Maglock Pedals Reviewed

Words Andrew Major
Photos Andrew Major
Date Mar 3, 2016

It’s a dark, but not stormy, February night on the North Shore. Just around 8pm on a weekday, which means it’s damn quiet with all but nothing going on. On a poorly lit side street our protagonist stands just back from the sidewalk doing his best to blend into the shadows. A rider approaches on an all-black commuter bike followed by the eerie glow of a red taillight.

Both figures keep their heads low and their situational awareness high, wary of being recognized, as a hefty package is removed from the rider’s pack and hoisted judgmentally by the figure in the shadows. “Holy … these are heavy” he quietly laughs, shaking his head.

A pair of bike pedals.

Each Maglock comes (bottom row, left to right): cleat, bolts, magnet retention plate, and cylindrical magnets. You tune the amount of magnetic retention based on how many magnets you leave in the pedal.

The axles turn roughly in the bodies like a pair of cheap BMX flats and the crude detailing screams cost-sensitive pre-production sample. The cleats and pedals are separated by pieces of news print, but even so, it is hard to overcome the magnetic force they wield on each other. “Three rides, I promised three rides”, he thinks to himself.

The rider smiles boldly and then, with a relaxed authority that only someone who has the internal serenity and sanguine je ne sais quoi to open-mindedly tackle a review of Crank Brothers’ latest attempt at a new and improved-quality pedal could legitimately command of the situation says: “try and think about what they could be, not just what they are.”

A series of cylindrical magnets sit under the silver metal cover plates. The six black bolts that retain the cover plates also retain the cleats fore/aft movement. Float is all but infinite.

I want. To Love. These Pedals.
How many times have you been enjoying a relaxing pre-ride, on-ride, or post-ride beverage when someone in your riding group — let’s be honest, sometimes it’s you — proclaims to have thought of a brilliant new take on riding mountain bikes, or bike gear, that we All Need. It would fix X, and only at the cost of Y, and really who wouldn’t want one? All those engineers and designers gainfully employed in the bike industry are too busy fettling with hub widths or playing fifty shades of carbon with the marketing department to have thought of this piece of brilliance! Here is a rare example of someone who had a crazy idea and actually had the perseverance to make it a physical reality instead of letting it die off in the next round or around the next bend.

Where all current offroad-worthy clipless pedals (I dare one of you recumbent rocking Bebop riders to comment) rely on some kind of spring-bound-cleat interface and flat pedals use pins, concavity, and rubber compounds, the Maglock with its adjustable magnetic interface is genuinely a different way of connecting a rider to their bike.

The company sponsors multiple riders with prosthetic limbs, which is an awesome proof-of-concept, and without giving away the whole story, as someone who has seen many cyclists who were underserved by current clipless pedals, and flat pedals, there is definitely a place for this product in cycling. But…

Entry and release are easy and intuitive if you are going to be stopping and starting in greasy situations.

I want. To Hate. These Pedals.
I wasn’t originally certain I could give this product a fair test. It’s the marketing spiel. You can check it out on the website but to paraphrase, the Maglock pedals claim to solve a bunch of problems I’ve never experienced with SPD pedals. Then, if I get hungry they’ll roast me up a baked potato with all the fixings and run down to the nearest craft brewery to fetch me a pint.

There is no getting around the fact these suckers are heavy. Like loaded up with a half a pound each of magnets, on top of the pedal weight, heavy. The bearings turn roughly and when they aren’t loaded (i.e. when I’m not standing on them) they rattle. Pick up the bike, drop the bike, rattling sound. Rattle. RATTLE. For someone that loves a quiet bike, it’s a cacophony.

Well worn Shimano cleat on the left. Maglock obelisk on the right.

The cleats are more than twice as large as any other pedal I’ve used and it is awkward when walking or hike-a-biking, although much more so on pavement than on the trail.

There are also these tiny, tiny, little top-loading set-screw pins that service no purpose except to bend or eat your shins unless you are pedaling in street shoes. I left them in but if I was going to keep riding the pedals I would definitely track down a 1.5mm (?) allen key or some vice-grips and remove them.

Riding the Maglock Pedals

My first spin around the block I could already think of fifteen people I know who should try/buy these pedals. Only one is a mountain biker. Working in shops I’ve met so many people who are deathly afraid of clipless pedals, but have physiology (ankles, knees, hips) that requires a degree of heel float that flat pedals and shoes do not provide.

I first tried the Maglock pedals on my singlespeed, but vastly preferred their much quieter residency on a geared bike.

Engaging the cleat is totally brainless, you step on the pedal and you are locked in. Unlike traditional clipless pedals where spring tension increases as you clip out, as the Maglock cleat moves away from the center of the magnetic force the retention force lessens.

For anyone who has accidentally bought a set of Shimano multi-release (silver/SH56) cleats instead of the stock offroad single release (black/SH51) cleats the Maglock will similarly release your foot if you pull up hard enough (even with the maximum number of magnets installed) which can be annoying on the trail if you aren’t expecting it.

The engaging crash of magnet against magnet, and then cleat against retention bolt is familiar enough for someone used to the positive engagement of a Shimano SPD pedal and much less vague than some other clipless pedals on the market.

