First Impressions: Crank Brothers Candy 3 Pedals

While Crank Brothers’ Candy and Eggbeater pedals may be familiar to many of GRAVELBIKE’s readers, I must admit that I’m woefully late to the party when it comes to the Calfornia-based company’s line of pedals. Recently, however, my curiosity got the best of me when I was looking for a pedal similar to Time’s ATAC, but with less side-to-slide float. Crank Brothers’ Candy pedals appeared to fulfill those requirements, so I decided to give them a try.

CB Candy 3 (03)

Candy 3 pedals in the red anodized finish (also available in blue or black).

In addition to the Candy 3 pedals ($120 MSRP) that I tested, Crank Brothers offers three other models that range in price from $60/pair (Candy 1), all the way up to $350/pair (Candy 11). The model 3 pedals feature needle and cartridge bearings (an upgrade from the cartridge/bushing combo found on the Candy 1 and 2 pedals), and cast-steel retention wings. While the materials used for the springs and bodies vary, all Candy pedals include the company’s premium brass cleats. My sample Candy 3 pedals weighed 318g/pair, with the cleats and hardware adding another 30g.

Like all Crank Brothers clipless pedals, the diminutive cleats can be configured for a 15° or 20° release. To change the release angle, one only needs to swap the cleats from left to right (and vice-versa). Unlike many of their competitors’ clipless pedals, Crank Brothers pedals do not have adjustable release tension (the company claims that their patented cleat design eliminates the need for spring tension adjustment). The stock cleats feature 6° of angular float (aka, rotation), but an optional 0°-float cleat is also available.

CB C3 - cleat

Crank Brothers cleat with the optional stainless steel Shoe Shield.

Clipping into the Candy pedals is easy thanks to the unique, rotating-wing design. In addition to conventional toe-down entry, you can scrape the cleat along the top of the pedal from either direction. I found entry to be easiest when using a combination of downward and forward motion. Once clipped in, the pedals’ bodies provided plenty of support for my cycling shoes’ soles, eliminating any rocking or unwanted flex. This added stability can affect ease of entry, however. For shoes with very deep tread, Crank Brothers includes shims which provide additional clearance between the shoes and pedals. In some rare cases, you may need to sand or trim the tread to eliminate any interference between the sole and pedal body.

As I mentioned above, my desire for reduced lateral float is what originally prompted me to try the Candy pedals. While the Crank Brothers cleats do provide a small amount of lateral movement, it’s less than the 6mm float found on Time’s ATAC pedals. Even with additional stability provided by the pedal’s body, angular float/rotation felt less restrictive than Shimano’s SPD clipless system. Although I was initially concerned with the lack of tension adjustment on the Crank Brothers pedals, I never unclipped accidentally.

CB C3 - single

The removable end caps provide easy access to the pedals’ bearings.

To keep your pedals running smoothly, Crank Brothers offers rebuild kits which include replacement seals and bearings (instructional videos can be found on the company’s website). It’s too soon to report on long-term durability, but I can tell you that the pedals did survive a crash that left me with a cracked helmet and plenty of road rash. If I do have one gripe about the Candys, it’s that they require an 8mm hex key for installation or removal. This is, however, not unique to Crank Brothers, as several other companies’ pedals eschew conventional pedal wrench/spanner flats.

Disclosure: Crank Brothers provided review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation for this review.

First Impressions: Grand Cru Long Reach Brakes

If you peruse the current batch of purpose-built gravel bikes, you will undoubtedly notice that disc brakes have become the preferred stoppers for this increasingly popular segment of the two-wheeled market. Cantilevers and v-brakes, once considered the choice for unpaved riding, now rate a distant second for bespoke gravel rigs. But what about those bikes that can’t accommodate discs or cantilevers? Older road frames with sport-tourer or club-racer geometry are ideal candidates for gravel grinding, and companies such as Black Mountain Cycles, Gunnar, Rivendell, Surly, and SOMA offer contemporary frames spec’d with the extra clearances needed for fatter, gravel-friendly tires. For riders who wish to stick with conventional caliper brakes, Velo Orange’s Grand Cru brakeset ($170 MSRP) provides the necessary clearance and stopping power.

The term long-reach is a bit of a misnomer. If you’re old enough to remember when racing bikes made the transition from centerpull to sidepull brakes, you know that today’s long-reach caliper is what used to be known as a standard-reach brake. Terminology and history lesson aside, the Grand Cru brakes are designed to fit frames and forks that require recessed, allen-style mounting bolts, and have a reach of 47mm-57mm. The dual-pivot design is compatible with modern integrated brake/shift levers, and Velo Orange offers the brakes in polished silver or black anodized finishes. Our sample pair weighed 357g, including mounting hardware and pads.

