Pyro Platforms

Bicycles & Pedal Cars

Pyro Platform

You are looking at Pyro Platforms. So you are probably already quite seriously into Duathlons or Triathlons. You almost certainly know exactly what this product is. But will it do what you hope?

You realise that you change shoes to maximise your performance when cycling or running BUT it takes time to change shoes. There is a potential time-saving (or loss!) to be had if you stick to one pair of shoes for the whole race but you are not sure if saving time in transition will cover a loss in performance and/or introduce any new risks and/or introduce any new potential losses of time.

Here’s my summary: NEUTRAL recommendation. For SPRINT Duathlons and SPRINT Triathlons (when the benefit should, IN THEORY, be greatest) I’m not convinced there is any real NET benefit. Pyro Platforms are more fragile than they look; the European customer service is not good; spares are hard to come by quickly; and they are not simple to set-up properly. More precisely there *is* a potential small benefit for short events BUT a LOT can go wrong giving you a bigger downside (time loss) than at first you might imagine.

The ‘acid test’: If they were stolen would I buy another pair? No.

Would I recommend them to a friend. No.

Why Platforms and not straps – The theory

A platform is as rigid as a simple pedal. But supports the entire foot. When you use straps and a ‘normal’ bike pedal your heel is free to move in all directions which will give a loss of power.

The Pyro platform has FRONT and REAR shoe retaining brackets so you can ‘pull back’ when pedaling should you so wish WITHOUT your shoes coming out. A strap based pedaling solution cannot reliably do that. So there should not be too great a power loss when pedaling with Pyro Platforms.

Platforms: Does anyone ‘good’ use them?

AG world champs use them in Standard distance races. I think I am right in saying that some of the top-tier triathletes and duathletes use them (or other platforms) in the super-sprint and elite sprint races. These are where transition savings can make the biggest percentage difference to the overall time.

Oh yes, Tim Don uses them. (Don’t forget he does draft legal racing).

OK, so you’ve ignored my advice and they’ve just arrived! What’s in the box?

You get two platforms complete with the various straps and retaining mechanisms. You are ready to go EXCEPT that you have to fasten the platforms onto your pedals.  So you can either take off the cleats from your bike shoes or buy a spare set of cleats. The platforms look a bit big and clunky but they are not much heavier than my shoes and probably only marginally less aero in reality.

Each platform has a plastic cage that covers your shoe. It is adjusted by a velcro strap which goes over the laces of your shoes.

What cleat/pedal mechanisms are ‘supported’?

By ‘supported’ it just means that it has the holes in the right place to fasten your cleats into.

I use SPD-SL and also the 2-holed MTB version of SPD – they both work. They also work with LOOK. I have the floating version of the SPD-SL cleat.

Setting Up

Here’s where the problems start.

You’ve just had your bike set-up, say with a BG-fit. All you have to do is put the pyro platforms on your pedals, right? Wrong.

The height of the platforms plus your running shoe is almost certainly different to (greater than) your bike/tri shoe. If you use more than one running shoe type then the height of each will be different. If you use ‘trainers’ there could be quite a difference.

So you can just measure the new shoe+platform height and change the seat height right? No, it will almost certainly change the geometry. You paid >£100 for that bike fit and in reality the bike fit may only have changed your position by a centimetre or so. If you were happy with that then will you be happy in, say, a 5mm difference created by the platforms? No!

If you use the same bike for training will you change the seat height every time you change pedals? Probably not.

If you haven’t had your bike fit yet and plan to do it with the pedals then I would like to bet that your fit-technician has no experience with pyro platforms. I took mine into a very well known bike shop during the fit and the fitter made a good stab at configuring the pyros for shoes and pyros but he admitted to never having encountered them before.

And what about orthotics? If you have inserts for running then you have no choice but to have the same inserts on the platform. Will your running orthotics be the same as ones made for you for cycling. To be honest, I don’t know but I would have thought not.

