Introducing the TriRig Mercury
article & images by Nick Salazar
Dec 19, 2012
2013 is going to be an expansive year for TriRig products. We'll be introducing a pretty big range of new products, including the Alpha aerobar, the Sigma stem, and what we're announcing today, our brand new Mercury pedals. Mercury represents a significant re-thinking of the most fundamental contact point on the bicycle. What sets the Mercury apart from other pedals on the market? Just about everything. Back in July, we published a pedal shootout which surveyed the major types of pedals on the market, organized by retention method. And in that article, we teased that we were working on a pedal based on the very old Aerolite sleeve-bearing type. I like the minimal simplicity of Aerolite, but figured it really deserved an update to be compatible with standard 3-bolt mounting patterns. But that's just the beginning of what Mercury is. There's nothing else quite like it, and we think it's going to blow you away.
But before we get into all the details, here are the quick hits of what Mercury is all about:
- Ultra light, at just 35 grams per pedal, and a complete system weight (with cleats and all fasteners) of 136 grams.
- Ultra-low stack of just 10.5mm - the lowest stack on the market for 3-hole road shoes.
- Adjustable Q-factor to fine-tune your stance width. Only pedal on the market with this feature.
- Incredibly simple design, just three parts per pedal (titanium spindle, nylon bearing, alloy cap screw). Mercury is an easy to service, virtually zero-maintenance product.
- An awesome SIX MONTH RETURN POLICY with NO restocking fee, so you can try the pedals out as long as you need to, to make sure they're right for you.
- Release date, approximately June 2013, price has not yet been determined. For up-to-date news on Mercury and all our products, the best thing to do is sign up for our Newsletter.
Let's touch on that last note, about the return policy. We took a page from the Cobb Cycling playbook. Why are we breaking from our standard returns policy for these pedals? Well, it's because the Mercury represents a bit of a paradigm shift from the prevailing pedal philosophy, and we want everyone to be comfortable trying it out. So we give you six months to use them and abuse them, ride them hard, train and race in them, and really find out if they're right for you. If they don't work, we'll take them back and give you a full refund - no restocking fee. It doesn't matter what kind of shape the pedals are in - if they didn't work for you, we'll take them back.
Also, note that the images in this article are all 3D renders. However, we've been riding a set of Mercury prototypes for some time now, and they're delivering exactly as expected. They don't yet have the final hardware that's shown in these renders, but as soon as the prototypes have been re-fitted with the final production hardware, we'll post another article with images of the actual product. With that said, let's look at the design aspects of what makes these pedals so special.
Light Weight, Low stack: The minimal design of the Mercury pedals makes them lighter than every major road pedal on the market, by a pretty wide margin. At the same time, the Mercury has the lowest stack height of any standard pedal for a 3-hole road shoe. Lower stack means better power transfer, and less wasted energy. And because Mercury is compatible with the standard 3-hole bolt pattern, it means you can use it on virtually every shoe on the market. No need for adapters, custom soles, or any other complications. Here's how the Mercury stacks up in those metrics against the top-of-the-line pedals from the most popular brands:
Full system weight
(pedals + cleats)
(2 pedals, no cleats)
|Speedplay Zero Ti||282g||164g||11.5mm|
|Keywin Carbon 2012||245g||169g||14mm|
|LOOK Keo Blade Carbon||258g||186g||17mm|
Integrated width (Q-Factor) Adjustment: This is a big one. Mercury is the ONLY rideable pedal system on the market with integrated width adjustment built right into the pedal. Q-factor adjustment is probably the most overlooked metric in all of bike fitting, and even when a fitter is sensitive to the issue, it's often difficult to find the right pedal that fits. At least one scientific study shows that narrower stance widths tend to lead to an increase in efficiency and performance. In the opinion of many leading fitters, Q-factor is one of the most important, and most-often ignored fit metrics, and that EVERY athlete should be on a pedal with some kind of way to adjust Q-factor. Many pedals leave you out in the cold on this one, with no provision for adjusting stance width. Speedplay and Keywin make multiple spindle lengths that can be swapped out, but these spindle swaps are never easy, requiring some pretty intricate surgery on your pedal body.
