In the early days of mountain biking, rubber block pedals and Ashtabula cranks were standard for the converted Schwinns. When Joe Breeze made the first purpose-built klunker, the French TA half-step and a granny triple crankset need the bigger 9/16” axle pedals. Campy Record quill pedals fit that bill, as did Pierre Lyotard’s No.45, at a third the cost. I still have a pair of Lyotards that are in good, usable condition. The grip of the quill wasn’t great, so steel Christophe toeclips and leather Alfredo Binda straps were added to keep your feet firmly planted while bouncing over rocks and logs.
In 1982, Suntour made the first MTB pedals, the XC, given the nickname of “beartraps”. My shins have the scars of the deep incisions these pedals inflicted.
My favorite pedal of the era was the Shimano DX that appeared in 1983. It was solid aluminum with stiff axles.
The bearing seals kept the grease in place better than most the other players. BMX cranks shifted to the 9/16” English axle size, and brands like Bullseye, Hutch, and MKS all joined the components game. Even Campagnola entered the MTB pedal market with the 1990’s Euclid, their classic Record quill mated with a toothed cage. Suntour and Shimano both had similar offerings.
With all the pedal innovations, the toeclip morphed into the Zefal double-eyelet version made of high-impact plastic. Power Grips were introduced in the late 80s, giving you a flexible strap that cinched by twisting your foot into it. I have a set of these bouncing around my obsolete parts box too.
The first off-road clipless pedal, Shimano’s SPD smashed into the market in 1990, and have reigned ever since. The mechanical advantage was obvious.
Again a slew of copycats followed, some good (and still have a loyal following like the eggbeaters and frogs), and some not-so-good like 1993’s Onza HO, christened “death pedals”, because the elastomer cleat springs made their own decision of when to hold and when to release.
Pedalling oddities like the magnetic cleat have appeared and disappeared several times. In the 20-teens, mountain bikes evolved and diverged into several riding styles. No longer is it just cross-country or downhill frame options, but trail, enduro, and all-mountain designations are between those bookends.
Mountain bikes are specializing for different terrains, yet pedal styles have reverted to their earlier forms. Clipless pedals are still around, but flat pedals with adjustable pins, which look a lot like the Shimano DX of the early 80s, are back in style. I can’t wait for the next generation of toeclips to appear.