28 August 2008

bikefix Exclusive Review: Crank Brothers Premium Cleat

Crank Brothers' Premium Cleat is the company's aftermarket replacement cleat for their Eggbrater family of pedals (Eggbeater, Candy, Mallet, Smarty and so on). The Premium Cleat is a step-up from the standard brass cleat that comes with most of Crank Brothers pedals. It adds 2.2mm (per side) of lateral adjustability and it is made of a harder "ultra durable" brass (the implication being that the Premium Cleats will last longer). That said, there is not a very noticeable difference over the softer OEM brass cleats- in less than 200 miles I was seeing similar rounding of the cleat edges. The pedals' retention bars are not digging out the base of my shoes as quickly, though, so this alone might change worthwhile [note: The stainless steel Shoe Shields pictured here are not included with the cleats- they're another $10 or so].

The (admittedly minimal) lateral adjustability could make a huge difference to some people. I don’t seem to need it, but I know that many folks find this adjustment helpful for their knees or other joint reasons, and some people have strong preferences about cleat positioning. The Premium Cleats are the only solution for those people. Combined with the company's optional 5mm shorter (than standard) Short Spindle Upgrade kit, one could reduce their Q-factor (later distance between cleats) by almost 1cm (3/16in).

In use, I and others are noticing more vertical “play” with the premium cleats than the stockers. In their efforts to lighten the cleat or provide lateral adjustment, the Premium Cleats forgo the little wings that (in the case of the standard cleats) rest on the body of the pedal. With the Premium cleats, the tread of the shoe is doing all of the work. It only took a few rides before I got used to it though, and now I notice it mostly when I ride a different pair of shoes and then come back to the pair with these on them. Marc has experienced an annoyingly rattle-y pedal-shoe interface with these cleats on some bikes, though unclipping and rotating to another pair of Eggbeater retention bars usually solves the problem. He's also mentioned that putting power through his shoes' tread feels spongier than the metal-on-metal with the original cleats.

With the added complexity comes the drawback of added weight and a steel plate which can (and does) rust. Most people have already decided whether or not they like Crank Bros. pedals (I do), so this is really a review for those people who already like them, but it might sway some people to try them again. The original cleats have disappeared from Crank Brothers' and their distributors' websites, which is a shame- so far, both of us prefer the originals. It may be time to start hoarding cleats. I will update this review regarding the long-term wear sometime this winter. The cleats retail for $25.00.



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