“Your pedals should adapt to your body, not the other way round”. That’s the philosophy behind the 3ax (“tri-axe”) pedals from Edco, a unique design that introduces a sideways rocking motion (“sway”) in addition to traditional lateral float (the amount in degrees your foot can move before releasing from the pedal).
The theory behind 'sway' is that it lets your feet find their own inclination throughout the pedal stroke rather than forcing them into a fixed position. Edco cites research which it says found that this reduces energy-wasting lateral knee movement by an average of 17 percent compared to a standard pedal. Another study appeared to show that riders generating a fixed 2.5W per kilo of body weight in a controlled test used on average 3.3 percent less oxygen, meaning they were burning less energy.
I can’t say with certainty whether these figures are representative of real world riding, but they are at least intriguing. We're used to the idea of fitting custom insoles or special inserts to improve foot stability, so intentionally allowing extra foot movement sounds odd. If it means not locking your knees, ankles and feet into a fixed range of motion that causes problems, it could make sense however.
The chunky 3ax pedals take a Look-pattern cleat and weigh 385g a pair, plus 70g for cleats and mounting hardware. On the road, they feel less odd than I anticipated.
Although the pedal design allows your feet more freedom of movement than a conventional pedal, it’s hard to detect the sway in normal pedalling. I tried riding with an Edco pedal on one side and a standard Look on the other, and didn’t notice a significant difference once clipped in.
I also couldn’t detect any particular qualitative benefit, and they displayed one rather irritating characteristic — low-bearing friction is clearly desirable in a pedal, but my Edcos spun so freely that it hampered clipping in.
Like many single-sided pedals, they tend to hang upside down, and flipping them upright requires a particularly delicate bit of footwork, which I frequently fluffed.
Clipping out is generally uneventful, but I had an intermittent issue with one of my pedals refusing to release, which seemed to be provoked by contamination from mud. In fairness to the 3axs, this was likely a result of me getting a little ambitious in my off-tarmac forays, usage for which they aren’t really designed.
After a few months of testing, my pedals were looking the worse for wear, with much of the black finish worn away where the cleats make contact. There was play in the sway mechanism, enough that the pedal body was starting to wear a groove in the spindle housing.
I can’t help but wonder if the 3axs are the answer to a question no one was really asking. They make sense if you’re convinced by the research behind them, or if you have a specific biomechanical issue that you think sway might address. Otherwise, it seems that the downsides might outweigh the benefits. They’re not light, they’re expensive, and I found them mildly awkward in everyday use.
- 1. Sway Time: The 3ax’s ‘sway’ mechanism introduces a total of four degrees of side-to-side rocking motion, in addition to conventional float
- 2. Body Image: The aluminium pedal body is powder-coated for durability but our pedals were showing bare metal on top fairly quickly
- 3. Cleats: The Edco cleat is a Look-alike — officially you should use 3ax cleats, but the standard Keo item works fine