Crankbrothers Mallet E LS – As featured in our 2022 gravel pedal group test. Gravel bike pedals

Crankbrothers Mallet E LS – As featured in our 2022 gravel pedal group test

Many mountain bikers swear by the Crankbrothers Mallet E LS pedals because of their wide stance and the free floating feeling. But can they also make sense on a gravel bike? We’ve put them to the test to find out for whom it might make sense to equip their gravel bike with MTB pedals.

The Crankbrothers Mallet E LS are mountain bike pedals with large cages. They won the pedal group test of our sister magazine ENDURO, which is why we had to test them for gravel bikes too. Besides that, many pro enduro riders rely on these pedals, and the LS (Long Spindle) version tested here – featuring longer axles and thus a wider Q-factor – is a popular choice amongst them.

Trail performance for gravel bikes: the Crankbrothers Mallet E LS

The clipless mechanism of the € 179.99 Mallet E LS is the same as that of the Crankbrothers Candy 7, so the feeling you have when riding with these pedals is very similar. For more information about the customisable float, release angle and pedal footprint, simply check out our review of the Candy 7.

Due to the large cages of the Mallet E LS pedals, they provide a very secure footing while the adjustable height of the six pins and traction pads on each side allows you to adjust the grip to suit your preference. Unfortunately, however, the pins get screwed in from the top, which means that they’re very difficult to adjust or replace if there’s dirt in them or if they’ve gotten damaged from striking the ground. At 428 g, the pedals are quite heavy, too, though they’re still significantly lighter than the 474 g Acros pedals, which are the heaviest on test. Due to the long axles, resulting in a 57 mm Q-factor, your stance on the pedals is relatively wide, which instils you with confidence on the descents, though it might feel unusual at first and comes at the cost of efficiency. That said, they’re also available with shorter spindles, giving them the same 52 mm Q-factor as the Candy model.

The large platforms of the Mallet E LS pedals make them relatively comfortable to use with casual shoes, though the large spindle in the centre gets in the way, unlike on the Acros. They’re a great choice for adventurers who tend to ride in rough terrain and occasionally have to walk. When combined with clipless shoes with soft soles, you’ll be prepared to face any challenge. The excellent self-cleaning of the pedals is a good trait to have in this case, too, allowing you to click in even when your shoes are covered in mud.

Brand Model Weight Price System Float Release angle Q-factor Stack height
Crankbrothers Mallet E LS 428 g € 179.99 Crankbrothers 0°/6° 10°/15° 57 mm 15.5 mm

Our conclusion on the Crankbrothers Mallet E LS

Thanks to their big cages, the Crankbrothers Mallet E LS pedals are very practical in day to day use, though they also make faithful companions on hike-a-bike adventures due to their excellent self-cleaning characteristics. Thanks to the adjustable height of the pins and traction pads, you can also adjust the grip to suit your preferences. Due to the long axles, however, the pedals are better suited to trail use, offering more stability than pedalling efficiency.

Flops

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Do Gravel Bikes Come With Pedals?

Gravel bike riding involves exploring spaces like unpaved roads, untouched trails, forest roads, and some parts of mountains. Just like mountain bike riding, it requires getting off the bike every now and then and walking your bike on the path. Because gravel roads are often muddy and difficult to walk on, they require sturdy shoes and good pedals for your bicycle.

Gravel bikes are fully manufactured with pedals. However, these pedals can be changed according to the bicyclist’s preference. Choosing the right pedals for your gravel bike is important to get the best experience of riding.

The best way to choose pedals for gravel bikes is to make sure they are in accordance to mountain bike shoes. Riders who explore mountainous and rugged areas on bikes require strong shoes because they have to walk around alongside riding. These shoes need to be comfortable and easy to slip onto pedals when you get back on your bike.

The Three Pedal Options for Gravel Bikes

Pedals for gravel bikes are largely categorized into three options, which are then later catered in excruciating detail by pedal manufacturers, quite easily and widely available on Amazon.

Platform/ Flat Pedals for Gravel Bike Riding

Mountain Bike Flat Pedal

Flat pedals are made up of aluminum and have pins that give grip to the peddler. It is important that if you are choosing flat pedals for gravel bike riding, they are durable and grip your shoes firmly when riding. These flat pedals, when riding on a steep slope, help stop feet from slipping through the pedals. Thinner flat platforms give better control on the ground, as the foot gets closer to the axle.

Clipless Pedals for Gravel Bike Riding

A clipless pedal requires cycling shoes with cleats. For bicycling on gravel or off road, it is recommended to use cycling shoes equipped with two-hole cleats since this type of cleat will be recessed in the sole of the shoe enabling the rider to comfortably walk when off the bike.

