by Steve Wentz
You must know someone like this... a twenty or thirty something woman who just loooooves her shoe collection? She’s got the red ones, the black platforms, the animal print whatevers that look like they belong in the red light district, and 20 others. I really don’t see the need for all those shoes. Logic would say you can only ever wear one pair at a time, and in my mind more than the basics would just be clutter and overindulgence. In the end, we’ve all got our vices. I happen to love flat pedals.
My addiction to nice flat pedals got to be so bad that at one point a couple friends and I became the importers of a pedal that did not have US distribution. Looking back, it would have been much easier to just buy some pedals online and pay $20 shipping from the UK than to spend thousands of dollars on a minimum distribution order. I don’t even like selling stuff. But hey, at least my closet isn’t full of shoes.
So yes, some of us are crazy about our flats. I can also honestly say it is a bad thing at times. Clips can be more efficient, and they have no doubt helped me ride faster through sections of a race track. I’ve also bounced off of flats right when it was a bad time to do so. To a lot of people, that is the end of the discussion, they just can’t stay on the bike. On the racing front, aside from Rennie and Hill’s wins years ago, I don’t remember a flat pedal rider winning the World Cup Overall. I’m certain it hasn’t happened in a while, and I think it will be a LONG time until it happens again.
So why ride a product that pretty much guarantees that you’ll use more energy than the competition, just to stay on your bike? For me, the main reason is pretty simple. I’ve always been a fan of fun on my bike. When racing or riding, I like manuals, jumps, turns, getting sideways and goofing off. Flats remind me that I’m playing, and to not take this riding thing too seriously. As for the smaller reasons, there are a couple. I like the bike reacting to the movements of my feet. It may sound crazy to hear me say I feel disconnected when I’m clipped in, but that is exactly how I feel. If I twist my feet or body and that movement is just taken up in the ‘float’ of a pedal system, then I feel like my inputs are not making a difference. I also like being able to walk around when I get off my bike and not sound like a tap dancer. Not having to worry if I remembered my clip in shoes for a ride is nice too. In the end I’ll give up a second or two in order to never have a mindset of ‘work’ when I’m on my bike. I may be doomed forever with flats, but that’s alright, I accept it.
So now what flats to use? Light? Thin? Strong? Grippy? Lots of companies have good products out there, and all of them have their strengths and weaknesses. I’ve never been able to get over the bulges in the center of lots of super thin pedals. I’ll usually put lots of weight on the ball of my foot, which happens to be exactly where the tallest, smoothest part is on most of those thin pedals. I also fear what will happen when I inevitably do smash something that is marketed as ‘light’ first and foremost on a rock. In the end I want something grippy and strong.
Curiosity got the better of me with DMR’s newest offering, the Brendan Fairclough Signature Edition Vault pedals. DMR says Brendan helped with the design of their Vault pedal, and they gave him this signature black Brendog edition as a thank you. I took interest initially because they are described first and foremost as strong. For any pedal that costs $152, they better be. Upon further inspection, they look very grippy, and are even 17mm thin for those number crunchers out there. 400 grams is a very respectable weight as well. That said, how'd would they perform?
Brendog Vault Pedal Highlights
- Extruded 6061 Aluminium body and 4140 Cro-mo Steel axles (9/16")
- 17mm concave foot bed measuring approximately 105mm*115mm
- High load DU bushing and cartridge bearing
- 11 pins per pedal - flip the pins to fine-tune grip
- Aggressive ‘moto’ pins also included
- 400 grams per pair
- Matte black color
- MSRP $152
Out of the box the pedals are impressive. Murdered out in flat black, the Brendogs look ready for business. I was so happy to discover that my initial difficulty in removing them from their box was due to the long pins that come stock on the pedals. Bravo to DMR for putting the right pins in for the job. If shorter pins are your cup of tea for dirt jumping, there are enough smaller pins to redo both pedals. There are also a couple spare long pins should you smash the existing ones. Surprisingly, the long pins need an allen wrench for install, and the smaller pins need a proprietary star type wrench. Both wrenches are provided, but it would have been nice to just have one tool for the job.
