Friday, December 14, 2007

9 My M2Racer Orb Story - What's Yours?

Before I start, I'd like to inform my valuable readers that to avoid the teeth chattering cold here in Buffalo, NY, the bee is taking a trip to the warm sands of Dubai on the Arabian Gulf. I'll be there for 2 weeks so if I do get the time to post, I will. I think it'll mainly be a time to get my mind off to other things. So happy holidays in advance!

Anyway, today I was briefly scavenging the ruins of U.S Patents on the Free Patent website. (Hint : This is what bored engineers do, no just kidding..)

I struck a one in a hundred moment when I saw a picture that looked really familiar to me.

I took one hard look at it.


Hmm...

Another hard look again... and a product I used briefly for 2 months sprang up on my mind.


Why, the culprit is the fabled M2 Racer Orb Ti Pedals...! Isn't it?


A subject for another blog entry!

Any way, while browsing through the patent (or rather patent "application" because the patent is still pending on the pedal), I noticed no hint made to the fact that it is M2 Racer indeed. No company name is mentioned in the application. Jesse Menayan is named as the inventor of the design. CISLO & THOMAS is the attorney.

I think Menayan, an industrial design engineer from CA, really put on his thinking cap while designing this pedal. Look at it.
The first thing I notice when I look at the drawing of the pedal is that its simple. All it has is a nice threaded spindle (106), a cylindrical pedal (102), bearings, and a spring loaded attachment (118 and 130) site. Sweet!. Who would have thought of bringing it down to just apples and oranges?

Another reason I like the design is that it features a complete 360 degree faced entry. And the cleat on the shoe can engage at whatever site through a circular gap made by pushing open the two engagement components (110 and 112) apart through the force of the feet via the cleat.

Perhaps that was the idea the inventor thought would do justice to mentioning the fact that it is a truly "no look" entry pedal. The title on the application itself is named

"Quick entry clipless bicycle pedal"

A third reason I like the design is that due to the unconstrained sitting of the cleat in the gap, there is a freedom (limited but still there) for lateral movement of the feet, or what is called float.

Fourth reason is that the designer dreamed up the idea of using Titanium for the spindle and pedal. Ooo.. nice. What you essentially end up doing is making an already lightweight pedal (due to low number of parts) even lighter, so much so that it tips the scales like no other pedal has done before it. Its marketed weight becomes 99 g per pedal and weight weenies all over the world go nuts when the item is brought out. The costs for precision machining the Titanium bumps up the overall price of the pedal to 200, maybe 300 dollars. Do I like the cost? A little maybe. With the exotic nature and mystery some forms of utter "bling bling" products bring with them, you quietly savor the costs and believe it to be part of that certain beauty and mystery. You then dream up of a million ways in the world on how you can attain this holy grail of lightness that will put any Italian mobster to shame.

Now comes what I don't like about the design. I don't mean to be a snob. These are what I genuinely dislike.

1. Plastic bearings, plastic end screw (132). Durable? Not happening. If you're going to ride this thing every day for 30-50 miles, consider maybe 6-10 months before you throw the bearings out and replace it with new ones. This "engineered polymer", as it said on my product sheet couldn't withstand the ends of my Allen keys and soon I had a great looking pedal with eaten end screws, like as if the cookie monster had just nibbled at the ends.

2. This whole float thing was looking weird to me. It wasn't giving exactly what I wanted and at times, where was more float than I really wanted which was bothering me. The float is a byproduct of the design and I don't think there wasn't enough thought put into fine tuning it.

3. The attachment itself! Boy, you have got to love it when they tell you its a 360 degree truly "no look" pedal. If you give me a speed play or a Look Keo, I wouldn't have to worry too much about learning how to ride on it. 1 or maybe 2 days of constant practice and I'll have the engagement right. However, with the Orb's , I thought studying engineering thermodynamics was far easier than learning how to engage and disengage. I would constantly have it wrong, sometimes I thought I was in but wasn't, sometimes I was pushing too hard with little outcome. I know it takes a certain time to break into a product like this, but through out my experience riding the pedals, it never became a truly "no look" quick entry pedal for me. In the end, the decision was to use such a nice thing like this only on training rides because I didn't want to risk wasting time engaging and disengaging when I could spent that time taking my position in a race. That, I thought, was a shame.

