Crankalicious Epic Hide Leather and Vinyl Cleanser is a gentle but still effective and versatile cleaner. It's designed for genuine and faux hides – shoes, saddles and bar wrap are obvious candidates. I've tested it on various types of hide and synthetic surfaces with very good results, prior to 'feeding' and sealing with Crankalicious Leather Lacquer.
Traditionally, leather cleansers have tended to contain strong solvent, which gobbled grime, stray tar and other contaminant very effectively but over time would also rot stitching. Crankalicious wouldn't give much away but confirmed it works to the same principles but is water-based. Aside from dirty, dog-eared saddles, it reckons Epic Hide is gentle enough for kangaroo leather shoes and even helmets.
Epic Hide is designed to be rinsed off with clean water, and I've applied it to saddles, bar wrap and so on when giving bikes a sudsy bucket wash. Delivery is much the same as a bike wash: give the bottle a quick shake, flick the trigger spray open and fire from 30cm. (A couple of shots is all you'll need for saddles and bar tapes.) Work it into the hide and watch as the elixir starts dissolving the dirt.
In common with bike washes and degreasers, repeat applications may be necessary. One was sufficient for some well-used though generally loved Specialized shoes. However, the ingrained patina commonly cultivated by bar tapes will need at least two coats, delivered in rapid succession.
Once you've got things clean, or clean enough, rinse through with a damp cloth. By and large, this is enough, although more heavily soiled kit benefited from a more liberal, tepid water rinse.
Results have been generally impressive. Impacted road salt, mud and oily spatter lifted from my Lake winter booties, given repeated applications (four squirts in total). It works quickly, too, although no faster than other, water-based cleaners: my Lakes were cleaned, rinsed and drying within eight minutes. It was much the same story with my Quoc Pham touring shoes and my somewhat neglected workshop boots.
Glossy patent coverings, such as some Specialized shoes and my long-serving Specialized Toupe saddle, only required the most cursory of licks before being rinsed and ready.
I'm very endeared to silicone-based handlebar coverings, although caring and cleaning is tricky, but four squirts of Epic Hide and a gentle rub down with a dimpled towel removed ingrained chain lube and other grime very convincingly.
You can buy water-based cleaner/feed from a saddlery/tack shop that will do both cleaning and protecting jobs to a decent standard. I've used such products for years and they tend to be faster-acting than Epic Hide, and can also be bought in bigger quantities, thus cheaper: a litre for around £8.
They're not something I'd use on a helmet, though, and I'd say the Epic Hide has a slight edge when it comes to shifting bugs and oily, petrochemical-infused contaminant. By the same token, while good on careworn, slightly distressed looking hides, it won't rescue really crusty saddles, shoes or cracked toe-straps.
Epic Hide Leather and Vinyl Cleanser does what it promises and to a high standard, extending the life of expensive shoes, saddles, bar tape and accessories. Nonetheless, it is relatively expensive and not obviously superior to motorcycle and equestrian products that I've used for many years, though it is much kinder to genuine hides than household alternatives. You can also buy it in sachet form (Kwipes), priced from 85p.
Does what it promises to a very good standard, but not obviously superior to some cheaper motorcycle/equestrian products
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Crankalicious Epic Hide Leather and Vinyl Cleanser
Size tested: 250ml
Tell us what the product is for
Crankalicious says, "Intensive cleanser for saddle, shoes, gloves and bar tape. Works on natural and synthetic materials (i.e. uncoated and coated natural hide, leather cloth/faux leather and vinyl)."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Instructions: Spray Epic Hide directly onto leather or vinyl and remove contamination with a clean, dry sponge or cloth. Rinse with a damp cloth. Allow to dry naturally. Repeat process for particularly grubby areas or stubborn stains. Note: do not use on damaged or degraded materials. If unsure of results, test on an inconspicuous area first
Generally very effective and quick acting, even on ingrained muck. However, add ingrained/neglected petrochemical/tar based spatter into the mix and you're looking at three applications before they'll shift. That said, it's still gentle enough on kangaroo leather and similar high-end hides.
More pleasant to use than those employing petrochemical-derived solvents. Usual common sense stuff about washing hands after use applies.
It's pricey compared with alternatives, though it's also quite effective so you can be relatively frugal (heavily soiled examples might require repeat applications).
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It does a very good job of rejuvenating sullied leather and vinyl-topped products. It has worked particularly well on older saddles that had been left languishing in storage, my Quoc Pham touring shoes and Lake winter booties, which were looking a little grimy following a grotty spring. Most superficial grime is dismissed first time, but bargain on two or three if it's mixed in with petrochemical grot and/or left for long periods.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Effective, pleasant to use and seemingly kind to hosts.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
It's more expensive and not as fast-acting as similarly effective equestrian/motorcycle products I've used for years.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
It's kind yet very effective on most kinds of ingrained dirt, but it is quite pricey compared with alternatives.
About the tester
I usually ride: Rough Stuff Tourer Based around 4130 Univega mtb Frameset My best bike is: 1955 Holdsworth Road Path and several others including cross & traditional road
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking
Shaun Audane is a freelance writer/product tester with over twenty-eight years riding experience, the last twelve (120,000 miles) spent putting bikes and kit through their paces for a variety of publications. Previous generations of his family worked at manufacturing's sharp end, thus Shaun can weld, has a sound understanding of frame building practice and a preference for steel or titanium framesets.
Citing Richard Ballantine and an Au pair as his earliest cycling influences, he is presently writing a cycling book with particular focus upon women, families and disabled audiences (Having been a registered care manager and coached children at Herne Hill Velodrome in earlier careers)