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Crank Tip Pedals Review

I was very intrigued when I first saw these discussed on Transitions over a year ago. I thought the idea was very interesting and could potentially work. So when roxii was looking for someone to try them out I was very keen to put my hand up. I was not sure about the best way to review and test them and I am sure that ideally one would have multiple riders and lots of sophisticated equipment to test any performance benefits from them. However I thought that if I felt they were working and my own data corroborated it then it may be worthwhile for some people as starting point.

What is the idea behind them?

This is an extract from their website 

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Diagram explaining the action of the crank tip pedals from their website.

“The new cranktip pedal incorporates a new dual swing arm concept. (see pedal drawing). The swing arms allow the pedal platform small amounts of lateral movement during rotation so that the pedal platform is not rigidly controlled like that of a traditional pedal. These small amounts of movement of the pedal platform are sufficient enough to dampen and dissipate the varying forces experienced during crank rotation. The cranktip concept employs two combined engineering principles to achieve the very smooth action of the pedals. Whilst the swing arms directly dampen and dissipate irregular forces, they also cause greater leverage. To achieve this, the dual swing arm system effectively repositions the rider’s foot to being 12mm lower and 16mm further forward than that of a traditional pedal. This repositioning of the rider’s foot effectively reorients the pedal track around the crank center. This effectively causes gradually extending leverage during the down stroke (see pedal track drawing). The greater leverage and turning power (torque) effectively softens and more efficiently overcomes the minor increase in crank resistance experienced during the transition into the less efficient 4 o’clock position. This benefit, when combined with the dampening effect of the dual swing arms, provides a noticeably smoother pedaling action with increased torque.” and the video here explains the concept behind the pedals

In simple terms my understanding is: it is like having a variable length crank arm. You have the benefit of the increased leverage of a long crank arm on your down stroke while you get the clearance of a short crank arm in the up stroke. The pedals have a hinge joint that allows the effective crank length to increase in the downstroke while they progressively shorten in the upstroke. It is not the same as oval rings at all (very well explained on their website). Your crank arm length with oval rings remains the same. So my thoughts were on a tri specific bike this could be really good. One can get low and aero while maintaining an open hip angle and at the same time have the leverage and power of the longer crank arm in the downstroke where it matters. If you look at the example from my cranks, Fig 2 165 mm : at the 8 o’clock position pedals axle is 210 mm from the centre of the crank making the effective crank length 219 mm while at the 2 o’clock position the pedal axle is 130 mm from the centre of the crank making for a short effective crank length of 130 mm. At least this is how I understand the idea and hope I managed to explain it. If not may be read their website again!

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Showing effective crank length changes in different parts of the pedal cycle

First Impression:

The pedals look well engineered and well made. The installation instructions are quite clear and easy to follow and all the tools required for installation are provided (Take note Garmin Vectors). Installation was easy like any other pedals.

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What came in the package:Pedals, cleats, washers, 2x allen keys for installation of pedals and cleats and the instruction booklet.

I did however find it slightly annoying that special cleats are required. They require a different set of cleats that use similar principals to look and Shimano ones. This would be pretty frustrating for people with multiple bikes and shoes. I am sure there is a good reason for it but this would be quite limiting for some people for sure.

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Comparison between Look Keo Cleat and Cranktip cleat

They do seem quite big due to the added joint that allows them to swing to effectively lengthen the crank arm. That added joint feels like it makes them fit wider by increasing the Q-factor of the pedals (your feet are slightly wider apart on the bike while clipped in). However when I actually measured it there was no difference between them and the Look Keo Blades (Fig 5)and (Fig 6). Like Look and Shimano pedals they are not adjustable in the Q-factor, which is unlike the Speedplay pedals which allow more freedom in the Q-factor adjustment.

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The pedals and how they compare to Look Keo pedals

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Pedals can give the impression they are quite wide but the measurement shows they are not.

 Clipping in and out is pretty easy. A nice thing is that the pedals stay facing upwards so unlike Look and Shimano pedals they don’t roll and you do not need to flick them before clipping in. However the clipping action itself is not very obvious so on a busy road a couple of times I wasn't sure whether it was properly clipped in or not. It is not as audible or definitive as with Look or Shimano pedals, a bit more like the Speed plays but still more subtle.

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The pedals stay facing upwards, which does make clipping in pretty easy and probably a great thing for those who are not used to clip-less pedals.

That being said the spring that adjusts the clipping tension can be adjusted ( I just didn’t want to fiddle with them too much). The cleats are quite slippery. I ride with Look Keo cleats (red ones), which have little rubber stops on them to minimise slippage on the road the crank tip cleats did feel very slippery on the road however that may be something others are used to. I did find the amount of play in the cleats similar to my red look cleats which may be a bit too much for some people and I do not believe it is adjustable unless there are different cleats in the pipeline.

