We are excited about a number of new products. MKS has reworked their popular Sylvan pedals with silky smooth cartridge bearings. Now called the Sylvan Next, we’ve carried the Touring version for a while. New in the program is the Track pedal (above).
The new Track pedals are a great choice not just for track riders, but for all riding with cycling shoes and toeclips. The cut-away pedal body provides better cornering clearance and reduces the weight, while still offering full support for the shoe. Eddy Merckx used to race on track pedals because of these advantages.
What is the difference to the Touring version (above)? The platform of the Touring pedal is wider, so giving you the option of riding comfortably in street shoes, too. And since it’s double-sided, you can use it with or without toeclips. The Track pedal is easier to use with toeclips, since the flip tab at the bottom helps with rotating the pedal to insert your foot into the toeclip.
Both pedals are available in ‘EZY Superior’ Rinko versions, which allow removing the pedals in seconds without tools – great for travel bikes and for cyclists who ride one bike with multiple pedal systems. Removing the pedal couldn’t be simpler: Turn the ring on the adapter, push it inward, and the pedal releases.
Our Compass Switchback Hill 650B x 48 mm tires have been very popular, but until now, there were no fenders to go with them. We asked Honjo to custom-make their smooth 62 mm-wide fenders in a new XL version for us. With a larger radius, these fit perfectly over ultra-wide 650B tires (up to 50 mm wide).
To provide clearance for the chain with road cranks, fenders cannot get wider than this, so this fender does not wrap quite as far around the tire as our fenders for narrower tires. It still provides better spray protection and more tire clearance than any other fender we’ve tried.
Pacenti’s Brevet has become our most popular rim: strong, reasonably light and without the cracking problems that bedeviled many recent rims, it’s proven reliable and easy to build. It’s also tubeless compatible. We are excited to offer this excellent rim in new 700C versions, as well as the well-known 650B.
The HED Belgium Plus is one of the best modern 650B rims out there. It builds straight and the diameter is spot-on, making tubeless installations a snap. We’ve persuaded HED to keep it in production, and the rim-brake version now is back in stock. Disc brake rims will arrive soon.
Gilles Berthoud’s underseat bag is a great way to add carrying capacity to a bike that doesn’t have provisions for luggage. It holds a rain jacket, arm warmers, a wallet and some food in addition to spare tubes and tire levers. It’s made from the same waterproof cotton with leather edging as Berthoud’s famous handlebar bags that last (almost) forever.
We now carry these bags with a more secure leather buckle closure. The previous elastic has worked great for me, but since you won’t access a saddlebag while riding, the two-handed operation is no problem, and you no longer run the (admittedly small) risk that the elastic breaks, spilling the contents of the bag onto the road.
The Berthoud saddle bag attaches either with straps to the rails of your saddle, or with a KlickFix adapter directly to most Gilles Berthoud saddles (above).
Our handlebars combine modern materials with classic ergonomics. Their generous shapes provide room to roam during long days in the saddle. Now all sizes are back in stock.
The Compass taillight has been very popular. It combines a beautiful shape with modern electronics: a powerful LED and a standlight circuit so you remain visible when you stop. It incorporates a reflector. Mounted between the seatstays, it’s visible from where it matters, yet it’s well protected. Our taillights are made by a good friend right here in the U.S., and we’ve had a hard time making enough to keep up with demand. Now they’re back in stock.
Click on the images above for more information, or click here to check out the complete Compass Cycles program.
Sometimes, it feels as if cyclists are divided into two camps on many issues. One of these divisions concerns pedals. There are those who believe that if you don’t have clipless pedals, it’s hardly worth taking your bike outside. Others fervently believe that any foot retention will ruin your enjoyment of cycling.
I’ve never understood this “either – or” attitude. On many of my bikes, I ride clipless pedals (above in Paris-Brest-Paris 2015)…
… but I’ve also ridden 400 km brevets with toeclips and straps. I can’t say that there is a performance difference between the two. I’ve set personal bests and course records on either type of pedals. If you look at the times in Paris-Brest-Paris or in pro races, you’ll see that when clipless pedals became widespread, there was no noticeable jump in speeds.
For me, the advantages of clipless pedals are that my feet don’t get numb on cold days, even after many hours of riding. A disadvantage is that the shoes transmit all the pedaling power, so they must fit perfectly and be tightened just right. If they are just a tad too loose, my feet slide around, which is unpleasant. If they are too tight, they constrict my circulation.
Toeclips and straps have the advantage that I can ride in any shoes. Their disadvantage is that I must remember to open one strap slightly when stopping, so I can remove my foot from the pedal. Natsuko (top photo) prefers half-clips, which allow her to put a foot down anytime, yet they still offer good power transfer.
