by Mihai Moga
Pedals are a crucial part of your bike setup. They are the most important contact points you have with the bike other than your handlebars, and mediocre contact points can ruin the best of bikes. So, when given the chance to try out one of Xpedo's latest offerings I jumped at the opportunity. The brand has been making bicycle pedals for over 30 years, and they have an incredible number option to choose from. I'm always on the hunt for great clips, and the Baldwin pedals looked solid. With that said, let's shed some light on their latest offering geared towards anything from XC to Enduro style riding.
Baldwin Pedal Highlights
- Body: 6061 CNC Al
- Spindle: Titanium or Cro-Moly (tested)
- Bearings: 3 Cartridge
- Springs: SWP
- Cleat: XPEDO XPT (6° Float)
- Colors: Black, Gray, Gold, Pink
- Weight: 292g Ti; 332g CrMo
- MSRP: $189 Ti; $119 CrMo
Initial Impressions and Setup
At first glance the pedals seemed small and the Cro-Moly spindles felt smooth as they rotated on three cartridge bearings per side. They weigh a scant 332-grams, which is really light. Most pedals with any resemblance of a cage hover over the 400-gram mark. A titanium axle option is available as well, which drops the weight into the high 200-gram range. As with most SPD style pedals, the entry/exit tension is adjustable. The retention system, dubbed “posi-lock,” is attached to the main body via four torx screws on each side. The main body of the pedal is CNC'd from 6061 aluminum into a square shape with sharp corners.
After installing the pedals, I attached the included cleats to my Shimano DX shoes. Xpedo's cleats were identical in size to the cleats they replaced (Shimano SPD cleats), so I decided to install them in the same exact spot. Xpedo's cleats required a little more torque to keep them from moving out of place (more on that later).
I was now ready to go ride, or so I thought. As I was trying to clip-in initially, I was having a really hard time. I took a closer look, and noticed that there was not enough room for the shoe to clear the crank arm. There simply wasn't enough space to clip into the pedal. I use a size 10.5 US / 45 EUR Shimano DX shoe. To attempt to remedy the problem, I adjusted the cleat to the very inside of my shoe, allowing my shoe to be as far away from the crank arm as possible. At this point there was enough space to clip in, but the shoe was still rubbing on the crank arm slightly, which certainly wasn't ideal. For reference, Xpedo lists the Q-factor (or at least the amount they contribute to it) as 52mm per side - that's the distance from the center of the pedal to the center of your bottom bracket, which is influenced by the pedal's spindle length.
On The Trail
Time to ride. Clipping in was predictable. Clipping out on the other hand was more inconsistent. Mechanically the “posi-lock” clip-in mechanism worked well, but again the main issue I had was not having any space between the crank arm and the shoe. The shoe was rubbing on the crank arm with every pedal revolution. This made the pedals very difficult to ride with. I found that it hindered my ability to freely unclip (which is why I had to really crank down the cleats), especially when my foot was between 2 and 9 o'clock. The shoe would be slowed or stopped by the crank arm, and that would prevent my foot from rotating inside enough to clip out. Through all of this, I've learned that I tend to like a wider Q-factor - the Baldwins were just too narrow for me. That being said, the narrow Q-factor could be something someone else would really like, as pedal feel is a very personal choice. At the end of the day I didn't feel like I had enough leverage or stability on the pedals, because I kept catching myself pushing my feet to the outside of the shoes in order to get a better position.
To try to give these pedals a fair chance, I swapped out my shoes. I had a brand new pair of Shimano SH-M162 shoes available that I transferred the cleats to. These were XC shoes, not the type with flat rubber on the bottom. Even then I had a similar issue, and I still had to mount the cleat inboard on the shoe to provide enough clearance with the crank arm.
A design highlight of this pedal is the small 'platform' around the clip that is meant to provide extra stability or even help with standing on the pedal if not clipped in. However, it was very hard to tell when riding if I was just standing on the pedal or the platform, and it was not the most confidence inspiring feeling either when compared to similar style pedals. The platform isn't shaped in a way that will allow it to make constant contact with the shoe, which you can see below. Even so, I didn't once slip off of them, but I fear the day as the small cage is pretty sharp. The pedal cleat does have a small amount of float at 6-degrees, which provides a decently snug and secure feel by itself.
Long Term Durability
I have not had any durability issues thus far, and the pedals are holding up well after a few months of use. They've been subject to a few rock strikes and assorted glancing blows, and everything has remained straight and still works as it did on day one.
Things That Could Be Improved
With an ever-increasing number of "hybrid" clipless shoes on the market, driven by a need for more stability for the aggressive rider, the Baldwin pedal needs a longer axle to allow it to accommodate these types of shoes. As it stands, it really only functions with small and narrow shoes. Additionally, a wider platform capable of providing more contact with the shoe would be a welcome improvement, as would slightly smoother corners.
What's The Bottom Line?
Xpedo made what seems like a decent pedal that clips in and clips out well with the correct shoe. However, lots and lots of pedals do that. Furthermore, at a $120 price point, there are many similar or even less expensive offerings that function as well or better. By adding a cage around the pedal, it seems like Xpedo is trying to encourage riders to be aggressive, have fun, and ride more like a mountain biker and less like a roadie. The problem is that these pedals don't work well with the new-school, aggressive, and more forgiving mountain bike shoes. That said, if you happen to have narrow shoes or very small feet, the lightweight simplicity of Xpedo's Baldwin pedal can be a good match. They're functionally solid and have proven to be quite durable.
For more details, check out www.xpedo.com.
About The Reviewer
Mihai Moga has been attracted to bikes since before he can remember, but got his first real taste in 1995 and quickly picked up downhill racing. He has competed at three DH World Championships, won some State and Regional titles, and is an overall mountain bike addict. His favorite places to race are Mont Sainte Anne, Val di Sole, Vermont, Snowmass and SolVista. He’s calculated but aggressive, while at the same time as smooth as possible. You’ll find him on his trail bike more often than not, and he prefers fast and rough trails over slow and tight. Not a fan of changing things just for the sake of change, he’s very analytical, but also practical, and if he thinks something could be better he’s definitely not afraid to modify or rebuild it to suit his needs. These traits have made him ideal as a tester, and he’s often found riding pre-production products for this reason. Moga also dabbled in frame design at one point, and his design was used to produce DH and all-mountain bikes. One of his biggest passions is building trails, and today he makes a living traveling the world to do just that.