Are flat pedals and shoes making a comeback? Did they never go away, and were largely ignored because clipless was just what we did, or were told to do? I've been back on flats the last couple of months and have been enjoying the change. I say "back" on them despite the last time I rode flats wasn't even on a mountain bike, but in the BMX halcyon days of the 80s. I figured if I could ride untethered with no problems on dirt jump bikes and motos, why would I need to be connected to a mountain bike?
The main fear with flats is the opposite of clipless: that you aren't connected to the bike and your feet will fly off the pedals at the most inopportune times. When clipped in, the fear is not being able to separate yourself from the bike at inopportune times. It's a matter of mind over foot and making the switch has definitely helped with my bike handling and added an element of fun and speed in corners with the Foot Out Flat Out technique applied.
2FO stands for just that, foot out/flat out. Specialized have not just thrown out any old shoe and pedal to fill a hole in their range, they've created a system that is designed to work together. The shoes feature a sole with one of the best names ever, SlipNot. The hex tread pattern and rubber compound lives up to its name and feels as grippy as the best shoes out there on my first rides in them. Construction is pretty burly with injection-molded reinforcement around the toe box and thermo-bonded upper material that looks like it will stand up to a fair bit of abuse and stay pretty dry. There's no Velcro strap but a lace-holding elastic, and if you don't like the blue laces there's a set of black included to stealth them out.
The fit is comfortable and pretty true to most other brands' sizing. I've had to drop a size with Specialized shoes in the past, but if you wear a 44 in most others, then that's the way to go. Claimed weight is 390g (42) and RRP is $200.
The Boomslang pedals are feature-packed for something that is usually pretty simple and basic as a flat pedal. The platform is nice and big at 110 x 108mm and supports a lot of the 2FO shoe. Eleven pins each side grip like Tarzan, due to their extra height compared to my current pedals... while the connection to the shoe is phenomenal, moving the foot around is a little harder to do, so getting the position right first time means you ain't slipping off anytime soon, at least until you want to when a slight lift gets the FO. The large inboard bearing is well integrated and doesn't force your foot too far away from the crank. The little trapdoor in the centre gives access to the bearing for easy servicing and rebuilds.
That's a low profile right there... 10mm at the thinnest point in the centre, a concave profile and tapered outside edge for a bit more clearance. The pins are "undercut' meaning thicker at the head to give a bit more hold in the grooves in the shoe's tread and there are four spare pins threaded into the pedal body, another part of Specialized's campaign to get more spares integrated into the bike no doubt. Clever.
The Boomslangs weigh 440g for the set and will set you back $250, but are worth it if you want a flat pedal that won't have you fearing slippage and skinned shins.
We'll bring you a full review in Issue 64 and updates online.