Monday, July 13, 2015

VP-001 Thin Gripster Pedals Thoughts and a Quick Review

In my seemingly never-ending quest to find a platform pedal for all purposes, I come across a variety of options to try. Some seem like better possibilities than others, but I'm always up for testing out a new prospect. As someone who prefers to ride in any shoes I'm wearing on any bike, I've just found platforms to be the easiest option for me. About a year ago, I decided to try out a pedal I'd been eyeing for awhile: the VP-001. Honestly, the appeal initially was the cheaper price tag than the MX80 Saint pedals I'd been using on my road bike, but after using the VP's for a bit, I found other aspects to appreciate as well.
*Image from VP found here
But, first, let's take a step back and review a bit about these pedals. One of the things I've noticed is that these same pedals seem to go by a couple of different names. Rivendell calls them the "Thin Gripster" pedal, and I've seen them simply as the VP-001 or "All Purpose" pedal. Regardless of the name used, this platform pedal is a nice alternative to thicker, bulkier options on the market.

The VP pedals measure approximately 112 x 97 mm, being slightly more wide than long. They are also thin compared to many other options, measuring 13mm thick and making it easier to avoid pedal strike in turns or over bumpier/rockier terrain. Weighing in at about 350g for the set, they are lighter than some (even many) platforms, but definitely heavier than the average clipless sets found on many bikes. Of course, if weight is a huge issue to the rider, s/he likely wouldn't choose this sort of pedal at all. The axle is made of forged chromoly, and a foot strap can be used with these, if it is to the riders preference.
One of the really cool things (to me) about these pedals is the variety of colors in which they are available. As someone who appreciates a bit of color accenting and personalization on a bicycle, having nine colors to choose from is great. I'll admit I haven't quite ventured out into the color exploration possibilities with this pedal, but that has been more due to the fact that at the times of purchase, I was seeking the lowest possible price from retailers, which meant sticking with a basic color option.
*Image from VP found here
The first set of these of VPs purchased was about 10 months ago. I bought them as a replacement for some worn out pedals on my Rivendell. I was thrilled that they were much wider than what I'd been using and the first thing I thought on my initial test was that it was fantastic to have support under my foot again (I'd been using the aforementioned and very similarly sized Saints on my road bike).

Thirteen replaceable pins on each side of the foot bed offer traction in both wet and dry conditions, and they are spread out evenly/appropriately across the pedal so as to not have slippage in any area. In fact, they are almost too grippy, if that's possible, especially when they are new. On one of my early rides out with these I was surprised to find my shoe attached more completely to the pedal than I'd expected, which caused a brief and very minor hiccup when stopping. Today, almost a year later, this feature is actually quite welcomed, and I haven't had any incidents with having my shoe too stuck to the pedal.

As stated earlier, my first purchase of these pedals went on the Rivendell. At first, they were outstanding and I was thrilled to have made the purchase, but as time went on, I started noticing a clicking sound emanating from the right pedal. I thought little of it, and assumed it had to do with my bike being dirty and needing a good cleaning, but as time wore on and it was cleaned, the clicking sound remained. It grew more constant and predictable as well, which was not at all to my liking.
I assumed that I had simply purchased a blem in the bunch and a few months ago, purchased another set because I liked them so much. On they went to the Velo Orange only to quickly discover that the right pedal had a clunking feeling with each rotation. It was different than the original sound noticed on the initial set in that there was no audible noise, but there was definitely the sensation of the pedal moving with each stroke made.

Of course, I assumed that the pedal simply wasn't attached properly or tight enough, but after a thorough check and inspection, there was nothing found to be wrong. Frustrated, the pedals were removed and checked again. These are self-lubricating, sealed bearing pedals, so there shouldn't be an issue - particularly as neither set of pedals have seen enough mileage to justify bearing replacement. But, after reattachment, the problems on both sets have remained.

There are bearing replacement sets available, and even a titanium option for some of VPs pedals, but trying to figure out if it is a worthwhile investment to do the work and spend the money is something I have questioned. If the company cannot manufacture the pedals correctly the first time, how can I be sure that the bearing replacement will resolve the issues? It's a bit frustrating, as the rest of the pedal is fantastic for my purposes.

