Review: Velo-Orange Sabot Pedal – A Pedal Revolution?
At this year’s Interbike, one of the new items that got us the most excited were the Velo-Orange Sabot pedals. Yes, they are “just” platform pedals and aren’t clipless. Yes, they aren’t made of any exotic alloys or fiber weaves. So what’s there to get excited about? As platform pedal users ourselves (and before you ask, yes, Russ use to ride clipless as well before coming back to platforms), there seems to be little innovation or new thinking in the commuter/touring flat platform pedal, so it was good to see that Velo-Orange was taking a stab at new designs. Perhaps the last interesting flat pedal design that was targeted towards tourists and commuters were Riv’s Grip Kings (aka Battle Axes). The Velo-Orange Sabot pedals is an attempt to up the ante, but does it succeed?
What You Get
The Sabot pedals come in a nice black presentation-esque cardboard box with the VO Grand Cru emblem on top. Aside from the pedals, you also get four optional plastic reflectors that pop into the drillings on the fore and aft faces of the pedals. It also comes with a small Smurf-sized wrench for replacing the traction pins as well as a half dozen or so replacement traction pins with some blue Loctite-ish stuff already applied. The pedals are not inexpensive at $90, so it is nice to have a few extra goodies to help justify the price.
A Closer Look
The pedals weigh in at about 406 grams for the pair (sans reflectors). They were a good 50 grams lighter than the BMX style pedals on my bike they were replacing. Compared to the Grip Kings, they are about 20 grams lighter. It’s not a tremendous difference but worth noting.
Comes with optional reflectors, a small wrench and replacement traction pins.
The body, made of an extruded aluminum, is squarish and measures about 100x100mm. Despite its massive area, it remains fairly low profile. I wouldn’t quite use the word thin, but they are pretty svelte compared to other platforms we’ve tried. The design itself is fairly open with several attractive cutouts to shed mud and water, as well as slots for velcro straps if you are into that sort of thing.
Pretty svelte when compared to some pedals.
Grip King vs. Sabot surface area.
One feature that I’ve come to appreciate in pedals, especially when touring and using different modalities (trains, buses, etc.,) is the ability to remove and install pedals using an Allen key instead of a spanner wrench. It’s just easier, more secure and smaller/lighter to use a multi-tool than a wrench. Many 6-inch spanner wrenches also tend to be a bit wide to fully secure a pedal, so you have to either track down a wrench with really narrow jaws or carry a 15mm cone wrench for the job. Anyway, this problem is solved with these pedals (though you do have to be sure to have a multi-tool with an Allen key big enough for the pedals – 8mm).
The most obvious feature of the pedal is its big surface area. During the last few weeks I tried the pedal out with different pairs of shoes, from flexy canvas low tops, to Keen shoes and sandals. The pedals supported the narrow and flexy canvas shoes better than any platform I’ve tried. On the other end of the spectrum, because the pedals are so wide, they also supported my Keen sandals better than platform pedal I’ve tried. Keen sandals have notoriously wide toe boxes and on most pedals, about half your sole is hanging out in space. Not so with the Sabots. In terms of support, these pedals fulfill on their promise. Although I didn’t try it out with flip-flops (it’s Dec in PDX are you crazy!), my gut feeling is that they would support those just as well.
Awesome support for canvas low tops.
Even covers ginormous Keen sandals well.
Testing out the pedals on a wet gloomy day on some mixed terrain.
The pedals have 12 traction pins per side arranged in a rough ellipses over the center of the pedal. The Velo-Orange website states that they used “rounded pins” so as not to damage street shoes, but more aggressive traction pins could be used.
On a dry day, I had no issues with slippage with the different shoes I tried. Out of the box, I would say their grip is more aggressive than a stock Grip King by a long shot. Under wet circumstances, I did find that I slipped off two or three times when I wasn’t paying full attention. This might be a function of the more rounded traction pins. I’m not sure. However, I will say that I wish the pedal had a few more traction pins, particularly on the outer edges of the pedal. Right now it’s just some smooth real estate, but with a few more pins, it could stop those unexpected shoe departures completely.
Conclusion: Recommend! – 8/10
The Velo-Orange Sabot pedals are probably the most supportive pedals I’ve ever tried. If you tend to clench your toes because you’re trying to find support or purchase when you pedal, then these pedals are for you. In terms of grippiness, they are hands down grippier than stock MKS Grip Kings. However, that’s not to say that their grippiness couldn’t be improved just a bit. I think with more aggressive pins (and a few more of them around the edges) these pedals would be sublime. They are also easy on the eyes and matches the VO aesthetic. They don’t scream EXTREEEEME DH mountain bike so they won’t look out of place on your city bike, cruiser or retro touring bike.
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rc December 16, 2012 at 10:10 pm
The site says “We include rounded pins with the pedals so as not to damage street shoes, but they are easily replaced with more aggressive sharp pins”
Have you tried the “more aggressive sharp pins”? Would this negate your only criticism and make them a 10? What are the other drawbacks, aside from high price?
Russ December 16, 2012 at 11:21 pm
RC – haven’t tried to replace them with more aggressive pins. The replacement pins they ship with appear to be the same rounded ones.
That would be a good followup post if I can find compatible pins. Might make for a way gripier pedal. If replacing the pins with more aggressive ones improve the grip without having to add more pins to the pedal edge, then def a 10.
Love the big platform. Works well esp. during winter months with boots and beefier shoes.
Davey Oil December 17, 2012 at 12:00 am
Hate to be a repair pedant, but for the sake of all the 15mm cone wrenches that get transformed into can openers when they are busted in half by someone using them to remove pedals, USE A PEDAL WRENCH! Not all pedal wrenches are the big, zombie-braining kind. There are a few that pack down pretty small.
