February 14, 2019
Last modified: February 24, 2020
In 2018, iSSi sponsored rider Jay Petervary won the Iditarod Trail Invitational using our two-in-one Flip pedals. For most pro-racers, these pedals would not be the typical choice for a 1000-mile, winter-enduro race, but he insisted they were great for him. So, what does a champion like Jay consider when choosing their cold-weather pedals? And how do you know which type of pedals will serve you best this season? It’s a tough choice, so here are a few things to consider when picking your winter pedals.
Looking back on his experience, Jay explained that he chose the Flip pedals because he liked having both platform and clipless options to handle different terrain along the route. The clipless side was for the long, flat stretches where he benefitted from the consistent speed and power transfer, while the other side was useful during technical sections with lots of on-and-off riding. While your ride probably won’t be quite as challenging, Jay’s experience proves that picking the right pedals to suit your winter-biking adventure can make a huge difference when you bundle up and hit the trail.
Every bike build starts with planning where you want to go, but in the winter environmental factors are multiplied. Think beyond just the location of your ride and consider the weather and possible path conditions along your route. For instance, if you know there’s several inches of snow covering your favorite backwoods trail, you might want a smaller pedal with more ground clearance. And if things are going to be icy, you might want to use flats (like our Stomp XL or Thump pedals) or use Multi-release Cleats that clip out more easily, so that you can catch yourself during a slip. Choose what you think will give you extra flexibility to handle the terrain, as well as whatever mother nature might throw at you.
The design of a pedal can greatly affect performance once you hit the elements, and there are a lot of factors that you’ll need to balance. First, look at the material each pedal is made from. This primarily affects temperature transfer, or the rate at which the pedals lose their heat and give you cold feet. Metal alloys cool off very quickly, so consider getting a carbon or composite pedal that will resist the cold. Next, check out the internal composition of the pedals. These can be compromised by all of the extra water, salt and crud you’ll be kicking around in the winter. We recommend using something that is completely sealed to help prevent internal damage and reduce the amount of maintenance required to keep rolling.
The most noticeable design factor is the construction of the pedal body. This affects how well your feet will fit on the pedal, but more importantly, how they handle sticky snow. A pedal with lots of knick-knacks may look cool, but style won’t matter when all of those little crevasses are filled with snow. This will weigh down your feet and freeze them faster. If you’re clipping in, snow can get packed inside of the claw mechanisms, preventing you from attaching securely. An open-bodied design (like our Thump or Flash pedals) will more easily shed the buildup and leave room to push the snow out of your pedals.
That leads us to one of the most important questions that every winter rider should ask: What are you wearing? Yes, good footwear is the key to an enjoyable winter outing. But as we’ve discussed before, the pedals you choose should always fit your feet, especially during the winter. If you’re wearing big, warm boots, your pedals should be big enough to support them for maximum comfort and security. If you’re brave enough to wear clipless shoes in the cold, you could get something with a platform around the mechanisms (like our Trail pedals) so they are easier to find and control. Lastly, make sure the boots you are wearing will not be damaged by the pedals you choose. Boots made with softer soles or materials like leather and suede can easily be torn up by aggressive pedal pins. If that’s what you wear, you can use a pedal with rounded or composite pins.
Once you’ve weighed all of the pros and cons, you’ll be ready to choose the pedal that’s right for your winter rig. If you ask us, we highly recommend the new Thump pedals. They have a cold-resistant composite body, in-molded pins that won’t tear up your boots, sealed spindle bearings to resist wear, and a concave shape for extra comfort. Plus, you can get them in whatever size fits your boots best. If you’re still not convinced, here is a more detailed list of things to consider when looking for a pair of winter pedals:
Stay warm out there! And check back here soon for more helpful hints and “How-Tos!”