Hands-on Gear Review

Race Face Atlas Review

Race Face Atlas
Top Pick Award
Price:  $180 List | $135.89 at REI
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Unshakeable grip, huge platform, lightweight, hidden grease port, angled traction pins, double concave.
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.
Editors' Rating:   
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Weight per Pair (g):  340 g
Platform Dimensions (mm):  101x114
Platform Profile (mm) - not including pins:  14.5mm, 12mm double concave
Manufacturer:   Race Face

Our Verdict

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.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Flat Pedals for Mountain Biking


Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Sean Cronin

Last Updated:
Thursday
January 12, 2017

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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.

Performance Comparison


The Top Pick Award winning Race Face Atlas had rock solid grip and a deceivingly low weight. They're pricey  but if you're chasing prize money at your next enduro race  these might be worth the investment.
The Top Pick Award winning Race Face Atlas had rock solid grip and a deceivingly low weight. They're pricey, but if you're chasing prize money at your next enduro race, these might be worth the investment.

Grip/Traction


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.

Laser etched details  angled  bottom loading pins  and chamfered edges set the Race Face Atlas a world apart from the competition.
Laser etched details, angled, bottom loading pins, and chamfered edges set the Race Face Atlas a world apart from the competition.

Platform


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.

As much as we liked both pedals  we couldn't help but consider the Race Face Atlas (foreground) a better version of the Spank Spike 9 rear).  For about $60 more  it should be better.
As much as we liked both pedals, we couldn't help but consider the Race Face Atlas (foreground) a better version of the Spank Spike 9 rear). For about $60 more, it should be better.

Pedal Mobility


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.

Service


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.

Weight


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.

For real??  We checked and rechecked and they still came out the second lightest pedal in the test despite their massive platform.
For real?? We checked and rechecked and they still came out the second lightest pedal in the test despite their massive platform.


Best Applications


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.

Value


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.

Conclusion


Trailside in Downieville  CA with the Race Face Atlas. The classic Butcher Ranch Downhill has it all  from rough rocky stream beds to smooth and fast berms. It's a pedally course too  so a lightweight  super grippy pedal is the perfect match.
Trailside in Downieville, CA with the Race Face Atlas. The classic Butcher Ranch Downhill has it all, from rough rocky stream beds to smooth and fast berms. It's a pedally course too, so a lightweight, super grippy pedal is the perfect match.

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.

Other Versions


Race Face Aeffect
Race Face Aeffect
  • Cost - $120
  • Weight - 375 grams
  • Aluminum pedal that's good for trail, all mountain, freeride, and downhill
  • Available in black, red, and blue

Race Face Chester
Race Face Chester
  • Cost - $46
  • Weight - 340 grams
  • New to the line-up featuring a nylon composite pedal body
  • Available in seven bright colors
Sean Cronin

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: May 5, 2017
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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  • 5
 (5.0)
Average Customer Rating:  
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  • 5
 (3.5)

50% of 2 reviewers recommend it
 
Rating Distribution
3 Total Ratings
5 star: 67%  (2)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 33%  (1)
1 star: 0%  (0)
Person Icon

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   May 5, 2017 - 11:40am
han · Mountain Biker · WA
I just purchased 2 pairs of these pedals for my wife's and my new bikes. After riding on them for a week I discovered a fatal flaw in the bearing/spindle interface. The axle (spindle) on both pairs has 2-4mm of lateral play--making them slide back and forth on the spindle, which when climbing steep hills causes them to slide enough to cause a pretty loud pop when cranking. In contacting Race Face warranty department I was told that they have never heard of this problem, and that I should contact the seller to try and return them. The funny thing is, after a little cursory investigation on the web, I discovered a youtube video describing this exact problem and a description of how to solve it. The video author confirms the excessive spindle play, which is largely due to an obvious engineering, or QC issue, and recommends filing off the lateral end of the spindle so that it doesn't protrude beyond the small, 3 bearing shoulder. This way the cinch cap bolt can then therefore securely tighten the spindle and eliminate the lateral play. How I ended up buying 2 pairs of these pedals, of which Race Face claims don't exist is a mystery. But I would definitely reconsider buying these pedals without the assurance that you can return them if you discover that they suffer the same as I have--that these pedals are potentially a very expensive pile of engineering crap.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
Climber

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   Jan 12, 2017 - 11:19pm
stw63 · Climber · New England
Have these. Love them. Only the most minor nit-pick: They snug up so close to the arm of the crank there is no extra space at all. I wanted to put some plastic protectors (boots) at the end of the crank arms to protect my SRAM carbon arms from strikes. I put one on; and then re-installed the pedal, The pedal would no longer spin freely. No luck. Had to remove the boot. Other than this issue, these pedals are terrific.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.


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