These pedals were included in my recent purchase of a 1975 Centurion Semi Pro. The pedals were new to my knowledge base and were not only lightweight and beautifully made, they also spun more smoothly than any other pedal I’ve ever handled. With a name like Barelli, I had assumed these were probably made in Italy. But, upon closer examination you can see from the above photos that these pedals hail from Great Britain. Taking to the internet for a bit of research provided some background on this one-of-a-kind component.
According to the site, Classic Lightweights UK, these pedals were first introduced in the 1970’s by Cambridge cyclist and engineer Geoff Chapman. They were featured at the Milan Cycle Show in 1977, and offered at 47 pounds sterling which included a lifetime warranty. I can’t think of any bicycle component made today that carries a lifetime warranty. While the 1970’s were different times, offering a such a warranty back then was also unusual, especially for a component subject to as much abuse as the lowly pedal.
While these pedals were typically offered with steel cages, my set has lovely aluminum cages which show very little wear. The catalog shown first above, indicates that after their initial introduction, Barelli offered these lightweight cages, which brought the total weight for the set of pedals down to an amazing 336 grams. The second spec sheet shown above is most informative in regard to the bearings, which according to the Barelli catalog are “Deep grooved ball races, giving double thrust and vertical load bearing. Each bearing is completely sealed independently with special lubricant to ensure free running and reliability, requiring no maintenance.” With that intriguing clue in mind, I decided to disassemble one of the pedals to see what’s what.
But before doing that, I noticed that the spindles, which are nickel-chrome steel and still look new, have English left and right hand designations – “L” & “R” and an additional designation on the reverse side: “D” and “S”. French designations are given as “D” and “G”, so this has me puzzled. And, these are not French threaded pedals. Is this a reminder that the left hand side is reverse threaded?
The dust cap came off easily with a 14mm wrench. Underneath was not what I expected to see. There was no cone and spacers. Instead, a locknut which came off with a 7/16 drive revealed a set of seals, strongly resembling a sealed cartridge bearing assembly. Since I did not want to disturb the smoothness and perfect adjustment of these 40 year old pedals, I put everything back together for now. After all, the catalog says “maintenance free” – and that appears to be right. While I would love to use these pedals on any of my current bikes, they are designed for toe clips, which I no longer use.
One idea is to use them with half-clips which are not so difficult to engage while commuting. Even without toe clips, one could still flip them around at stops to ensure your shoe is in the proper position, but the Barelli cages don’t have a tab that many other toe-clip pedals have which are designed to make it easier to flip the pedals to the upside. Even so, it’s tempting to just give them a shot and see what I think, sans toe clips.