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Tech FAQ: Fine-tuning entry and release with Crank Brothers pedals

  • By Lennard Zinn
  • Published Mar. 26, 2012
  • Updated Oct. 11, 2012 at 4:51 PM EDT

Editor’s note: Zinn’s regular column is devoted to addressing readers’ technical questions about bikes, their care and feeding and how we as riders can use them as comfortably and efficiently as possible. Readers can send brief technical questions directly to Zinn.

Dear Lennard,
Why do some pros wrap tape around the ends of their Eggbeaters? I saw Jeremiah Bishop’s Cannondale a couple of years ago with that, and then I’ve noticed a few other pros since do the same thing.
― Chris

Dear Chris,
Some riders wrap tape around the pedal body on either side of the spring clips in order to prevent their shoes from rocking on the pedals.

As you might imagine, the height of the tread above the cleat-contact area on the outsole on various mountain bike shoes varies even on new shoes, and it really varies with tread wear. Crank Brothers makes its pedals so that they will easily clip in with most shoes on the market. This means that once the cleat is engaged, some shoes with lower tread will have the tread raised up off of the pedal body. This is a performance issue for some riders. If the tread is low enough that there is space between the tread and the pedal surface on either end, then the shoe will not only rock, but the spring will also open and close with each forceful downward push. This not only can feel disconcerting and make noise, but it also robs energy in foot slop and repeated compression of the springs, and it accelerates wear on the springs.

This is the reason to wrap tape around the pedal ends; wrap enough times that it’s thick enough that the tread lugs contact the tape while pedaling, yet there is no hindrance to entry and release. It’s only a temporary fix, as the tape (usually athletic tape is used) wears out, loses its adhesion, and tends to unwrap over time. And as the shoe wears, unless you can replace the shoe tread, more tape thickness will be required.

I have a better solution than tape that I used this past cyclocross season after Clif Bar MTB and cyclocross pro Brady Kappius told me about it, namely heat-shrink tubing. On the old Eggbeaters on both of my cyclocross bikes, I have three layers of heat-shrink tubing on either end. It lasts longer than athletic tape, and it doesn’t get gooey like duct tape. I just cut little 1cm-long chunks, slip them over either end of the pedals, and warm them with a hair dryer until they shrink down around the pedal body. They do get torn up over time, but they are easy enough to replace.

While you can still use it on them, the new numbered Crank Brothers Eggbeater models no longer require tape or heat-shrink tubing to shim up their diameter; you can purchase plastic tread contact sleeves of different thickness for either Eggbeaters (11, 3, or 2 only) or Candys (also 11, 3, or 2 models only). A plastic tree, like one that parts for a model car come on, holds a number of sleeves of different thicknesses and costs ten bucks online.

While too much slop tends to more often be the case, it also can happen that some shoes with very deep tread will not clip in at all, or only with enough force to compress the tread lugs enough that the cleat can reach down and hook the pedal’s spring clips. It is for this reason that Crank Brothers supplies plastic shims to go under the cleats with every pair of its pedals. That way, even riders with such tall tread lugs that engagement normally would be problematic can now engage their pedals easily by installing shims under their cleats. These shims work with cleats for other pedal brands as well.

Another thing to recognize is that pedal rocking on Crank Brothers pedals can cause sole cracking on shoes with carbon soles. As the tread lugs wear down, the rocking becomes worse, and a deep groove is formed in the carbon at either end of the cleat. Eventually the shoe sole cracks just behind the cleat. This sucks, and it’s the reason to install metal “shoe shields” under the cleats, even if you’re using the pedal sleeves to minimize rocking of the shoe. Crank Brothers offers aluminum shoe shields, and Sidi offers steel ones.

Once you have your pedal ends wrapped or sleeved until you have idealized entry, release, and pedaling platform, they will work great and be very efficient in dry conditions, but you may have entry problems in snow, mud, or with shoes with taller tread lugs. If you have multiple pairs of shoes, rather than remove the pedal sleeves or heat-shrink tubing or tape from the pedals for each condition, I instead recommend adjusting the cleat height on the shoes.

On the shoes that I use for hard, dry conditions, I mount the cleats right onto the sole. However, on insulated winter mountain bike shoes that I only use in cold conditions, which around here can often mean I’m riding in snow, I install one, and sometimes two, cleat shims underneath each cleat to make pedal engagement easier. When it’s really cold and snowy, I’m a lot more interested in getting into the pedals quickly than I am in details about pedaling efficiency. Then I use my warmest winter cycling boots that have two cleat shims under each cleat for easiest entry. If it’s warmer but really muddy, I’ll use the shoes that have a single cleat shim, rather than run the risk of not getting in quickly with my shoes with no cleat shims.

While you’re at crankbrothers.com, check out the Dream Bikes being auctioned off to benefit Hans Rey’s Wheels For Life Third-World bike charity.
― Lennard

FILED UNDER: Bikes and Tech / MTB / Technical FAQ TAGS: / /

Lennard Zinn

Lennard Zinn

Our longtime technical writer joined VeloNews in 1987. He is also a framebuilder, a former U.S. National Team rider, and author of many bicycle books, including Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance and Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance, as well as Zinn and the Art of Triathlon Bikes and Zinn's Cycling Primer: Maintenance Tips and Skill Building for Cyclists. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in physics from Colorado College. Readers can send brief technical questions to Ask LZ.

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