body{background-attachment: fixed ! important; }

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Like Pedals in the Wind: Brand Loyalty

When I find a brand I like, I am not ashamed to champion the products or core values of a given brand. I have remained aloof from tricky sponsored writing, not necessarily by design, but my current equipment was purchased with my hard earned cash and with a baby at home, I can not be buying superfluous things. This stuff counts. I don't mind using this space to highlight products and companies that do right by me. Then there are the products that don't....

After seven years on Crank Brothers pedals, I have decided to leave them behind. 

Crank Brothers uses a light weight innovative design that allows four points of entry. They are minimalist and attractive for mountain bike pedals, and they seemed to make sense as a pedal system I could use on both my road and cyclocross bikes with just one pair of shoes. It made for some redundancy, despite running against roadie etiquette. 

For me, the problem comes from their reliability. 

More pedals optimized for the world of cycling that exists away from the pavement, my pedals could barely handle a season of light road riding before falling apart. 

I used a set of Crank Brothers Candy SL pedals, the mid range 1st Generation pedal, and they lasted for four years despite cosmetic damage. I "upgraded" to the Eggbeater 3, a lightweight pedal without a platform. The numeral 3 indicates its stature as one of the more expensive in the line. It was supposed to be a bit more robust. After several months the pedal started to feel a little loose. My foot would occasionally pop out of the pedal. This can be pretty dangerous on a climb as you can easily lose control and veer into traffic. There were a couple of times I popped out at critical times. 

I blamed the fast wear of the brass cleat and switched to newer cleats. I always hated to mess with the cleats because Crank Brothers uses very soft screws to hold them in place. On my first set I completely rendered the screws unusable while finding my ideal cleat location. Mind you, I was doing nothing out of the ordinary, just installing a cleat a few times to find the "sweet spot". 


The long term effects of a loosening pedal manifested themselves in an overuse injury as I overcompensated with my left leg. I still feel the effects of this. I finally retired the pedals after about a year of light road use (not much riding in 2011) and pulled the Crank Brothers Candy pedals off the CX bike. After about six rides the spring went out on the left pedal. I had a ride I was hoping to catch the next day and picked up another set of First Gen Candy pedals on clearance for NT1000 ($30). They are having trouble selling in Taiwan and many retailers are just trying to recoup their cost. 

I only switched out the broken pedal and left the remaining pedal. 

On the very next ride the right pedal had the spring go out. Again I was hobbling back home too early and having to fight my own bike to get home. 

There are several people who have had their Crank Brothers pedals last for several years. I may have simply had two defective sets... in a row. That is a possibility. But it also seems Crank Brothers recognizes that their pedals sacrifice durability for weight and form factor. They offer a fantastic rebuild program for their pedals, which tells me the company recognizes the gentle limits of their products.

As a consumer, I was attracted to the idea that the equipment had been designed for off-road use. It made me feel I could expect quality and longevity if I never left the road. 

I was wrong. 

So, I am looking to replace my pedals and the Crank Brothers pedal system with something else. 

Again, it may have been a bad batch. I understand that in the manufacturing process shit happens. But as consumers and users and cyclists and as people... trust goes a long way. 

I no longer trust Crank Brothers pedals to serve flawlessly when I need them. I do not expect them to function correctly 100% of the time. I do not believe they will not fail me high on a mountain road or stay clipped in as I hug the rail on the Route 129 as a cement truck flicks my earlobe in passing. 

As cyclists we put our trust and safety in the products we buy. Once that trust is gone, it may never return. There is lingering doubt. That is not to say we can't expect nothing will fail, but we need to believe it likely will not. It is fine to be loyal to a brand or a system, but always be ready to leave it behind when it becomes a liability. 

Crank Brothers had their chance and failed. 

As a rider and consumer, Taiwan in Cycles can not recommend Crank Brothers pedals at this point in time. If you want reliability, look elsewhere. 

Let's see what the future holds.