Ferro Proto

What if you didn’t have to choose between flats or clipless pedals? You know, for those times where sketchy conditions might reward the use of flats, followed by long pedaly sections on the same trail? Ferro thinks they are about to have a solution.

Jump past the break to see how the Ferro pedal actually works, plus something else we found up their sleeves…..

Ferro magnetic pedal Cover

All photos courtesy of Velovations Bicycle Design Enterprise

Bicycle tech is exploding much to the dismay of purists, but like suspension, dropper posts, tubeless-ready, and e-bikes *eh-hem*, many new technologies become widely accepted and even appreciated. The battle between being clipped in or not is a common debate among friends that has no wrong or right answer. Even pros on the World Enduro circuit may swap their foot lockers for flats on more technical courses. There is no perfect set-up to handle every single condition in a single trail system, but technology has brought us things like dropper posts and this locking suspension to give us our cake while eating it too. So how about having yet another button that’ll let you swap between flats and being clipped in?

Ferro Students

A group of students at Michigan Tech belong to what is called The Velovations Bicycle Design Enterprise. They come up with cycling related ideas and collaborate with manufactures on a wide range of things from designing a new bike frame, to improving friction in linkages, and projects involving electrical engineering. (does this make anyone else want to go back to school)? They’ve worked on projects for Niner, SRAM, Saris, Park Tool, Thomson, and many others.

One of their latest projects is the Ferro Pedal that you can turn on and off via a handlebar mounted Bluetooth switch. We’ve recently covered a magnetic pedal from Maglock which allowed you to “tune” the magnetic strength form zero up to 35lbs of force by adding and removing rare earth magnets.

Ferro magnetic pedal

The Ferro Pedal, though still in the early phases, is a pedal that instead of having conventional magnets that produce a constant pull, it uses what are called diametric magnets. Diametric magnets are round or cylindrical shaped, and instead of having the north and south poles on the flat surfaces like a standard magnet, they have them on the rounded sides. The Ferro pedal works by placing the diametric magnet in between two pieces of non-ferrous aluminum that are sandwiched together with a piece of ferrous material separating them. When the actual poles of the magnet face away from the aluminum they won’t charge the aluminum thus not create a magnetic attraction to the ferrous plate/cleat on the shoe. When the diametric magnet is rotated 90° and the poles face the aluminum (putting the poles’ axis in line with the ferrous material separating them), it charges the aluminum creating a strong force that attracts the shoe’s plate/cleat to the aluminum.

Or simply put…. because SCIENCE! (see video to get a better idea on how it works).


The first prototype was a success functionally, but in addition to reducing the pedal’s size, they want to fine tune the pedal-to-cleat interface so that while actuated you can still “un-clip” similarly to that of a conventional clipless pedal. Based on the results of the first prototype, they expect to get a whopping 70 plus pounds of vertical pull force on the next version.  It is hard to determine the battery life of the pedal as reducing the size of pedal also reduces the size the battery but say they’re confident they can get at least 150 cycles out of a single charge. In a worst case scenario, the battery dies, you’ll just be riding on flats the rest of the ride.

Could this be the next dropper/tubeless ready/”anything else that gets criticized before acceptance” product that improves our riding experience?

Ferro internal pressure sensors

Totally unrelated but we stumbled across this pic on their site and the caption said they were testing internal pressure sensors…… hmmm.

Velovations.Enterprise.MTU.edu

20 comments

  1. Chris Loubser on

    So glad you guys picked up on the project, that’s awesome! As one of the guys who figured out how the magnetic part of the pedal would work, it doesn’t actually charge the magnetically charge the Aluminum, but instead either forces the magnetic field to arc outside of the pedal, or only arc inside the steel sandwiching the aluminum thus resulting in no apparent magnetic attraction outside the pedal.

    Reply
  2. gjj on

    Why not have the electronics limited to a single solenoid, use a proper clip to handle forces and the electronics as a release mechanism. Detach from falls using a jet ski like cutoff band.
    Should weigh less, cost less.

