Three MKS Pedals

We’re big fans of MKS pedals. They’re well-made, reasonably priced, and they’re offered in a wide variety of traditional and modern designs. Three of our favorite models are described below.

MKS Lambda (aka Grip King)
MKS Lambda (aka Grip King)

Lambda (aka “Grip King”)
The MKS Lambda (also known as the Rivendell “Grip King”) has a long but narrow platform. The extra length front-to-rear (118mm) provides excellent support for use with soft-soled street shoes, and the narrow width provides tons of cornering clearance. The Grip King lives up to its name when dry, but I’ve found it to be somewhat slippery when wet. While I appreciate the generous cornering clearance provided by the relatively narrow body, I personally prefer a pedal with a slightly wider platform.

  • Cage Dimensions (width x length): 78mm x 118mm
  • Width from Crank Arm to Outer Edge: 98mm
  • Weight: 420 g
  • Price: $54
MKS Sylvan Touring
MKS Sylvan Touring

Sylvan Touring
The Sylvan Touring has been my favorite pedal for many years. I usually have 4-5 pair around to throw on whatever bike needs a set of pedals. It’s what many call a “Rat Trap” design that looks a lot like the old Campagnolo touring pedal. The Sylvan Touring is wider than the Grip King, but shorter front-to-rear. I like the fact that I can feel the pedal through my shoes (I often ride with Keen walking sandals), though some people find this causes foot pain. The wider platform reduces cornering clearance but feels more secure than the narrower Grip King under my foot. The Sylvan Touring is a steal at under $30 a pair.

  • Cage Dimensions (width x length): 93mm x 63mm
  • Width from Crank Arm to Outer Edge: 115mm
  • Weight: 360 g
  • Price: $27
MKS Touring Lite
MKS Touring Lite

Touring Lite
The Touring Lite is MKS’ deluxe version of the Sylvan Touring. It’s lighter while providing slightly more grip and support. I’ve been told that the Touring Lite uses upgraded bearings from the Sylvan and it does seem to run smoother. Because the pedal spindle is narrower than the Sylvan’s and there’s no outside cage, I sometimes have trouble feeling the outer edge of this pedal. I still like it enough to use it on my daily commuter.

  • Cage Dimensions (width x length): 93mm x 70mm
  • Width from Crank Arm to Outer Edge: 105mm
  • Weight: 320 g
  • Price: $56

All of the above pedals use standard 9/16” chromoly spindles and aluminum bodies.

37 Responses to “Three MKS Pedals”

  • voyage says:

    Well, we would want to consider footwear (aka shoes) when considering pedals, wouldn’t we?

    That said, experimenting lately with *quality* BMX pedals. The really good ones are light, over- haulable, compact, and have removable pins which provide yet another thing to fuss over for those who fuss. They aren’t very faux vintage. Sorry.

  • Mike I. says:

    It’s amazing to me that something as simple and cheap as a pedal can have such a large effect on ride quality. I have gone through a few different iterations myself and eventually settled on Alan’s favorite as well. One the most important factors for me was that the pedal be symmetric. I hate having to flip them around to find the right side up.

  • bongobike says:

    I love the Sylvans, but I find them kind of slippery when wet too.

  • Geoffrey Yuen says:

    I have a pair of the Lambdas (aka Grip King), and I really like them a lot. Unlike the other MKS pedals, they give me great support and grip, lengthwise (ball of foot to heel). That support feels really good under my Keen sandals and other street shoes, and my footwear “du jour” doesn’t slip. The lengthwise support also allows me to shift my shoe position fore or aft a bit, with no loss of said support and grip. I originally got them for my Electra Ticino, but they have since been relocated to my newly acquired Rivendell Hunqapillar. Great pedals for an amazing bike!

  • alan g says:

    I have the sylvan touring and the lambda. With regular ‘sneaker type’ shoes which I now wear all the time, and work boots to bop off for an hour’s lunch, I like the lambdas better because of the length. But the great thing about these types of pedals and the shoes which are worn in conjunction with them is two-fold: the price, and the freedom!

  • doug in seattle says:

    I use the MKS Tour Light on my touring bike. I choose it specifically because I heard the bearings were better. A couple years and a few thousand miles later, still going strong!

    I also have a couple sets of the normal MKS tour pedals. I like them just fine. I’ve had one set for about five years now, and the show it! The caps are beat up from pedal strikes, both cages are bent from two different crashes, and one cage mysterious broke at some point (I suspect when my bike fell over). However, the bearings have required about one overhaul per year. The non-drive pedal is especially prone to clicks and grinds.

    I also would not use them in Seattle without clips — they are VERY slippery when wet, dangerously so for any spirited riding.

  • Steve says:

    All three of these include reflectors, what happened to those? Clean lines wins over safety again?

