CrankBrothers mallet E 2016 Mountain Bike Review

CrankBrothers mallet E 2016

Reviews / Pedals

CrankBrothers 95,756

At A Glance

The rise of enduro continues unabated, and with enduro specific parts coming out left, right and centre, Crank Brothers obviously decided it was time for the Mallet 'E'. Taking the best bits from the classic Mallet DH, and then slimming it down a bit and refining the metal work to give a sleeker looking package. They obviously retain the classic egg beater style engagement system and the reversible cleats give a 15 or 20 degree release angle. As with other pedals in the range, spring tension can't be adjusted, but with the 'E' model, we get adjustable pins and traction pads to tailor the amount of grip from the cage. In addition, the 'Q Factor' has been reduced, moving the pedal closer to the crank arm for better pedalling efficiency. The enduro market now demands the best products from the downhill world in a trail friendly weight, and as such these pedals come in at 419g for a pair. Using a combination of Igus LL-glide and enduro cartridge bearings along with revised seals suggests longevity should be good, and it seems this has become a priority for Crank Brothers. Claimed as the "ultimate pedal for enduro riding and racing", they promise a lot, but do they offer anything over above the current range of Mallets?

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On The Trail

I am, by and large, a flat pedal rider, and those times I do get clipped in, I go for a caged pedal such as these, but traditionally I've been an SPD rider. The arrival of these pedals gave me the opportunity to get fully committed and see if the Mallets and the egg beater system would convince me to ditch the flats once and for all and provide me with the best of both flats and clips. Paired up with a set of Mavic Crossride Elite shoes, I had a very 'on-trend' enduro set up, and with a sole with some flex, it was a great combination. The Crank Bros cleat set up is easy, once you remember that they can be fitted in either a 15 or 20 degree release angle, which depends on the orientation of the cleat, with just a quick 180 degree spin swapping between the two. I did find that 20 degree release was too much, and after a couple of embarrassing topples I had to go back to the 15 degree option. At 20 degrees, with my pedals level, my foot would jam against either the crank or the chainstay and refuse to release. I imagine those with smaller feet may not have as much of a problem.

The pedals feature adjustable pins and traction pads, but to start with I rode them out as standard, the traction pads can be swapped for thicker ones, which give more friction between shoe and pedal, but I found the standard thickness to be good, and it will depend on which shoes are using as to how you tune them in. The connection between feet and pedals is quite different to other offerings on the market, with a more relaxed, and less 'locked in' feeling. The engagement is positive and easy to find with the four-way system but, once in, there is definitely a Crank Bros feel from the pedal. This float will feel very different if you are used to an SPD system, perhaps slightly vague, but with the support and traction from the pedal body it quickly becomes comfortable. With no tension adjustment, its up to you to dial in the amount of force required to allow your feet to escape - again, this was much easier to get used to than I thought. Shoe choice is important, as I felt these are really designed for a softer, flat-soled shoe which can engage with the pedal body and give support. With a stiff soled shoe, the benefits of this support and grip are lost, perhaps negating the need for the large pedal surface.

With a narrower body and a reduced Q-factor, pedal strikes were noticeably less common than with a wide set of flat pedals on the same bike. However, it is possible (I managed it once) to strike the pedal directly from below and release a foot, providing you hit a large rock very hard in the middle of the pedal. That said, the redesigned pedal body has been smashed into a fair few rocks over the course of the test and has held up well, the chamfered edges look good and have been designed to help with the issue of rock strikes.

Throughout the muddy winter, the Mallets have done what they do best and shed mud and filth easily, providing reliable engagement regardless of trail conditions. To give maximum abuse to the pedals, I have swapped them between mountain bikes and even used them on my cyclocross bike. With a very wet winter they have seen many filthy miles without a hint of bother. Opening them up, although not squeaky clean inside, there was no sign of wear on the axle, and the bearings looked healthy. There is small amount of play in the axle, but this is only felt through examining off the bike, and has had no effect on their performance so far.

Overall

With more float than other pedal systems on the market, the Mallet E gives a very distinctive feel. I found this freedom of movement, along with the grip from the pedal body to provide a great combination of clipped in security and flat pedal feel. This balance was best experienced with a flat soled shoe with some flex. Those used to a more locked-in feel from their pedals may find the float slightly vague from what they are used to, but I found this relatively easy to adjust to. The internals have held up well despite a very wet winter, and the mud clearing capabilities of the egg beater design is hard to beat. This is an example of a fantastic product emerging from the demands of the enduro racer, providing us with a great pedal for nearly every type of riding.

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By Ewen Turner
Ewen Turner is a self-confessed bike geek from Kendal in the Lake District of England. He runs a coaching and guiding business up there and has a plethora of knowledge about bikes with an analytical approach to testing. His passion for bicycles is infectious, and he’s a ripper on the trails who prefers to fit his working life around his time on the bike.

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