Robot’s Useless Reviews – Pedals and Their Threads

When I was a kid, I found it improbable that a thing with two wheels, a bicycle, could stand upright with a person on it. In my young mind, that defied reason. As a secondary concern, I thought, “How am I supposed to balance the bike AND balance myself on those two little platforms that swivel around in circles?” That I could see other people performing both tricks simultaneously while rolling down a neighborhood street didn’t mean much to me.

I suppose I was born without a surfeit of trust.

Pedals have only become more improbable, because since the fang-toothed platform jobs of the ’70s we’ve run through a series of smaller and smaller clipless pedals (that, of course, incorporate clips) that are really only appropriate as parakeet perches. It’s like the pedals have been arguing with the shoes about who would bring the platform to the party, the shoes no longer have soles, because now the soles are actually the pedals.

It is easy to swap out a pair of pedals. Just takes a second. I mean, it just takes a second if your brain can do the not very complex adjustment of lefty-tighty-righty-loosey. My brain can’t violate the rhyming symmetry of the opposite formulation. I can pat my head and rub my belly, but I can’t just take a pedal off a crank.

I know. I know. The threads are reversed, and there’s a good reason for them to be reversed, but I never don’t accidentally tighten them before I go against every fiber of muscle memory in my body to get them off. I can’t seem to factor in the side of the bike I’m standing on, the orientation of the cranks, wind speed, or the day of the week, when I’m performing this operation.

In a real way, pedals are the bike industry’s afterthought. Many bikes don’t come with them at all. Basically, the industry is like, “Look, we don’t know what nonsense you want to bolt onto our bike. We’ll let you figure it out.”

And in typical fashion pedal standards have proliferated, SPD, Time, Speedplay, etc. Some of them have hexagonal spindle sections for the use of a traditional pedal wrench, some opt for internal hex bolts, but those don’t take a uniform size wrench either. Some are 6s. Some are 8s. Some are, “you figure it out.” All of them are don’t-overtighten-because-pedals-get-grimy-and-wet-and-they-will-literally-fuse-themselves-to-the-cranks-if-you-don’t-grease-the-threads-and-chill-the-F-out-on-the-torque.

We should have an acronym for that. DOBPGGAWATWLFTTTCIYDGTTACTFOOTT. There. Easy.

I complain and I kid, but you have to stand somewhere when you’re riding your bike. Unless you’re riding shotgun on someone’s BMX, perched on the pegs like a death-wishing parakeet you need some pedals. Maybe your brain easily reverses course when it’s time to swap them out. Maybe you’re a fastidious greaser, and you’ve had enough foresight to commit to only one brand/type of pedal. Maybe your life isn’t as self-inflictedly complicated as mine. Or you’re an actual parakeet.

You’re right. It’s me.

Join the conversation
  1. hmlh33 says

    I’ve done it so many times…but still I’m never 100% on which is the reverse threaded one. I’m good with the grease, and I’ve stayed with one brand for all uses (Shimano). Now the flats debate and experimentation – ugh.

  2. Barry Johnson says

    If they (all) stop stamping R and L, we are screwed.

    1. Tom says

      f the pedal says R, tighten to the Right.
      If it says L, tighten to the Left.

      Confusion? Yea, which way to loosen them when they’re on the bike?

  3. khal spencer says

    Or you keep a spare set of pedals in the garage so you can look at them and remember which is reverse threaded, in case you forget whatever ditty you remember them by. Nowadays, trying to figure it out from the mechanics, i.e., the turning of the cranks while riding should tighten them, makes my head explode.

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