  • jimmy says:

    I used a pair of the touring lites on my bike for maybe six months. After about half that time they earned the nickname ‘shin buster’. Three months later, and a handful of slow-healing wounds after that, they were replaced by a pair of VO touring pedals. They might be fine for a weekender bike; but, for daily commuting use, I will never use anything similar again.

  • Alan says:

    @bongobike

    I expected the Grip Kings to be better given their name, but I find all three to be about equal in the wet.

  • jdmitch says:

    @jimmy,

    Yeah, I was going to mention the VO pedals. They’re very nice, and the sealed bearings are a bonus. I’m partial to the City over the Touring… couldn’t state why, though…

  • Alan says:

    @Geoff

    Hunqapillar! Congrats. Send pics sometime… :-)

  • Alan says:

    @Steve

    Only the Lambdas come with reflectors and two of those fell out within a few months.

    Regarding safety, I never ride at night without powered lighting. They certainly don’t hurt, but I don’t think it’s a good idea to depend upon reflectors to be seen at night.

    Alan

  • Molnar says:

    Generous cornering clearance? On a commuting bike? This is something that had never occurred to me. Back in the day, I would use Campy track pedals on my road bike to get a little extra cornering clearance (no cage), but as a commuter I don’t come anywhere close to digging a pedal no matter how wide it is. Alan, are those halcyon commuting photos of yours hiding a secret speed demon? A (to use the historically appropriate terminology) scorcher?

  • Brian in Okla. City says:

    I use a pair of MKS Sylvan Touring pedals on my Specialized Steel Allez road bike. I picked them mainly for looks, as they look right at home on my old school steel frame. I overhauled the bearings immediately, as they were nearly dry. With careful adjustment, they work very smoothly now. The longest ride I’ve used them for so far has been 60 miles, but they work great with my wide feet. I always get comments from people telling me I need to go clipless, but I usually finish my rides at or near the front of the group and still have energy to spare. I’m thinking of getting a second set for my hybrid commuter (currently has Giant MTB platform pedals).

  • Michael says:

    I’m another that likes the pedal in sandals, and like the Lambdas as well. (Well, when it stops raining here in NorCA…) I also have a bad habit of running around and cycling in my socks when it’s hot since I was kid. The Lambdas also look so clunky, uncool, and anti-racer, so that’s a plus in my book.

    I find the short length pedals hurt my feet after some time if I can feel them through my shoes. I need to use orthopedic inserts into my general shoes to help distribute weight more properly, and smaller pedals don’t help with that.

  • Alan says:

    @Molnar

    “Alan, are those halcyon commuting photos of yours hiding a secret speed demon? A (to use the historically appropriate terminology) scorcher?”

    Busted! ;-)

    In practice it’s rarely a big deal, but it can’t hurt to have a little extra clearance for those times when we absent-mindedly pedal through a corner when we shouldn’t.

    Alan

  • Steve says:

    Ive rode my grip kings through MN winter and still have the reflectors, weird that yours came off…
    I just figured the other ones would have reflectors too. But like it was said, reflectors are no substitue for lights (front, back, and helmet minimum).

  • Alan says:

    @Steve

    This particular set of Grip Kings have taken a beating (the dust cap is crushed on one of them too). They were on my son’s college-bound multi-modal commuter, so they probably suffered far more abuse than the average pair… :-)

  • Connor says:

    I’ve been looking at these for my new commuter, a Kona Dew. Alan and all, what do you recommend for shoes if riding without clips and straps? All I have now are running shoes, so would love to hear your suggestions.

  • Connor says:

    Ps, I should clarify that I referred to MKS Sylvan Touring in the last post.

  • Matt DeBlass says:

    I’ve been looking for something a bit wider than the stock pedals on my Jamis, I’ve got big ol’ sasquatch feet (13eee) and feel like I’m falling off the side of the pedals in the soft-soled sneakers or sandals I favor.
    Voyage, what kind of BMX pedals do you use? I might try the Sylvans, but I’ve used BMX pedals on my MTB in the past (I used to swap them out to clipless to race, but flats for commuting).

  • Alan says:

    @Connor

    If I’m riding for transportation, I wear whatever shoes I happen to have on, which can be anything from dress shoes to running shoes or sandals. That’s the big advantage of these types of pedals.

    If I’m specifically dressing for a recreational ride, I usually wear Keen Newport H2 sandals. Keen makes a bike-specific sandal, but I actually prefer their walking sandal, even for riding.

    Alan

  • voyage says:

    @Matt DeBlass, currently Xpedo XMX-02 on my Hooligan 8, TIOGA Surefoot 8 on my 2005 Sirrus, some old Fyxations on an old Technium refurb. All these pedals are in gray area of BMX/MTB. Try to stay away from polycabonate pedals.You can find your size. One thing’s for sure: I like pins big time when it comes to commute/util (platform) pedals.

    @all, shoes are surprisingly personal.We spend a lot of time in them. I like Brooks Cascadia 5 trail-running shoes with inserts to stiffen them up a bit, to protect metatarsal in a panic (asphalt) stop. They are lugged appropriately. Even el cheapo Rocketdogs will do for commute/util cycling with the correct pedals. Sandals…sandals scare the heck out of me.