Saddle position:

The saddle position must be changed if you are using your same cranks (ie not going for shorter ones). You need to lower the saddle by 16-24 mm according to the instructions. This is because the pedals effectively increase your crank length in the downstroke and so to avoid your knee being over extended you need to lower the saddle. I am also sure that the fore and aft position of the saddle would be affected however I didn’t want to mess around too much with my position.

It took me a bit to get used to the pedaling action. Initially I felt like my saddle was still too high when I lowered it by 16 mm. In the end I had to lower it by about 25 mm to feel good at the bottom of the pedal stroke. Once pedaling though they feel very smooth. I also had the distinct feeling that my down stroke felt longer compare to my normal crank/pedal combo.

One thing that was a bit peculiar and I am not even sure how to explain it. But when doing an out of the saddle climb it almost feels like my feet slip sideways. Not that I actually did slip but it just feels like it. The feeling does go away with time though. I am not sure if it is related to the amount of play in the pedals and I have not done enough riding with them to figure this one out.

I would be concerned with hitting the ground while cornering though. The little hinge that makes all this possible allows the back part of the pedal to drop quite low. It could be a potential issue if you are a heal dropper. But again I did not hit the ground in any of my rides.

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The back part of the pedal comes closer to the ground with some heal dropping

How do they affect performance?

It certainly feels like I am riding a longer crank on the down stroke and get the same hip clearance on the up stroke. They claim that this translates to more power and lower HR for the same speed. But there is no data or testing on their website to corroborate those claims. For me this sounds great. I am time poor and willing to pay for free speed, any performance gains for the same effort are most welcome.

I wasn't really sure how to test these claims in an objective manner. I guess simply doing the same effort while measuring power and HR seemed like a good place to start. I tried the pedals on a number of sessions. Obviously my testing has some significant limitations. N=1 for starters but also there is a bias for sure. I would say deep down I wanted those pedals to give me free speed that may have affected my results I guess. I have made those sessions public on Garmin Connect so feel free to check them out and see if you see anything I didn’t. (You may need to be logged in to see these) 

Test protocol:

Road bike (as it is much easier to get saddle etc adjusted quickly in my case)
Power TapPro
Garmin 910XT and HR strap
Turbo trainer Tacx Flow

Test 1:

https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/712682648

The first test I did was 4x 10 min each 10 min I would swap the pedals. I also kept the chain in the same gear and tried to hold exactly the same cadence. 96 rpm I looked at Power and HR.

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Test 2:

https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/712682682

The second session I did 5 x 5 min again swapping pedals every 5 min and staying in the same gear and holding the same cadence and then comparing power and HR, I repeated this session twice.

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Test 3:

https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/712682755

The second session I did 6 x 5 min again swapping pedals every 5 min and staying in the same gear and holding the same cadence and then comparing power and HR, I repeated this session twice.

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Test 4:

https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/712682807

The last session I took it to the outdoors. I did all out laps of centennial Park. This time I just rode as fast as I could for 1 lap then recovered and repeated and compared all variables including the time I finished the laps in.

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Frankly I do not think I was able to detect any performance gains or losses (see summary table below). There may have been a light trend to marginally higher power in some sets with the crank tip pedals but nothing glaringly obvious. Ideally I would have tested in a velodrome but I don’t have access to one. I also would have liked to do a hill repeat test but couldn't get the time and logistics sorted out. The only thing I can say is the pedal strokes did feel longer with the crank tip pedals. It is important to recognize that is does not mean there is no performance gain or loss. Indeed statistical analysis of my data may reveal trends that averages cannot show. The number of test runs is also quite small so only quite large performance gains would have been detectable. May be if I had 

done 100 repeats trends would start to become obvious. Another factor to take in mind is the bike fit. These pedals would affect the fit and thus it may be required to significant modifications to the rider position to be able to benefit from them something I could not investigate here.


My conclusions:

What I like about them:

• Well made and look very well engineered.
• All you need to fit them in the box
• Feeling of longer crank on the down stroke and hip clearance of the short crank on up stroke.
• Easy to clip in and out
• 30 day money back guarantee if you do not feel the benefit from them

What I didn’t like about them:

• Heavy
• Need special cleats
• Cleat/pedal play is not adjustable.
• Expensive (at $500 one can add $200-$300 and buy a power meter.)
• Unsubstantiated extraordinary claims.

I know my testing methods are very crude and quite limited but it seems that the company doesn’t have any better data. Other than rider testimonials and sponsored pros endorsing them there isn’t really much support for claims of performance gains. So unless there is real proof they work it may be just like the oval rings “they feel good” sort of thing and some people will “like” them and others will not. It would also be interesting to combine them with oval rings and see if there is any benefit that way. In any case I do like the concept and I think the company needs to invest in some proper scientific testing with a robust study design. I would be very surprised if they haven’t approached a scientific body yet. I would like to thank Cranktip for offering the pedals for testing and being open about their product and I hope to see more data from them soon.

Huge thanks to TrinewB for going to the lengths he did to test these pedals. Obviously this is not a "lab grade, randomized double blind placebo controlled study", but it is a pretty decent first look a these pedals. 

Text and images:TrinewB  

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