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Hands-on Gear Review
Race Face Atlas Review
Cons: Very expensive, not very versatile, difficult compatability with some cranks.
Bottom line: The perfect match for weight-conscious enduro racers that want a huge platform with unshakeable grip.
This top-of-the-line pedal from Race Face was awarded our Top Pick. It had impressive attention to detail with unique design features that set it apart from any other pedal in our test. The first thing that jumped out at us was the sheer size of the 6061-T6 aluminum platform, which at 101 x 114 mm was the largest in our test. It tapered from 14.5 mm at the leading and trailing edges to 12 mm at the axle. It was also concave in the other direction making it double concave, which provided more than enough anatomical consideration for a foot shoved into a bulky shoe.
The leading traction pins are also angled inwards to increase grip and the heads of the bottom loading pins are all well-protected by recesses in the pedal body. Four sealed bearings provide for smooth pedal mobility around the chromoly axle and the large inboard bearing will require you to use a pedal washer or else the pedal body sits snug against the crank arm. There's a smidge more space than the Spank Spike offers, but protective crank boots will also pose a problem for mounting these pedals. These pedals provide excellent grip, extremely low weight (340 grams), and a ginormous platform will have enduro racers foaming at the mouth. Keep reading to find out what other pedals might fit your criteria.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
These pedals have the bite of a pit bull and the weight of a feather. Their large platform hides the fact that these were the second lightest pedals in our test. Enduro racers will love the low weight and low profile that allows them to keep the pedals turning without fear of smacking them into a rock. The huge platform can save your run should you manage to shake the rock solid grip during a pedal strike.
For trail/enduro/downhill type riding we liked these traction pins the best of all. Each pedal features 20 pins (10 per side) that are protected and thread in from the bottom with a 3 mm allen key. It looked like each pin was cut to size by hand with a pair of snips; unlike the polished finish found on other pedals like the RockBros Platform, the uneven surface provided far greater bite. Though we typically prefer the superior traction of grub screws, the additional length of these pins outperformed even them. In addition, the pins on the front and rear of the pedal body are angled inwards to match the concavity of the pedal platform. All the traction pins are located along the perimeter of the pedal body, with none directly underfoot along the pedal axle. At first we thought this would diminish grip, but our experience was quite the opposite.
Our sticky soles were able to settle into the concavity of the pedal greater than if they were held up by pins. As far as pins along the axle are concerned, we often found that more wasn't necessarily better. Both pedals got plenty bashed around and all pins survived. Should a pin bend or break, they are still protected in a recessed area, and removal and replacment is easy. The slightly taller pins provided traction on early winter rides when the soles of our shoes were packed with mud and snow, which easily overwhelmed some of the smaller pins like those found on the Shimano Saint MX80 with spacers or the crankbrothers 5050 3.
This was the widest pedal in our test. One of the main reason many riders prefer flat pedals is that should your foot blow out of a clip-less pedal, most lack substantial platform area to get a foot on before you hit the toptube. The 101 x 114mm platform of the Atlas has room aplenty for even the largest hooves. A few more millimeters over the competition helped save our bacon when our footing went astray over the rough and tumble. Cornering confidence and clearance increases because the platform is chamfered with rounded edges like those found on the Spank Spike.
Additional clearance to the already slim profile of 14.5 mm (that tapered to 12 mm at the axle) gave peace of mind on modern enduro bikes with low bottom brackets. These low slung bikes provided plenty of chances to experience how this design helped pedals glance off errant rock strikes that might have hung up wider pedals. The open, concave platform allowed our feet to mold in response to riding forces and felt more natural than the concave platforms of the crankbrothers 5050 3 and Shimano Saint MX 80. While testing, winter fast approached and we found ample opportunity to test these in muddy and snowy conditions. The open design prevented snow or mud from packing in.
In excessively mucky conditions, the pedals could retain some on their undersides, but it spun out easily with a firm kick. Watch those shins with this maneuver! The author was much happier riding these pedals over his SPD clipless pedals on snowy rides. His feet were warmer in his Five Ten Freeriders (versus clipless shoes), and foot engagement issues were all but eliminated.