  • Velouria says:

    I love the MKS Touring pedals and also their narrower versions – the MKS Stream. Here’s one on top of the other, for a sizing comparison.

  • Scott says:

    I’d ridden with the MKS quick-release pedals for a couple of years on my Brompton because they were easier to attach toeclips to than the Brompton pedals but they still gave me the option to quickly get the pedals out of the way. The Lambdas were sore tempting, but they weren’t removable. Then I talked with Todd at Clever Cycles in Portland, who told me that the dimensions of the shafts were identical. Sure enough, I was able to swap the quick-release shaft of one set of MKS pedals with the standard shaft of the Lambdas. I’m glad I did–the Lambdas are terrific, especially when I’m wearing a pair of shoes with a grippy sole.

  • Scott says:

    I forgot to mention that the Lambdas won’t take toeclips, but that’s ok because I stopped using toeclips a while back. Too much trouble for urban riding with lots of stop signs.

  • Bob Baxter says:

    I found the Grip Kings (Lambda) slippery when wet however Rivendell sells a set of pointed studs that, when installed, turn good pedals into great pedals.

  • syd says:

    Oh, I love these pedals – the MKS Sylvans (not the Touring model, but similar) that came new with my Miyata 1000 in 1986 lasted that bike’s 150,000+km life. So when my ‘new’ Thorn Nomad arrived it of course had to get a pair of Sylvans too and at only 25,000km to date they’ll probably be good for another 20 years. Combined with Zefal strapless toe clips they make for an unbreakable and very comfy touring combo.

  • marty says:

    I purchased the Grip Kings and found them way to slippery. I returned them. I have been using Odysse Triple Traps for years on all my bikes. They are a bit heavy, inexpensive, very wide platform and grip any shoe like glue. http://www.planetbmx.com/shop/images/uploads/ody_trip_trap_pedal.jpg

  • Don says:

    I also have the Grip Kings, find them slippery when wet, and have been meaning to try the Rivendell solution with the studs. I love them regardless, primarily because they work well for someone like me with flat, extra wide feet with one foot more turned in than the other. They are very forgiving of podiatric imperfections. I have found that the length trumps the width in my case for pedaling efficiency. It’s not about pedal strike as much as about contact points on a weak foot that are hard to find shoes for.

    My other bike has rat trap touring pedals and strapless toe clips like the ones Velo Orange sells, and that is a great solution too, but the outer edge can dig a hole in my show and the clip can scuff the toe of a street shoe (not a Keen). Plus my lame feet get sore from the flex. I’d rather have special pedals than have to wear special shoes.

  • bongobike says:

    Alan,

    I’ve been meaning to get the Powergrips for my Sylvans (XL for my size 13 “skis”). Have you tried them?

  • Molly says:

    I look at these and while I acknowledge their beauty, all I can think of is ‘ouch’ when you shin them. My plastic pedals are bad enough!

  • Ira Kinro says:

    I agree with Molly.

    The Odyssey Triples are amazing, but the Odyssey Twisteds work just as well and don’t require stitches. :))

    Also, regarding shoe choice, I prefer dress shoes. The heel of the shoe rests behind the pedal to help prevent slipping. Incidentally, that puts my arch right over the axle. Perfect.

  • MohjhoRyder says:

    I use the MKS RMX ‘sneaker’ pedal. They are a lite weight, inexpensive BMX pedal with reflectors. Perfect for my all rounder.

  • Josh Mitchell says:

    @ Ira,

    I’ve noticed the same thing with my dress shoes…

  • Michael McMahon says:

    Hey Alan,

    I live in Portland and have the Grip Kings on my LHT. I love the pedals, except when it’s raining. I completely agree with you, my foot slips around the pedal whenever the soles of my shoes are wet. At first I thought it was specific to the shoes I wore. I changed up my footwear and had the same issue. It makes the pedal not so practical here in the drizzly northwest. So, I reckon I will check a set of the touring pedals.

    On another note, when searching the site for old posts or product reviews using the search box, all the commuter profiles show up along with your posts. For instance when I typed in “pedals” every commuter profile with the word pedal popped up, since I knew the name of the pedal I wanted to check out, I was able to limit the search and find the post with ease.

    I’ve only done this one search since the commuter profiles went up, so I’m not sure if this will be a common issue or not. Just a heads up.

    Thanks,
    Michael

  • Alan says:

    @Michael

    If you’re so inclined, Rivendell sells pedal spikes for making the Grip King grippier in the wet:

    http://www.rivbike.com/products/show/pedal-spikes/14-060

    We had such an initial flood of profiles that our search function and archives will be messed up for a little while. Now that the entries have slowed down to a steady pace, the issue should take care of itself pretty quickly.

    Thanks,
    Alan

 
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