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Race Face's Chester pedals might not offer the kind of absolute performance demanded by extreme off-roaders, but for road and leisure riders looking for a simple alternative to clipless, they're well worth considering.
Clipless pedals might be the obvious go-to for well-connected pedalling efficiency, but we all know some riders who are hesitant or downright scared of the idea of locking their feet into place. That doesn't mean they have to make do with whatever budget flatties came with their bike, though – there is another way.
Pinned flat pedals are the platform of choice for a number of riders, not least fairly extreme bike-parkers, freeriders and downhillers who need grip arguably even more than road or leisure riders. And for less than £50, you could have a set of pedals like these Race Face Chesters, which might look relatively simple but actually offer significant performance advantages over a typical OEM flat pedal.
The Chester features a nylon composite body, spinning on a fully sealed chromoly axle with a fully serviceable bearing and bushing system. Aiding foot-to-pedal traction is a set of eight-a-side steel hex pins, which you can adjust for length and grip but officially max out at 4mm (you can get a little more if you try). All this comes to a positively respectable 368g for the pair.
How much grip can a few pins actually provide? The answer is: lots. In fact, there's so much grip that if you're used to sliding your feet off the front of your pedals at yellow lines and traffic lights, you might need to change your technique slightly. Obviously, this is nothing like the direct connection you'd experience with a clipless pedal but you do need a subtle 'up and off' action to detach yourself.
One issue that some users have flagged with the Chester is the hump in the middle of the pedal, covering where the pedal spindle is housed, which they feel affects the pins' ability to grip. I have to say, it didn't cause me any great issues and the traction you'll get from those pins and some decent dedicated flat cycling shoes is more than good enough for day-to-day riding.
Longevity of these composite pedal bodies might be a little more questionable than with metal-bodied rivals, although I haven't come across any problems yet. Their serviceability and fully sealed moving parts suggest Race Face expects them to last. Also, in terms of looks, I suspect they won't end up appearing quite as scratched and war-torn a year from now as metal alternatives. With the Chesters being available in nine different colours, you'll be happy to keep them looking fairly pretty.
Another area where performance and design work in the Chesters' favour is taking corners. Obviously, every sensible rider knows to have the inside pedal up if you're leaning over in a bend. But even if you forget, thanks to the narrower and thinner body here than other more hefty flat pedals, you're less likely to ground strike a Chester in a turn.
Don't be worried if you think that means the pedal is too narrow to be of any use. There is more than enough of a pedalling platform to get the power down for road and general use.
At the same price point, DMR's V12 pedals were very highly thought of by Dave and feature many of the same qualities as the Chesters, not least tunable grip and fully sealed bearings. Unlike the Race Faces, though, the V12s come with a metal body, which means they're heavier at 430g a pair.
Slightly lighter on your finances at £34 are eXotic's alloy pedal, which Jim at our sister site, off-road.cc, said were a fine set of no-nonsense alloy flat pedals with a nice wide platform.
While wallet-bulging extreme riders looking for ultimate flat pedal performance may prefer other options, and skinflint roadies may begrudge the £50 outlay for what are 'just' some flat pedals, it's worth putting the Chesters into some context.
For riders who want to jump on their bike and experience a really great connection between foot and pedal without the faff of special shoes, they're hugely convenient.
For riders who are downright afraid of clipping in, they could open up a whole new level of performance.
And even for the rest of us, the combination of great build, lithe good looks and decent weight means the Race Face Chesters could be a sensibly simple, or simply sensible purchase. If you want the benefits of pinned flat pedals but not all of the – let's be honest – over-engineering that often accompanies them, these are a fab option.
All the benefits of pinned flat pedals without the heft and over-engineering that often accompanies them
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road.cc test report
Make and model: RaceFace Chester Flat Pedals
Size tested: n/a
Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
This is a pinned flat pedal, mainly targeted towards mountain bikers although I've tested it as an enhanced flat pedal for everyday riding.
Race Face says: "A new edition to the Race Face pedal line-up: the Chester Pedal. The tough and burly nylon composite body provides a large platform with the same grip as traditional alloy pedals via the bottom loading 8 hex traction pins per side. Thin and lightweight is the name of the game with the Chester, featuring a cro-mo axle that is fully sealed and a 100% serviceable bearing and bushing system. This pedal offers great performance for a wide range of riders at a price that leaves plenty of cash in your pocket for that round of bevies at your local watering hole after hammering out a day of hot laps with the crew."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
From Race Face:
Nylon composite body
Replaceable steel pins (8 per side)
Smooth and durable sealed bearing and bushing system
Thin and lightweight concave platform
Height 15mm - 18.4mm
Platform size 110mm x 101mm
Fantastic looking pedal and excellent build quality. It is 'only' a composite body, though.
Fab grip, lightweight and smooth performance.
The sealed and serviceable moving parts are a great indicator of longevity. My only concern is that the composite body might not hold up to extreme use as well as a metal body, although in day-to-day rides it will be more than fine.
For a pinned flat pedal, the weight is very good.
I had no issues – with good grip and a wide enough pedal platform, comfort was very good.
You could argue that the Chester's composite construction means they're slightly inferior to DMR's V12 pedals, which come with a metal body but many of the same qualities as the Chester and cost £49.99. And that's even more relevant with eXotic's alloy pedals which are just £34. However, the Chesters trump both on weight and they're really nicely made.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
As really reliable – and reliably grippy – day-to-day pedals, the Chesters are excellent. They're well made, smooth and light.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Looks, light weight, grip.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
DMR's V12 pedals come with a metal body but many of the same qualities as the Chesters and cost £49.99. However, eXotic's alloy pedals are just £34.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Absolutely
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
For general riding duties, Race Face's Chester pedals seem to me to be a very good middle way. They have very good performance and grip, very good build quality and very good weight. If ever a product deserved a very good rating, it's this!
About the tester
I usually ride: Islabikes Beinn 29 My best bike is: 25-year-old Dawes Galaxy
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mtb, Leisure