Based in Whistler, BC, Chromag Bikes built their reputation on burly hardtails like this one for going places no hardtail ever should, and off the back of that started a line of components built for equally rowdy use. Chromag is well known in mountain bike circles for producing high quality parts that take a beating, with much of their CNC’d parts produced next door by North Shore Billet.
Chromag has made flat pedals for some time now — many people swear by them, but the Pilot and Pilot BA are their first go at a clipless pedal. Coming in two sizes, the Pilot is the smaller of the two, aimed at trail and enduro type riding, and the BA is the larger of the two, looking more like a flat pedal and aimed more at downhill and park riders, both of which are Shimano SPD-compatible, and come with a pair of SPD-compatible cleats.
About the Chromag Pilot BA clipless pedals
On test here we have the Chromag Pilot BA, with an 87x110mm platform and 57.5mm stance. The Pilot BA uses a 105x110mm platform and has a 60mm stance. If you’re unsure about stance have a quick read here, but it’s essentially the distance from the edge of pedal to the middle — how far your feet sit out from the cranks. So while the BA might be aimed more at downhill riders it also might be better suited to bigger folks with a wider stance.
The Pilot is the more minimal of the two pedals. With four pins per side, it errs a little closer to a flat pedal style than say a Shimano trail pedal, and promises a little more grip for those oh-shit moments when you can’t quite clip in in time, though not as much as the Pilot BA with the bigger platform and five pins per side. Speaking of which, the pedals come with a whole bunch of spare pins and spacers to drop the pins down a little if you find they’re too long.
The Pilot pedals are nicely made and are finished with a tough anodized coating, available in five different colors. The SPD mechanism is presumably sourced from overseas somewhere rather than being designed by Chromag, something that’s somewhat evident by the poorly translated instructions included in the box and the fact that the quality of the mechanism doesn’t quite match the quality of the rest of the pedal. Not that there’s anything wrong with it exactly, it just looks a little chintzy.
Using a Chromoly axle, a bushing, and a cartridge bearing, the Pilot pedals bring a robust and sensible approach to keep the pedals spinning. Maintenance should be pretty simple, and Chromag says the pedal is serviceable like their other pedals and rebuild kit for the Pilots will be available, though one is not currently for sale.
Installation of the pedals was much like any other, however initial set up was not so easy. The spring tension has a ton of adjustment and it has a little indicator to show roughly where the tension is at, from unusable extremes of zero tension, all the way up to couldn’t get out if you tried, which is kind of nice.
The wide range of tension however means that finding the sweet spot is somewhat difficult, leaving it in a narrow band somewhere in the middle, meaning small increments of adjustment can result in a quite different actual release tension. I prefer to err on the side of caution rather than find myself in a situation where I can’t unclip, and it took some time to figure out my ideal tension. This combined with a slightly less than positive engagement resulted in more accidental unclipping moments than I’d have liked.
Once I got the pedals dialed in, they became much like any other part on my bike should and were mostly forgotten, simply going about their job without any fuss. The looser feeling engagement does mean it is a little easier to clip in than say a Shimano pedal, but the downside is that it’s less clear that you have successfully clipped in. The platform and pins give that little extra to aim for that most of us like about trail pedals without feeling intrusive under-foot but providing enough grip while navigating a sketchy feature without being fully clipped in. This is something I find myself doing regularly, and the Pilot pedals provided ample grip to get me through it.
The feeling of the pins and platform depended largely on the shoes I was using. While using a stiffer more cross-country type shoe like the Bontrager Foray the pins are largely unnoticeable, however when switching to a more skate-type shoe with a flat sole and more flex like the Bontrager Rally tested here, the pins are noticeable and make for a more locked-in type feel with good support and a lot less movement on the pedal. This does also make it a little harder to clip in until you’ve got that muscle memory dialed in.
The downside to the chunky platform body and pins is they tend to find rocks and roots more easily, and as a result I found myself having more pedal strikes than usual. The pedals bear some witness marks to my imperfect riding style, with one pin fully shearing in half. Thankfully I did manage to extract it and fit a new one.
This was the only drama experienced using these pedals, aside from a slight squeak coming from the axle lip seals, swiftly remedied using a little oil. Pulling the pedals apart to do a little maintenance was simple, and requires only a set of hex keys and an 8mm socket. I found that after a few hundred KMs of wet PNW winter riding that the grease was still in perfect condition. A simple punch and their bushing tool would be the only other things needed to perform a full overhaul of the pedals including bearing and bushing replacement.
The Chromag Pilot BA clipless pedals are not perfect, but they’re a great first-go considering Shimano has cornered the market for about the last 25 years. While the feel may not be the best, it’s good enough that I’m happy to run them daily, and I don’t have any doubt they’ll last some time with day-in, day-out use, thanks to their tough build. For those looking for something a little different made by a reputable brand run by actual mountain bikers, with reliability and serviceability, the Pilot makes a solid choice.
- Price: $189
- Buy from Amazon.
- Good build and easy maintenance
- Great look and color options
Pros and cons of the Chromag Pilot BA clipless pedals.
- Somewhat vague engagement
- Very wide range of tension adjustment
No mention of weights?
Oops, looks like I missed that point.
520g/per vs 420g/pair for Shimano XT Trails
Sam, my Straitline Defactos have no clips so they are awesomely clipless and my 5-10 Guide Tennies are an awesome pairing with em. Jus’ sayin’…