For shorter rides, flat pedals work great for me. Actually, for quick trips around the city, I often ride in street shoes, even on SPD pedals. It’s not ideal, but it works fine at moderate speeds.
If you don’t use clipless pedals, classic touring pedals are hard to beat: With platforms on both sides, they can be used with street shoes. Add toeclips and straps, and they perform like racing pedals.
Despite their versatility, high-end touring pedals always have been few and far between. Now MKS has updated their popular Sylvan pedals with same silky-smooth cartridge bearings as the company’s other high-end pedals. The new model is called “Sylvan Next” to distinguish it from the lower-end “Sylvan” that has cup-and-cone bearings. (Compass only carries the top-quality MKS pedals. Gritty bearings may not slow you down, but you can feel them as you pedal. A smoothly-working bike is much more fun to ride.)
The Rinko version of the Sylvan Next allows removing your pedals without tools in just seconds. With the EZY-Superior quick-release system, you simply turn the ring on the spindle, push it toward the crank, and pull off the pedal.
Rinko pedals are convenient for travel or storing your bike in tight spaces. And if you want to ride with platform pedals one day and with clipless pedals the next, you can swap between the different MKS EZY-Superior models quickly and without tools. (The photo above shows the USB-Nuevo and the Urban Platform pedals.) We also offer the adapters separately, if you want to use the same set of pedals on several bikes.
The Sylvan Next pedals are now in stock. Click here to learn more about them and the other MKS pedals in the Compass program.
Looking for LOOK-compatible pedals for your travel bike? Here is the solution. The MKS US-L pedal uses a similar retention system as the LOOK Keo. In fact, the cleats are interchangeable. Unlike any other LOOK-compatible pedal, the MKS US-L is available with the EZ-Superior Rinko system.
Like all MKS pedals we sell, the US-L is a top-of-the-line pedal with ultra-smooth cartridge bearings. You really have to turn the spindle with your fingers to believe how smooth these pedals spin. And they still spin smoothly after years of use…
That system works similar to an air hose coupling: The part on the left remains screwed into the crank. Turn and push the outer ring, and you can remove the pedal. No tools required, and it only takes a few seconds.
The photo above shows the US-B Nuevo pedal, which is compatible with the Time Atac retention system. The Rinko system is the same on all MKS pedals in the Compass program.This has the added benefit of making it easy to swap pedals: for example, if you want to ride the same bike with platform pedals during commutes, but with clipless pedals during spirited weekend rides.
All MKS Rinko pedals come with a neat bag to carry your pedals while traveling.
The MKS US-L pedals also are available in a standard, non-Rinko version. The release tension is adjustable with a 3 mm Allen wrench (included) in three steps. This makes it easy to match the tension between right and left pedal.
The retention system is split, so that only one side has to open to release the shoe. This means that the release is relatively easy – you only have to overcome half the spring tension that holds the shoe when pedaling. No longer do you have to choose between safety during all-out pedaling efforts, and safety when stopping!
Click here for more information about MKS pedals.
During our recent visit to Japan, we had the privilege of visiting Mikashima Industrial Company, better known as MKS, the makers of bicycle pedals. We had expressed an interest in MKS to our trading company. Fortunately, the MKS’s president, Toshiyuki Ogino (right), had heard about Bicycle Quarterly and was also interested in meeting us.
MKS is remembered by many for making many wonderful pedals for SunTour, but even after that great component maker disappeared, MKS continued to make great pedals.
It was a 1-hour train ride from Tokyo to Sayama-Ga-Oka, where the MKS factory is located. Before we started our tour, we were given MKS caps to show that we were legitimate visitors as we walked around the factory. (Employees all wear company shirts or jackets.)
We were surprised by the wide range of products that MKS makes. Bicycle pedals are only half their output. The remainder appears to consist of parts for the automobile industry.
We were asked to not take photos during the visit, which is too bad! It would have been nice to take you on a virtual tour of this impressive factory with its large heat treating ovens, huge presses, forging hammers, polishing machines…
As we enter the first building, one machine is stamping toeclips out of large sheets of steel. It reminds me of making shape cookies with cookie cutters. The toeclip shapes fall into bins, while the left-over steel sheet now has toeclip-shaped holes. It’s fun to watch.
Another machine is forging parts for truck diesel engines. We suspect they are fuel injectors, but it’s too loud in here to ask many questions. And what is “fuel injector” in Japanese, anyhow?
The polishing machines are impressive, with colorful stones rotating in cone-shaped barrels as the parts are polished. The heat treatment ovens are state-of-the-art, as Stefan, our Taiwanese engineer who has joined us for our meetings in Tokyo, confirms. (He used to install these ovens for a living before moving to Taiwan to work in the bike industry.)