My use thus far with these pedals have been on bikes that get me around town, travel longer distances, and rides on dirt and gravel roads in all types of weather. I ride flatter terrain and hillier, and they provide a nice balance of weight and comfort under foot. I am not a "rough" rider, so for me pedals should last quite some time.

At the date of this writing, I am still using one of these sets, but I don't know if I will continue to do so, which is a shame because theoretically they are all that I'd hoped to find in a platform.

Overall, I would love to give these a high star rating, but I'm just not prepared to do so. The strangest thing is that if a search is made for reviews on these pedals, it's difficult to find anything negative. I don't know if the reviewers speak too soon before problems develop, or if I just so happened to be the unlucky recipient of two bad sets.

My frustration with completely recommending these comes in the reality of having received two different sets of pedals at different times that both have a mechanical problem that developed quite early in their use. If the idea of a constant clicking or having a clunk with each pedal revolution doesn't bother the rider, these may be an option to consider; otherwise, I stand by my fondness of the MX80 Saint pedals. They don't have sealed bearings and do require some looking after, but they just haven't created the headache these VP Thin Gripsters have caused - and at the present date they can be found for the same price.

If you've tried these pedals, I'd appreciate hearing your experience. I still want to believe that these are the pedals I've searched for, so anything positive over longer term use would be great to hear. Have you replaced bearings or axles in a pedal in the past? Did that work out well? Did you use another manufacturers replacement parts, or the same manufacturer?

**Update** I wanted to add a quick update to this post because after more fiddling and disassembly of one of the bikes, I believe that the second set of pedals that were making the clunking noise may have been due to the bottom bracket on the bike and not the pedals themselves. The original set of pedals continues to make the clicking sound, however. If the clunking sound returns to the pedals after some time, I'll be sure to come back and re-update the post.

**Update #2** Several weeks after this post, I was riding the bike with the second set of pedals and the right side came off mid-pedal stroke. This was a bit alarming as it was in the middle of a busy intersection and I had to limp off to the side of the road. When I reached the side, it appeared that I had lost a bolt; however, upon closer inspection at home, it was easy to see that the connector had stripped and released the pedal from the axle. This was likely the noise I continued to hear while riding. I still don't know if I've just happened to receive a blem in the bunch, but I don't know if I'll be purchasing these again in the future.

14 comments:

  1. Interesting! After quite a long search for pedals with platforms big enough to use comfortably with running shoes, I settled on these: http://www.planetx.co.uk/i/q/PEOOPE/on-one-platform-pedals. Dirt cheap, lots of colours, etc etc... I love them! BUT nearly every pair over a fairly short period of time have developed a click or a clunk or some other faint I-don't-know-what. Exactly the same pluses and minuses as you've had with the VP-001s. Hmm. I still have a set on my London Town Bike, and another couple of pair that pop on and off other bikes (the Cross Check, the tandem) whenever the whim takes me. But. As you say, much as I love them, I just can't give them Five Stars. :(

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Interesting that you had the same problems. I wonder if it's just a general problem and not specific to a particular brand - or, if they're all using the same parts from the same manufacturer, perhaps that is the issue?

      Delete
  2. No opinion on these, though they look nice. I've had MKS Lambdas on two bikes for several years now. They work great for me, and they come with reflectors.

    Don't dismiss what small reflectors like pedal reflectors can do. Last night I passed a jogger who was RIGHT at the fog line on a busy 4-lane stroad where people routinely drive 50 mph. The ONLY way I knew he was there was from the reflectors on his shoes. He was wearing dark clothes too. O.o I've also noticed under-lighted cyclists too by the bobbin reflectors on their pedals.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Reflectors can be very valuable. I am amazed by how many people are out at night, wearing all black, and have no lights or reflectors on them at all. I've had similar situations to you when riding at night. It is one thing missing from these pedals (I worry very little about it myself because I have lights on my bikes, but it's always nice to have extra visibility).

      Delete
  3. Great review. Very helpful. I've been using MKS Sylvan pedals with Power Grips. I like them a lot. My spouse has used the Lambdas and liked them, but wished they were a bit wider.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've used the MKS Sylvan pedals in the past - though never with power grips - and I like those as well, depending on the bike. I think I've grown to prefer a bit more substance beneath my foot, but I think they are a solid option. I've never used the Lambadas, but have heard that many do like them.