GRAVELBIKE.com gravel grinder Velo Orange Grand Cru SwissStop BXP

The first thing you notice about the Grand Cru calipers are the thick, squared-off arms. This gives the brakes a distinctive, industrial aesthetic, but more importantly, the extra material helps improve the longer calipers’ stiffness. Velo Orange claims that the Grand Cru brakes are some of the stiffest long-reach calipers they’ve tested, and while we weren’t able to quantify the brakes’ stiffness, they did feel more rigid than Shimano’s BR-R650 long-reach calipers (we equipped both brakes with the same pads and levers). In use, the Grand Cru brakes had a very linear feel. This was a welcome contrast to the distinct on/off action of some dual-pivot calipers. The Grand Cru brakes could be easily modulated and controlled with integrated brake/shift levers from microSHIFT, Shimano, and SRAM.

During our review period, we tested the Grand Cru brakes with rims ranging from 19mm to 25mm wide. Adjusting the brakes to accommodate the different rims was quick and easy, and required only a T30 torx key (included with the brakes), and 2mm and 4mm wrenches. In use, the Grand Cru’s stock (blue) brake pads proved to be a step above the typical OE (original equipment) inserts, and remained squeal-free for the duration of the testing. As good as the stock pads were, braking power–especially modulation–improved noticeably when we fitted SwissStop’s BXP inserts. If you’re looking to boost your brakes’ performance, we definitely recommend SwissStop’s line of replacement pads (which are available for rim and disc brakes).

On our Black Mountain Cycles test rig (designed for 47mm-57mm brakes), the Grand Cru brakes easily cleared 32mm Clement X’Plor MSO tires. Fitting even wider tires was no problem for the brakes, but tire size was ultimately limited by the frame and fork’s clearance. Although the calipers themselves have clearance for wide tires and fenders, the quick-releases don’t open wide enough to clear certain rim/tire combinations. This is not unique to the Velo Orange calipers, though, as we’ve run into the same issue with other long-reach calipers.

The Grand Cru brakes prove that cantilevers or discs aren’t required for exploring dirt or gravel roads. If you’re riding a bicycle that needs long-reach calipers, you’ll probably run out of (tire) traction or flotation long before you run out of braking power. The Velo Orange brakes may not have the mud clearance offered by cantilevers, but their compatibility with modern integrated brake/shift levers makes them a boon for folks who don’t want–or need–a cross or gravel bike for mixed-terrain riding.

Disclosure: Velo Orange provided review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation for this review.

First Impressions: Louis Garneau T-Flex LS-100 Shoes

Unlike their paved-road counterparts, off-road cycling shoes need to blend walkability and pedaling efficiency. For shoe manufacturers, the challenge of balancing stiffness with flexibility and comfort is no small feat (bad pun intended). Louis Garneau‘s feature-packed T-Flex LS-100 ($249.99 MSRP) shoe is equally adept whether you’re pedaling or hoofing it.

Constructed from a combination of microfiber fabric and mesh, the LS-100’s upper features a BOA quick-attach closure, and forefoot Velcro strap for a secure fit. The carbon and reinforced-nylon midsole offers increased stiffness, while the deeply-lugged outsole and flexible toe area enable improved traction when walking. Louis Garneau includes winter and summer Ergo Air insoles, as well as two styles of toe studs.

Having narrow, low-volume feet, I often have a difficult time finding cycling shoes that fit properly. The LS-100 features what Louis Garneau refers to as an elite fit, and I opted for the same size as my other cycling shoes (44.5). The result was a no-slip fit that remained comfortable on longer rides. Initially, I was skeptical that the lightweight BOA closure would be as secure as a ratcheting buckle system, but the former proved to be solid, and free of pressure points.

During the course of this review, I tested the Louis Garneau shoes with Time ATAC and Crank Brothers Candy 3 pedals. The soles’ deep tread required minor modification to clear the Crank Brothers’ platforms, but the Time cleats were compatible as-is. Whether pedaling out of the saddle, or coasting over rocky trails, I never noticed any excessive flex or hot spots. Thanks to the Louis Garneau T-Flex design, walking was much less awkward than with other cycling shoes.

Pedaling efficiency doesn’t come at the expense of comfort, though. The Ergo Air insoles offer plenty of cushion and support, while the padded heel cups and collars are easy on your ankles and tendons. Removing the carbon T-Flex Power Blades increased ventilation slightly, but I couldn’t detect any difference in stiffness or efficiency. It’s too soon to report on long-term durability, but after five months of use, sole wear has been minimal, and the shoes’ uppers and fittings remain solid.

Disclosure: Louis Garneau provided review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation for this review.