Pedaling Innovations Catalyst Flat Pedal Review
Updated: Mar 5, 2020
What it is: A flat pedal from Pedaling Innovations with a unique shape that has aimed to rethink the way your foot sits on a flat pedal.
I ran these pedals for about 6 months and there are a lot of good things about them, but there are some drawbacks, as well. For reference going forward, I tried these with 5.10 Impact Pro, 5.10 Freerider, and Ride Concepts Livewire shoes, I'll discuss what shoes worked best later on.
The first thing you'll notice about these pedals in comparison to other flats is the rather unique shape:
Rather than being somewhat squared off or boxy, these pedals are very long and somewhat narrow. The dimensions are a massive 143mm long by 95mm wide.
The reason for this choice is somewhat unique and apparently aims to rethink the way we sit our feet on flat pedals.
Rather than rehash what is already out there, the Pedaling Innovations website goes into more detail on the why and how. The general idea is that instead of placing the ball of your foot on top of the pedal axle, the arch of your foot goes over the axle, instead, which moves your foot further forward. The idea being that the improved position will give you more power and stability.
The pedals are slightly concave, as well, and have a tapered edge:
As you can see above, setscrews are used for pins.
I didn't disassemble mine, but apparently bushings and bearings are used to keep them spinning smooth. I will add that these pedals spin more freely and smoothly than any pedal I've owned, but that may come with a durability drawback.
I will cover shoes in the next section, but with regard to whether these pedals do what they claim, I'm on the fence.
The most noticeable difference for me on these pedals was climbing, it reminded me of what it was like to clip in where you had to worry less about your foot lifting off the pedal on technical climbs, providing you a sort of stability on climbs with roots, rocks, or other technical features. You could move around the bike with greater confidence and control, along with allowing the bike to pivot under you. That benefit was, to me, very obvious, however the power difference didn't feel that dramatic and I didn't feel a huge change in endurance using them.
On the downhill segments, they felt more like riding on top of skis than being on the ball of your foot. I think there is something to this aspect, where you get more stability and traction because your weight is more biased to the front when you are neutrally positioned, but this first revision of the pedal suffers from one major drawback on the downhill segments, especially in stock form: overall grip.
These aren't the worst gripping pedals I've used, but they don't grip very well, either, especially with the short pins that come installed stock. The pedals do come with longer pins in the box and, as you can see above, I installed them along the fore and aft edge of the pedal to help grip, which helped a lot, but the grip still isn't on par with the OneUp alloy pedals or ANVL Tilts I was using before.
One sortof unsung benefit of these pedals is their width. My observation being that pedal strikes often come less from the thickness of the pedal and more from the width, especially the dangerous ones that snag the edge of a pedal hanging out and flip you off the bike. The narrow width of these pedals has the benefit of reducing these types of pedal strikes, because the pedal isn't excessively hanging off either side of the bike.
That being said, the width comes as a drawback, as well: if your foot position is duck footed (toes out) or you prefer a wider stance, you'll be fighting to find the correct position on these pedals. I wish they offered some different q-factor options, but I did find the q-factor to be slightly narrow on these and, sortof like riding clipped in, you have to have your foot in the right place for these pedals to work. If your foot can't rest in that specific position, then you start to lose their benefits.
Overall, I feel these pedals have a lot of benefits, but they have some potential drawbacks too, some are objective, while others will be subject to your fit, body, and riding style. Thankfully, they have a 30 day return policy, so if they do not work for you, then you can return them.
Here are my run down of shoes and how they worked with these pedals:
5.10 Impact Pro - Very well, good grip, good platform, comfortable
5.10 Freerider - Decent grip, not as good as the Impact Pro, and reasonably comfortable
Ride Concepts Live Wire - Awful grip, do not recommend using these with these pedals
One thing to consider when choosing shoes is that some shoes are specifically designed with a higher grip surface on the ball of your foot, with other parts of the shoe being less grippy. When choosing shoes, make sure the grip surface of the shoe runs the full length of the sole rather than just on the ball of your foot. The main culprit shoe here are the Shimano options, like the GR7, which use different textured surfaces on different parts of the shoe.
The pins bent, which is to be expected after 6 months of riding on them around here, but they are easy enough to replace as long as you can get them out. They are top loading, so if they break or get jammed in, you will need to replace the whole pedal, however that wasn't an issue for me.
That said, for me, pedal play began to form around 4-5 months in. Apparently, there is an issue with the bushings wearing in foul conditions, like we have here, that requires regular maintenance. The play isn't dramatic, but it is there. Thankfully, resolving this is a matter of using the very reasonably priced $10 rebuild kit.
Who would I recommend this to?
For starters, if overall traction is your highest priority, these aren't for you. So for DH or serious enduro racing, where slipping a pedal can be disastrous, these are not the right pedals for you. They don't grip horribly, but they aren't the grippiest options out there, either.
For trail riding or XC (I've seen roadies on them, too!), they are more appropriate.
If your riding consists of technical climbing and you are looking for a flat pedal option that makes tech climbs easier, with some benefits similar to clipless pedals, these are a great option. In my experience, that's where these pedals really thrive.
If you have a very wide stance or weird foot position, like me, then these may be less desirable, because they force your foot into a specific position.
They are, overall, very good flat pedals, I just wish the traction was better and I think for some users, that will be a deal killer.
For these comparisons, I'm going to consider whether or not they are suitable for the same foot forward (arch over axle) type of position that the Catalyst recommends. Some pedals I've tried, this position doesn't work very well, while others may be more suited to it.
vs. OneUp Aluminum : The OneUp pedal is a bit thinner and has a wider platform, giving your foot more angle positions and options; The Catalyst was more durable for me than the OneUp options; The OneUp pedals have better overall grip, but use a proprietary pin; The OneUp pedals seem to flex a bit when you move your foot forward, but they seem suitable for riding with your foot forward especially for lighter riders.
vs. ANVL Tilt v3 : The Tilt is a much smaller pedal than both the OneUp and Catalyst, so may be a good option for riders with smaller feet; The Tilt is more durable than both and grippier than both, but is not as suitable for riding with your foot further forward like these pedals are unless you have smaller feet
Pedal setscrew pins are easy and cheap to locate, easy to replace in most circumstances
Very low friction axle/bushing design, they spin freely
Supports a unique approach to the way your foot sits on the pedal, providing stability benefits on both climbs and descents
Tapered leading edge helps deflect pedal strikes
Narrower profile allows for greater pedal clearance on the trail
Overall pedal width is reasonable, not remarkable, but not overly thick either
Narrow profile limits foot positioning
Durability of the bearing/bushings is suspect in harsh conditions
Pins can be difficult to remove if broken off in the pedal
Overall pedal grip is not as good as other options on the market