First Look: Crankbrothers Mallet Trail Pedals with Mallet BOA Shoes


First Look: Crankbrothers Mallet Trail Pedals with Mallet BOA Shoes

Launched today, the Mallet Trail pedals from Crankbrothers are the brand’s most recent entry into the clipless trail pedal category. Situated between the XC/gravel-oriented Candy pedals and their enduro offering, the Mallet E, the Mallet Trail features a lightweight yet substantial platform and boasts features that make it super versatile for a range of disciplines. Josh has been using a pair, along with the Mallet BOA shoe, for a couple of months and provides an overview along with some initial thoughts below…

I’ve been using SPD pedal systems for as long as I’ve been riding (which is longer than I want to think about because it makes me feel old). About ten years ago I switched from the classic Shimano clipless XC pedals (M8100) to their wider platform models (M8120/M9120) for riding both MTBs and gravel bikes because the increased pedal-to-shoe connection offers better comfort, support, and performance. And, about six years ago, I started using Saint pedals (M821) on my full suspension and touring MTBs because, while on the heavier side, I found that the even wider platforms provide enhanced power transfer and engagement with the bike. The durability and reliability aspects of Shimano pedals are well documented, so I’ll save you those details here, but the pedals have been so good to me that I never really thought about trying out different systems. Well, that was until Crankbrothers sent me their new platform clipless pedals, The Mallet Trail, to put some miles on in the months leading up to their launch.

Similar to the Candy and Mallet E pedals, the Mallet Trail features an aluminum platform designed around the steel Eggbeater chassis, which is known for its customizable float, four-sided entry, and mud-shedding abilities in sloppy conditions. The platform is nearly square-shaped, measuring 62mm x 67mm, and features two adjustable grip pins on each side along with customizable traction pads. A pair of Mallet Trails weighs 344g, which is quite a bit lighter than its beefier platform sibling, the Mallet E (419g). The Mallet Trail is also lighter than the trail versions of Shimano’s XT and XTR pedals.

Crankbrothers pedals use a proprietary cleat and a fixed tensioned pedal spring with elevated traction pads and pins, combined with cleat shims, to dictate overall system connectivity. Polyurethane traction pads have a diamond interface and are available in either 1mm or 2mm thicknesses while cleats are available in both 10º and 15º release angles, with 6º float, to dial in pedal-to-shoe engagement.

In practice, this equates to a little more setup time than SPD alternatives, but once the system is dialed in according to personal preferences, you shouldn’t have to worry about it again. Similar to other Crankbrothers users I’ve spoken to over the years, I’ve found that clipping into these pedals feels markedly different from SPDs. There isn’t an audible or felt click, rather locking in is more subtle and I sometimes don’t know if I’m clipped in until I start pedaling. That said, I haven’t yet missed a clip; the cleats always seem to find their way into the pedal clips. Even on precarious or steep slopes where I’d normally fumble around, the Mallet Trail is proving to be predictable. Chalk it up to the traction pads, four-way entry, and/or pins, the sum of the design parts brings more confidence/less fumbling to riding techy stuff and isn’t something I’ve gotten out of other pedals in the past.

For a more thorough comparison of SPD vs Eggbeater systems, check out this piece from my colleague Bruce Lin over at TPC.

Along with the Mallet Trail, Crankbrothers sent me their Mallet BOA shoes to test out with cleats pre-installed in what they state is a “neutral position” with an included black 1.0mm cleat shim installed. Early on in the review process, the brand emailed testers and recommended they remove any shims for the best possible pedal-to-shoe contact. I haven’t found this to be necessary, as I’ve been enjoying the feel right out of the box.

I have to say that I appreciate having the Mallet BOA shoes to test in conjunction with the pedals because the biggest hurdle for most folks, including myself, in switching over to the Crankbrothers pedal system is the lack of compatibility with other brands. Believe it or not, I have a fairly sizable collection of bikes and rotate through them all pretty regularly, five of which use clipless pedals. Had I not had another pair of shoes to use with the Mallet Trails, I would have had to change the cleats on my primary riding shoes leaving my other SPD pedals unusable.

Travis tested the flat version of the similar Stamp BOA shoes in his comparison piece last month and wasn’t a huge fan. I’ve had a different experience and have actually enjoyed the fit and feel of the Mallet BOAs; they’ve surpassed the Specialized 2FO and Five Ten Trailcross to become my favorite everyday clipless shoe. The shape fits my average-width foot well and the thick soft inner lining both supports and insulates when I smash my foot against rocks. While, like Travis, I would appreciate a more advanced upper closure system than the simple velcro strap, it’s by no means a dealbreaker for me as the BOA closure does most of the heavy lifting. In terms of the side-positioned BOA dial location, which many commenters took issue with in Travis’ review, I can report that the location hasn’t been an issue even on our Phoenix-area trails covered in large sharp rocks that I regularly smash my shoes into.

These pedals and shoes shine when used in tandem as a system. While they can be used separately with shoes and pedals from other brands, Crankbrothers intends for them to work best together through their MATCH system, which utilizes a ramped cleat box surrounded by a radial rubber lug pattern that helps guide the cleat onto the pedal body. Sure, the pedals and shoes are made to function independently, but if you’re in the market for new pedals and shoes, I recommend giving trying this combo.

While I’m only about three months in with these pedals and shoes, I’m tempted to use them on more of my bikes. Performance-wise, I enjoy the entry/exit feel, and pedal-to-shoe engagement is solid. The Mallet Trail is light enough for most types of mountain biking and it certainly excels as a lightweight alternative to heavier platform options. So, if you’re already a Crankbrothers user or you’re looking for a new clipless pedal system, the Mallet Trail are worth a look.

Mallet Trail are available in Black, Champagne, and Purple for 179.99. See more at Crankbrothers.