Pedal Perfect

On a recent trip to NYC I noticed myself inspecting other peoples bikes to see what company had taken a new shot at redesigning whatever part had worked just fine before. I enjoy the new ideas. The BMX market is pretty flooded and one needs to do something creative and new in order to stand out. I strolled around inspecting bikes and all their new gadgetry. I had the feeling that I was at a poor man’s Interbike. I asked some question to the bike owners, even took a spin on one or two. There were some huge four piece bars that felt very nice, and upon further inspection, were way less intimidating than they originally looked. I saw all sorts of new dropout configurations. There was even a bike with some sort of thermal wrap with the New York Yankees logos. Fitting seeing as how we were in New York and the Yankees just won the World Series. I even saw in person for the first time those plastic pedals with metal pins that everyone has been talking about on the internuts.

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All of these new and exciting products stirred my nostalgia. I remembered an old long lost friend. A legend. A piece of history that I have never really formally met. A masterpiece that at one time too, was revered as revolutionary design. Its untimely death left us to scour every bike shop and devour their entire inventory, only later to be left with cheap knockoffs and overpriced Ebay auctions of the originals.

I was first introduced to the Shimano DX pedal thumbing through Freestylin’ magazine as a kid. Much like the Odyssey Jim Cielencki pedal in the greater part of this decade, it was a rare moment to capture a rider who didn’t have the DX as their pedal of choice. As the pages of magazines got thinner the the color of the these pedals got more erratic. Unbeknownst to me, the pedal was becoming extinct, and riders were grabbing whatever color they could find. Shimano had discontinued the pedal and whatever was out there was all that was left.

In 1991 I had just turned 13. I had just acquired my first set of 3 piece cranks earlier that year and was still riding the bear trap-like pedals that came with them. Christmas was around the corner and the mail order ads that graced Go magazine was my christmas wish list. Trend Bike Source mail order had an ad that listed Shimano DX pedals as available, yet rare. For Christmas that year I circled the pedals, a GT leather seat, and a logo sampled shirt that read ‘Dork’ instead of ‘York’ peppermint patties. Christmas came and I received my gifts except for the pedals. I instead unwrapped a pair of GT pedals with the near exact properties of the Shimano. My parents explained to me that the Shimanos that I wanted were not available and this was the closest thing they had. It was okay, and I understood. These would work just fine and my dreams of riding Shimanos, no matter what they color, just like my idols would never happen.

Four years past and my GT pedals were still holding up just fine when my mom informed me she had just done some spring cleaning and had a present for me. “Robert, I was cleaning out the closet and found something we had gotten you for Christmas…I mean something Santa Claus had gotten your for Christmas and I forgot all about it.” She presented me this brown box, with the orange and blue Shimano logo on it. I nearly lost it with excitement as she tried to calm me down. I frantically opened it and was immediately disappointed. Recalling it, I kind of wish I was making this story up. In the box sat one brand new left 9/16 black Shimano DX pedal, a couple of loose ball bearings, and a discarded Nabisco cheese cracker wrapper. My mom explained to me that was what was sent to them before Christmas and they inspected the contents and promptly called the place of purchase. Trend rushed the shipment of the GT pedals and said not to worry about sending the Shimanos…Shimano, back. Through the excitement of the holidays and the worry that i would be disappointed, it had just slipped her mind to ever tell me what really happened.

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I didn’t care. I thought it was a great story and hey, i had one brand new pedal. That was one more new pedal than anyone else at the time had, not that it mattered anyways because most everyone had quit riding by then. It sat in its box along with other things I had displayed in my room for about a year until I went to North Carolina to meet up with an old friend to ride bikes.

In Welcome North Carolina (yes, when you enter the town there is a sign that says “Welcome to Welcome”) I met up with Jason Chenoweth, who, in earlier years, had more formally taught me about BMX. Jason was still riding his blue anodized DX’s. We caught up and chilled for the weekend and he introduced me to Justin Holt, who later on went on to start Rotation, and Carolina BMX. There the three of us rode the backyard box jump and goofed off sharing stories of riding when the tale of my lone pedal came up. Justin listened and was stunned and promptly ran to his truck. He returned with a single, beat to shit, right Shimano DX pedal. “Here,” he said, “you can have this, I pulled this off a bike last I found in the dump last week.”

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I anxiously returned home to finally be able to have my own set of DX’s on my bike. After bashing my knuckles on the cranks a few times trying to get my old pedals off, i noticed a slight miscalculation. My match that Justin had so graciously given me was a 1/2 inch axle. I, however, was a boy with resources, and a MacGuyver for a father. My MacGuyver father dIdn’t quite realize the severity of the situation, that in fact, if he did not pull out his bubble gum, paper clip and rubber band right now and somehow make this 1/2 inch pedal into a 9/16 that we would all be doomed! A little over a week later my dad had a perfect replica of the 9/16 axle he made on his lathe.

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I rode these things for a while. Indeed they did feel nice. (just like the GT pedals actually) Remember being a kid and being so stoked on a part that just made your bike complete? That was me. I’m not sure why they were so great? Ask any skater why Independent trucks are better. They’ll never give a definitive answer other than that they just “Are”. I guess its just good design, and good design that is ahead of its time, which in turn, makes it timeless. I rode the pedals for a while and finally placed them back on the shelf and thats where they’ll stay. Along the way I have picked up a few other used pair, all with 1/2 inch axles.

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I wish the best of luck to the BMX companies that are trying to create a piece of BMX that is as timeless and legendary the Shimano DX pedal and hope their fate will not be the same.

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- Rob Tibbs