Are these the perfect flat pedals?

15 June 2020

If you've been a fan of mountain biking for more than 10 minutes then the name 'Sam Hill' is probably followed closely internally by 'flat pedals'. All mountain bikers start their two-wheeled lives on flat pedals of course but as their skills and talents progress, many switch to so-called 'clipless' numbers. 

Jargon buster: 'Clipless' refers to the lack of a toe-clip to attach a riders foot to the pedal. Instead, there's a metal cleat on the base of the shoe which can be clipped in and out of a mechanism on the pedal.

Having a foot physically connected to the pedal itself increases pedalling efficiency, something most would deem essential during 40-50km days in the saddle. Being clipped in also helps to maintain contact with the bike when heavily-rutted or rough sections of trail are doing their best to unseat a rider halfway into a stage. But still, they're not for Sam. 

Long before the now three-time champ arrived in an EWS paddock, his penchant for flats had spread like a shockwave through his then world of downhill. Along with pinners such as Nathan Rennie, Chris Kovarik and Sam Blenkinsop, Hill carved a name for himself wearing a pair of the then new technology sticky rubber-soled shoes and big, angry pedal pins. 'Foot out, flat out' became an oft-cited mantra and Hill's stylish riding and eye for the not-so-obvious when it came to line choice spread like wildfire through a generation of young riders.

Sam Hill, back when he only had to set the fastest time once a day... Foot out, flat out to his last DH World Cup win in Meribel 2014. Pic: Paris Gore/Red Bull Content Pool

The Australian left downhill as one of its most decorated and favourite sons but even when he first dabbled with enduro back in Rotorua 2015 right up until present day, he has stuck to flats. 

Hill's quiet run to second place in Wicklow 2016 was a flat pedal warning shot of what lay ahead for the competition.

The slithers of CNC'd aluminium alloy The Champ's feet perch on have evolved over the years and now take the form of the fairly predictably-titled Sam Hill Signature Enduro Pedal's from Nukeproof Bikes. As any committed flat pedaler will eulogise, not all flat pedals are created equally and as you would expect, those baring the name of the doyen of flat are the product of years of experience, feedback and title-winning.

 

The newly-eponymous Nukeproof range-toppers feature a reassuringly hardy spec. They spin on two DU bushings and four sealed cartridge bearings per pedal and feature forged 6061 T-6 alloy bodies. There are two axle options/price points in steel and titanium with a pair of the former weighing in at a wholly reasonable 407g (23g lighter than the previous model). 

Each side features six height adjustable (via washers on the reverse side) pins and four removable grub screws to allow you to tailor their feel to your specific preferences. 

The final samples and prototype showcase the evolution from drawingboard to reality. Pic: Nukeproof 

The latest Nukeproof flat pedals are more than simply a slightly revamped look - for race fans, there's a reassuring amount of work gone into them. Throughout his career Hill has had another constant by his side other than the flat pedal - a man called Jacy Shumilak. Jacy is Sam's mechanic and the pair possess what Nukeproof refer to as a 'Jedi-like' connection when it comes to making sure that The Champ's bikes are the most dialled in the pits. 

Get up close to one of Sam's Mega's and there's a myriad of little details - foam wedged into strange places here, patches of self-adhesive rubber there - all of which are designed to perform a small duty to produce a marginal gain. You don't become the first three-time EWS champ without attention to detail. 

Sam's own final proto's baring the pins and the battle scars of and dished out by the man himself. Pic: Nukeproof 

Sam, Jacy and Nigel Page (Chain Reaction Cycles Team Manager) worked together on the then all-new Horizon pedal back in 2015 which proved to be an instant success. Over the last two years however, the rider and mechanic pairing have been busy updating the V2 design to better meet the needs of enduro racing.

The final version of the new Sam Hill Enduro pedal from Nukeproof. Pic: Nukeproof

They placed the emphasis on removing excess material, adding clearance (for both accumulated mud and rock strikes) and maintaining the pin positioning that they'd perfected with the original Horizon flat. The pair went back and forth over two (title-winning) seasons with Jacy hand-machining and massaging tweaks to the shape before a final set of modified Horizon V2's that they were happy with were handed back to Nukeproof. The result is the Sam Hill Enduro Pedal.

With rock gardens as brutal as those found in Northstar now appearing at EWS events, every millimetre of clearance is welcome. 

When you get as many custom colourschemes as Sam, you need options... Pic: Nukeproof

Will we ever see another rider, other than Sam Hill, win an Enduro World Series on flat pedals? It's hard to say - even when conditions turn to their worst in terms of mud and rain, the distance to cover in terms of a full day at an EWS will still prompt most riders to remain clipped in. Likewise, flat pedals are now almost extinct in downhill. What is certain however, for us mere mortals who appreciate the feel of a good flat, Sam, Jacy and Nukeproof are making sure that the flat pedal recipe is virtually perfected.