Saturday, December 7, 2013

Tried & Liked 2013: Getting Underfoot

I can't remember if I got these in 2013, but I'm pretty sure this was my first full season on them, plus I never got around to a promised long-term review, and hey, it's my blog so I can make up the rules as I go:

I first tried the Crank Brothers Candy in a desperate attempt to find something that felt like my old crash-wrecked Time ATACs without the expense. After about 2,000 miles, I can now say that this pedal is a (qualified) success in that role.

The best thing about the Candy is its float and ease of entry/release. The "wire loop" retention (like Time's) allows my whole foot to move laterally in addition to the wide rotational float. For someone with wonky knees, it's heaven. I didn't know just how good it was until I recently tried Shimano SPDs again and felt like I'd been taped to the pedals, Dave Stohler-style. I think these may even be floatier than my old ATACs. On paper, they probably don't float as much as Speedplay Frogs, but since Frogs lack that lateral component, I actually prefer the Crank Bros.

The release is laughably easy, enough that these probably aren't for crazy aggressive riders. I've never popped out unintentionally, but I also don't go for flailing sprints or wacky offroad stunts. If you know you like a pedal that hangs on tight, these aren't for you, especially since there's no adjustment to the spring retention. It is what it is, and you aren't going to change it.

The knock on Crank Brothers pedals has always been durability, though. And while I haven't been able to kill the pedals themselves (which continue to spin like new despite a lot of miles in not-so-wonderful conditions), the "qualified" parenthetical above has to do with cleat wear. The cleats claim to be brass, but I suspect they're carved from butter (and this is Iowa, where we know butter sculpture). My Time cleats (also brass) lasted several years before they were even close to needing replacement, while I've been through two sets of "premium" Crank Brothers cleats in one season. I've also needed a set of Crank Brothers "shoe shields" (stainless plates that go between the cleat and your shoe) to keep my shoes from getting notched by the pedals, though it looks like those will outlast several more pairs of cleats.

Still, because of that lovely float, I'll keep putting up with the cleat expense. Sure, one pair of Candys and three sets of cleats would have bought me a new set of ATACs -- but keep in mind, like any good bike geek, I'm outfitting a fleet. If I don't clip in on the tandem, Quadzilla the Stokemonster will yank the pedals right out from under me. So, despite the cleats, I'm giving the Crank Brothers Candy 1 my coveted Hail to the Cheap award for bike stuff that punches above its weight class. If they can toughen up those cleats without making them more expensive, they could have an unqualified winner.

(The usual disclaimer: I buy my pedals with my own pennies, and was not plied with cash, free product, or sandwiches for this review. If you buy some via that Amazon link, I make a tiny cut. And as Steve of Peoria will likely mention in a comment, I'm exceedingly fickle about pedals, so I've probably contradicted myself on the topic multiple times throughout the life of this blog -- and will do so many more times. Which is to say this review is worth precisely what you paid for it.)