More Adjustments

When on the platform, the cleat is adjusted in the same way as on your shoe. So understanding that is fine.

However there are adjustable brackets (retaining clips) at the rear and front of the platform that you move to accommodate your shoe size. There are no ‘marks’ to indicate your shoe size. You have to stick your shoe in and change the length until the fit suits you.

WARNING: If you do have the brackets set up too tightly then there will soon be wear/damage between the heel retaining clip and your shoe.

Also, if the brackets are set too tightly then the flying mount and shoe entry will be trickier.

Because of the inherent flexibility of running shoes AND because you tend to buy running shoes that are a half size to a full size too large then the tight adjustment of the retaining clips (front and rear) will compress the shoe length. There is then up to one cm variation in the position of the clips within which your shoe will squash into. This will certainly affect the position of your foot relative to the cleat and that precise position may well also change during the race as your shoe compresses further.

There is a small bracket to the rear on the inside of each platform. I don’t know what that could be for other than to stop you heel moving intwards when pedaling. That’s probably good tho!

Whilst there may be one ‘right’ position for the cleat on your bike- or tri-shoe there are MORE ‘RIGHT’ positions on the pyro. As I said before, you can adjust the fore/aft position via both the cleats and the pyro’s own front and rear retaining clips. Whichever way you decide to adjust these two brackets can have the same net effect in relation to the position of the shoe relative to the pedal axle (eg brackets forwards 2mm cleat back 2mm will keep the foot/axle position the same). BUT the position you choose relative to the front of the pyro will affect the balance of the platform when at rest AND the distance from the pedal that the bottom of the platform will dangle down to.

I think currently I have the ‘correct’ position on my pyros in relation to the crank’s axle BUT the bulk of the pedal is set too far back and hence the pedal has a dramatic tendency (when no shoe is in it of course) to rapidly flip backwards and upside down…this is far from ideal as it then catches on the ground (a lot…to the point where it breaks the brackets).

The fore/aft shoe adjustment is set by moving a fore and aft bracket. Each bracket is held by a small bolt with an ‘allen’ key head. You know the small ones that the allen key can easily spin in, leaving you unable to tighten/loosen the bolt…

The velcro retaining strap by its nature is fully adjustable to fasten your shoe in tightly. You can use trainers or racing flats. This is good!

Adidas mountain cycling shoe using two-bolt SP...

These babies have seen a bit of use – old style pyros.

Setting it up right on race day

Elastic bands can be used to hold both platforms horizontally. On the right pedal side you fasten to the front deraileur mechanism and on the left pedal side you fasten to the rear axle.

I use the handy little side bracket thing for the other end of the band. I’ve never had a problem with the band accidentally coming off.

You will probably also need to check that the velcro straps are set to be fully open to give you the best chance of getting your feet in quickly. I prefer also to do this AND fasten the velcro at this point to stop any ‘dangling’ of the strap and it getting in the way.

So this is all good.

On the downside I have seen other peoples’ pyro cages that do not appear to stay open properly. Making it hard to get the foot in.

Practicing

I’ve got through a lot of elastic bands. They say you should practice flying mounts >30 times before using in a race. With Pyro’s, I’ve done >100 practice mounts+dis-mounts in my time and a few full-blown race mounts+dismounts I would say less than 2% have been ‘perfect’. It’s harder to get right.

Benefits in Tri

I used these recently in a club level triathlon. My T2 was one of the fastest of all age groups. My T1 was pretty good too.

But it was not an AG qualifier so the standard was lower than the standard you are probably hoping to use it at. I’m comparing myself here to perhaps a lot of newbie triathletes and people who are into triathlon for the fun rather than serious competitors (of which there were a few).

In a more serious race my T2 would still have been good but my T1 would not have looked so good. Overall T1+T2 would have certainly been well on the better side of average.

So it sounds reasonably good?

