05 November 2015

How Rattraps Became Beartraps---In 1899

Last week, I wrote about "rattrap" pedals.  They were the kind of pedals that came on most '70's Bike Boom-era ten-speeds, and have continued to enjoy popularity with cyclo-tourists, motocross riders and commuters. The great advantages of them are that they can be used with or without toeclips, and ridden on either side (unlike most quill and road clipless pedals, which must be flipped to the right side).  As I mentioned, two of the most popular models of rat-traps are the Lyotard 460 (which hasn't been made in at least two decades) and the MKS Sylvan.

Road "quill" pedals, which were all but displaced by the advent of easy-to-use clipless pedals from Look and Time, would sometimes have the "sawteeth" on the side of the pedal on which the cyclist pedaled.  The other side was usually cut away, and thus unrideable.  They were so made to improve cornering clearance, a definite concern for criterium and track riders.

(Track pedals usually had cages like those of road "quill" pedals, without the "quill".)

Famous examples of road quill pedals are the Campagnolo Record and its many imitators, and Lyotard 45

Double-sided quill pedals were all but nonexistent until around 1980.  At that time, the cults of BMX and mountain biking were spreading beyond their respective Southern and Northern California cradles.  That was also about the time equipment was being developed specifically for those new disciplines.

SunTour BMX pedals, circa 1980

Possibly the nicest double-sided quill came from  SunTour.  They had the same bearings, axles and bodies as SunTour's wonderful track and road pedals, which were made by MKS.  (The "Supreme" and "Nuevo" pedals, currently made by MKS, are virtual clones of the pedals made for SunTour.)  Some of the early mountain bikes came with those pedals; "bear trap" pedals, developed soon after, were essentially BMX pedals with curved plates.

SunTour "bear trap" pedals, circa 1985

When double-sided quill pedals first appeared on the market, many of us wondered why no one had ever thought to make them earlier.  Well, it turns out that someone had:

In 1899, the Bay State Stamping Company of Worcester, Massachusetts introduced the Bennet pedal.  Don't you just love the clover cutouts in the cages?

I tried to find out how long these pedals were produced.  They were introduced just as the first American Bike Boom was about to dissipate.  So, I suspect they weren't made for very long, and the design--like many others from that period--was forgotten.

Aside from the cage shape, the Bennet had a couple of other interesting features.  One is a dust cap that springs into the body and is held by latches. In contrast, most other dust caps are either screwed on or pressed in and often fall off, especially when the bike is ridden over rough roads or trails.   The other innovation was a bearing cone that was keyed rather than threaded to the axle, and held in place with a set screw.  According to the manufacturer, this system allowed for one-tool adjustments.  It also eliminated the problem of locknuts that came loose and allowed the cone to screw up and crush the bearings.

I would love to know how well those features worked. If they were effective, the Bennet was certainly well ahead of its time.  Even if they weren't, the Bennet is interesting as a kind of proto-BMX or -mountain bike pedal.


  1. Those Suntour XC-II, aka beartrap pedals are great! They came as stock on my 1984 Raleigh Crested Butte mountain bike. I got a set of knock-offs for my Schwinn Heavy Duti. The knockoffs are 1986 vintage made by Wellgo, and branded as Columbia replacement parts. (Remember them?) Wellgo still makes that style.

  2. Urban--Those SunTour "beartraps" are indeed great. (So, for that matter, is almost everything else SunTour made before they decided to do indexed shifting!) I still see lots of them, and the SunTour BMX pedals around. They're so good that a company almost can't go wrong by copying them. The copies--like the Wellgos--while not as refined as the SunTour, are still very sturdy and reliable.

    Columbia. Sometimes I see their bikes listed on Cragislist or eBay as "vintage".

  3. I had a set of those Suntour Beartraps on my first mountain bike, a 1987 Diambondback Apex. I enjoyed many long rides on them. All of the other components on that bike were Shimano Deerhead. Just last night I overhauled a set of Suntour pedals that came on a 1983 Stumpjumper Sport. They're very nice pedals.

  4. MT--Am I the only one who believes that if the world were to end, SunTour beartraps would survive?

    Ah, yes, Shimano "Deerhead" components...Those were the days, huh?