Race Face Atlas Review
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 compatibility with some cranks
Manufacturer: Race Face
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Our Analysis and Test Results
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 impressive attention to detail with unique design features set the Atlas 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.
For trail/enduro/downhill type riding we liked these traction pins the best of all. The grip of the Atlas pedals is some of the best we've ridden. While having the assurance of remaining in position in the chattery rock gardens, they weren't on the extreme edge of grip that we struggled to take a foot off in the flatter turns. Each pedal features 20 pins (10 per side) that are protected and thread in from the bottom with a 3 mm allen key. The Atlas has an inward-facing position on its fore and aft outer pins to maximize the concavity from the platform. We found this combination with the hex pins to be a unique and exceptional recipe from Raceface to assure the best grip achievable. All the traction pins are located along the perimeter of the pedal body, with none directly underfoot along the pedal axle.
Our sticky soles were able to settle into the concavity of the pedal better 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 replacement 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 overwhelmed some of the smaller pins found on other pedals.
This pedal is equipped with a well-engineered platform design that provides excellent clearance without sacrificing contact points underneath your shoes. We were able to reposition our feet when necessary. At 12mm thick, the pedals have a thin enough profile to miss pedal strikes. The Atlas features a unique body shape designed to eliminate contact with the ground or side rocks by chamfering back the exposed edges. We think this is a clever and useful design. Also noted, the Atlas seemed to hold up the best to wear and tear (visually speaking). 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.
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 quite natural. While testing, winter arrived quickly 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 with a firm kick. Watch those shins with this maneuver. Our lead tester 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 eliminated.
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 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 is 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.
One crucial detail is the removal or installation of the pedals can only be accessed with a 8mm Allen from the inside of the crank. There are no outside wrench slots to tighten or loosen the pedals, so if you're used to using a pedal removing wrench tool, you had better add a hex tool to your bike toolbox. Beware of repeat offenses in wet weather, or you'll be replacing bearings more times than you had hoped, as the seal at the end of the axle, overtime, can fail to keep moisture out in wetter environments.
However, with the Atlas pedals having a higher price point, replacing the bearings would be worth it. The rebuild kit costs around $43.00 (replacement pins not included and are sold separately), which at that price you could buy some cheaper composite pedals, but given the design and overall wear durability of these pedals, you can freshen them up if need be.
At 347-grams, the Atlas pedals are in the lighter end of the weight category. We had to reweigh them a couple of times because these pedals don't look as light as the scale indicates. The Atlas offers one of the wider platforms of all the pedals we tested and rings in at a very lightweight.
We're sure a lot of riders will cringe at the lofty 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.
We found it hard to complain about this pedal. Everything seemed so researched and dialed and well implemented. Even with so many features piled on, this pedal remained one of the lightest in our test. The image of the namesake overburdened statue is the last thing that came to mind while chugging up steep, endless fire roads with the Atlas pedals. We feel these versatile, lightweight pedals are a great option for trail, all-mountain, and enduro riders.
— Sean Cronin