir
Lu Kz
1 week, 4 days ago
0

That seems crazy, I never could get a set of DXR's to last more than a season because of the plastic ring on the outboard side that is essential to keeping the plastic body aligned cracks quite easily in my experience. My parts bin has a couple sets from when I ran them a few years ago, I no longer have a complete set without one or both sides cracked. 

I guess people still buying them are either set in their ways, lighter and more talented than I am, or riding the north shore trails that... don't have rocks?

I'm also the opposite of CR4W. I prefer fairly light spring action, so that (combined with the metal bodies) might be why I quite like my Saints on the DH bike.

Reply

Jotegir
Lu Kz
1 week, 4 days ago
+1 Deniz Merdano

@Deniz Merdano

Ah well, this is one of those weird times where you saw a product release article, but then promptly forgot of that product's existence for several years until reminded.

I recall seeing that release but in my mind DXR's are still those giant plastic things. Oops!

craw
Cr4w
1 week, 4 days ago
0

This seems like another opportunity for actual numbers or an objective rating system (like we have for ski binding DIN). We should do the same thing for handlebar flex too. Subjective recommendations based on the experience of people of wildly different weight/strength/skill aren't very useful. Luckily for the most part we are all identical.

Reply

denomerdano
Deniz Merdano
1 week, 4 days ago
+3 BadNudes Andy Eunson danithemechanic

It would be easy enough to attach cleats to the tip of a torque wrench, digital one, and actually get a reading as to what tension they release at

Reply

IslandLife
IslandLife
1 week, 4 days ago
0

Sounds like Graham had a bit of a different experience to Deniz?  Based on Deniz's experience, doesn't sound like something you'd want to use given the choices available.  But Graham seems sold!

That other site, seemed to have the same experience as Deniz... very difficult to clip-in, which as a rider who uses flats most of the time and clips part-time plus for racing... I'm torn about these pedals.

On the one hand, the large grippy platform based around an SPD mechanism sounds very appealing and if I'm not mistaken, the only company doing this?  They're seem like mallet-e and mallet DH's but for spd fans.

But on the other hand, the whole reason I use clips vs flats for racing is being able to very quickly and easily snap a foot back into the perfect location while breathing through my eyeballs, without having to think and just keep rocking.  These sound like they're the opposite of that?

Reply

denomerdano
Deniz Merdano
1 week, 4 days ago
0

Graham has been on flat for the past few years until I presented the opportunity to try these out to him.

I love the Time cleat system and my brain is just wired for that kind of entry and exit speeds. Same goes for Crankbrothers Mallet Enduros. 

Shimming the shimano cleat would help quite a bit with the clip in and out speeds but I am just not willing to shim every single shoe I have. (I have many pairs)

Reply

IslandLife
IslandLife
1 week, 4 days ago
0

Interesting... I'd love to hear how or if they change with a shim.  I use crank bros mallet e's and need a shim on those... without it, on my current shoes (Giro Chamber II's), the clip in/out is too tough, but I think that's very typical of crank bros (depends on the shoe I guess).

Seems like trying these with a shim and reporting back would be a necessary portion of the review if you suspect it changes things considerably.  Right now, based on your review, I wouldn't buy them, but if all they need is a shim (like tons of other shoe/clip interfaces) to make them great, then I'd buy them.

Reply

denomerdano
Deniz Merdano
1 week, 4 days ago
0

Let me rephrase.. 

The Shim would help elevate the shoe above the pedal platform and reduce drag and friction, so the rubber does not "grab" as aggressively. But it is situational and can't guarantee it would work with every shoe!

It would however be smart to ship these pedals with a couple of shims.

Reply

Gdreej
Graham Driedger
1 week, 4 days ago
+1 IslandLife

I was fortunate enough to ride the Pilot BA last winter, and wrote the review shortly after I'd installed new cleats. The engagement certainly worked better with new cleats, but I can confidently say the Pilot BA isn't as smooth as my preferred XT Trails. And, I have been running an alloy Leatt shim under the cleat. I'll revisit the Pilot BA, perhaps two shims could sort out any qualms - I'll keep you posted.

Reply

IslandLife
IslandLife
1 week, 2 days ago
0

Thanks for the info... that would be good to hear!

Reply

velocipedestrian
Velocipedestrian
1 week, 4 days ago
0

DMR do the V-twin, and Funn have the Mamba. Both of these use SPD cleats.

I have the V-twin, and like the idea more than the execution. Partly because it's hard to get the cleats far enough back after riding flats for a while.

Reply

kcy4130
kcy4130
1 week, 4 days ago
0

Clipless vs flats? psh! Real mountain bikers ride toe clips! tbh, I wonder what toe clips would be like? I rode them briefly over 20 years ago.

