Although gravel-specific saddles pretty rare, mountain bike saddles often work well for mixed-terrain riding. Ergon’s SMC4 (pictured above, right) offers a softer overall structure and more cushioning in the seating area. The WTB Volt features a slight whale tail and gentle drop to the nose, providing a platform to push against while not limiting riders to one seating position.
Five Ten‘s sticky-soled shoes are renowned among flat and platform pedal users for their tenacious grip. If you happen to prefer clipless over flats, don’t fret though, because Five Ten offers ten SPD-compatible shoes for both men and women. And in 2016, the company’s top all-mountain shoe–the Kestrel ($180 MSRP)–gets some company in the form of the Kestrel Lace model ($150 MSRP).
As you might expect, the original and new Kestrel Lace models both feature Five Ten’s Stealth® rubber outsoles. While the two shoes’ soles may look similar, the original Kestrel features a dual-compound outsole that utilizes the company’s Stealth® C4™ and Mi6™ formulas (the Kestral Lace is spec’d with the company’s Stealth C4 rubber outsole). Despite the different compounds, both soles have the same dotty pattern for off-the-bike traction, and stitched toe caps for improved durability.
When I tested Crankbrothers’ Candy 3 pedals two years ago, I found them to be good, all-around pedals for off-road use. My only real gripe with the system was dialing in the shoe/pedal interface as the cleats and shoes wore from use. Even with the aid of Crankbrothers’ cleat shims and optional stainless steel Shoe Plates, finding the right blend of support and ease of entry/exit was largely hit or miss. So when Crankbrothers announced their new Candy 7 pedals (MSRP $165 USD) with configurable traction pads, I jumped at the chance to give them a try.
The Candy 7 and 11 pedals’ improvements aren’t limited to the aforementioned traction pads. To address durability issues, the company partnered with bearing giants igus and Enduro to develop a new system designed to excel in the pedals’ low-speed, high-torque environment. New seals were also added to keep water and debris from entering the pedal’s bearings The iconic Candy pedal bodies also get some fine tuning in the form of added ribs for better traction when unclipped, and chamfered edges to reduce rock strikes.