      Delete
  4. I use VP's Vice model on 4 of my bikes and have had no issues with them. The axle on the Vice is longer than that on the VP-001, so the outboard bearing sits further out, at the end of the pedal body. This could have an effect on bearing longevity. Sidenote: I kept hearing how great FiveTen Freerider shoes worked with flat pedals but had never tried them until a few months ago. All I can say is amazing. One your foot is on the pedal it doesn't move unless you consciously lift it off. Any pressure on the pedal and those shoes are stuck. I use Speedplay's on the one bike with clipless pedals and the VP Vice/Freerider combination feels almost as secure as being clipped in.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Interesting that the Vice pedals haven't caused any problems (and good to know!). I'm amazed at how quickly the problems have come up with this version I've been using... as in, after about 50 miles of riding. That doesn't seem quite enough to justify the bearings going bad, but as you've stated, perhaps it's a design flaw?

      I've heard a lot about the FiveTen shoes too and have yet to try them, but many seem to really like those as an option. One of these days I'm going to get around to actually trying them. :O)

      Delete
  5. I think the lesson here is to be careful on purchasing a "bargain". You can buy pedals for less than $50 and you can pay well over $200. You can buy bike components from large conglomerates focused on product margins, or small companies owned and operated by passionate enthusiasts. Buy too cheap or from the wrong kind of outfit, and you end up throwing the parts away when they fail. That's no bargain. Probably somewhere in the middle of the price range might provide long lasting satisfaction. My platform pedals (VeloOrange Grand Cru Sabots) were $90, but I did pay up bit for the style I liked. VeloOrange said they tested the pedals and decided to go with three bearings instead of the usual two. That's a first class outfit. The bearings are sealed, but replaceable. We have three pairs of these VO pedals between our bikes and thousands of miles on them with no issues.

    Figuring out what bike components to invest in is a situation where your BB (bike-blogger) or LBS (local bike shop) can be of help - providing long term feedback on whether the particular parts are really any good. In this case, all the Amazon reviews of the VP-001 pedals are glowing. But like our BB says, those reviews probably came within a few days of installing the pedals. Thanks for the info GE!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So true. The "bargain" isn't always the best route as it can often times lead to more costs down the road. Sometimes the lesser price is simply that the company has moved on to another style and not that there's anything wrong with the product, but I'd say the majority of the time, like most purchases in life, if it's in the discount bin, there may well be a reason. I think I was just shocked at how quickly the problems arrived with these!

      Good to know you like the VO pedals as I've been eyeing those as a possibility too, but after my experience with these VPs I've been hesitant to push forward into another purchase without significant research. Might be worth a try knowing someone else has had longer term success. Thanks for sharing your experience.

      Delete
    2. rivendell has the vp-001 pedals for $80, problem solved. Buy them from riv then if they crap out folks can't say that's what you get for going cheap :p. Plenty of happy long term users of vp products and the thin gripsters/vp001 in particular.

      Delete
    3. Well, I'd love to agree, except that one of the sets came from Riv when they had a discount going on and it still has problems. I have read and heard of many people who've had great experiences with VP products though.

      Delete
  6. I've had them, VP-001 pedals, and thought they were pretty good: grippy, and somehow they felt nice under my feet - might have been something to do with the the alloy and being so thin. But eventually I decided the platform size was a bit small, probably because I saw myself as a mountain biker. My feet are wide but not especially long. Now I'm considering the pedal again for 'general riding', nothing wild. I think the Shimano Saint pedal is the right size (bigger than the VP-001 ), more supportive than the VP. But the VP might be more grippy and might somehow feel lighter and more precise than the Saint. Pedals much bigger than the Saint are too big if you want them for just general purpose cycling - monstrous platforms get in the way. No clicks or clunks from my VP-001s, but I might not have ridden them enough.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Rivendell VP001Gripster's specs say 3 year warranty (with some exceptions) and a 1 yr crash replacement.

    ReplyDelete

Word verification is on, but I've turned off the moderation portion in an attempt to make it easier for you to know that your comment has indeed made it through. We'll see how this goes, but I'm hopeful that this will help out and I'll try my best to weed through and remove spammers comments. Additionally, I recommend copying comments before hitting publish as the "blogger comment eater" seems to continue his snacking.