Reply

IslandLife
IslandLife
1 week, 4 days ago
+1 kcy4130

I use them at one of the rec centre spin classes I frequent.  Every time I use them I feel like they would actually be a great alternative.  Easy to adjust "tension".. hold you in well but still easy to get out of.  The other side is full flat pedal when you want it.  The biggest issue is that you have to "tap and spin" the pedal every time you want to get back into the clips because the weight forces them to flip down every time you're not using them.  Back in the day though... that was an earned skill.  Being able to tap/flip/slip and go quickly was an admired skill.

Definitely not "cool" enough these days...

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
Pete Roggeman
1 week, 4 days ago
+2 Velocipedestrian kcy4130

Not sure I'd love having them hanging down when using the flat side of the pedal - both sides would be ripped off or would have caused a crash within a kilometer on a mildly technical trail.

But back in the day? Hell yeah, I know what you mean about the skill required to get your feet in quickly, and then reach down while starting to get going so you could cinch 'em tight and really lock yourself in to instant doom in case of a fall.

Reply

velocipedestrian
Velocipedestrian
1 week, 4 days ago
+1 kcy4130

Oh yes. The memory of being upside down and thoroughly stuck in the pedals is clear some 30ish years later.

Reply

kcy4130
kcy4130
1 week, 4 days ago
+1 IslandLife

The tap/flip/slip! I never had it dialed, but when I occasionally did get it perfect I felt like a total bad ass. I removed the toe clips after a few weeks I think, was mostly not using them. I was 12, it was my first mountain bike, and first bike that had a front brake, so naturally I spent lots of time doing endos or stoppies on lawns to seeing how high I could get the rear tire without going over, and often going over learning the graceful bail, hence no toe clips. Good times.

Reply

FlipFantasia
Todd Hellinga
1 week, 4 days ago
+4 Cam McRae Pete Roggeman kcy4130 IslandLife

There's a Whistler OG badass who still rides with Power Grips!!

Reply

xy9ine
Perry Schebel
1 week, 4 days ago
+3 kcy4130 Andy Eunson BarryW

there was a time bitd when i was running road shoes with cleats & toe clips on the mountain bike. for those unfamiliar, cleats are plastic doodads that have a slot that fits over the pedal cage, effectively locking your foot into the pedal when the toe strap is tight. ie, you absolutely cannot pull out unless the strap is loose. understandably, this was a short lived phase.

Reply

andy-eunson
Andy Eunson
1 week, 3 days ago
0

On my very first mountainbike ride I had "mini clips" and Nike Lava Dome shoes. Because that’s what we rode in 1983. I bunny hopped a curb and came down on the top tube on my dirty dangles. Got full clips and straps next day. And so it was for about ten years when the first Shimano clipless pedals came out. The "beauty" of toe clips and straps was that when you needed to be in, you came out. And when you really needed to get out, you couldn’t. I could get in pretty fast though. And we used cleats that slotted into the cage. I made double clips too by drilling out the rivets at the toe strap loop , cutting one loop off and riveting the two together. Tended not to flatten out as badly when you stepped on it trying to get back in. 

Toe clips sucked.

Reply

mike-wallace
Mike Wallace
1 week, 4 days ago
0

I think it’s going to be tough to displace the ubiquitous shimano XT.  However for DH the Saint quality has not been great lately.  They just don’t last which is hurtful considering the price.  So these (more the BA I suppose) could be an option for those that don’t want to switch to a different feeling system like Crank Brothers…

Reply

danithemechanic
danithemechanic
1 week, 4 days ago
0

One thing that i grew accustomed to with CB pedals is the ability to clip in rearward.

No matter the shitty situation you're in, you can just throw your foot there and it will clip, also helping you resume your stance quicker.

This is a feature i surprisingly saw some new pedals have but not these Chromags.

I still think that as far as mud shedding-flat pedal like unclipping force-easy of entry the Crank Brothers don't have any rivalries.

Reply

andy-eunson
Andy Eunson
1 week, 3 days ago
0

It’s possible to clip in backwards with a Shimano spd, but it’s harder to do. I used Time Attack for a couple years but I don’t recall if that was something you could do with those. I don’t like the thud as opposed to click when you clipped in. I also didn’t get along with the lateral float. My feet went to the outside. Plus the retention bars wore out in a season introducing a loose fit that a new cleat couldn’t resolve. That said, I wore out Shimano pedals too. The pivots would wear negatively affecting retention. Then there was the 858 death pedals.

Reply

danithemechanic
danithemechanic
6 days, 7 hours ago
0

A pedal that wears out along with its cleats makes little sense to me.

At this point i have many CB pairs with many worn stages of cleats, and i can see how one could dial its favourite amount of retention just "bedding in" cleats to a point on lesser used shoes to have them ready for later.

If you search hard enough you might even find replacement "wings" for some CB pedals, or swap them between models.

Reply

Please log in to leave a comment.