A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the really nice old Specialized "flag icon" triple cranks
that were available in the 1980s. I've heard from a lot of people who liked those as much as I did. In that article I also mentioned some of the other components that Specialized offered in that decade -- many of which were equally nice designs, and made to some fantastic quality standards.
One of the components that they had back then -- and it's a shame nobody makes anything like them today -- was the pedals. Specialized had touring and racing versions, but I'm focusing mainly on the touring pedals today. I figure I'm pretty lucky in that I have two sets of these which I picked up pretty cheap in good used condition. One set is a little "cosmetically challenged," with scuffed up and faded cages, but functionally they are as good as any. The other pair, shown here, looks and functions awfully nice for their age.
|These special touring pedals were manufactured for Specialized by MKS in Japan. With their extra-wide platform base, they were compatible with all manner of flat-soled touring shoes, or with slotted-cleats. |
Like the cranks, the pedals were also designed by Portland, Oregon framebuilder Jim Merz. Jim was an avid touring rider back in the days when touring bikes had to be assembled piecemeal with whatever parts one could find that were up to the task, which meant sourcing components from a wide variety of manufacturers and even countries. Putting together a good touring bike in those days was something that took a lot more knowledge and insight than putting together a racing bike. Building a top-level racing bike back then usually meant knowing only a couple of names: Campagnolo and Cinelli. Touring bikes were a different story.
As just a brief side note, Jim rode from Portland to Panama in 1972
. His bike on that journey was a Raleigh Professional, which was not really intended as a touring bike, though he fitted it with racks, fenders, and other touring equipment. I saw an interview once where he said that he took a lot of what he learned from that experience and put it into his touring bike designs. Jim's touring bikes were notable for having quicker handling than most at that time, and equipped with his own custom-made integrated racks. Although he built some excellent road and track racing bikes, including a bike for George Mount, (1976 Olympian, and one of the first Americans to ride as a professional in Europe) Jim's touring bikes were what really stood out.
I assume that Jim also applied his touring bike experience - both riding and building - in the design of components like these pedals. They have a nice wide platform to suit a lot of footwear choices. They are made with forged bodies and replaceable aluminum cages, and fully serviceable bearings.
|This scan from the '84 Specialized catalog shoes the racing and touring pedals. The racing pedals came in steel and titanium-axled versions and have a short cage, making them good for track racing as well as road. The closest thing one could probably find to those today would be the MKS Custom Nuevo or RX-1 models, which feature the company's best bearings and materials. Remember that MKS made the Specialized pedals, so they're probably pretty similar - though not exactly the same. On the other hand, NOBODY seems to make anything like these touring pedals anymore.|
According to Jim, Specialized owned the tooling on their components, so even though their components were manufactured by various specialists like MKS, Sugino, Tange-Sekei, and others - the parts were unique, and nobody else was able to offer them.
|The pedals feature normal ball and cone bearing assemblies that can be easily serviced or rebuilt. Although the bearings felt very smooth on this pair when I got them, I assumed (correctly, I believe) that they hadn't been opened since 1984 and could probably use some fresh grease. I disassembled this pair and took care of that. It was a quick, easy project on a too-cold-to-ride winter day.|
|As mentioned, the cages are also replaceable. Would you think a person could still find replacement cages for 30-year-old pedals that were only sold for a couple of years? Believe it or not, I spotted a full set of NOS cages for about $20 so I snapped them up. Between having two complete pairs of pedals and a full set of replacement cages, I should be able to keep these going and looking good for a long time.|
The Specialized touring pedals were only available for a short time before disappearing. I couldn't say why exactly, other than the fact that in the mid-'80s mountain bikes were supplanting touring bikes in the marketplace, and their deeply grooved or jagged "bear-trap" cages became more popular. At the same time, clipless pedals were also sweeping the market for those who continued to ride on the road. Clean used versions of these sometimes pop up on places like eBay for not too much money. As I'm writing this, there's a brand new pair listed for $149, still in the box. Very tempting, but I'll pass, though they really are a pretty terrific blast from the past.
Agreed! Their hubs would spin for days too, man I loved building wheels with them.ReplyDelete
Oh - those hubs were nice. Made by Sansin/Sunshine with nice sealed bearings. I had a set that I built up into a bomb-proof pair of wheels. Mavic GP4 tubular rims, which were a little heavier than other rims at the time, but unbelievably strong for that small weight "penalty." I rode those wheels hard, even bouncing down stairs on them (yes!) and they never went out of true. The hubs were beautiful, and durable, and I totally regret selling those wheels.Delete
Those are great pedals -- I think I have a set in a parts box somewhere...ReplyDelete
There's a new old stock new in box set on eBay right now for $150.
