Pedals used to be simple things. They were basically blocks of wood attached to a hunk of metal. But the pedal, like life, has become much more complicated in the interest of advancement. Pedals are now full of tiny parts, little adjusting screws, and complex retention mechanisms.
Most of this happened because clipless pedals were originally based on downhill ski binding designs. Rather than completely rethinking the design, industry leaders simply adapted their ski retention devices to cycling. Sure, they were better than clips and straps, but the pedals had drawbacks – they were heavy, they were only one-sided, and they were very complicated. Sadly, these designs still dominate the field today.
Crank Brothers is one of a handful of new companies that have entered the market with the goal of simplifying pedal design. Their most radical solution was the very popular EggBeater pedal, which only had the spindle and two springs (how’s that for simple?). As the name would suggest, the design resembled old fashioned egg beaters – you know, the kind that you used to lick cake batter off of.
The eggbeater is surrounded by a platform
The Quattro pedal is Crank Brothers’ formal offering for the road cycling set. The company has taken their simple but effective EggBeater design and added a low profile platform. To make the contact with the platform even better, the cleat has been modified as well (OK, so it’s not the cleat itself that was modified so much as they’ve added a plastic part that attaches to your shoe – more on that later).
Quattro SL Pedals
Crank Brothers (www.crankbrothers.com)
$170.00 (MSRP; if you see them for more than $149 I’d be surprised)
Recommended. Beautifully designed, simple and reliable mechanics, could be a bit easier to get into.
Visually, these are extremely sleek and elegant pedals. The stainless steel and composite (which we all know is a fancy way of saying “some kind of plastic”) platform is nicely curved and offers a very low profile, which makes it pretty but also improves cornering clearance and aerodynamics.
Not to sound too much like Al Davis or anything, but silver and black is a very nice color combination. If black isn’t your thing, you can get the Quattro SL Pro for just a few dollars more, which come in the colors of the racing teams that Crank Brothers sponsors and include laser etched logos. Sweet.
By the way, the packaging is awesome. It’s made out of a thick translucent plastic with a powder blue insert. The printing font is modern, clean and attractive. I’d swear that the whole thing was designed by the same people that do the iPod. When people put that kind of attention to style and detail in their packaging, it usually bodes well for the actual product. This is no exception.
Color – it’s the new black
The pedals offer 6° of float and the release angle can be set at either 15° or 20° just by putting a specially marked cleat on one shoe or the other. How’s that for simple?
I’m getting out of my expertise a bit here, but all the information I’ve read says that these cleats have a narrow Q-Factor. For most people, the narrower the better when it comes to Q-Factors. So what the heck is a Q-Factor? In the simplest terms, it’s how far your feet are from the frame. You want your feet to be as close to the frame as possible and wider pedals put you further out. Wider pedals also make cornering harder because they hit the ground when you lean into a turn. Here’s my complaint about Q-Factors: you never see them expressed in quantifiable terms. People just say “narrow”. Narrow compared to what? If two companies boast a “narrow Q-Factor”, how do you know which is better? It’s sort of like the days when foods were called “wholesome” or “diet” and there was no nutritional info to back it up. I’m calling for a Q-Factor numerical standard and I won’t rest until I get one. Until then, I won’t comment on the Q-Factor. I will say that cornering was never a problem and the pedals are so narrow that my feet were within millimeters of the frame.
It’s time once again to learn something about me that you probably don’t need to know: I love putting pedals on bikes. My favorite movie (or at least one of them) is Breaking Away. Toward end of the movie, Dave Stoller is rebuilding a bike with a backdrop of cheesy/inspirational music as he prepares for the big race. During the montage, the Cutters team captain puts newly rebuilt pedals on the bike in like 10 seconds by spinning the cranks and holding the pedal in place with a wrench. Every time I put on pedals, I feel a bit like Dave Stoller, even though I am probably more like Cyril in every way (for the unenlightened, Cyril was the lanky dork played by a young Daniel Stern).
Cyril had his moment of glory too
But here’s the thing: Dave Stoller couldn’t put on the Quattro pedals with his little pedal wrench. There’s no squared “neck” on the spindle of the pedal where the wrench would normally go. The platform and the eggbeater spin independently and there’s no way to hold the pedal while spinning the crank. Instead, you have to put an 8mm Allen wrench through the hole in the crank from the inside of the frame. If you have a dedicated 8mm Allen wrench (many don’t), it is easy enough to do. If you happen to have a crank puller (like I do) it probably has a very short 8mm Allen key on it. It’ll work, but just barely. Do yourself a favor and make sure you have an 8mm Allen wrench on hand.
What you just experienced was the 266-word version of saying that installation is easy if you have the right tool but not quite as easy as some other designs.
The cleats join nicely with the pedal platform
The brass cleats resemble the ubiquitous SPD style 2-hole cleats. If you have shoes with a 3-hole design, you can buy a simple adaptor. Crank Brothers says you can use any Crank Brothers cleats with the Quattro pedals, but they have made a special cleat for the Quattro that is four-way adjustable for precise placement.
In addition to the brass cleat, there is a raised composite piece that affixes to the bottom of your shoes. The piece is curved and bowed to match the contours of the pedal platform to ensure the greatest amount of contact with the platform possible. It also has a recessed channel that acts as a guide for finding the catch on the pedal. The cleats held securely to the shoe and the contact with the pedal was excellent. I did occasionally notice some minor creaking of the plastic on the platform with the plastic on the cleat, but it wasn’t annoying at all.
I put the cleats on two different tri shoes (3-hole and 2-hole) and on my mountain bike shoes (without the plastic piece). All of them installed easily and worked well. I did have to shave down a lug on my mountain bike shoe about 1/16th of an inch to make sure the shoe rested flat on the platform, but that was more of an aesthetic tweak than anything.