The three black retention bolts fore and aft of the magnetic center (six per pedal) keep the cleat from floating outside of a useful amount of retention force. I first tried the pedals on my singlespeed and absolutely loathed the back-and-forth Clack, Clack, Clack of the cleat hitting first the front and then the back bolts during out of the saddle climbing efforts. After one ride I transferred the pedals to a geared bike and going forward it was almost a non-issue.

The amount of heel float that these pedals have is exponential compared to anything I’ve tried, and that leads to their biggest shortfall in terms of mountain biking use. Where flats and clipless pedals allow you to steer the back of your bike to varying degrees in varying trail situations (an exaggerated example would be a tail whip), with the Maglock’s huge float your side to side connection with the bike is very vague. I do think this could be alleviated with the addition of retention bolts inboard of the cleat to limit inward float, and possibly outboard as well, although the position would have to be perfect to continue to allow for disengagement.

With all the magnets installed (they are removable for customized retention strength) the retention force was very good, however I would love to have the option of even greater retention force and can’t imagine many riders wanting less as even with the full complement of magnets it was easy to get your foot off of them.

Pedaling Onwards

There will not be a long-term test, at least not by me. After four rides I definitely feel limitations in my ability to control my bike in tight, technical, situations that I do not experience with the SPD pedals I generally run but I would be open to trying the next generation of the product once certain shortfalls are addressed.

I appreciate this product helps some amazing athletes with unique challenges get out to mountain bike, and BMX, but even at the current weight it should be targeted directly at the Urban/Commuter market. A commuter can rip to work with the efficiency and comfort (float) advantages of a clipless pedal and use then use the same pedal to cruise for a coffee in their dress shoes, or around the neighbourhood in their beach shoes come the weekend without having to think about which side of the pedal they’re standing on.

For anyone who can’t or won’t ride clipless pedals, for whatever reason, and are also not well served by a flat pedal, the Maglock could be an alternative – with better bearings and a fair bit of refinement.


Excuse me. Are those magnets in your pedals?

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Comments

razorree
0
razorree  - March 8, 2016, 11:13 a.m.

maybe just a wrong person tested it? definietely with wrong pair of shoes….

you should use 5.10 maltese falcon, Shimano AM45 or something similar….

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drewm
0
DrewM  - March 8, 2016, 1:08 p.m.

As noted in the comments below, I also have a pair of 5.10 Impacts and didn't/don't feel like they make any difference in terms of a controllable interface.. The pedal isn't offering any grip beyond the magnetic attachment of cleat/pedal interface… hence the excellent and fully-free float, which is in my opinion too fully-free-floating for the application of aggressive trail riding.

Maybe just the wrong tester as you noted although I don't know that bearing quality or the lack of a firm connection with the pedals are generally considered personal preference.

It's a very cool, interesting, and unique concept and as I noted in the review I would love to try future updates of the product as I would guess there will be similar constructive feedback from other testers/reviewers.

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razorree
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razorree  - March 8, 2016, 1:12 p.m.

sorry, i didn't notice you have Impacts.
I tought it could be good to test with Maltese Falcon (and similar), as magnets would keep shoe/sole close to pedal - attached to pins a little harder, but it looks like pins don't touch the sole ?

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drewm
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DrewM  - March 8, 2016, 6:38 p.m.

No problem.

To work with FiveTen shoes in the way some folks have suggested (where the Stealth rubber and flat shape of the shoe would provide friction to give more control) the cleat from the Maglock pedals would have to be ~1/2 the height. In all if it was possible to shrink the height of the cleat and still retain the same retention and then use shims to customize the height it could make the cleat/shoe/pedal interface better with any shoe.

The pins don't contact the FiveTen shoe either once the cleat is installed, so unless if you are going to use them as flat pedals with a shoe sans-cleat they don't really do anything. Taller pins (preferably not top loading and with larger heads) or better yet pins with tuneable height, more pins, and especially if you could engineer some concavity into the system without overly impacting some float and the very easy release would be awesome.

As I hopefully illuminated in the article I am very pro outside-the-box ideas and with refinement I would be very willing to try this product again.

As it stands now (again I'd like to see an improved bearing) I can think of many people I could recommend this product too but with the exception of physiology requiring ~ infinite float and 100% guaranteed disengagement those riders would not be riding technical mountain bike trails.

Cheers!

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brente
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brente  - March 6, 2016, 4:06 p.m.

Thanks for the review Andrew I think I'll stick with my 647s thx.

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drewm
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DrewM  - March 8, 2016, 6:45 p.m.

Such a forgotten product: yes they were heavy, tall, and wide… yes there were some bearing issues with the outer cage, but with the rockered mechanism they were so easy to clip into in the heat of the moment and the support was excellent for us hot-footers buying carbon soled shoes to keep the foot pain at bay.

I didn't replace my last set when they wore out because I found I had to have a separate pair of shoes for them (with the cleats mounted very outboards to move my feet in to maintain the position of my other pedals due to the wide Q-factor) but I owned a couple sets of red-&-black M636 pedals and a couple sets of M647 pedals and I was sad to see the prototypes of the updated design ditch the rockered design.