Clipless Pedal for SPD Cleat

When purchasing clipless pedals, be sure the pedals, cycling shoes, and cleats are compatible with each other. Clipless pedals attach the shoe cleat to the pedal. This allows more transfer of power through the entire pedal stroke. This type of pedal is not suitable for beginner cyclists.

Dual Platform Pedals for Gravel Bike Riding

Dual platform pedals are made up of stainless steel or aluminum or titanium. They offer the rider the choice of wearing cycling shoes with cleats or not. This type of pedal is a good option for cyclists who would like to use their bike without being clipped in all the time.

Dual Platform Pedals can be used with or without cleats

Pros and Cons of the Three Pedal Options for Gravel Bikes

Every bike rider has their own set of criteria to fulfill when they choose a pedal type. The three categories of pedals have their own uniqueness and properties that distinguish them from each other. Their pros and cons will help decide which pedal to buy easier.

Flat/Platform Pedals:

Flat pedals are easiest to clean because of their shape, and any mud or dirt can come out easily. They are easier to put feet onto and hardly require adjustments. The aluminum protects the pedal from bad weather conditions and from wearing out too quickly. Flat pedals have more variety in designs because they are the typical, most common type in the bicycling world.

Flat pedals can chip more easily if they are not very good quality. On extremely rugged terrains, flat pedals give less foot control.

Clipless Pedals:

Clipless pedals secures the cyclist’s feet on the pedal and there is no wasted energy/power through the entire pedal stroke. There are many styles of clipless pedals to choose from. Most styles are easy to clean and are resistant to chipping because of their material. They are also usually versatile enough to fit onto to any type of bike.

They are slightly difficult to adjust to, so if you are a beginner, it is better to choose either the flat or dual type for your initial gravel bike riding experience. These pedals also need a little care while clipping in. Clipping in and out should not be done rashly.

Dual Platform Pedals:

Dual platform pedals enable the rider to wear shoes with cleats or without. This type of pedal have a clipless setup of one side and a platform on the other side. They are friendlier to use and easily adjustable. They have a good platform to place feet on, therefore more comfortable to ride the bike with.

These pedals are slightly towards the heavier side and can make the rider weary if they are riding on a very rugged gravel terrain.

Overall Checklist for Best Gravel Bike Pedals

Even when you`re done choosing which pedal type you want to get for your bike, there are certain things that you should take into consideration before finalizing your purchase. Some characteristics of these pedals should be present regardless of how amazing the product looks for your gravel bike riding experience.

The Functionality of the Pedal

The best pedal will be one in which you yourself feel the most comfortable and which can endure rough and tough conditions of the road. When choosing your pedals, you don’t have to get into too many characteristics because that will only confuse you even more. What you are looking for is a platform that keeps your feet size in consideration and spins smoothly on harsh landscapes.

The Weight of the Pedal

It is important that the pedals you purchase are lightweight. This will be a lifesaver in the long run because the pedals add to the weight of the bike. It takes more energy if you are bicycling on a rugged path or steep slope, and therefore it is efficient to keep the bike weight minimal.

With a heavyweight bike, the pedaling will become strenuous, and the extra weight carried will ruin the bicyclist`s experience. Titanium is a lightweight material and used in pedals. It can be a good option for pedals. Also, a lightweight pedal will be easier to clean and generally handle as well.

The Durability of the Pedal

Gravel bike riding is a rugged job and bicyclists are likely to get into tight spots, or generally scrape through paths with their bikes. The handlebars and pedals are usually the first to be effected in cases of accidents or fall downs because they are the protruding parts of the bike. Therefore, it is important to make sure that the pedals you buy for your bike or the existing pedals on your gravel bike are durable and solid enough to not waste away because of minor mishaps.

Considering the nature of this sport, safety gear is essential as well alongside the durability option of your pedals and bike overall.

The Price of the Pedal

It is good to invest well in the right type of pedal for gravel bikes. This is because very cheap pedals are usually fragile and breakable. Good quality pedals will call for a higher price as well; therefore, it is better to save up and get pedals that are moderately pricey but not too expensive either.

The Ability to Clean the Pedal

Even though it doesn’t sound like an important feature, mud dispersal becomes one of the most important requirements of a bicyclist who regularly journeys in mountainous and gravel path regions.

The muddy and dirt-filled roads get into the shoes and pedals and can make the bicyclist uncomfortable. Therefore it is good to look for pedals that are convenient to clean during bicycling and after it.

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In The Know Cycling

My fellow gravel tester Conor rides some of the toughest gravel terrain in Vermont’s Green Mountains, already one of the most challenging ranges for gravel and mountain biking in the United States. Seemingly always climbing or descending and with lots of Class 3 and 4 ruts, roots, and rocks on every ride, his technique, fitness, and gear are constantly being tested.