On The Trail
Lots of bikes, lots of trails, jumping, DH and XC later, I have not killed the Brendogs. I’ve tried, much to the risk of my own health, but the pedals are still ticking minus few chunks missing due to rock strikes. I haven't hit them on rocks many times, though, because they are relatively thin, and the hits that do take place deflect off very well. I would hear the awful sound, that might have put me over the bars on a fatter pedal, but the Brendogs skimmed over everything so far. I’m suspecting so much of that deflection (in a good way) comes from the shape of the pedal.
After doing everything I could to beat them up, the Brendogs are still ready to party.
As you look at the pedal, the wider part is at the front. The Brendogs taper down much thinner at the rear, which translates into less surface area to hit/catch/catapult you when that part of the pedal is facing down and closer to rocks. This is where my only real gripe with the pedals lies. Yeah they skirt rock hits pretty well, and when they do hit, like I said, it has always been a non-issue. However, those positives come at the unfortunate expense of stability. There isn’t a lot of room for your foot to move on DMR’s top of the line offering. Fairly consistently, when riding through a few really rough sections my feet would move, like on any other design. The difference though is that moving off of center on the Brendogs makes me feel way too nervous. When I would weight the outside of my foot after it had moved some, I was putting lots of weight off of the pedal because of where the pedal disappears. Given the crazed, last second nature of DH riding, this simple characteristic made them less confidence inspiring than I would have hoped. If you look at lots of other successful pedals that are actual pedals, they almost all have a wide area for your foot. Easton Flatboys got it right a long time ago. Twentysix, Burgtec and Point1 are in a similarly high price range and provide lots of room for your foot to move around. There are a few at a relatively lower price point that have a stable, large platform like a Truvativ Holzfeller.
I’ve left out some, forgotten others, but the point is that there is a lot of competition with flats these days. With that competition comes a need to make a really good pedal to even compete. DMR has undoubtedly made a really good pedal. Unfortunately this isn’t the best all around pedal I’ve ever used. My only gripe comes when riding DH atop the Brendogs. In the end I just can’t get along with them through the roughest terrain. The grip is good, borderline great when the long pins are installed, the shape deflects impacts, and they are light and have definitely lived up to their claims of strength. But on the gravity side it just comes down to needing more stability and needing more area to move around. Watching the top guys ride, like Hill, Brook, Brendan and others, their feet can be all over the place, and they go for it regardless. I need a little more help compared to them, so I’ve just got to be a little more specific with my pedal choices. To get that confidence I love when riding DH, I’ve got to go wider.
What's The Bottom Line?
In the end, the DMR Brendogs are great. They look good, they are strong, and there are lots of pin options that come standard. The attention to detail looks way better than most and they show no signs of giving up. I’d be proud to have them on my trail bike or dirt jumper. The Brendogs should fit (and exceed) any flat pedal rider’s needs in those applications. But, I’d keep looking if you are searching for the ultimate DH pedal. Like I said before, it isn’t the best at everything, and truthfully nothing is. One tool for the job just doesn’t cut it for me in this instance. I’m sure those girls with closets full of shoes would understand.
For more info, hit up www.dmrbikes.com.
About The Reviewer
Steve Wentz has always done things and ridden his own way, and he's really happy about that. He grew up in the middle of Southern California and had to build his own trails to ride when he was too young to drive. To make a long story short, that's what he's still doing today, minus the California part. Now he tries to do that everywhere. He has been to every continent except for Antarctica, and has either raced, built trail or been able to ride all over. He loves seeing the world, for better or worse. He has been through ghettos where children beg for pennies, and that really gives perspective to our world where a pair of soft rubber tires costs $150. That being said, he's skidded on those soft rubber tires on so many race courses and trails he can't even count anymore, and he loves it. He'll always ride if he can, and race if he wants, but now he tries to do it with an eye on the course and also an eye to what is practical, what is worth supporting, and what he thinks can benefit the sport as a whole.