Added a product review for Crank Brothers Mallet E Clipless Pedal 5/5/2016 3:50 PM
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Tested: Crankbrothers Mallet E Clipless Pedals

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

by Lee Trumpore

Crankbrothers pedals have been a staple of professional and amateur mountain biker ranks for well over a decade. Based on their original Egg Beater design, the Mallet DH pedals quickly won a following for their unique feel, large platform, and ease of engagement, even in the muddiest conditions. Despite their wild popularity, the original Mallet pedals were not without their issues and subsequent revisions. Though cleverly designed and pleasing to the eyes, they didn't always cut it on the trail. Similar challenges with other products led to a complete re-boot at Crankbrothers a few years ago with the goal of greatly improving performance, reliability, and durability while maintaining the classic design aesthetic they were known for. Enter the Mallet E, a slimmed down version of the popular Mallet DH pedal, aimed squarely at the unique needs of the massive all-mountain and enduro racing market. And, while at first glance, it would be easy to write off the Mallet E as simply a re-branded version of previous Crankbrothers pedals, closer inspection reveals some not-so-subtle differences.

Highlights

  • Aluminum body with chromoly spindle
  • Concave platform with chamfered edges
  • 6 adjustable pins per side
  • 52mm q-factor
  • Replaceable traction pads
  • New IGUS LL-glide and Enduro cartridge bearings

  • 15/20 degree adjustable float
  • 5-year warranty

  • Weight: 425 grams

  • MSRP: $165 USD


Initial Impressions

Out of the box, the Mallet E pedals live up to every ounce of Crankbrothers' reputation for manufacturing elegant, aesthetically pleasing machined works of bicycle eye candy. Finishing work, assembly, and ease of installation were all top-notch; no surprise here as this has always been a hallmark of the brand. But what we were most keen to find out was if this same approach to product design had in fact lent itself to improved performance and durability; two areas that had let some users down in the past. Could the new design bring riders who’ve previously written Crankbrothers off, even the most stubborn of SPD users, back?

On The Trail

We knew from past experience that the 20 degree float option was too much for some riders, so we opted for the more standard 15-degree setup on both brand new and year-old Five Ten shoes. While 20 of our tester's 22 years riding clipless have been on SPD's, it didn't take more than a few clicks to get reacquainted with the unique entry and exit feel of the Mallet E. We remember spending weeks getting comfortable with this design so many years ago and were much relieved that this time around it felt like second nature right from the start. We'll chalk this up to much improved compatibility between various shoe soles and the Mallet interface.

On the engagement side, dedicated SPD users will probably always be partial to the positive 'click' of an SPD interface, but it comes at some cost. Namely the ability to miss the 'sweet spot' with your foot and still re-clip without unweighting and trying again. Granted, we've perfected this technique as well as can be done to the point of probably 90+% accuracy, but there are still times when we’re regularly forced to ride out sections of trail on the tip of our toes, cleat stuck behind the binding interface. The trade off to the Mallet's slightly more vague engagement is the ability to subtly wiggle your foot around until the cleat slides into place. Those uninitiated to Crankbrothers pedals might take some time getting used to this, but once mastered, we feel it's a more than fair trade off to the crisp, binding-like feeling of other systems. Matched with a smooth-soled shoe such as those from Five Ten and Specialized, among others, engagement in the Mallet E is less a matter of total precision and more one of reasonable accuracy. And on the off chance you can't get clipped in, the large, concave platform provides ample grip for charging flat-pedal style without worrying about your foot slipping off the front or to the side.

On this basis alone we would have considered swapping these pedals for our usual daily drivers, but what really sealed the fate for our old pedals wasn't ease of clipping in but rather the feel between the shoe and the platform. Shoe/pedal fit has always been a bit dodgy, with different pedals matching up better with certain soles and vice-versa. Account for shoe wear over time and inconsistencies abound.

With the Mallet E it felt like we were standing on the whole pedal, not just the cleat. With our older shoes, it was a simple matter of swapping out the stock 'traction pads' for slightly thicker ones and the interface felt the same as it did with brand new shoes, regardless of the several millimeters of rubber that was worn off the soles. While we had no cause to adjust the pin height, conceivably this would allow even further fine tuning if needed. As oxymoronic as it sounds, our experience with the Mallet E pedals felt as close to riding clipped-in flats as any shoe/pedal combo we've previously tried. So, after a 10-year break-up, our SPD-loving tester has been wooed back to Crankbrothers pedals. And this time is isn't just for their good looks.