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brente
0
brente  - March 8, 2016, 9:40 p.m.

I have enough pairs to last me until I'm to old and if I outlast them well hmmmm…. and I have a wide Q which was why I used them a first.

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chris-sykes
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Chris Sykes  - March 6, 2016, 11:21 a.m.

i imagine these might suit a commuter shoe/pedal combo well, gaining some advantage of clipped in without the clickity clack and potential to slip when walking in grocery stores or coffee shops.

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kieranski
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Kieranski  - March 4, 2016, 7:32 p.m.

LOL as someone who backed it on kickstarter for the sole reason of putting them on my fat bike for winter riding, heavy didn't bother me, crappy spindles no problem, surprisingly easy and fun to ride was a shock, yup wont ever make it to my trail bike but a cool idea that has some great potential

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Jim-Greenfield
0
SCJG  - March 4, 2016, 4:58 p.m.

How about a review of BikeJames' Catalyst pedals guys?

For those of you who don't know what those are check out bikejames.com.

in brief, they are about an inch longer on both front and rear, and a bit narrower than traditional flats. AND, You have to ride them with intended foot placement, ie. Foot forward. The science is there to back it up too. Brilliant. Simple. Better. More stability everywhere, more power climbing.

I've got two months on mine and am NOT going back to SPD's OR traditional flats. Improvements everywhere. Best kept secret out there right now.

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brad-sedola
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Brad Sedola  - March 4, 2016, 10:48 a.m.

Wouldn't dirt/grime/whatever sticks to your shoe result in a god awful feeling between the shoe and pedal let alone the sound it would make? Unless you are like me and never put a foot down? 🙂

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drewm
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DrewM  - March 4, 2016, 11:02 a.m.

I road on some nasty mornings and did some solid hike-a-bike and never experienced an issue. You literally cannot fail at "clipping in" with these pedals, and release is fine. The way they function when engaged is what leads me to suggest they aren't the best option for aggressive, technical, mountain biking.

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e-bike-rider
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E bike rider  - March 4, 2016, 10:35 a.m.

To be honest I'm pretty happy these got a bad review, because I talked a lot of shit about them when they were first created

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morgan-taylor
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Morgan Taylor  - March 4, 2016, 10:32 a.m.

I was imagining these to have more of a flat pedal feel with some added security, but it sounds like they are just outright slippery. Maybe they'd have the feel I was imagining if the cleat was more recessed, or the shoe's tread was more substantial? Something like a Maltese Falcon or an AM45 or the like?

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drewm
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DrewM  - March 4, 2016, 10:47 a.m.

I think some combination of adjustable float and maybe set screws to engage the shoe could help. Or having a rocketed center like a Shimano M647 DX clipless pedal, although that would add a lot of cost.

You couldn't get much more sole contact without affecting the magnets contact patch, but if you're really curious I could fire them up your way for a little he said / he said!

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drewm
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DrewM  - March 4, 2016, 10:59 a.m.

I should mention I do also have some FiveTen Impacts and thought that support from the pedal would make up for their super-flexiness while the sticky rubber would help with control but without some set screws a la CrankBros (holy crap… just said something positive about CrankBros that wasn't packaging related) I decided it wasn't going to make enough of a difference.

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jonathan-harris
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Jonathan Harris  - March 4, 2016, 11:16 a.m.

I think that there is potential if viewed like this. Maybe having the "plate" just under the rubber of the sole (not exposed at all) and then some smaller set screws into the top of the pedals. {Run's off to sketch it out and file patent}.

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CoilAir
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CoilAir  - March 4, 2016, 10:28 a.m.

Loving the writing and refreshing honesty in your pieces Andrew. Keep up the great work!

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drewm
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DrewM  - March 4, 2016, 11:05 a.m.

Thanks Kevin, hopefully "honest" in a constructive way not just in a ripping on product way. I really do want to love these pedals for what they represent in terms of out-of-the-box thinking.

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nat-brown
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Nat Brown  - March 4, 2016, 11:57 a.m.

I think you get that across well. Nice job.

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CoilAir
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CoilAir  - March 4, 2016, 1:32 p.m.

Yeah, definitely in a constructive way. We need more honest (constructive criticism) reviews in the bike industry. It's refreshing.

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drewm
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DrewM  - March 4, 2016, 3:14 p.m.

Thanks Nat!

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jonathan-harris
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Jonathan Harris  - March 4, 2016, 8:32 a.m.

Brave man to guinea pig those. Kudos.

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D_C_
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DMVancouver  - March 4, 2016, 11:32 a.m.

Worst case, you're riding flats. It's like Mitch Hedberg's line about how an escalator can never break; it can only become stairs.

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k4m1k4z3
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K4m1k4z3  - March 4, 2016, 12:43 p.m.

All those poor Chinese victims of broken escalators would beg to differ.

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drewm
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DrewM  - March 4, 2016, 2:18 p.m.

That's a great line, but worst case you definitely aren't riding flats. More like running around a skating rink in tap dancing shoes.

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