Review by Johan Hjord // Photos by Tal Rozow and Johan Hjord
Specialized has been making flat pedals for some time, but it’s fair to say that they’ve sometimes been lacking a little flair. The same does not hold true of their latest creation, the Boomslang. Taking its name and maybe the inspiration for its shape from a tree snake with a nasty bite, the Boomslang promises venomous grip for your feet, and untold horrors for the shins that dare defy it. Boomslang also happens to be the nickname of Jason Chamberlain, one of the most senior wizards at Specialized and the father of these pedals. Be that as it may, we’ve been rocking a pair for a couple of months, and we’re here to tell you how we’ve been getting along.
Specialized Boomslang Highlights
- Body material: Aluminum
- Dimensions: 10mm x 110mm x 108mm
- Bearing type: Needle and ball bearings
- 9/16" spindle, low profile, patent pending spindle design
- 11 undercut pins
- Colors: Black
- Weight: 438 grams (verified)
- Pedal body carries 4 hidden pins for replacement of broken pins
- MSRP: $180.00 USD
Straight out of the box, the Boomslang means business. The pedal body is heavily machined and sports a very elaborate design. Specialized were looking for a way to make the thinnest possible pedal that would still make use of bearings throughout, and they came up with a smart way to access the outboard needle bearing via a “trap door” in the middle of the pedal. This helps in keeping the pedal as thin as possible without resorting to laying bare the axle in the middle or having to run super thin bushings instead of bearings. This rotating "trap door" is held in place by two traction pins, pretty clever use of available resources and real estate.
The result is a body that is only 10-mm thick in the middle, while retaining a classic spindle design and 2 sets of bearings per pedal, and without any kind of lump in the middle of the pedal body often found on other super thin designs. The pedal shape is slightly concave, with the pedal body growing gradually thicker towards the edges.
The platform measures in at what is more or less becoming the norm for wide flat pedals, at 110-mm x 108-mm. It features chamfered leading edges to help it slide over rocks or other obstacles, and Specialized has left a reassuring amount of material in crucial areas around the pedal's edges to make sure it can take the hits. The pins screw in from behind, and are designed to snap at the base to make sure they don’t damage the pedal body in case of violent encounters with immovable objects. A clever touch is the inclusion of 4 spare pins on the inside of each pedal, ready to take the place of any fallen comrades in the line of fire.
The inboard bearing is very narrow, and as a result there is not much of a bump on the pedal next to the crank arm. This leaves ample room to move your feet around and place them where you want to. Overall, the design is purposeful, and with the pedal coming in at 438 grams for the pair, looks to offer a good compromise between weight and strength (it is not the lightest pedal out there by any stretch).
On The Trail
Fitting the pedals was uneventful, and we wasted no time seeing how they would perform on the trail. Right off the bat the pedals felt great, offering loads of grip and good support for the feet. The pedal is very thin, which adds a lot of stability and helps prevent the feet from wanting to roll off the pedal when things get rough. We also find that thin pedals help with pedaling efficiency, for much the same reason - your foot is "in" the pedal as opposed to "on" it. The pedal body is on par with most other "flat and wide" pedals out there in terms of size, although we noted that the pins are placed a bit back from the edges, reducing the effective size of the platform a bit. With a size 12 shoe (46 EUR), we had just enough room to put our feet where we wanted them, without feeling like the foot was over the edge. Sure, the pedal could be made slightly bigger, but this size is a near spot-on compromise for most kinds of riding, making sure you have enough room but not so bulky so as to cause the pedal to hang up on obstacles unnecessarily.
We’ve had a soggy winter, and we’ve been able to put the Boomslang to the test in the worst possible conditions. Paired with a good shoe, they’ve offered perfect grip no matter what the weather has thrown at us, testament to the good placement and overall grippiness of the pins. Mud clearance is excellent, and the pedal is easy to clean. The concave shape of the pedal body allows the foot to “sink into” the pedal a bit, although the Boomslang features 2 pins in the middle of the platform which means this effect is not as pronounced as on some other pedals we’ve ridden. Nevertheless, we quickly forgot about pedals when riding, always a good sign.
