I use Shimano pedals. Everyone here at Beta uses Shimano pedals. When it comes to reliable, consistent, no-nonsense connection between foot and crank, it’s the way to go. But there’s something about Shimano pedals that are a little, I don’t know, boring. Not much has changed, at least not drastically. For the most part, that’s a good thing. The spring-loaded external cages on the old DX pedals proved not to be worth the hassle. But now, with the exception of the Saints, there aren’t many Shimano pedals with much character. The “trail” versions of genuine SPD pedals may add a little peace of mind, with some extra platform fore and aft, but not enough to offer much measurable benefit on the trail.
Funn, on the other hand, does not make boring pedals. The Mamba, for example, is basically a full-sized flat with an SPD grafted on. Or, optionally, grafted on just one side for anyone with the desire (and the proper footwear) to swap between clips and flats multiple times per ride. It’s actually a reasonable option because, unlike other hybrid pedals, the Mambas truly are as wide as any modern platform. But that’s the problem. They’re probably more than what most riders need, especially those opting for the more traditional two-sided approach. And anyway, bottom brackets being at the height they are these days, I want all the clearance I can get. That’s why the Mamba S that Funn just released today caught my interest.
I find the most important benefit to “caged” SPD pedals is not in the support in front of and behind the cleat bed. Very few shoes are flexible enough for the outsole to make any forceable contact there. But the support to its left and right has real, noticeable benefits to control and more comfort. When Shimano added a few millimeters worth of extra material to sides of their pedals, it made a difference, but one subtle enough that I nearly forgot about it once I was on the trail. That’s not the case with the Mamba S. After riding SPDs for over 25 years, I’m simply used to the flex and sway that happens when pumping, carving, or just pedaling. The Mamba S has none of that. It feels almost as if the benefits aren’t localized to the soles of my feet. It makes the entire bike feel laterally stiffer. Like I have a more intimate connection to what I want the rear wheel to do.
And then there’s the benefits to comfort and fatigue. There’s a lot of tension in our forefoot as we’re riding. It’s always bracing for impact and trying to stay as rigid as possible over a small, postage-stamp cleat. I’ve noticed this more and more as I’ve started using gravity-oriented clip shoes. They’re often more flexible than traditional XC-inspired kicks, and are far nicer to hike in. But all of them walk a balance between flexibility and stability. Running a pedal like the Mamba S makes more flexible shoes suddenly feel stiff and supportive.
I didn’t get along with the Mamba S right away, though. They come packaged with 10 replaceable threaded traction pins (8 for each pedal, plus two spares) which I dutifully installed before my first ride. But I found that they narrowed the angle of attack I could take to hook the cleat and successfully clip in. Just those few millimeters in height forced me to sort of just find the metal-on-metal contact and force it in. It was true on all three shoes I tried it on, the Giro Teradurro Mid the Shimano AM7 and the Crankbrothers Mallet E. It wouldn’t take much more material for it to be nearly impossible to clip in. But the good news is, the traction spikes are optional. And the only benefit I found was a little extra grip if I ever had to panic and throw my foot on while not clipped in. A compromise would be to only leave the two rearward pins installed, as it’s the front two pins that obstruct the clip-in motion, but I preferred just leaving them out entirely.
The Mamba S rolls on a combination of cartridge ball bearings and a DU bushing. I’ve only had my Mamba S for a couple weeks, but when the time comes, Funn makes it easy to pump fresh grease into the system without the need for disassembly or a special Zerk fitting. Just remove the tiny grub screw in the pedal body and pump fresh grease in with any grease gun. Outside of that spindle is, essentially, an SPD pedal, but the components are noticeably less robust than what you’ll normally see on a Shimano-branded pedal. Shimano, being the master forgers that they are, have used three-dimensional forms to shape the bits that actually hook to the cleat. Both Funn and Shimano use a very similar thickness of steel, but Shimano uses more of it, and shapes it in a way that will likely be more impact-resistant.
But time will tell. And time I will have. I was impressed enough with the extra support on the Mamba S pedals that, at least for a while, I’m going to sideline my XTRs. Who knows, maybe there will be one person at Beta who doesn’t ride Shimano.
Find them at funnmtb.com/mamba-s
Photos: Travis Engel