While it probably goes without saying, performance in the mud was industry standard for Crankbrothers—pretty much as good as it gets.

Things That Could Be Improved

We have two minor gripes that will likely not apply to everyone. The first being the option for adjustable spring tension or, absent that, the ability to swap to a stiffer spring. Maybe it's our tester’s SPD-pedigree, but even at just 155lbs, he’s always felt like he’s preferred a stiffer mechanism. Oddly enough, he never found himself accidentally unclipping, so the stock spring isn't exactly something he'd consider problematic. Regardless, we'd still like the option.

Q-factor (the distance from the crank to the center of the pedal) isn't something we tend to spend much time worrying about, but it does affect both efficiency as well as clearance. The Mallet E sits about 5mm inboard of the Mallet DH, which doesn't sound like much, but how many of you would want to pedal through rock gardens with an extra 5mm on your crank arms? We suspect very few. However, with the 5mm narrower stance comes reduced clearance between the inside of the shoe and the crank arm. With our tester’s shoe of choice, the clearance was maybe 2mm. While it hasn't posed a problem on the trail, we have felt the shoe get hung up while trying to clip out while pedaling around the car park. We’re not sure if the culprit is the narrower q-factor, the extra few degrees of float compared to SPD's, shoe shape, crank profile, or some combination thereof. What we do know is we've never had this happen before with other pedals, and if given the option we might very well swap the axles from the Mallet E's for those used on the wider Mallet DH (from what we've been told, a few enduro racers have done just this but it was more for a preferred wider stance than anything else).

Long Term Durability

So far so good, which is leaps and bounds better than our tester’s experience with first-generation Mallets so many years ago. After several months of use, much of it during the rainy season, the bearings show no signs of play or premature wear and a quick disassembly revealed internals that looked very much good as new. The aluminum body has taken some rock hits, as have the exposed egg beater wings on the underside of the pedal, but so far any damage has been solely cosmetic.

What's The Bottom Line?

We'll keep it simple. Bottom line: the Mallet E convinced our die-hard SPD tester to convert from a combined 20 years of SPD use and trust in Crankbrothers pedals again. After that, what else is left to say?

For more information, visit crankbrothers.com


About The Reviewer

Lee Trumpore has been riding bikes for more than 20 years on just about every material and technology the bike industry has come up with. In more than a decade of professional DH racing, Lee won a Collegiate National Championship and was a mainstay at major North American races as well as occasionally snagging a last page result in the World Cup series. Testing prototype components and suspension setups was common during his racing days. He has a smooth, light style on the bike even while holding it wide open. An East Coast native, his favorite trails are fast and flowing technical descents with as many corners as possible and just enough moisture to keep things interesting. Nowadays, rather than racing the clock, he'd rather enjoy a rad descent after a hard pedal to the top. A closet nerd with a Master's degree in education policy Lee currently lives in Taipei, Taiwan where he splits his time teaching mathematics to the next generation of computer geniuses and behind the lens as a photo mercenary for Vital MTB and other industry clients.

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Added a comment about feature Solving Problems: e*thirteen's Approach to Better MTB Components 5/5/2016 1:49 AM
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'A new freehub seal also solves durability issues for those riding in the grossest of conditions.'

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Added a comment about slideshow Qualifying Action from the Cairns World Cup Downhill 4/22/2016 8:54 PM
C138_qualia

I could listen to Martin Whiteley talk shop all day long, the man is an encyclopedia of all things World cup racing.

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Added a comment about video Case-O-Rama from Sea Otter 2016 4/16/2016 7:44 AM
C138x104

Better call Saul

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Liked a comment on the item Bottom Out at Lourdes World Cup 4/9/2016 11:06 PM

holly hell that is more than just a bottom out!
he went out digging for oil

Liked a comment on the item ​The Ultimate Guide to 'Metric' Shock Sizing and the RockShox Super Deluxe 4/9/2016 6:42 AM

This article was roughly 1,000% more informative than the one on PB... kudos Vital!

Added a comment about feature ​The Ultimate Guide to 'Metric' Shock Sizing and the RockShox Super Deluxe 4/9/2016 6:41 AM
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Kill list

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Added reply in a thread Lourdes World Cup Downhill 4/9/2016 5:49 AM

Qualis going on now, looks like Brannigan is first casualty of the day and might be sitting this one out on Sunday (#25, unprotected). 79th at the moment with several fast guys to go.