With reservations, I would say yes. After de-robing yourself of swim gear, you get a nice non-barefoot run to the bike mount and also from the bike dismount. The importance and length and surface-quality of which vary by event.

But what happens after the T1 exit timer-mat? Well you have to get on your bike, strap in and you have to pedal as well.  And here is where the rub lies.

Post-T1 Mount

I have only part-mastered the ‘flying mount’. I generate speed but not as much as others. I would say that  the pyros require that you should get both feet in the cradle ASAP. (With barefoot on the pre-clipped in shoes you can pedal for quite some time to get up to speed). If you do not get your fee into the cradle ASAP when using the pyros and instead try to pedal with your feet on the platform then it is a bit tricky to pedal because the front of the cradle is rigid and HIGH – which pushes your foot back behind the pedal axle, this risks your foot slipping back off the pyros and the pyros then spinning round upside down and/or then breaking.

English: Shimano SH-56 SPD (Shimano Pedaling D...

Side & Rear Brackets

So getting on the bike is a wee bit tricky. The cages are a bit hard to get your feet into (even when fixed horizontally by the band). It can take a few seconds…or more. And if you are trundling along at a couple of miles an hour balancing precariously on your seat with your right hamstring then those few seconds could see you gliding to a halt and falling off! Luckily I got my right foot in and then the left went in ‘relatively’ straightforwardly. However almost always as soon as you one-foot pedal (as you’ve slowed down, so you need to speed up) the bands break as expected AND THE LEFT HAND PYRO spins around to a non-horizontal position. It then takes a couple more seconds to get that pesky left foot in. Less than 10% of the time am I going fast enough to get both feet in with the platforms horizontal. I could improve on that for sure…to save 1-4 seconds from the spinning left pyro.

Remember I have practised these quite a lot. It should be easier than it is.

A further point with the post-T2 mount is that if you use elastic laces on your running shoes then the lace fastening clip may well interfere with the shoe-retaining cage of the pyro. Worth remembering.

Then you have to tighten the velcro straps. In a rush I find a tendency to under-tighten them and then I have to do them again. Maybe you overtighten. All these things take time to correct, over and above what a regular bike shoe cleat-clip-in would require.

Cycling with the Pyro

I find pedaling with the Pyros actually very comfortable. But I reckon I lose about 1 sec per km (other people reckon more). So that’s 20 secs in a sprint tri. And there goes all the time savings you made in T1 (maybe) and T2…or more.

There are increased risks of damaging your running shoes (albeit an unlikely risk) and there is a significant risk of messing up the bike mount which may well result in the retaining clips breaking, which would be SERIOUSLY BAD in a race.

I find the velcro straps sometimes could do with a second tightening up. Again a time waster.

I have also found a couple of times that the end of the velcro strap sticks out and annoyingly catches on the crank on each revolution. Again annoying and potentially slightly time wasting to correct.

So overall probably no great time saving and probably an increased risk of a time loss elsewhere. SO YOU HAVE TO LOOK AT RISKS OF STUFF GOING WRONG rather than imagining the UNLIKELY ideal transition scenario. And remember I’ve practiced a lot more than you at this point!

Benefits in a Duathlon

Well it’s similar to the benefits of a tri. Potentially greater. But there are also other points to bear in mind.

Firstly at the end of the first run leg you are a bit tired to say the least. There’s no fiddling about with the shoe change with the pyros. Which is good.

If your bike shoes are usually on the bike then you will use elastic laces on your run shoes which will come off with virtually no time penalty as you will do that whilst putting on your helmet. So again here you still have the barefoot run which is no great hardship.

If your bike shoes are usually off the bike then you fiddle to get them on and you hobble/run with the cleats clunking away to the bike mount. But you jump on and click in very quickly. So you might run a little bit faster in T1 (whilst tired) with your running shoes but it is not as much as you would think. The shoe putting on time loss is merely transferred from within T1 (with the usual approach) to after the bike mount with the pyros.