4. If you compare a Shimano SPD or a SpeedPlay with an M2 Racer, the surface area on the cleat-engagement piece was barely that of an ant. It was as if you were pushing and lifting via a needle. I remember having rode the hills so much on it that my left knee started to hurt. And when a 20 year old's knee starts to hurt, its pretty BAD! I constantly drink milk and lift weights with my legs. There's enough bone density in there...

5. Another reason to reconsider the pedals was the numerous times I would accidentally disengage on some 3% climbs in my area. This was not at all fun when I was training, as my right leg would suddenly disengage and dangle outwards. Safety, not very much. Part of the problem could be the fact that I never really knew how much float it really had. My feet was going all over the place. Why should a rider really be completely bothered about containing his feet movement. The pedal-cleat system should have all that worked out.

6. Finally, disengaging the pedal was an art you would have to master to get off this thing. The extreme angles your feet would have to attain to twist out of this mechanism didn't feel good on my knees again.

Hate to be snobbish, but again. I love the design for what it is. But again, Mr. Menayan didn't get it right all the way. Granted that he and his dad brought out more amazing products over the next couple of months and years, but whether the downward trend of M2 Racer's Orb pedals was a factor in the company's shut down in 2006, I do not know. That was a shame as well, for a brilliant company that M2 Racer was. A few months ago, they had a partly functioning website. Now, they have nothing.

All I know is that all engineering desigs will fail at some point. This is why the design stage has to be so important. A careful design saves you money in the long run. Through analysis and study of failures, modern engineering designers can learn what not to do and how to create designs with less of a chance of failure.

And that's how, according to a past post, my Orb pedals worked their way to being an Ebay item. Sold it was!



P.S : Allow me to speculate on the origins of the name, "M2Racer". The inventor, Jesse and his father Victor (a mechanical engineer by profession) both had last names that went by Menayan. The "M" probably came from Menayan and the "2", due to the fact that it was just the two of them against the others in a jungle of harsh competition in the world of the racing bicycle.

Bravo, Menayans!

9 comments:

  1. I have never seen nor heard of those pedals before. Strange, because I feel I am well versed in bike stuff.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Chris, I hear you. Did they not advertise this item enough, or did it meet its downfall way too sooner than the designers expected. I don't know.

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  3. Donald9:14 AM

    I'm like Chris... news to me. Cool approach but now I wonder after hearing your experience. Most importantly... DUBAI! That kicks ass. Did you catch the race there this season on Versus?
    Enjoy!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Don,

    What I like about M2racer is their sleek and minimalist design. However, my pedals didn't look like they would stand the test of time.

    I believe a google search should yield everything you want to know.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Matt Braynard12:08 AM

    I'm not sure if you got the original version or the second version (the Orb 2 pedals).

    I have used these pedals for two years now. They are definitely no-look for me and I can get in and out of them with ease.

    No knee problems either. I've always used them with carbon sole shoes (though maybe you have, too). I've never messed with the float on them.

    I've done many, many races on them and thousands of training rides on them.

    M2 Racer made some really great stuff. I have a bunch of spare cleats and a spare set of the pedals.

    Their saddle was pretty cool too - until it shattered on me when I was riding it on a trainer. Really loved that thing....

    ReplyDelete
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  7. I have also used the Orb 2 pedals with great success since 2006, hence doing my 4th season - in style...

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  8. Anonymous8:52 PM

    Have to disagree with some of the comments on the negative side. I have been riding these pedals for nearly 5 years and have had no bearing issues, absolutely no problem with accidental disengaging, and have no problem un-clipping when I want to. I wish I could find a new set of cleats for them. Love the pedals though. Paul in Bradenton, FL

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  9. I have been using M2 Racers second gen pedals for five years without problems, even with the bearings (zero maintenance). I've also been using their saddle and seatpost for the same time, though the seatpost did fail once in that time but was easily repaired.

    ReplyDelete

Thank you. I read every single comment.