Just like the Spank Spike, the housing around the large inboard bearing may necessitate using a pedal washer in order to prevent the pedal body from rubbing against the crankarm. Ironically, the Race Face Next cranks that were spec'd on some of our all-mountain test bikes mated poorly with these pedals. There is about a millimeter or so of axle spindle protruding from the housing, but a washer does the trick. By comparison, we had to remove the crankarm boots to use the Spank Spike pedals with just one washer.
The pedal body spun smoothly around the tough chromoly axle, which we attributed to the use of four sealed bearings; one large inner bearing and three smaller ones at the distal end of the spindle. The pedal stays in place nicely as we found when tricking out in the bike park. Our lead tester was doing fancy, spinny things, and the author was losing his footing over jumps because he typically rides clipped in. Gladly, the pedal was not too free spinning, because catching the sharp pins in the shin or meat of your calf will surely result in a nice crimson stream for the top of your socks to soak up.
A 3 mm allen key removes a pin from the end of the axle, revealing a hidden grease port. The pin is actually a spare traction pin that can come in handy should you damage one while out for a ride. Many pedals, including the Deity Bladerunner and Shimano Saint MX80 came with spare traction pins, but none had devised crafty ways of transporting one with you at all times. Although we never experienced any need to add grease, it was a well-thought-out feature that allowed for quick service without the need to fully tear into the pedals or even remove them from the bike. The caveat is that you'll need a long-hosed grease gun to take advantage of this feature. Should full entry into the bowels of the pedal become necessary, a 6 mm allen removes the end cap, and a 2.5 mm allen removes another cap from the end of the spindle.
An 8 mm allen holds the opposite end of the spindle in place when loosening this cap. The same 8 mm allen is needed to install pedals onto the crank arms, as the large inboard bearing housing prevents using a 15 mm pedal wrench. Rebuild kits are available and useful for removing the large inboard bearing and putting everything back together snugly.
This was the second lightest pedal in our test with the Bonmixc 9/16" coming in at 5 grams lighter. However, we don't think the same consumer would ever be trying to decide between this pedal and the Bonmixc, so that comparison is arguably unnecessary. We had to reweigh these pedals a couple times because these pedals simply doesn't look as light as the scale indicates. We thought for sure the Deity Bladerunner and Funn Python would be considerably lighter. The Atlas offers the widest platform of all the pedals we tested and rings in at a very light weight.
This featherweight, large platform pedal begs to be ridden on your enduro bike. Enduro racing has forced manufacturers to make equipment that is simultaneously light and strong and the Atlas fits that mold. The thin profile will let you pedal instead of coast as it floats over rocks and stumps, while the concave platform and angled pins keep your feet attached from start to finish. If enduro courses don't cram enough technical gnar down your seattube, these pedals make a fine choice for downhill racing or ski resort use just the same. Bigfooted riders may also gravitate towards this pedal as the large platform provided adequate space for even our lead tester's size 12 soles.
We're sure a lot of riders will scoff at the $180 price tag for a set of flat pedals. Well, this is mountain biking, folks. Nobody got into this activity because it made any kind of financial sense. In fact, although these were the most expensive pedals in our test, you could spend twice as much on flat pedals if you wanted to. You just need to decide how much you're willing to spend on quality and performance.
The attention to detail goes as deep as the laser-etched, contour line graphics against the flashy blue coating. Four sealed bearings kept the pedal spinning smooth and free of play for our test. The concave platform and sharp pins will keep you feet glued to the pedals over rough terrain. Though they're not the best choice for bike park sessions or riding that involves lots of foot mobility and stance adjustment, this pedal will suit a wide variety of riding styles and conditions.
We found it hard to complain about this pedal. Everything seemed so researched and dialed and well implemented. Features we liked in other pedals were expanded upon with the Atlas. Even with so many features piled on, this pedal remained one of the lightest in our test. The image of an overburdened statue is the last thing that came to mind while chugging up steep, endless fire roads this summer.
Race Face Aeffect
Race Face Chester
— Sean Cronin
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