Steve Lubanski of Open Road Bicycle Shop in Pasadena launched his Side Mount Pedals at Interbike. He said he hopes to capture 10 to 15 percent of the high-end pedal market. The SMp pedal is a tiny oreo-biscuit shaped disc, the cleat as clunky as most others on the market. Lubanski says the SMp system gives a four percent pedal-stoke efficiency advantage and allows cyclists to be fitted to smaller - and therefore lighter - bikes.Radical new pedal system designs are launched frequently. The Ramsey Swing pedal from 1898 was advertised as having an "automatic ankle action, no dead center . . . money refunded if Ramsey pedals do not enable you to ascend hills with 25% less energy."
The first 'clipless' pedal was invented in 1895.
It didn't catch on. Most pedal innovations fail because of low or no take-up.
Even a brand as big as Cinelli couldn't make a success of the first modern-day clipless pedal system, introduced in 1973.
Richard Bryne, the founder of Speedplay, spent years gaining market acceptance for his minimalist pedals, the last 'system' to make it into the mainstream. Bryne's online 'pedal museum' is a fascinatng scroll through the history of pedals and the clipless designs that failed to capture the cycling public's imagination, or dollars.
Open Road's Lubanski hopes to be the next Speedplay. He has formed the Pasadena Bicycle Manufacturing Company to make and market his 370-gm titanium SMp float-or-no-float system.
Patented in June, the Side Mount Pedal system will cost about $250 for pedals and cleats.
"Other pedals are still under the foot," said Lubanski. "Mine is next to it."
The SMp pedal is hardly there, a deterrent to thieves.
"There's nothing for them to pedal with," said Lubanski.
But it's the performance gains that Lubanski believes will be his system's main selling point.
By making the path the foot travels closer to a circle than the ellipse resulting from standard pedals, Lubanski claims SMp users are pedalling three to four percent more efficiently. For across-town-to-the-post-office use this is no great shakes but in road races won or lost in seconds, such performance gains can make all the difference.
The SMp system allows a user's seatpost to be lowered by up to an inch and a half, lowering the rider's centre of gravity, and lowering a rider's height on the road, "an advantage when drafting," said Lubanski.
The titanium cleat is said to allow near-normal walking, doing away with precarious clip-clopping.
Lubanski has wanted to improve on current pedal systems for some time. He relates how fifteen years ago, five times Tour de France winner Bernard Hinault visited Open Road Bicycle Shop in his capacity as a consultant for the LOOK pedal system. Lubanski said Hinault agreed with his view that whilst good, the LOOK system could be bettered. Three years ago Lubanski had his light-bulb moment: into his head popped the oreo-biscuit pedal design. The current system is the eighth version.
Not short of chutzpah, Lubanski's press release promoting his presence at Interbike in Las Vegas was headlined: "A better pedal: aims to change industry, history."
Time will tell.
NOTE: for a French version of a similar pedal system see http://www.easys.biz/index.html