The Metal in the Pedal: Vintage Pedals vs. Modern

1946 Peugeot pedal, disassembled.

I usually regard vintage bicycle components as superior to their modern day mass-produced peers.  The quality materials, excellent machining, and innovative designs of vintage parts usually simply overwhelm their contemporary competitors.  The above pedal is a good example.  This 1946 Peugeot pedal has a beautifully machined tapered spindle, with the Peugeot marque incorporated into the pedal cage.  You definitely will not find this attention to detail in any modern pedal.

1950 Raleigh rubber block pedal

1950 Raleigh pedal with clever lockring which engages the cone.

There are really two aspects to a pedal’s design:  the shape and construction of the cage, and the design of the spindle, cones, and bearings.  Many modern pedals are not rebuild-able, so if they fail you have to throw them away.  Vintage pedals were never designed to be thrown out.  They are designed to last through the ages, with adjustable cups and cones and replaceable bearings.  The pedals on my 1950 Raleigh Sports Tourist reflect a real commitment to pedal maintenance:  the lock ring has notches which engage with the cone, so that pedal adjustment is fast and easy.

1947 Aluvac Pedal

Weight of a pedal can also be a factor.  This 1947 Aluvac Pedal is lighter than any other pedal in my collection!  The weight of a component can be a consideration when choosing parts for a build, but in this case, the extremely lightweight pedal pictured above was part of a 1947 Peugeot Mixte.  A bike one would not think of as giving homage to the weight weenie gods.

Recently I have changed out some of the pedals on the bikes I regularly ride for these Shimano Saint Pedals, which I reviewed a while back.  These pedals are totally rebuildable, and offer a large and comfortable platform for one’s foot.  They feature adjustable pins which lock your shoe into position.  For me, someone who rides in rainy, urban conditions, these pins work really well.  They are a great alternative to clipless or toe clip pedals, since they really do lock your feet in place, even when weather conditions are bad.  The shape of the pedal platform, along with the adjustable pins, make these pedals far more useful than most platform pedals I have used.

1973 spindle on top, 1953 spindles below

Marcel Berthet pedals – 1953 vs. 1973.

A while back, I had a component failure on some 1953 Marcel Berthet pedals. When I disassembled the pedals, I found their spindles to be in good order, as compared to their 1970’s counterparts.  But, the threads on one of the spindles failed due to a bad spindle design, which was corrected later by the manufacturer.  Even so, these pedals are quite comfortable when used with toe clips (which is how they are designed).  The foot bed is large and flat, and the toe clip keeps one’s shoe in place.

1940’s Tank Pedals

There are a number of vintage platform pedals that are very comfortable, such as these 1940’s Tank pedals pictured above.  Modern day counterparts include MKS as well as other cage pedal designs.  However, I have found my Shimano Saint pedals to be far more comfortable than a typical cage pedal, and so have installed Shimano Saints on my regular commuting bicycles.  The large platform and adjustable pins really make for a comfortable and safe ride.

Shimano Saint Pedals: a heavenly review


Shimano Saint Pedals

As part of my ongoing quest for cycling Nirvana, I have been thinking about replacing the $9 bear trap on my Panasonic winter bike, shown below, which have drawn blood from my shins a few too many times.


Bear Trap pedals with sharp teeth

There’s nothing really wrong with these bear trap pedals, other than their sharp teeth, which provide grip for rain riding, and have therefore been forgiven for this sin.

One criteria I require of all pedals that I buy is that they must be fully rebuild-able, with cup and cone adjustment.  And, I want a steel axle for a long lasting component.  I have often used MKS pedals when vintage pedals are not available or appropriate for a particular application.  I have found MKS pedals to be enduring and reliable, but they are often shipped very dry, and with a too tight bearing adjustment.


So, I was fully expecting these Shimano Saint platform pedals to be totally dry and adjusted too tight when I received the shipment.  Not so.  The pedals had so much grease applied that it was oozing out of the Cro-Mo axle. The cones felt a little tight, but not excessively so.  And, if you really want to geek out, the pedals come with alternate pins, washers and an Allen wrench to help you fine tune this pedal for your riding application.


The Shimano Saint pedals are overall very similar in size to the bear trap pedals I had been using.  So, I was skeptical about them at first – what could they offer at $70 that would be better than the $9 bear claws?

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The Shimano Saints weigh 9 oz per pedal as compared to the bear traps, which weigh a mere 6 oz.  Surely, this meant that I would feel sluggish and bogged down using these heavier Shimano pedals, yes?


In practice, the opposite was true.  I enjoyed riding these pedals.  I felt that the weight on my feet was being more evenly distributed, and I did not experience any unpleasant hot spots as I rode out today on a beautiful Portland winter morning.  Did I mention how much these pedals weigh?  Ha.  I was sure that the extra weight would be noticeable.  Instead, I found myself tackling hills I don’t normally undertake, and enjoying every minute.  If you are looking for a nice platform pedal with adjustable cups and cones, and fully customize-able pins on the pedal surface – these Shimano Saints are for you.