2 months into the test, perhaps the standout aspect of the Boomslang is the complete lack of play or slop in the pedal. Whether side to side or along the axle, the pedal feels as tight as on day one. It spins freely, and without any play. In our experience, this is unusual enough to be highlighted. Many pedals will develop a bit of slop fairly quickly, usually not to the point where it’s bothersome, but this has not been the case with the Boomslangs so far. Specialized pointed out that the spindle design actually compresses the inboard bearing when you screw the pedal into the crank arm, which contributes to keeping them slop free once they are on the bike. Whatever the reason(s), they spin freely and feel very solid under foot – full marks here so far.
The profile of the Boomslang is very low, and the pronounced chamfer of the leading edges really helps them glide over stuff as opposed to hang up. We’ve taken a bunch of rock strikes so far, including a few jarring hits of the kind that throw you off your line (or your bike!), and the Boomslang has taken it all in stride. All in all, riding with the Boomslangs has been a positive experience and we’re in no hurry to remove them from the bike.
Things That Could Be Improved
Let’s start with the price. $180 USD MSRP is at the top end of the “regular” pedal market, unless we’re talking about Ti-axles and extra-light editions. You can find quality pedals with more or less comparable performance for less. However, after 2 months of testing, all signs point to the Boomslang being a particularly sturdy piece of equipment that will go the distance without performance degradation, and in that respect, it’s worth a premium. We’ve beat up on our pair, and they are materially the same as when we got them, scuffs and all. And at just 10-mm thin, they are definitely among the thinnest available, which also adds value to the equation here.
The Boomslang is not the lightest pedal out there, most competitive offerings will come it at around 50-grams less for the pair. We’ll trade those 50-grams for reliability any day though, so we won’t hold it against the Boomslang here.
Servicing the Boomslang requires a special tool. It’s a simple pin-spanner type of tool, which will of course be available at any Specialized service center, or to order from a dealer should you wish to get one for yourself. Axle/bearing rebuild kits and replacement pins are available too.
It’s not a big deal nor is it an expensive tool, and the bearing assembly is one of the factors contributing to the slim profile of the pedal. In that respect we find it reasonable to require a specific tool to service it. We’d find it reasonable were it to be included in the box, too…
The “trap door” access to the outboard bearing is one of the reasons the pedal can be made so thin. However, the trap door closes with a traction pin, and this makes it harder for those who want to configure the pedal without pins in the middle. Yes, it’s elegant to have the pin on double duty here, but maybe a few shorter pins could also be provided in the box to allow for better pin configurability (it's not hard to dig up a regular bolt of the right dimensions to sort this out yourself).
Finally, it would be nice if the Boomslang could come in a couple of different colors. Black is definitely the new black and stealthy builds are all the rage, but many of us still love a touch of color on our pedals.
Long Term Durability
As we’ve already previously alluded to, the Boomslang pedal has so far impressed with its resilience. There are marks on the body here and there, and a couple of pins are a bit bent, but the pedal spins as free and feels as tight as on day one. We’ll again point out that there is no play in the pedals at all so far – great marks here for Specialized. Furthermore, given the amount of “extra” material Specialized left around the edges of the pedal, we’d expect the pedal body to be able to take lots of abuse and keep going. The low profile will contribute to this aspect of longevity as well.
What’s The Bottom Line?
Specialized put much thought and some clever ideas into the Boomslang. The result is an innovative flat pedal that offers a very low profile, remarkable grip, yet does not appear to cut corners when it comes to reliability. It has so far proven itself to us in all conditions, and if you don’t mind paying a bit of a premium, it is definitely worthy of inclusion on your shortlist.
More information at www.specialized.com.
About The Reviewer
Johan Hjord loves bikes, which strangely doesn’t make him any better at riding them. After many years spent practicing falling off cliffs with his snowboard, he took up mountain biking in 2005. Ever since, he’s mostly been riding bikes with too much suspension travel to cover up his many flaws as a rider. His 200-pound body weight coupled with unique skill for poor line choice and clumsy landings make him an expert on durability - if parts survive Johan, they’re pretty much okay for anybody. Johan rides flat pedals with a riding style that he describes as "none" (when in actuality he rips!). Having found most trail features to be not to his liking, Johan uses much of his spare time building his own. Johan’s other accomplishments include surviving this far and helping keep the Vital Media Machine’s stoke dial firmly on 11.