The same eBay seller as the pedals has a set of the cranks (no chainrings) new in box for $160. Both seem high until you consider cost of current high end components -- so starts the rationalization process!ReplyDelete
I did see the NOS crank - I didn't connect mentally that it was probably the same seller. And I totally agree about the rationalizing. I mean - the closest thing one would find to that crank today, in terms of strength, finish, style, etc. would be the Sugino Alpina, but you'd be spending $250 easily for that. For the pedals, the current model Custom Nuevo pedals would cost about $150 - so that's a good comparison point. And there's nothing out there today that's quite comparable to the touring pedals.Delete
Very nice pedals. My personal choice from back in the day and what I use currently on three of my bikes are Sakae-Ringo SP-155 a very broad width ~4" with one piece cage (no loss or loose cage) plus built-in flush rear reflector (that can't be knocked-off or vibration-loosen). I go multi-years between rebuild with no discernible wear.ReplyDelete
Fred--If I'm not mistaken, that was the pedal that came with the Trek 720, the fully-loaded touring model they made during the early 1980's. They were indeed nice pedals.Delete
Yes - I know those. I had a pair on a used bike I picked up some years back, but they were badly beat up. The width and shape is similar to these Specialized touring pedals, but as you say, with a one-piece cage and body. They're pretty hard to find nowadays. Good if you can find 'em!ReplyDelete
Brooks--The Specialized pedal combined some of the best features of cage and platform pedals, with excellent ground clearance in spite of their wide width.ReplyDelete
The Specialized components of which you've been writing may well have been the best "gruppo" ever made!
There were some really nice pieces. They didn't make derailleurs or brakes - but SunTour derailleurs and Dia Compe brakes matched up very well to complete a bike.Delete
149$ do not seem cheap from my point of view. Not when sweet MKS pedals cost what, a third of that? Are they really better than my Sylvan track?ReplyDelete
I don't know that anybody is suggesting that $149 is cheap, but that is about the price of MKS's top-of-the-line pedals today -- and those vintage Specialized pedals are probably pretty similar. I agree, though, that their more basic pedal, the Sylvan, is a good pedal -- certainly good enough for me. The differences between them are in materials and finishing quality, and the quality of the bearings.Delete
Well, you describe them as tempting, so i assumed...wrong it seems.ReplyDelete
As for the quality of the bearings, is the difference that great? Because i have already tried supposedly better pedals with better bearings and did not feel any difference while riding, compared with repacked sylvans (from factory they don't have enough grease) or even old lyotard 36(another favorite of mine); and was not impressed. But it can well be me who cannot feel the difference, since i am a masher more than a spinner...
tempting - yes, especially considering that the touring pedals are no longer made. But I'm still passing on them. The Sylvan's can be repacked, and last a long time. Most people probably wouldn't feel much of a difference between the bearings of the Sylvan and the top model. Harder materials, more precise bearing surfaces, etc. would probably last longer between rebuilds -- but the cost for that kind of precision gets pretty high compared to the benefit. It's kind of like the difference between a Phil Wood bottom bracket and a Shimano UN-55 (or similar). The Phil will last a lot longer, but when the Shimano wears out, you can just replace it with new (and replace it again after a couple more years) and still be cheaper than the PW.Delete
Thanks for your replies.Delete
Your post made me smile because i just changed the old Campy bottom bracket of my Gazelle by an UN-55, and was interested by a Phil Wood, but was not ready to put that kind of money. Its like everything, the best product offer just a little advantage, but cost a lot more. If i was a richer man...
We used to take brand new MKS or KKT BMX pedals, remove the bearings and grease, put in new cheap balls and "grease" them with the finest valve grinding compound under my dad's workbench, then spin the pedal axle against the rear tire of an upside down Mongoose while someone turned the cranks on the 'Goose till the whine from the new pedal quieted down and "smoothed out". Then we'd clean the compound out, throw the martyred bearings away and put the Japanese bearings and fresh grease back in. I'm not sure we were accomplishing much but we thought we were pretty cool.ReplyDelete
I've made new cages for a couple of those old Specialised racing pedals and some similar SunTour's that have bolt on cages. If you're handy with a drill press and a file (and don't value your time) you can fix all sorts of neat things other people think are wrecked.
Never did that with pedals, But i've done it with cup and cone front hubs many times!Delete