As a bike repair teacher I have to save poor 15mm cone wrenches from this misuse at least twice a week. It is possible I have become a little over-excited and fallen into “caps lock on.” Sorry.
Okay, I am uncomfortable with myself now. I have tremendous respect for you two and can only pray that I have not alienated you from my company.
Ummm, nice review? It is great to see a product review from you, it brings me back to the bygone Epicurean Cyclist days!
Russ December 17, 2012 at 12:34 am
Yes. We don’t really endorse using a 15mm cone wrench for hardcore pedal duty but as a bit of a last resort. When we’re on tour, we usually pop them off once or twice at most and have managed to find a narrow and small 15mm box wrench that works.
But, that’s one of the upside of these pedals 🙂 8mm Allen key.
Adam DZ December 17, 2012 at 5:40 am
The most comfortable platform pedals are the Ergon pedals. They’re big though and look rather ugly on a bike, but I never rode anything more comfortable.
Greg December 17, 2012 at 10:07 am
Looks nice. I put VP Thin Gripsters on my road bike recently and quite like them. Shopping for a commuter bike now and will give these a try on it. These are more expensive but I like the look, and the Gripsters have no room for reflectors.
Russ December 17, 2012 at 11:58 am
@Greg. Thanks. The Gripsters were another pedal I wanted to try. Hope to be able to do a comparison in the future.
Greg December 17, 2012 at 12:58 pm
The Gripsters are very nice–I use them mostly with Chrome shoes and they really do stick. But frankly, I think these are more aesthetically pleasing!
Mark H December 17, 2012 at 11:25 pm
From the look of it, there’s enough space between the pedal body and the pedal flats (erm… the base of the threads) that you could use a regular box wrench (or *gasp* an adjustable wrench) to loosen the pedals. Is that correct? That would certainly be a big bonus over many other pedals.
But, alas, though the pedal looks like you can attach toe clips, there’s not any toe-flip-tab doodad to aid kicking into the clips. According to the VO Pedal Manifesto, the Sabot isn’t really made for clip use either, but that doesn’t explain the tab absence on the VO Touring or City pedals.
Luckily, the basic Wellgo/Avenir pedals w/ clips seem to work fine with my sneakers, but now that I’ve found my old Alfredo Binda toe straps, I’d like something a bit nicer for my other bike.
Ralph December 17, 2012 at 11:30 pm
The optional reflectors should be used in CA at least. Required equipment. Plus nothing else on the road gives that kind of night signature when cyclists are approached from behind. I’ve even added stick on reflectors on my Shimano spl pedals.
Pam December 18, 2012 at 9:17 pm
How about the Grip Kings with the little spikes Rivendell also sells? I’ve been using those for a couple of years now and love them. I found the Grip Kings without the spikes really didn’t grip all that well. My partner uses the Thin Gripsters and loves them.
Russ December 18, 2012 at 10:55 pm
@Pam they are on par if not a little bit grippier than Grip Kings with spikes. We used GKs with spikes for the last three years and they worked great. The Sabot’s have a little more support though.
McKay December 29, 2012 at 6:27 am
Do you use these on your Brompton’s?
Russ December 29, 2012 at 11:04 am
@McKay No we don’t, because you can’t change the spindle to quick release one. Otherwise, they would make great pedals for the B’s.
Spotted: Velo-Orange Sabot Pedal vs. Thin Gripster January 1, 2013 at 11:47 pm
[…] had been eying the Gripsters for a while but never saw any in the wild until today. After I posted my review on the Velo-Orange Sabot pedals, I got lots of questions comparing them to the Gripsters. While I didn’t get to ride the […]
Fred April 9, 2013 at 9:11 pm
The thing that works for me with the Lambda/Grip Kings is being able to move my foot forward enough to put my arch over the pedal spindle. Taking the pressure off the forefoot is what I need and the ‘battle axes’ do it. If your pedaling position works with the ball of the foot over the pedal spindle, the Ergons, Gripsters, and these VO pedals make much more sense.
Michael June 26, 2013 at 7:39 am
Was wondering if Power Grips straps will attach to these pedals. I like platform pedals on my touring bike and find a loose pair of Power Grips to be really nice when on bumpy descents and would not want to give them up.
Brad December 21, 2013 at 2:55 pm
Michael, did you ever try the power grips on the VO Sabot pedals? That sounds like a great idea.
Patrick May 5, 2014 at 12:01 pm
Thank you for the great initial review! Any chance on how a longer term review, including how they hold up to water, mud, and other love, durability, etc?
Russ May 19, 2014 at 3:54 pm
The pedals are still running strong with no maintenance. They’ve really grown on me and are my benchmark for a good platform pedal. I usually ride in Keen CNX shoes which have a pretty flexible sole and the Sabots provide lots of support and they are easy on the eyes.
Barbara July 5, 2014 at 6:34 pm
Russ – Thanks for providing a review on pedals. Would these fit on a 1960’s Raleigh & would I be able to add the “Rat Trap” cages. I like to ride clipless too but on a long day of touring it is nice to be able to work different muscle groups.
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Thanks for the review! I might consider a pair the next time I need platforms. Have you tried the Ergon PC2 pedals (http://www.ergon-bike.com/us/en/product/pc2)? I ordered a pair but haven’t had a chance to give them a try. My wife’s old platform pedal bearings just gave out, and since they were really cheap plastic pedals, I tossed them and put the Ergons on her bike, so I’ll get a report soon. Still, I’m wondering what others who have tried them out think about them.