The assembly building is much quieter. One room has an assembly line for the aforementioned Subaru headrests. The next room has a single employee assembling the top-of-the-line Keirin pedals. He is wearing white gloves, and next to his workstation are small bins with paper-thin shims. The pedals are equipped with cartridge bearings, but the end play is adjusted with these shims, in 0.03 mm increments. (That is 1/1000 of an inch!) The employee screws in the locknut, checks the play, then removes the nut and installs the next-bigger shim. He repeats the process until the bearing adjustment is perfect. It’s labor-intensive: While we watch, we see only a single pedal being completed and put aside for packing.
We pick up the pedal. Feeling the bearings spin oh-so-smoothly is an object lesson in quality. I want to get a set to keep on my desk and to play with from time to time, to inspire me to insist on the best quality as I am working on our own Compass components.
The pedals have many neat features. The cages are cut away to save weight, yet they support the feet in all the important places. There is a lock for the toe strap, so the old technique of twisting the straps as you feed them through the underside of the pedals isn’t necessary – the straps will stay in place no matter how often you open and close them. Even with a spindle made from strong boron steel, the RX-1 pedals are as light as the classic Campagnolo Super Record pedals with their titanium spindles. And the cages are replaceable, since they’ll wear over time where your cleats touch them.
Of course, these pedals are approved by the NJS for Keirin racing. NJS stands for Nihon Jitensya Shinnkoukai (or Japan Bicycle Promotion Association in English). NJS-approval is an interesting thing: it’s intended to keep the races safe and the playing field level. Every part of the bikes used in these track races must be tested for safety and approved. So for you as a rider, “NJS-approved” means that the pedals are safe even under the strongest riders. (NJS doesn’t say anything about performance or bearing quality.)
The next, much larger room houses the assembly for the less expensive MKS pedals. The contrast to the quiet, unhurried pace of the top-of-the-line pedal assembly is remarkable. The less expensive pedals are assembled by hissing pneumatic tools. The finished pedals drop into buckets with loud clanks. Even here, an employee checks the final bearing adjustment by hand. When we feel a pedal, it’s clear that these pedals will need to “break in” as you ride. The Keirin pedals, on the other hand, have silky-smooth bearings right out of the box.
“Right out of the box” – once you figure out how to open the box! You open the top flap, and then flip open the box like a book. Each pedal has its own little compartment. The smooth lacquered paper stock and tasteful finish ensure that you’ll find a reason to keep this box even after you have installed the pedals.
Keirin racers use toeclips and straps, so MKS also makes what I think are the best toestraps. (And yes, I’ve used Binda Extras and most other famous brands of the past.) Two layers of glove-soft leather sandwich a layer of anti-stretch Nylon. That way, you don’t have to cinch down your toestraps until they cut the circulation in your feet. Adjusting them to a comfortable snugness is enough to prevent your feet from coming out of the clips even when you climb out of the saddle (or sprint in a Keirin race).
MKS even makes cleats that work with modern 3-bolt LOOK-style shoes, removing one further barrier of entry into the world of toeclips and straps. (They also make more affordable toestraps with just a single layer of high-quality leather, as shown above.)
I am on the fence about toeclips and straps. On the one hand, I love the classic appearance and incredible quality of these MKS components. I have a set of touring bicycle shoes that work with toeclips and allow me to walk. But for all-out efforts, I prefer a more rigid connection to the pedal, which requires cleats that make walking difficult. So for randonneuring, I prefer SPD-style pedals and shoes.
If you have several bikes that you enjoy for their different feel and ride, at least one of them probably should have traditional pedals. I am tempted to put a set of the MKS Keirin pedals on my Alex Singer camping bike.
For riding in street shoes, half-clips are a great option. They locate your feet during the downstroke (which is where you put out all your power anyhow). And on bumpy roads, they prevent your feet from sliding off the pedals. MKS makes these lovely “Cage Clips”, which are welded from steel rod, rather than stamped out of flat steel sheet. Not only are they beautiful, but they also don’t have sharp edges that can scratch your shoes. And they are made from stainless steel, so they won’t rust even if you scratch them up a bit as you start from a stop with the pedals flipped upside down.
After the factory tour, we meet with the engineers and the president of MKS. We decide to import some of the pedals, straps and cages that MKS already makes. And we hope to collaborate on future projects. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had a true randonneuring and cyclotouring pedal designed for long-distance comfort and longevity? The adapted mountain bike components we use today have mud clearance we don’t need, and the down side is a small cleat that puts more pressure on our foot and wears out quicker than is ideal.
In the mean time, click here for more information on the MKS components we sell.