Tested: Crank Brothers Candy SL

WHAT: Crank Brothers Candy SL
WHERE: www.crankbrothers.com
HOW MUCH: $140

Eight years ago, riders had few choices when it came to clipless pedals. Shimano's SPDs were built like brick shithouses and were stone reliable in dry conditions, but they absolutely sucked when things got wet and muddy. Speedplay Frogs were good in mud and easy on aching knees, but the mechanics of entry and exit were hard for many riders to grasp. Then France's Time came out with their ATACs--though heavy, they offered consistent performance wet or dry.

Today, it's a much more happening pedal market. Shimano, for starters, has resolved many of their SPD's mud-shedding issues. Time still puts out quality product, but distribution and availability are a bit strained. If you loved Speedlplays back then, you probably still love them today (it always seems to pan out that way), and now CrankBrothers offers a line of clipless pedals.

Okay, I know announcing Crank Brothers like that sounds horribly dated since their first pedal, the miniscule Eggbeater, hit bike shops in 2002, but some people aren't hip to the times and I'm trying to smooth that transition for them.

To those people, I must regretfully announce the following: Sonny Bono is dead. Carson Daly and Bill O’Reilly are both still popular, but everyone is still confused as to how that happened in the first place. Puff Daddy was P. Diddy, now he's just plain, old "Diddy". Consider yourself properly updated. Back to the pedal story.

Many people loved the minimalist Egg Beaters. Some, however, noticed that it was basically a spindle with a couple of attachment springs and, consequently, wasn't exactly the cats meow for more aggressive styles of mountain biking. In 2003, Crank Brothers released their Candy line. At its core, the Egg Beater was still there--but the new pedal wrapped a larger platform around it. It looked a bit like a scaled down Time ATAC, but was, on the whole, lighter.

Today, there are four Candy models to choose from. The line starts with the base level Candy C and ends three pedals later, with the pimp-daddy Candy 4ti (ti spindle, ti wings). For the past two years, I've been riding the Candy SL--the journeyman Candy model. It features a stainless steel spindle and spring, and a fiber composite body that's capped with stainless-steel kick plates.

The Candy Sl weighs 294 grams--which is about 14 grams less than base level Candy C and 96 grams more than the top of the line 4 ti model. In short, it's not the lightest thing in the line, but there is no rider weight limit (Crank Brothers recommends that anyone over 185 pounds steer clear of their top model) and 294 grams is still pretty damn light.

How do they work? Entry and release are flawless. I've been riding clipless pedals, in one form or another, since 1986, so clipping into a pedal is, admittedly, second nature to me. Clipping out, on the other hand, can be a bitch with some pedals--not so with the Candy SLs. The pedal engagement is nice and firm, but you don't have to torque and twist your knees to pop free when danger comes a calling. Easy in. Easy out. Mud, dry, or whatever. Oh yeah, you can choose between a generous 15 and 20 degrees of float, depending on how you orient the cleats. Cool.

I've had no breaking or bending of the platform or spindle, but I have worn out the bearings on two separate sets of Candy SLs. In both cases I wore out the bearings in under a year. True, I live in a boggy place, but I've yet to encountered that kind of rapid bearing degeneration in the same conditions with either Shimano or Time pedals…

Fortunately, the pedal comes with a 2-year warranty, Crank Brothers sells bearing replacement kits and the company's customer service is, by all accounts, stellar. As a result, I actually rebuild mine and keep riding them. If, however, you prefer not to think about things pedal overhauls, you might want to keep the bearing issue in mind. In my mind, it's not a deal-breaker, but I don't sweat an annual pedal overhaul and I know that's not true for everyone out there.