We wanted to make things easier, so we built Q-factor adjustment right into the pedal. The pedal primarily consists of just three parts: the spindle, the sleeve bearing, and an aluminum retaining bolt. To adjust the Q-factor, you just slide in spacers between the bearing and the bottom of the spindle. No more expensive spindles to buy, no more surgical precision when dissecting your pedal body. Everything you need comes with the pedal. And the adjustment is such an easy process that you could even make stance-width changes mid-ride. This is where things get interesting. Powermeter users could do intervals with different width settings, to find where the highest power output is. Or you could change it over the course of a long ride, to find out where you're the most comfortable. We measure stance width from the outside face of the crank arm to the center of the pedal body. Measured this way, the Mercury has an adjustment range of 47mm to 56mm. For reference, a Dura-Ace pedal is 53mm, and several other stock pedals are pretty close to 53mm. So we used that as a starting point, allowing adjustment in both directions, but with a bias towards narrower settings.
We favored narrow settings because most bikes today "tend to be wider than optimal at the pedals ... for this reason, most riders should have their feet as close to the crank as possible. " The Mercury allows a rider to achieve a narrower stance than any other pedal, as low as 47mm. Yet it can also adjust all the way out to 56mm, to accommodate unique fit needs.
Rock-solid platform: Many pedal systems claim they have the stiffest platform, either based on the size of the pedal body, or on the size of the cleat, or both. But these metrics all hide the reality of the situation. Virtually every major pedal on the market uses a spindle that stops in the middle of the pedal body, and is tapered nearly to a point. What this means is that the outer half of the pedal body is resting on nothing more than plastic. And if you've ever noticed extra flex on the outer half of your feet while pedaling, it's because you were riding on plastic. This is yet another place where Mercury changes the game. The Mercury spindle reaches through to the end of the pedal body, and maintains its full 11mm diameter the whole way. The result is an obvious increase in the stiffness and stability of the pedal. A full-length, full-diameter spindle simply feels better.
Zero Maintenance: There are no tiny bearings to replace. There's no need to disassemble your pedal in a clean room, and inject secret sauce into a tiny internal port. The TriRig Mercury is good to go for the long haul, no maintenance required. How is that possible? Well, it's simple. Or should we say, it's simplicity. The Mercury is simplicity defined. Instead of using microscopic needle bearings intended for electronics applications, we use a single-piece pedal body made from nylon, for its ultra-durable and inherent low-friction properties. The pedal body itself is a bearing! It will stand up to all the miles you can throw at it, no grease required. And if for any reason a replacement is ever needed, you don't have to hire a surgeon to dissect the pedal - just unscrew one bolt, swap out the body, and you're back on the road!
Fixed: The Mercury is a no-float pedal. We truly believe that far more cyclists are candidates for fixed pedals than the rest of the industry would like you to believe. The popular philosophy is that free-floating pedals reduce the likelihood of injury. However, anecdotally this seems to be the case only when the cleat position is arrived at arbitrarily, without a close look at the rider's actual pedaling mechanics. When cleat placement is done in a methodical, precise way, it seems that fixed pedals offer the potential for higher mechanical efficiency. The vast majority of riders in the UCI Pro Peloton ride fixed, and it's no accident. If you take the time to dial in your cleat position and stance width, fixed pedals simply work better for a lot of riders. To be fair, not everyone is a candidate to use fixed. But many more people could successfully ride fixed than are currently doing so. The key is to minimize your knee's lateral travel during the pedal stroke. This involves getting your cleats properly adjusted, especially in terms of cleat angle with respect to the foot, and the overall stance width (Q-factor). Once that's done, the need for pedal float is eliminated or dramatically reduced for many riders. Fit experts believe that pedals with limited or no float "can actually be better for many riders, but they also require closer attention to proper cleat alignment." That's our philosophy, and the reason we pushed forward with the fixed design of the Mercury pedals.
