Kona Wah Wah II Pedal Review: Plastic Fantastic
Are you thinking of giving flat pedal bikepacking and mountain biking a go? At $50, Kona’s composite Wah Wah IIs may be the excuse you’re after. We took a set to Baja California to see if they’re as tough as they are affordable…
Ever since our flat pedal roundup – in which we extol the virtues of flat pedal bikepacking – I’ve been riding almost exclusively with the Hope F20 I reviewed. They’re superb pedals, but ones that also come with a $160 price tag, a steep price point if you’re looking to wean yourself off of clipless pedals and wanting to give flats a go.
Kona’s Wah Wah IIs, on the other hand, ring in at a far more digestible $50. Being made from a plastic composite material, they’re also a little lighter. But, before you raise your eyebrows at the idea of a durable plastic pedal, rest assured that I’ve bashed them repeatedly (but unintentionally) on my local rock-strewn trails, as well as using them on a couple of tours through New Mexico, and during day-to-day mountain biking over the last couple of months. I also took them on the Arrowhead 135; it’s worth pointing out that composite pedals have the advantage of not transferring biting coldness to your shoes in the same ways as aluminium ones. Most recently, I’ve clocked up a few hundred miles of especially hard use in the dusty conditions of Baja, Mexico.
First off, let’s talk about their size. They’re big! As you can see from the comparison images above, the Wah Wah IIs make my trusty Hopes look petite, especially in terms of their width. That said, I wear size 43 (US 10) shoes and quickly got used to the dinner plate size. In fact, I grew to appreciate having the extra real estate in terms of foot placement, especially when cornering. I was expecting an increase in rock strikes, but the only time it bothered me was when I was testing the new Pugsley, where they’re more prone to catching without thoughtful pedal positioning.
In terms of riding, they proved incredibly grippy with pretty much every piece of footwear I ride in, from Bedrock Sandals to 5.10 Freeriders, despite the relatively wide spacing of the thin, long pins. There are 14 of them (7 per side) and they’re replaceable, which is just as well, as upon closer inspection I noticed that I’ve chipped one off. The pins are threaded from behind, so they’re easy to get to.
As for the platform itself, I found the shape – which is slightly concave – comfortable for long days in the saddle. Unlike a lot of cheap pedals, the platform is thin, too, so you won’t have to crank up your saddle height.
Small note: when I tried them on a friend’s bike with GX Eagle cranks, they required pedal spacers. I didn’t have any issues with my usual Shimano XT and Surly OD cranks (yes, I know I should have spacers anyway…) In terms of wear and tear, there’s now the tiniest bit of play on the right pedal but I’m not unduly worried about it. The combination of sealed and needle bearings are easy to access, so it’s worth opening them up once in a while to check they’re clean and add some grease.
It’s always good to get second opinions, especially from someone who’s also put in some mileage. Andy Forron of New River Bikes in Fayetteville, West Virginia, had this to say, “I rode about 600 miles of various terrain with them. Everything from road to singletrack. I’ve been riding around town and local trails with them since returning from that tour. I wore a pair of old school Vans I bought on the way out of town. Zero slipping issues. I’ve been riding some form of clipless pedal for about 25 years or so. I think I got the first set around my 12th birthday, so switching to flats was a big deal. Within a few miles I forgot I wasn’t clipped in. I probably won’t ever use clipless pedals for a tour again, only for bikepacking races. As for the Kona pedals themselves, I’m impressed. I’ve played with a few other pairs and never liked them. After a ride around town I was pretty happy with the Kona pedals and pulled the trigger on taking them for that tour.”
The spindle and bearings are fully serviceable (rebuild kits are available for $17) and the pedals come in six colors. As far as internals, the Kona Wah Wah II contains two cartridge bearings and one needle bearing.
Kona Wah Wah II Alloy Pedal
As of just a couple week ago, Kona also released the Wah Wah II with a forged CNC alloy cage. The alloy version features the same sealed bearings and DU bushings and comes in five colors: black, blue, red, orange, and dark green. With one more pin per side (16 per pedal), they might be a hair more sticky than the composite Wah Wahs. But, the metal cages and extra pins also come at a cost. The Alloy Wah Wah II has the same dimensions, 120 long x 118 wide x 13 thick, and sells for $120.
- Super grippy
- Width is great for foot placement but can create rock strikes on a fat bikes with wide BBs
- Footprint: 120x118mm wide
- Thickness: 13mm
- Weight per set: 12.5oz/354g
- Rebuild Kit Available: Yes
- Price: $50
- Contact: Kona
I like and trust Kona’s Wah Wah IIs enough to have fitted them to my bike for a series of upcoming overseas trips. They’re light, durable, grippy, and very affordable. Composite they may be, but these aren’t the plastic pedals of yesterday. Rather, they perform as well as any expensive aluminium pedal I’ve tried.
Bear in the mind the pedal platform is huge, so it may dwarf smaller feet and their general width may increase the chance of pedal strike on a fat bike – at least when riding through rocky gullies. In terms of overall durability, I’m not sure the bearings are quite as hard wearing and well protected as the Hope F20s I’ve been using. But, even so, I’d consider them an almost perfect reason to give flat pedal mountain biking, bikepacking, and dirt road touring a go.
Review update 26/7/18
Unfortunately, after a few months of hard use on a bike tour in South America, I managed to crack one of the pedals. It’s possible this was done during transportation, or just from pedals strikes during a series of hike-a-bikes. Although the damage didn’t seem to be structural – it was around the spindle body – the pedal later work itself off and refused to stay on again, so I had to ditch them for some cheap Welgo pedals I sourced in a local town. I’ll update my appraisal to say that as good as these pedals are for the price – and as an introduction to flat pedal riding – I’d choose ones with an aluminum body for longer trips.