    Reply
  3. Charlie Best on

    This is one of the more convincing and enjoyable spoofs I’ve seen on Bike Rumor.

    The video is just hilarious! How do those dudes keep straight faces? they should be on SNL!

    Reply
  4. FreeBeer on

    Here’s an idea, use permanent magnets mounted to the spindle and windings in the body of the pedal to generate power on the down stroke. Store the power in some film capacitors, and dump it into an electromagnet on the rest of the stroke to hold on the pedal.

    If you can fix the magnets after installation, the force required for the generator can be tuned to only the downstroke.

    Best benefit, once you stop pedaling, the pedal runs out of juice and your shoe can slip right off.

    Reply
  5. Sully on

    Wow. That was really funny!
    I like the end, when all four ride into the woods (even the road bike guy), cut to the last shot and the roadie is now missing….

    Lets assume that they are serious for a second….
    Is this just a complicated Crank Brothers Mallet pedal? Which you can ride either clipped in or as a flat? Just wondering.

    Looks like a fun science project.

    Reply
  6. Dsand on

    Omg non ferrous aluminum! How did they science that?! You twist your foot. Or you just stick your leg out and you twist off the pedal. It’s literally as easy as stepping off the pedal.

    Reply
  7. Michael Black on

    Thanks for the clarification on how our magnet works and for the support, Chris!

    Everyone else, yeah our video is pretty funny/spoofy, but we’re 100 % serious over here. Everything was wrote/shot/edited over a weekend by us, and we’re obviously not media student’s, haha.

    There’s some great ideas being floated around here, but I can also assure you that what we have shown here is one of the most feasible designs after a year+ of development. We’ve worked though about 5 different designs, all different and all deeply researched. We’ve received quite a bit of funding so far though our superior ideas webpage, and that support is going to bring a very real and very nice product to light in our phase 3 this spring.

    This has been a very challenging project, and I hope my other teammates can help answer any questions you guys over here might have. I’m willing to answer what you have now, as long as time allows it over my break.

    Thanks again!

    Reply
  8. Sspiff on

    And now that I watched the video… a magnetic core made out of aluminum? I might look up what d-electrons are, why they’re important for ferromagnets, and also note that aluminum doesn’t have any. All this is to say, even if it’s not too important given the cotext, you can’t have a magnetic core made from Al.

    Or simply put… because SCIENCE!

    Reply
  9. Michael Black on

    Sspiff,

    The entire core is not made from aluminum. Really, the center of the core is a diametric magnet, this magnet spins within a housing (what we call the core) made from aluminum and steel pieces. The steel is the ferromagnetic material that saturates and creates the attractive force that clamps your foot to the pedal, while the aluminum acts as a spacer that allows the core to be turned off when the magnet is in the correct orientation.

    I hope this helps!

    Reply
  10. Matt on

    Ferro / Pharaoh. Tricky 😉 Yeah, this just looks like a senior engineering project looking for a problem that doesn’t really exist. Good learning experience probably though.

    Reply
  11. Chris Loubser on

    The idea actually came from how dial indicator bases. If anyone has ever used them in a machine shop it’s the same concept except for twisting with an actuator instead of your hand. One advantage over an electromagnet or similar is that you don’t have to power it except when switching modes.

    Reply
  12. Ol' Shel' on

    “It is hard to determine the battery life of the pedal …”

    It’s easier to predict the viability of pedals that require batteries.

    A magnetic pedal could succeed, but it has to be kept simple and affordable. Over-hyping any advantage will cause the backlash you’re seeing above.

    Reply
  13. captain derp on

    Ol’ Shel – one other thing to be successful is that the weight needs to be in line with existing pedal offerings, or provide enough of a benefit to justify the weight penalty.

    Reply
  14. GashMcNash on

    I can see the potential. It took a bit of reading and rewatching to fully grasp the aim here, but it’s pretty obvious to me that there’s a pretty neat solution in there that could use the funding.

    I think the key thing is that they’re still working on it, sounds like a better version is to follow. A lot of backseat design going on in here too. I’ve honestly seen a lot less impressive things out there at higher levels of development.

    Reply

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