So the nuance here compared to tri is dealing with the tiredness of just having run a near PB-paced 10k/5k.

Of course the pre-T2 dismount is much easier if you don’t have to worry about sliding on your cleats. However the pyros are a bit big and there is an increased chance of cracking your foot on them when dismounting. I’ve never done that though to be fair.

But there is the problem of slowing down for the dismount. With cleats it is straightforward. With pyros, yes is is easy to get your foot out BUT THEY OFTEN flip around when your foot comes out if not done exactly right. You HAVE to get them horizontal at this point otherwise with a half pedal there is a chance the pyros will catch on the ground and break and throw you off. When removing the second shoes you again must do it properly and horizontally otherwise you risk coming off when you transfer your weight to one foot immediately prior to dismounting.

Also when running along after the pre-T2 disomount I have caught the pyro rear brackets on the ground and broken them. This has no great time penalty (I had to part carry my bike, so say 1 second) but replacement bits are expensive.

Course-specific issues

Flat bike legs may favour Pyros. Or not. I’ve never really used them on hilly courses.

Transitions with a rough run surface (no mats) and/or a long run part of the transition might favour the Pyros more.

Detailed Analysis Of Micro-Savings

This started out as a ‘how to set up type review” but has morphed into that plus a comparative analysis of transitions across duathlond and triathlons and how the Pyro Platforms help (or not) across all the micro-activities that we go through in and around transitions. I would appreciate comments either privately or publically if you disagree with my time loss/gain estimates.

The components of a race relevant to Pyros with [DU] and [TRI] indicating specific applicability to Duathlon and triathlon. {-2} indicating time in seconds lost compared to the quickest option. {-1/-5} showing best and worse case scenarios – the latter if things go wrong. I assume in tri you don’t wear socks and that your shoes are pre-clipped on the bike and that you pedal up to speed before putting feet in the shoes.
  1. [TRI] Bike shoes on:  barefoot {0} vs pyro+run shoes on {-6}
  2. [TRI] Run with bike: barefoot {0} vs pyro+run shoes {0}
  3. [TRI] flying mount: barefoot {0} vs pyro+run shoes {0}
  4. [TRI] pedal to speed: barefoot {0/-5} vs pyro+run shoes {0/-20}
  5. [TRI] foot in shoe/shoe in platform: tri shoes {0/-6} vs pyro+run shoes {0/-20}
  6. [TRI] pedaling: tri shoes {0} vs pyro+run shoes {-10/-20} per 20km
  7. [TRI] unclip: tri shoes {0} vs pyro {0}
  8. [TRI] feet on shoes {0} vs shoe on platform {0/-5}
  9. [TRI] dismount: tri shoes {0} vs pyro {0}
  10. [TRI] Run with tri: barefoot {0} vs pyro+run shoes {0}
  11. [TRI] Running shoes on: barefoot {-7} vs pyro+run shoes {0}

Super-Sprint: non-pyro {-7/-11} pyro {-11/-55}

Sprint: non-pyro {-7/-11} pyro {-16/-65}

Olympic/Standard: non-pyro {-7/-11} pyro {-26/-85}

  1. [DU] Leg/physical tiredness at T1
  2. [DU] Run shoes off {-3} vs pyro+run shoe {0}
  3. [DU} Bike shoes on {-10} vs pyro+run shoe {0}
  4. [DU] Run with bike: bike shoes {-5} vs pyro+run shoes {0}
  5. [DU] flying mount: bike shoes {-1} vs pyro+run shoes {0}
  6. [DU] pedal to speed: bike shoes {0} vs pyro+run shoes {0/-20}
  7. [DU] shoe on pedal/in platform: bike shoes {0/-2} vs pyro+run shoes {-2/-20}
  8. [DU] pedaling: bike shoes {0} vs pyro+run shoes {-10/-20} per 20km
  9. [DU] unclip: bike shoes {0} vs pyro {0}
  10. [DU] feet on shoes {0} vs shoe on platform {0/-5}
  11. [DU] dismount: bike shoes {0} vs pyro {0}
  12. [DU] Run with bike: barefoot {0} vs pyro+run shoes {0}
  13. [DU] Running shoes on: barefoot {-7} vs pyro+run shoes {0}