When the pedal is in this position, you’re not getting in
On the Road
Entry into these pedals is the one complaint I can make about them. Let me state emphatically that it’s not hard to do at all, but it is slightly more difficult than getting into other pedals, including other Crank Brothers pedals. The reason for this is that the two-sided platform spins independently from the four sided eggbeater element. Quite often, the platform will be flat but the eggbeater will be at an angle. When this happens, the cleat can’t engage (you’re basically trying to push down on a steel bar). This is overcome by using your feet to rotate the eggbeater into place. It’s an easy little move, but it does take some thought. Even after riding these for nearly six months, entry hasn’t become completely second nature. Most of the time, I still look down and make sure everything’s in the right place while engaging the pedals. If this were a mountain bike part, it might be a fatal flaw. With a road bike, it’s a very minor annoyance (if you put your shoes on your bike before your triathlon, it’s a complete non-factor).
When everything is aligned properly, the cleats engage extremely well. A small pop is all you hear and the spring is so smooth that you don’t feel a thing. You even have a couple different ways to get in: you can push straight down on the pedal or you can push forward on it (like sliding into a slipper). Both work great.
When the pedal is in this position, entry is a snap
I hate to break it to you, but you’re either a float person or a non-float person. I know, you don’t like to be forced into a category. You’re a free spirit. I get it. But on this one, there is no in-between (…yet. One day, somebody will come out with a lockout mechanism for float like they did for shocks on mountain bikes, but that day hasn’t arrived). One group will tell you that zero float is better because it’s more efficient; the other side says that having some float saves your knees because your legs and feet can sit in their natural position rather than being forced into a straight forward position by the pedal. The Quattro pedals are made for the folks in the pro-float camp, of which I am a member. I like float because you don’t feel as “locked down” to the pedal and you can move your feet around during a long ride.
The float in the Quattro pedal doesn’t feel sloppy at all. Rather, it feels like freedom, especially when combined with the wide 20° release angle. Because the contact points are so secure and the springs are so smooth, when you move your feet around, there is no clanging or noticeable stiffness from the spring. The best way I can describe the experience is that you think your feet are just sitting on a flat pedal, right until you pull up and the pedal comes with you. In fact, there are still days where I’m sure I’m not engaged in the pedal because it feels so uninhibited, but when I test it I quickly find out that I’m firmly in the thing. It really is kind of cool.
One of the interesting things about the eggbeater design is that the harder you pull up on the pedals, the more the retention bars bite down and hold the cleat in place. This makes the pedals great for sprinting. Not once could I make the cleat break contact while sprinting, no matter how jerky my pedal motion was.
Getting out of the Quattro pedals is completely easy. Just rotate your heel outward and away you go. At the release point, you can feel the spring smoothly push the cleat out. Not once did I feel that I was going to topple over because I couldn’t release. I tried both release angles and came to prefer the wider 20° option. If I was riding on busier streets with lots of lights where I constantly had to get my feet in and out, I’d probably switch to the 15°.
I rode these in three triathlons where the transition area was on either grass or sand and I never had an issue with the cleats clogging and messing with the entry/exit. That’s the advantage of a pedal system that originated as a mountain bike pedal; it can easily handle the low level of gunk a triathlete will throw at it.
Due to the large contact area between the cleat and the pedal, the Quattro pedals were extremely comfortable, even on very long rides. I usually have problems with my feet going to sleep when in the pedals for several hours, but these pedals all but made that issue go away. I never felt any hot spots and the contact areas were solid enough that I couldn’t feel the mechanisms under my feet when I stood in the pedals – since I don’t have the stiffest shoes on the market, I can usually feel the retention devices that hold the cleats, but in the Quattro pedals it felt like my feet were just standing on a solid block.
I also noticed that I didn’t notice road vibrations as much in these pedals (can you notice that you didn’t notice something?). My guess would be that the composite on the cleat and the composite on the pedal create some minor damping effect. This added to the overall comfort of using the Quattro pedals.
The Crank Brothers Quattro SL pedals are a very good choice for the entry level triathlete. They look great, they work well, they’re light, and they’re not going to break your budget. In addition, they release extremely well and are very comfortable when you’re in the saddle for a long time. While entry isn’t always mindless, it’s pretty easy to get into these pedals and the advantages more than make up for this very minor annoyance. All in all, these pedals are the simple, effective mechanisms that pedals should be.
Quattro SL Road Pedals
Ease of Entry
With platform and cleat spinning independently, can be hard to find the right spot; when things are aligned, it’s very easy.
Ease of Exit
Very quiet and smooth with two release angles.
Cleat can be moved fore and aft and side to side, plus you get release angle options. Adjusting float might be nice for some.
Lots of float built in, platform makes very positive feeling between shoe and pedal, quiets road feedback to your feet.
Excellent! Fast look with high-quality parts, plus great packaging. Vibrant color options available at the next price point.
Recommended. Everything is well considered and well constructed, entry could be easier.
Random Thoughts That My Only Interest Me
Quattro is Italian for “four”, as in four sided entry. It’s also four, as in the fourth pedal design from Crank Brothers.
When you walk on these cleats, they will creak a lot on you if you don’t put a little bit of grease between the shoe and the composite platform of the cleat.
I want to take a moment to thank the folks at Crank Brothers for their patience with me. They kindly sent me these pedals in the spring and it’s taken me forever to get this review together.
312g per pair
forged 420 stainless steel
fibre composite / stainless
15° or 20°
formed s45c carbon steel
max rider weight
300 series stainless steel
A Note on the Author: Dominic Lazzaretto has completed eight triathlons (kind of near the front of the age grouper pack) and has competed in dozens of road running races, mountain bike races, and road cycling events. He is one of the official gear reviewers for BeginnerTriathlete.com.