Pedal Engagement + Disengagement: Clipping in to the Mercury is quite straightforward: just stomp down on the pedals and you're in. Disengagement is accomplished by supinating off of the pedal. That is, you roll your foot off the pedal, starting by lifting up the inside edge of your foot, and rolling outward. It's incredibly easy to learn. And for a lot of riders, this motion feels more natural than the standard clip-out rotation. Another advantage for triathletes and time trialists is that it tends to eliminate accidental clip-outs. You won't lose precious seconds with an unintended clip-out during that first big effort to get up to speed.
Is Mercury right for me? Want to know if the TriRig Mercury pedals will work well for you? Worried about the whole no-float thing? Well, we want to make it as easy as possible. That's why every pedal sold comes with a SIX MONTH RETURN POLICY, no questions asked. We know that it takes time to get used to a new philosophy on such a fundamental piece of equipment, and we want everyone to have the opportunity to do it right. That's why we give you a full 180 days to ride these pedals. Use them. Abuse them. We don't care what the cleats or bearings look like if you return them. So enjoy them, and really get to know them. We think you'll fall in love with the Mercury pedals pretty quickly. But if you don't, just return them and we'll refund the full purchase price of the pedal.
Mercury vs. Ultralite: Interestingly, Mercury already has a competitor. As we were finalizing some of our early prototypes with the Mercury system, a small brand out of Boulder, Colorado launched a similar pedal system. The Ultralite Cirrus and Nimbus pedals use the same cleat-clasping concept as Aerolite and Mercury. This is the core design element that results in an extremely low system weight. Naturally, people will wonder how the Ultralite pedals compare to Mercury. At this point, I haven't had the opportunity to ride them myself, although I am familiar with the product, and will attempt to give an objective comparison of these products. As far as the headling issue of weight is concerned, the Mercury is virtually identical in weight to the top-of-the-line Cirrus Ti. That system has a claimed weight of 112g without screws. The Mercury comes to exactlu 111g without screws (136g with screws included).
The Mercury pedal engagement process is a bit simpler: you just step down. And to dis-engage with Mercury, you just roll out. Ultralite requires an extra step in the process; you must first slide their spring retention mechanism to the side, and then step down. Coming out also requires you to first push the spring out of the way before rolling out.
As discussed above, Mercury also has the variable Q-factor adjustment, which allows it to adjust from 47mm out to 56mm. Ultralite doesn't have any Q-factor adjustment, except for some small 0.8mm shim washers that you can use between the pedal and your crank arm. That's something you can potentially do with any pedal, but you generally don't want to exceed 1mm or so, because with each shim you use, you reduce the thread engagement between pedal and crank.
One thing that Ultralite has over Mercury is its range of fore-aft adjustment. Ultralite has a standard range of about 7mm or so. Mercury has a reduced fore-aft range of 3mm. However, we really believe that's offset by the incomparable SIX-MONTH return policy that the Mercury comes with. Do you need that extra adjustment? Well, it's really easy to find out. You have a long time to ride the Mercury and figure out whether it works for you. If it doesn't, we'll refund the entire purchase price of the pedals, and you're only out the shipping.
On that note, there's the obvious comparison of price. The Ultralite Nimbus Ti, the one that weighs the same as the Mercury, costs $395 retail. The Mercury's price point is still to be determined, but we believe it will be significantly less expensive than the Ultralites. To be fair, I think the Ultralite pedals are really cool. I'm glad to see that there are other believers in this kind of retention mechanism. If I hadn't created Mercury, I'd be very tempted to buy a set of Ultralites for myself. However, in my biased opinion, I think that Mercury will be a better system for most riders. The only real advantage to Ultralite is the extra fore-aft adjustment range. If you truly need it, then Mercury isn't for you. Otherwise, I think Mercury has some very real advantages, and given our six-month return policy, there's no reason not to try it out.
Okay, I'm ready to pull the trigger. Where do I buy them? The Mercury will be available exclusively from the TriRig Store. Release date is set for June 2013, price is yet to be determined. Thanks for reading, and to stay up to date on all TriRig products, sign up for our Newsletter.