Ode to Humble Pedals

I just finished cleaning and repacking the bearings in, and in the process falling in love with, these humble vintage pedals made by SR.  I know not how they ended up in my box-o-pedals, but I had them on a table at my last garage sale.  I don’t remember the day I decided to sell them at the garage sale, but it is pretty easy to recreate the decision.  I have plenty of fancier pedals in the box and probably thought I needed space more than a low end set of pedals from SR.  I am an MKS fan.  I have MKS pedals on most of my bikes and plenty of spares in the box.  Not the most fancy MKS pedals.  I generally use their lowest cost examples, which are very good pedals in the end.  So these SR pedals got voted off the island.  They were still marked $1.00 when I picked them up this morning.  Despite the fact that a ton of serious bicycle people showed up at my garage sale (I was selling many nice bicycles and parts very cheaply), these did not tickle anyone’s fancy.  I understand.  They did not tickle mine until the this morning.

These pedals are well used, were not originally well finished and until now they barely spun on their axles.  Actually, they did not spin at all.  They turned when coaxed, but stopped as soon as the push was over.  Worst of all, they sport press fit plastic dust caps that, for shame, were not chromed to simulate metal (as would be bestowed upon any reasonable pedal in the day).

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Finally, they did not appear upon casual inspection to readily accept toe clips.  Not a good thing, maybe even unsafe, in that the cage bodies didn’t have sharp enough teeth.  Too easy to slip off.  While it is obvious the front reflector could be popped out, leaving two well positioned holes for toe clip bolts, the holes were at the bottom of a recessed box that safeguarded the reflector.  Maybe toe clips could fit into the box, surely if you ground down the retention plate on the clips, but why bother?  Easier to use a pedal that more easily accepts clips.

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Well protected reflectors might be the greatest feature of these pedals.  True, but who cares very much?  I don’t really, even though I should.  If you’ve ever left reflectors on pedals (a good idea if your ego allows it), you know they are often broken or marred on the pavement the first time a corner is taken with anything approaching spirit.  Not really, but this sounds better than the truth.  More likely pedal reflectors are bashed on curbs or suffer similar undignified ends.   In the end, though, well protected reflectors aren’t high on my list of features that induce pedal lust.

Why didn’t these pedals get donated to the bike rescue after they failed to sell at the garage sale?  First, I am a hoarder.  More importantly,  though, the pedals were made in Japan.  Even though they were made to go on pretty low end bicycles, low end is relative.  Low end bicycles from the 80s with Japanese components were very good bicycles.  They generally worked well and lasted.  So I save them.

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These pedals at least are graced with a few design cues that suggest they are serious road pedals.  They have a top and a bottom (top is longer for a better platform and the bottom is shorter to improve clearance).  They have tabs to help you flip them when getting into the clips.  They are alloy rather than steel.  Good thing they are alloy.  There is a fair bit more metal than is necessary, but they should take a beating and hold up well.  Not a bad thing for a pedal designed for a low end bicycle.  Too many low end bicycles today come with plastic pedals.  I have seen so many come apart while in use.  Not fun.

These are clearly used, with all their scratches and blemishes.  Even so, they were not used enough for the bearings to loosen up.  Pedals often come with bearings that are too tight for my taste.  I suspect the manufacturer over tightens the bearings so that they will stay somewhat well adjusted longer.  They probably do not expect pedals to get much attention.  They are probably right.  Until now.

I am surprised no one popped out the reflectors to make them look less utilitarian, or to add toe clips.  For shame that so many, myself included, try to look fast at the expense of utility, here safety.  Maybe when they were made the plastic on the reflectors was soft enough to allow removal and replacement without breaking the delicate retention tabs, but I doubt it.  They broke pretty readily when I removed the front reflectors to add toe clips.  So I will assert that these pedals had never been used with toe clips.  Like I said before, I do not think these pedals would be very safe without clips.  No teeth.  Also, without clips, random selection would have your feet on the underside of the pedal half the time leaving a nasty ridge on the outside of the pedal pointing at the ground, just waiting to be ground down on a turn.  In fact, on both pedals the tab had touched down at least once.  Do that violently enough and you crash.  Rare, but possible.  With toe clips, all is well.

I am happy to report, and not at all surprised, that the bearing surfaces were well finished.  While SR was willing to produce an affordable pedal by leaving the outside unpolished, they weren’t willing to sacrifice performance.  Bearing surfaces matter.  When the original dried grease was removed, new grease was added and the cones were properly adjusted, the pedals spin as well as any.  A wonderful thing.

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Then another fun discovery.  While I was cleaning the bearings, I noticed that the pedals were in fact very well designed to accept toe clips.  SR left a slot at the top of the reflector protector box to accept the toe clip.  One step further, they made an indentation along the top of the box so that the toe clip would drop far enough into the slot, allowing the holes in the clips to line up with the holes in the pedals.  Easy to see if you look, but until today I hadn’t really looked.  Also, when in use, the bottom surface of the toe clip lines up perfectly with the platform of the pedal.  I am so glad I can still get steel MKS toe clips.  I hoard them.  I must have a couple dozen pairs, including three new in package.  I used one set today on these pedals, so, note to self, time to buy more!

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Turns out these are very good examples of low end Japanese pedals from the 80s-90s.  A little less polish and a little more weight, but no loss in function with reasonable durability.  I am glad no one bought them so that I could spend the morning with them.  Spending time in the heads of the designers and makers.  Thoughtful, careful bunch.  These pedals are now on Lacey’s Atlantis and will serve her well for decades.  I am not saying these pedals would survive decades of hard use, mind you.  You need to keep in mind that Lacey has many bicycles.  My fault entirely.  Please forgive me.  Know that I paid a small price.  I do every time I wrench.

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I’ll end with a note about the nifty red Naugahyde I used as a background.  I am particularly proud of this dumpster find.  A nice piece at about two square yards.  As a vegan, I love Naugahyde.  Vintage is that much better.  Made in the US, this appears to be.  Seems like Naugahyde was a brand before it became, for a few decades anyway, the identifying name.  Now vegans say pleather.  Whatever!  The dumpster was outside a furniture upholstery place a few blocks from here.  I am not happy to report that I later learned why there was a dumpster filled with upholstery scrap.  They were going out of business.  Another team of craftspeople fall victim to a throw away society.  Be careful where you take out your wallet!

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