We give Aaron Gwin's clipless HT x1 pedal a test. Will it beat the class defining Crank Brothers Mallet DH?
Caged clipless pedals are going through something of a resurgence in both downhill and enduro racing. Top of the heap, over the last few years, has been Crank Brothers’ Mallet DH, used by most of the World Cup field and countless privateer racers. But competition is hotting up, with Shimano developing a third-generation DX model and HT introducing this new X1.
The X1 was developed with the help of two-time World Cup champion Aaron Gwin, and has an extruded and machined aluminium body with a broad platform. It’s 1mm thinner than the Mallet DH, but critically it’s also narrower at either end, and there are only three pins at the front and two pins at the back against the Mallet’s four.
Mated to a Giro Chamber (the shoe Gwin wears) only the corner pins come anywhere near contacting the rubber sole. Including an additional set of longer pins in the box would help in this respect and allow you to tune the grip that is on offer.
While the Mallet DH uses a four-sided, sprung stirrup to hold its cleat, HT has a kind of Shimano/Crank Brothers hybrid mechanism.
It’s sprung at both ends, but unlike the Crank Brothers, you can’t just stamp down to engage the cleat. Instead, you have to slide the tip of the cleat under the bar first and then press down at the back, SPD-style. As a result, you have to be pretty accurate with cleat placement to clip in.
Spring tension is adjustable, something not offered by the Mallet DH, but there are no clicks to help you balance the tension between the pedals, and even on the loosest setting it holds the cleat a lot tighter.
There’s a far more positive feel, though, accompanied by a click on entry and exit, and if you like the action of a Shimano SPD, you’ll probably prefer the HT X1 too.
HT offers three different cleat options. All are steel and, although significantly heavier than the Crank Brothers brass items, they should last longer too. After trying them all, I settled on the X-1 cleat, with almost zero float, to make disengagement easier. Plastic shims are supplied to space the cleats away from the sole.
Running one makes it easier to clip in, but the pedal pins only really dig into the sole when the cleat is bolted directly against the shoe.
HT has made a pretty good first attempt at a clipless DH pedal, and if you don’t like Crank Brothers’ rather vague mechanism, you’ll probably love the X1. On the downside, I found clipping in more difficult, and the aluminium body didn’t quite give the same level of grip and support as the Mallet DH.