Super-Sprint: non-pyro {-26/-28} vs pyro {-7/-67}

Sprint: non-pyro {-26/-28} vs pyro {-12/-77}

Standard: non-pyro {-26/-28} vs pyro {-22/-97}

So in my opinion: Pyros will always make you slower in tri’s, even in the best case scenario. In a Sprint Duathlon you might gain 14 seconds using pyros and in standard distance Duathlons you might gain 4 seconds using pyros.  To achieve those Duathlon gains EVERYTHING has to go right (which is unlikely as there are so many micro-tasks that can go wrong). If things go wrong it can result in a breakage of equipment (Pyros) and that is catastrophic leading to a DNF.

So Pyros only have their place in Sprint Duathlons (marginal) and Super-Sprint Duathlons events (do they even exist!).

But then again if you are 10 seconds behind someone going into T1 in a Sprint Duathlon AG World Champs (as of 2012 they don’t exist!) that is a fair bit to make up. If you use Pyros and maybe, just maybe, everything goes right then when you come out of T2 (other things being equal) you’ll be 4 seconds ahead. Is that what makes a medal? Maybe.

Summary:

Don’t do it! Think about all the extra risks, including catastrophic ones with a far greater chance of happening than a puncture. Think about all the slightly different things you have to do…that can all go wrong. Think about the cost of spare bits that cannot be bought directly in the UK. Think that in fact some of the time savings that ARE made in T1/T2 are just merely transferred to a time loss on the tricky bike mount. Think about your bike set up differences, think how in training you might have to change the seat height each time. Think about how tired you actually are (especially in duathlons) and that the imagined time savings will be eroded by your tiredness in transition-related tasks. Think about the fact that your bike time EVEN IN THE BEST SCENARIO WILL NEVER BE FASTER, IT CAN’T BE. The only risky gains you can make are in transition.

Edit:

Here are some suggested set-up images using elastic bands and also positioning the Velcro to enable better shoe entry. The rear left band position is improved by attaching to the small arrowed bracket but the bands come off more easily by accident from there.

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0 thoughts on “Pyro Platforms

  1. I eliminated the rear bracket and the shoe sliding by gluing course sand paper to the top of the platform. Sped up my transition and provides a more positive shoe / Pyro connection.

  2. I still use the strap. The course sand paper prevents my running shoe from sliding around on the platform; consequently I don’t need the rear attachment that is suppose to prevent the shoe from sliding backwards. This change allows me to get in and out of the Pyro’s much easier.

  3. I got my Pyro’s in Belgium in 2003 after watching the Euro teams wearing them demolish the North American teams. While living in California I used them from 2004-2006 and was consistently in the top 5 (duathlon sprints) with most of my make up time coming in transitions. Saving 15-20 secs at the elite level, is all the difference in the world. And now that draft legal racing is coming to AG sprint racing, I reckon we’ll see more. I’m a 19 minute 5k runner, but would easily wind up on the bike with the 18 min runners.

    The sand paper trick definitely works but i haven’t tried removing the heel clip. After this suggestion I’ll definitely give that a go (and it makes the shoes a bit lighter!).

    • Still not tried the sandpaper, I should use them more! Yes 15 seconds or more is hard to make up on the run I still reckon you waste time getting into them once past T1 AND you have to put shoes on in T1 whereas a decent guy will have his bike shoes clipped in and ready to go in T1. (not saying either you or I are decent or not, no offence intended). One other benefit tho that I found to my cost last year on a particularly hard duathlon was that I was so exhausted that I started to cramp bending down to change shoes (that was a non-pyro day).

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