Magnetic bicycle pedals

UltraRob took this photo of ProTonLocks Magnetic Bicycle Pedals during Outdoor Demo at Interbike 2009. He says they magnets are strong enough to hold the shoe in place. According to ProTonLocks, these pedal retention systems are used a lot for therapy for injuries or cerebral palsy. ProTonLocks seems to be marketed mostly toward BMX riders.

The magnetic plates will fit “most SP – ISIS – two screw cleat mount” cycling shoes. This contrasts with Mavic’s EZ Ride Magnetic Pedals, which requires a special shoe that matches the pedal.

Mavic EZ Ride Magnetic pedal and shoe

There are six models of the shoe (3 designs for men and women), but I’m curious how well this proprietary shoe plus pedal will work out for Mavic, and it’s Yet Another Shoe (in several sizes) that the bike stores have to keep in stock if they want to sell this pedal.

While recent advances in strong magnets make magnetic pedal retention more practical, the idea has been around since the 19th Century. Henry Tudor first patented his magnetic bike pedal in 1896.

Henry Tudor's magnetic bike pedal

“The object of my invention is to avoid the use of toe-clips or other devices by which to prevent the foot from slipping off or disengaging from the pedal,” says Tudor’s US patent 588,038. His patent specifies a magnetic plate on the pedal, and either “soft iron” or another magnet in the shoe to “hold the foot in a fixed position and prevent any change or disengagement from the pedal which might occur arising from high speed or due to shocks or jolts owing to irregularities in the surface of the road.”

Nearly 100 years later, patent 5473963 is granted to James Aeschbach’s “Magnetic bicycle pedal foot retainer,” which improves on the state of the art by embedding the shoe magnet into the sole of the shoe in a way that’s compatible with clipless pedal binding systems of the day.

James F. Aeschbach's magnetic bike pedal

What do you think? Are modern clipless pedals good enough for you? Or would you like something you can just snap in place without any practice beforehand?

14 Comments

  • Erik Orgell
    September 23, 2009 - 11:34 pm | Permalink

    An interesting idea, I wonder how easy they are to get your foot off when you need to?

  • Erik Orgell
    September 23, 2009 - 11:34 pm | Permalink

    An interesting idea, I wonder how easy they are to get your foot off when you need to?

  • Erik Orgell
    September 23, 2009 - 4:34 pm | Permalink

    An interesting idea, I wonder how easy they are to get your foot off when you need to?

  • Ben
    September 24, 2009 - 1:41 pm | Permalink

    As with every other technological innovation, I'll wait to see if it catches on enough to become cheap.

  • Ben
    September 24, 2009 - 1:41 pm | Permalink

    As with every other technological innovation, I'll wait to see if it catches on enough to become cheap.

  • Ben
    September 24, 2009 - 6:41 am | Permalink

    As with every other technological innovation, I'll wait to see if it catches on enough to become cheap.

  • tbiker
    September 24, 2009 - 5:05 pm | Permalink

    I wonder if the magnets would help trip insensitive signal sensors?

  • tbiker
    September 24, 2009 - 10:05 am | Permalink

    I wonder if the magnets would help trip insensitive signal sensors?

  • Yokota Fritz
    September 24, 2009 - 5:49 pm | Permalink

    @Erik: I have no problems getting in and out of my pedals, so something like this doesn't have much appeal for me (besides the geek factor).@Ben: Strong magnets are really expensive anyway. Volume sales and standardized design will help some, but the material cost will still be pretty high.@tbiker: woot! Genius suggestion and possible marketing pitch for these guys!

  • Yokota Fritz
    September 24, 2009 - 5:49 pm | Permalink

    @Erik: I have no problems getting in and out of my pedals, so something like this doesn't have much appeal for me (besides the geek factor).@Ben: Strong magnets are really expensive anyway. Volume sales and standardized design will help some, but the material cost will still be pretty high.@tbiker: woot! Genius suggestion and possible marketing pitch for these guys!

  • Yokota Fritz
    September 24, 2009 - 10:49 am | Permalink

    @Erik: I have no problems getting in and out of my pedals, so something like this doesn't have much appeal for me (besides the geek factor).

    @Ben: Strong magnets are really expensive anyway. Volume sales and standardized design will help some, but the material cost will still be pretty high.

    @tbiker: woot! Genius suggestion and possible marketing pitch for these guys!

  • bikesgonewild
    September 24, 2009 - 10:35 pm | Permalink

    …oh ya, good idea……so lemme see…fritz is on the train portion of his bike, train, bus journey home…he finds a seat, plops down & being slightly exhausted he unthinkingly sets his pack or messenger bag down w/ his laptop in it, by his feet & voila !!!……wow, those ARE strong magnets…no wonder there's such a good interface between pedal & shoe……a month of sun-micro's work disappears into the ether…how about the phone ???…save those # & addresses ???…gosh, sorry……but hey, it's not really his first concern right now…all the traces & small pieces of iron n steel that were picked up & are clinging to his shoes n' pedals may assure him of not even being allowed on the train anyway……lemme know if you'd like my opinion on these things…

  • bikesgonewild
    September 24, 2009 - 10:35 pm | Permalink

    …oh ya, good idea……so lemme see…fritz is on the train portion of his bike, train, bus journey home…he finds a seat, plops down & being slightly exhausted he unthinkingly sets his pack or messenger bag down w/ his laptop in it, by his feet & voila !!!……wow, those ARE strong magnets…no wonder there's such a good interface between pedal & shoe……a month of sun-micro's work disappears into the ether…how about the phone ???…save those # & addresses ???…gosh, sorry……but hey, it's not really his first concern right now…all the traces & small pieces of iron n steel that were picked up & are clinging to his shoes n' pedals may assure him of not even being allowed on the train anyway……lemme know if you'd like my opinion on these things…

  • bikesgonewild
    September 24, 2009 - 3:35 pm | Permalink

    …oh ya, good idea…

    …so lemme see…fritz is on the train portion of his bike, train, bus journey home…he finds a seat, plops down & being slightly exhausted he unthinkingly sets his pack or messenger bag down w/ his laptop in it, by his feet & voila !!!…

    …wow, those ARE strong magnets…no wonder there's such a good interface between pedal & shoe…

    …a month of sun-micro's work disappears into the ether…how about the phone ???…save those # & addresses ???…gosh, sorry…

    …but hey, it's not really his first concern right now…all the traces & small pieces of iron n steel that were picked up & are clinging to his shoes n' pedals may assure him of not even being allowed on the train anyway…

    …lemme know if you'd like my opinion on these things…

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