When I gave him the LOOK X-Track Race Carbon pedals to check out, he didn’t make it a priority. I kind of understood; you can switch between tires and wheels and even shoes pretty easily but changing out your pedal platform could affect everything else you’re riding and how confident you feel blazing across those tough, technique-demanding Vermont gravel trails.

crankbrothers, mallet, featured, 2022, gravel

After a bit of coaxing, he did start riding the LOOK X-Track pedals. And, based on his report below, it looks like he’s glad he did.

I’ve pretty much always ridden Shimano mountain bike pedals and thought of them as the gold standard for MTB and gravel riding. Heck, even LOOK’s MTB pedals are SPD cleat compatible so they must think pretty highly of Shimanos too. When given the opportunity to test the LOOK X-Track Race Carbon pedals, I wasn’t expecting to be that excited. They were slightly heavier than my Shimano XTR pedals and, well, I was pretty happy with my Shimanos.

But after riding a lot of gravel on these LOOK X-Track pedals for some time now, I’ve concluded that my XTRs perhaps weren’t so great after all. The bearings on my previous pair of XTR died after only a year of admittedly pretty hard use. And they squeaked when I pedaled while standing, even using Shimano gravel shoes that In The Know Cycling has rated so highly.

My current XTR’s bearings have held up fine so far but they have the same squeaking problem, also with Shimano shoes.

Compared with my current XTRs, I like these LOOK X-Track Race Carbon pedals a lot, maybe even more than my XTRs.

crankbrothers, mallet, featured, 2022, gravel

Here’s my take on how the LOOKs do against what I find matters most when evaluating gravel and MTB pedal performance

Durability: I’ve ridden the X-Track pedals hard for a couple of months now and they’ve held up great. I think with pedals one of the first things you look at is durability, especially given my experience with the previous generation Shimano XTR. While the jury is still out on these LOOKs, so far so good.

Pedaling platform: What really makes these pedals shine, especially for gravel where you often put in long miles, is the size and feel of their pedal platform. The larger and more supportive the platform, the better your gravel ride will be. LOOK claims to have optimized the size of the pedaling platform and that certainly bears out in my experience compared with the smaller platform of the XTR.

Release: I initially cranked up the release tension of the LOOK X-Track pedals to the max like I usually do with my Shimano XTR pedals. After riding them a bit, I backed them down a couple of notches. They definitely hold you in well. The release works basically the same as Shimano SPDs, maybe just a bit stiffer.

Cleats: As I mentioned earlier, the LOOKs use Shimano SPD-compatible cleats – easy peasy! I just stayed with my existing SPD cleats that were already mounted to my Shimano shoes and they worked great. I have no doubt the Look brand cleats would work just as well.

Mud clearance: I’ve ridden these LOOKs in mud, crud, and dirt and haven’t noticed any issues with entry. While I haven’t given them the full test of a disgustingly muddy Cyclocross race yet, based on appearances and performance so far, they seem to be par with Shimano XTRs for mud clearance…which is a good thing.

crankbrothers, mallet, featured, 2022, gravel

At 350 grams for the pair, the LOOK X-Track Race Carbon is marginally heavier than the Shimano 310-gram XTR PD-M9100 pedals. That said, LOOK’s rock-solid shoe/pedal engagement and platform (and lower price) easily make up for any increased weight.

Priced at US130, £110, €102, you can order the LOOK X-Track Race Carbon pedals at stores I recommend using these links to Performance Bike, Tredz (10% discount with code ITKTDZ10), and Merlin. The Shimano XTR PD-M9100 sells for US180, £140, €120 at the same stores.

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Time ATAC XC 2 pedal review. clean, easy, and pain-free pedalling on gravel trails and the way to work

The Time ATAC XC 2s are easy to clip in and out of, clear themselves of debris as they engage and have plenty of float for comfort and to allow movement on the bike. Oh, and they’re a great price too.

  • Inbuilt float allows movement on the bike and is friendly to knees
  • Mud clearing mechanism
  • Durability of pedal
  • Easy to service

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Time first started making off-road pedals in 1998 when it patented its mud-clearing clipless design. I wasn’t first to the party but by my rough calculation I’ve been riding them since 2000, which possibly makes this one of the most long-term reviews in Cycling Weekly history (OK, granted, I’ve not been riding this particular review set that long).

The Time XC pedals are recommended for gravel riding alongside mountain biking, and also lend themselves for day to day riding. Here we look at the XC 2, the most affordable of Time’s off-road pedals, to see how it performs in comparison to the best gravel bike pedals, as well as the best commuter bike pedals.