Added a comment about photo Matt Walker and his Cube TWO15 HPA 4/9/2016 5:32 AM
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Roost Off World Champ co-conspirator runner up. Pretty sure that sealed the deal with Cube

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Added a comment about feature ​The Ultimate Guide to 'Metric' Shock Sizing and the RockShox Super Deluxe 4/8/2016 9:16 AM
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It's a lot to digest for sure, let me try to summarize: 18 hardware options instead of 80; intentionally designed eye-to-eye and stoke length rather than a collection of lengths determined by happenstance; consistent internal pressures and performance across an entire range regardless of length/stroke; decreased friction throughout; increased internal space for modern shock technology; designing bikes around shocks and no longer vice-versa; a consistent platform from which to develop kinematics.

Taken alone none of these is necessarily a major problem, but addressing them all at once is a big collective step toward improving performance. Other than cramming more and more inside of them, the only real change to rear shocks in more than a decade has been a few mm increase in the diameter of mountain hardware.

Everyone loves to use new 'standards' as a punching bag (often because they seem to do the opposite of creating a standard), but rear shocks have never been truly standardized. This seems a logical approach to actual standardization while also delivering real performance improvement. Pinch me.

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Liked a comment on the item The 2016 World Cup Downhill Season Begins - Lourdes Track Walk Slideshow 4/8/2016 2:29 AM

Best shit on the internet.

Added a comment about slideshow The 2016 World Cup Downhill Season Begins - Lourdes Track Walk Slideshow 4/7/2016 10:55 PM
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Interesting comments from Peaty. Much of the impetus for the UCI point rules came from current WC teams and athletes pushing to make the WC's more exclusive to top-tier riders only. Seems those feelings change a bit when confronted with the reality of how difficult it is to gain points when you don't already have them (especially early in the season).

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Added reply in a thread Lourdes World Cup Downhill 4/6/2016 7:39 AM

Minnnaar going full enduro with those pedals and grips

Added reply in a thread The Enduro "Craze" and Safety 4/5/2016 8:01 PM

I chopped the front off an old D2. I find it much more bearable in 90 degree heat while still offering a lot more coverage than a standard all-mountain helmet. Since I can also fit a full sized DSLR camera to my eye in this helmet I think I might be

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Added a comment about feature New 'Metric' Shock Sizes Demystified - What Does It Mean? 4/1/2016 8:07 AM
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This was over on bikerumor: “Some manufacturers expect to see durability improvements. For us, it increases the available space for the IFP’s gas volume and damping piston designs,” says Manitou’s chief suspension engineer, Ed Kwaterski. “Others could have increased overlap between the shaft and air can’s bushings and rings – the further apart they are, the more laterally stiff the shock can be. While it the shock shouldn’t be carrying side loads, it could help in some cases. So, some of the sizing being discussed involves lengthening the eye-to-eye for a given stroke length. And it’ll reduce SKUs for all of the suspension brands because, for us anyway, we’re currently stocking more than 100 SKUs, which is ridiculous. This change will standardize the sizes offered and reduce the number of items required to be stocked.”

“It definitely allows for the designers to do more stuff with the shocks internally,” adds John Pelino, DVO’s general manager. “For a size like a 200×57, there’s zero room left over when that shock is at full compression, so you’re very limited as to what you can do with the damping. So switching to something like a 230×60 or 210×55 gives the engineers more room to develop the damping in the shock...

Trunion shocks will likely get more popular, which are shock canisters that put the air can’s mounting bolts on the side of the shock rather than adding length for an eyelet.”

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Added a comment about slideshow RECON - Enduro World Series, Cerro Catedral 4/1/2016 2:43 AM
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Wouldn't be surprised to see Nico take this one

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Added a comment about feature New 'Metric' Shock Sizes Demystified - What Does It Mean? 3/31/2016 9:46 PM
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Really, this is long overdue. Shock size and hardware has been heading the way of headset and bb standards lately.

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Added a comment about feature New 'Metric' Shock Sizes Demystified - What Does It Mean? 3/31/2016 9:04 PM
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When was the last time you serviced your shock's eye-to-eye length?

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Added reply in a thread Will team changes impact results at the first world cup? 3/31/2016 3:28 AM

Off topic, but Myriam Nicole is out with a broken shoulder.

Added reply in a thread Will team changes impact results at the first world cup? 3/30/2016 6:52 AM

A few teams switched some major sponsors as well: Devinci to Maxxis (and rumors of another high profile team possibly on the Minion sharpie plan) Commencal to Rockshox Mondraker on Fox