Glance at nearly any professional downhill or enduro racer’s bike and you’ll likely find a set of Crank Brothers Mallet DH pedals threaded into the crank arms. But what is it that makes the Mallet DH the dominant go-to option? We hits the trails and delves deeper to find out what makes this product one of the best clipless MTB pedals around.
Design and specifications
At the heart of the Mallet DH is Crank Brothers (opens in new tab)’ distinguishable 4-sided cleat holding crest, a design that is said to offer easy access and hold excellent mud-shedding properties. The cage tension isn’t adjustable like some other SPD style pedals, but the release angle can be changed by altering the cleats from left to right. As standard the supplied brass cleats offer 6° of float and a release angle of 15 degrees, but swap the right cleat to the left shoe (and vice versa) and you’ll get a larger 20-degree release angle.
Crank Brothers also offer an aftermarket cleat with 0-degree float should you want to customize further. It’s also worth noting that if you purchase a pair of Crank Brothers shoes they come with the cleats preinstalled, meaning they’re ready to rip right out the box.
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The large 101 x 77mm aluminium body has eight adjustable and removable pins per side, along with chamfered edges to help smooth out pedal strikes. The forged chromoly steel axle spins on a series of premium bearings which are all double sealed, which on paper should mean improved longevity over previous Mallet iterations. The axle itself has a Q-factor of 57mm which is said to bring more stability and greater crank arm clearance. Continuing the Mallet’s customisable nature are the polyurethane traction pads that sit either side of the clip in mechanism. These were first introduced on the Mallet E pedal we recently tested and allow for the pedal shape to be altered by simply clipping in and out different shape pads – something that’s useful for tweaking the interface for your shoe of choice.
The pair clocks the scales at 480g which is acceptable for the size and intention. As standard the Mallet DH is available in Black or Red color ways, but there’s also a few special edition options available if you’re willing to shop around.
Riders wanting a more trail-focussed option with a slight weight reduction should also check out the smaller Mallet E pedal from Crank Brothers.
It goes without saying that contact points are some of the most important parts of a mountain bike, and the levels of support from the Mallet DH are comparable to the best flat pedals. On long sections of trail where harsh hits and large compressions are frequent, the added support from the Mallet’s wide platform eradicates the potential for discomfort, meaning you can hit and push through rowdy terrain with maximum hold and low fatigue. Not only is the large platform good when you’re attached to the pedals, but should you unclip mid-run there’s ample purchase to ensure you can keep riding until the cleat can be located again - something that’s easy even when your shoes are covered in the thickest mud.
While they work best with flat-soled gravity-focussed kicks, we’re yet to find a shoe the Mallets don’t excel with. But while Crank Brothers shoes work right out the box, other shoes with deeper cleat recesses do require pin adjustment and plastic spacers beneath the cleat to ensure hassle free entry and exit. This set-up can take a while but it’s something you only have to do once.
The intentionally soft brass cleats themselves wear out faster than most of the competition, especially if you’re frequently hike-a-biking, but it’s a trade off we’re willing to accept considering the overall performance.
It’s no secret that Crank Brothers have had reliability concerns with their pedals in the past, but after a full summer of abuse our test set are still holding strong and spinning smoothly. Having put these through most imaginable scenarios, we’ve got no doubts in saying any previous niggles appear to have been resolved. Crank Brothers also stock a full range of reasonably priced spares and service kits for all Mallet pedals, something that helps to justify the premium price tag.
All in all, we’re convinced the Mallet DH is the best pedal currently available for all gravity disciplines of mountain biking and the performance brings the best of both worlds by offering flat pedal levels of support, along with the security of being clipped in.
It’s not the cheapest – and there’s plenty of competition out there – but you appreciate the brilliance of the Crank Brothers Mallet DH pedal when you slot into most of its rival gravity-focussed clip pedals. It’s intuitive to use, and if you’re willing to put in the time during the initial set-up phase, the perfect alchemy of pedal and shoe is genuinely achievable.
Tech specs: Crankbrothers Mallet DH pedal
Price: $179.99 / £64.99 / €190.47
Color options: Black, Red (other special edition color ways are also available)