Time ATAC XC 2: construction

Since the start, Time’s off-road pedals have used the ATAC – Auto Tension Adjustment Concept – system for engagement. In plain English, this means that the front of the mechanism on the pedal moves forward to allow the cleat to engage; on most other designs it’s the rear that moves. As this matches the motion of your foot, Time says it makes it easier to clip in. But perhaps most importantly, the forward motion of the mechanism allows any dirt in the pedal to move out of the pedal rather foul the system.

Perhaps the ATAC’s most famous attribute is the float that Time has been making them the ‘knee friendly’ pedal. Float is the amount of movement that there is whilst the mechanism is engaged, i.e. how much you can move your foot before you unclip. A mechanism without enough float can put stresses throughout your lower body which typically manifests in knee pain. The other advantage of float is that it allows you to move your weight around to match the trail without accidently unclipping from the pedal, an important factor when riding off road. The Time XC 2 pedals have 5mm lateral (side to side) float with rotational float of 10, 13 or 17 degrees which you vary via the cleats. The Time XC 2 pedals come with cleats for 10 degrees which makes unclipping easier when you’re getting started with clipless pedals. The 13/17 degree cleats can be purchased separately (20 / £19).

On our scales the XC 2s weighed 297g for the pair, and another 42g for cleats and bolts, making the system 339g.

Fitting

The XC 2s use an 8mm hex key for fitting and 4mm bolts for the cleats. Like all pedals and cleats it is well worth using a liberal dose of copper slip or a similar grease when installing so you stand a chance of getting them off again in several months / years to come. The float in the system gives a generous margin of error so it’s much easier to get the cleats set up in the right position than with many other pedals. There’s no tension adjustment on this model so set up is as quick as it gets.

The ride

It seems counterintuitive to say but the XC 2s are both really easy to clip in and out of, yet feel really secure when you’re clipped in. What’s more, pretty much all of this happens without you thinking about it. For instance, in all the times I’ve crashed / nearly crashed my bike off road I can only remember a couple of occasions when my foot didn’t come out the pedal when it needed to and this is running the cleats at the ‘hardest’ 17o unclipping position. All the other times my foot would come straight out to save my blushes.

As the mechanism works as you push forward it’s really easy to clip into, there’s very little. if any. technique to master. If you do miss clipping in on occasion, the force of your foot through the pedal is more than enough to engage the mechanism as you start to pedal.

For riding on gravel or the commute, the 10 degree float / easier clip-out angle is a good option, particularly if you’re less experienced riding clipped in and have lots of stopping and starting on your rides. If you like throwing your weight around on the bike and ride more technical gravel trails you might want to try the cleats which allow more movement. The Time pedals I normally ride have the tension adjuster but I haven’t missed this on the XC 2s.

In terms of mud clearance, I’ve never had an issue of not being able to clip into the pedal due to debris, and that includes after some big treks across muddy fields in the depths of winter. The only time I’ve found I haven’t been able to clip in is when I’ve done lots of walking in snowy conditions and the cleat has iced up.

If you’re using these on a day to day basis, the pedal is big enough that you can get away with riding your bike in trainers for a quick trip to the pub / shop without your feet slipping everywhere and getting cramp.

The biggest downside of riding Time ATAC pedals is that not many people do. This makes it a bit more awkward to swap bikes with your mates. Of course, depending on who your mates are, this may be a blessing.

The other thing I’ve noticed over the years is that I need to replace my cleats more frequently than my other half who uses Shimano SPD pedals, with the wear of the softer brass in the ATACs seeming to be a bit faster than the steel SPDs. However, it’s certainly not more frequent than the annual replacement that Shimano recommend for its cleats and as the ATAC cleats are brass they not prone to rusting as the SPDs are.

On the subject of longevity, I’ve only been riding these XC 2s for a couple of months so can’t really vouch for the robustness of that particular set. However, I have several sets of these pedals – including the first ones I ever had 20 years ago which were second hand when I bought them – and are still going strong. And when after a few years you do need to replace the bearings, they’re really easy to service with a socket and spanner.

Value and conclusion

At 58 / £36 the Time ATAC XC 2s are a really-well priced pedal, similar to the Shimano M520 (60/ £45) and a good bit cheaper than the Cranankbrothers Candy 1 (80 / £57).

Overall, the Time ATAC XC 2s are a great option for gravel riding and commuting. They’re easy to master, easy to get in and out of when you need to and don’t get choked with muck and mud as other pedals can. Plus your mates are unlikely to get very far if they try and nick your bike.

Specs

  • Stack height: 19mm
  • Lateral float: 5mm
  • Rotational float / release angle: 10° with ATAC Easy cleats (included), 13 or 17° with ATAC cleats
  • Tension adjust: no
  • Weight: 297g (pedals), 44g (cleats and bolts)
  • Material: glass-filled

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