CRANKBROTHERS MALLET TRAIL PEDAL REVIEW
SAME MALLET PERFORMANCE, SLIMMED DOWN
Words by Robert Johnston | Photos by Ian Linton
The Mallet name surely needs no introduction, with Crankbrothers enjoying success as the pedal of choice for downhill and enduro riders for many years by this point. Hoping to capitalize on the success of the existing Mallet and Mallet DH pedals, Crankbrothers is today releasing the Mallet Trail pedals. Designed to offer the same clipless system as the burlier Mallet offerings but with a trail-tailored smaller body, we were interested to put the Mallet Trail clipless pedals to the test to find out how they perform. Let’s get into it.
The Crankbrothers Mallet Trail clipless pedals share the same tried and true Eggbeater clipless mechanism as the rest of the Crankbrothers clipless offerings, giving 4-sided entry. The Eggbeater system tension cannot be adjusted, instead there are different cleat options available to tailor the degree of float and the release angle; and tunable plastic traction pads that allow the rider to tweak the interface between the sole of the shoe and the pedal. Thicker traction pads increase the interference between the sole and pedal, yielding higher friction that improves stability of the foot in rotation.
The Mallet Trail body has a smaller platform than the more aggressive models in the Mallet range, reducing weight to 344 grams per pair and increasing clearance from trail features, but subsequently reducing the levels of support for the shoe. The front portion of the pedal body is equipped with two adjustable grub-style pins to offer grip on the pedal when not clipped in. These smaller bodies spin on “premium bearings” with a double seal system to keep the elements out. As standard the Mallet Trail pedals are equipped with the Crankbrothers LS long spindle, giving a 5mm wider stance on the bike to yield improved shoe clearance on the crank. The Crankbrothers Mallet Trail pedals come with a 5-year warranty and in a choice of three colors, with a retail price of $179.99 / £179.99.
Prior to testing the Mallet Trail pedals, my time on Crankbrothers clipless pedals hadn’t been extensive. What I had learned from my time on Mallet DH pedals previously, though, was that the interface between your shoe and the pedal body is very important to obtain a secure connection. Too little contact and you’re left with a very loose, low tension feeling in the non-adjustable mechanism. Too much contact and clipping in and out can be tricky, requiring a lot of force. In the case of the Mallet Trail pedals and the Fizik XC/trail shoes I chose to run them with, no cleat spacer and the thicker traction pads proved to be the optimum setup for me. This doesn’t give any room to further increase the contact between pedal and shoe, but the cleat channel in the Fizik shoe of choice is shallower than most so I’d imagine most shoes won’t be an issue.
Once set up correctly, the mechanism felt identical to the Mallet DH pedals, with that excellent ability to clip in by stabbing your foot at the mechanism in just about any direction. The Fizik shoes have a stiff shank, which meant I didn’t suffer from any issues from the smaller platform and corresponding lesser support. As you’ll see in the pictures, when clipped in you only get support at the rear with the Crankbrothers system. I did try the Mallet Trails briefly with the more gravity-oriented Leatt 4.0 shoe which has a slightly less stiff shank, and whilst you could certainly feel the lesser support of the Trail pedal compared with a full size platform, it was manageable for the riding Crankbrothers designed these pedals for. If you’re looking to remain comfortable for particularly long and rough descents, it may be worthwhile opting to run a slightly stiffer shoe with these pedals. For the times where clipping in didn’t happen right away, the Mallet Trails proved to have an impressive ability to latch onto either of the shoes tested. The Eggbeater wings help to prevent the foot from shooting off sideways, and the pins do just enough to dig in and help to hold on for dear life. That said, the Mallet DH and E are considerably more comfortable and reassuring in these situations. For that reason alone, I’d take the weight penalty to run the Mallet E for the majority of my riding, but that’s not to say that the Trail pedal isn’t impressive.
These days, Crankbrothers have the longevity of their components nailed down pretty well, though you’d hope so for their relatively high price tag. With the double seal on the inside of the pedal body to keep the IGUS bushing free from contaminants, the Mallet Trail pedals are still spinning like day one after a solid 15-20 rides in the Scottish mud. Speaking of mud, the biggest benefit of the Crankbrothers system is undoubtedly its ability to remain relatively unphased by mud filling up your cleat channel. The clip “wings” cut their way through any mud built up and let it fall through the generous open section, so there was only a couple of times over the winter where I’ve had to stamp my foot to clear the shoes, and this was in sloppy mud mixed with granite rock. Comparatively, a ride in the same location with a SPD-style pedal had me needing to stamp my feet after just about every time I walked.
The Wolf’s Last Word
They are not the pedals I’d choose to run for everything, but as a clipless pedal for lighter duties the Crankbrothers Mallet Trails are excellent. Just be sure to take a bit of time to play with the setup of the cleat and traction pads to ensure you get the clip security you desire.