Hands-on Gear Review

Shimano M520 Review

Price:  $45 List | $26.19 at REI
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Decently lightweight, lightest adjsutable tension pedal we've tested, CHEAP
Cons:  Small platform which means there isn't much to stand on if you aren't clipped in, only come in black
Bottom line:  The lowest cost clipless model tested that's also one of the lightest.
Editors' Rating:   
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Weight per Pair (grams):  374 g
Weight of Cleats and Bolts (grams):  50 g
Cleat Type:  SPD Mountain
Manufacturer:   Shimano

Our Verdict

The Shimano M520 is one of the best deals out there for a clipless mountain bike pedal. It just narrowly misses the Best Buy award to the Shimano M530 SPD. The 530 is better for most people because it has a solid platform. However, the 520 is much lighter and less expensive. The 520 is easy to clip in and out of, incredibly durable, versatile, has adjustable tension, and retails for only $45 (but can often be found for less.) It's the no-brainer choice for someone on a budget who wants to travel light. The higher-end version is the Shimano XTR M9000 Race which shaves 62 grams (about 18%). The M9000 is a better pedal but is about triple the costs.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Mountain Bike Pedal Review


Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
McKenzie Long and Luke Lydiard

Last Updated:
Friday
August 7, 2015

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The Shimano M520 is an incredibly versatile, durable, and inexpensive clipless pedal. Our testers have owned pairs of these for multiple years and have used them on all styles of bikes, from road bikes to commuter bikes to hardtail cross-country bikes, to six-inch enduro bikes. This is the pedal to buy if you are on a budget.

Performance Comparison


The M520 pedals are so inexpensive and durable  that they work well on any type of mountain bike. Here the pedals and the tester are enjoying a ride outside of Las Vegas  NV.
The M520 pedals are so inexpensive and durable, that they work well on any type of mountain bike. Here the pedals and the tester are enjoying a ride outside of Las Vegas, NV.

Ease of Entry


This pedal is pretty dang easy to get into. The cleat seats into the mechanism with a satisfying, audible click. The Shimano M530 is essentially the same as this pedal but with the addition of a mini-cage around the clip-in mechanism. That small platform makes that model of pedal just slightly easier to get into than this pedal without a cage, which requires slightly better aim.

Ease of Exit


There is no cage to hang up on, so we think getting out of this pedal is quite clean and easy.

Adjustability


The tension on the M520 is adjustable using a 3mm allen wrench, just like on all Shimano mountain pedals. This makes it so someone new to clipless pedals can have very soft tension for easy entry and exit, while a seasoned cyclist can crank up the tension to his or her liking.

One of the biggest benefits to the Shimano pedals is that the tension of the clip-in mechanism can be adjusted from very firm to very soft. The hole on top of the pedal is where this adjustment is made with a 3mm allen.
One of the biggest benefits to the Shimano pedals is that the tension of the clip-in mechanism can be adjusted from very firm to very soft. The hole on top of the pedal is where this adjustment is made with a 3mm allen.

Weight


The M520 is not as light as you would think for such a small pedal, weighing 374 grams per pair. These are comparable to the Crankbrothers Eggbeater 2 which also don't have any cage or platform, but the Eggbeaters weigh just 278 grams. If you are interested in going as light as possible, we suggest those pedals over the M520.

The two pedals in our test without a platform: the Crankbrothers Eggbeater 2 on the left and the Shimano M520 on the right. Note that even without a platform the M520 provides twice the amount of surface to stand on as the Eggbeater.
The two pedals in our test without a platform: the Crankbrothers Eggbeater 2 on the left and the Shimano M520 on the right. Note that even without a platform the M520 provides twice the amount of surface to stand on as the Eggbeater.

Platform


There is no cage or platform on this simple pedal, however, when compared to the Eggbeater 2 there is twice as much surface area to stand on. If you want a little bit of a cage to help you clip in faster, we suggest the M530, which is the same great pedal with with slightly more surface area.

Size comparison between the Shimano M530 (left) and the Shimano M520 (right). The extra platform on the M530 makes it a little easier to clip into.
Size comparison between the Shimano M530 (left) and the Shimano M520 (right). The extra platform on the M530 makes it a little easier to clip into.

Mud Shedding Ability


The mud shedding ability of the M520 is as good as it could be for an SPD pedal. Crankbrothers pedals do have an advantage over SPD pedals because of the more open design of the retention spring.

Durability


There is no cage around the clip-in mechanism to protect the pedal itself, but our testers have owned pairs of these affordable pedals for years and they never seem to die. For just $45 it would be hard not to get your money's worth out of these burly pedals.

Best Applications


This pedal is excellent for cross-country mountain biking or commuting. We also highly recommend the M520 for trying out clipless pedals without spending much money.

Curtis Smith testing the Shimano M520 with the Giro Terraduro shoe at the Northstar Bike Park in California. This pedal has a common cleat  is extremely durable and versatile  and is also very affordable.
Curtis Smith testing the Shimano M520 with the Giro Terraduro shoe at the Northstar Bike Park in California. This pedal has a common cleat, is extremely durable and versatile, and is also very affordable.

Value


This is the least expensive pedal we've tested. Consider the versatility and durability of this pedal, and we think it is the best deal out there for a mountain clipless pedal. It retails for just $45, but you can find them for even less using our price finder tool. Additionally, the use of a common cleat means you are likely to already have a pair of shoes with these SPD cleats, so getting this pedal for your second bike is the most economical way to go.

Conclusion


Without hesitation, we give the M520 our Best Buy Award. It is a supremely versatile and durable pedal with a very low entry cost and it will last for years.

Recommended Pairing


This pedal works best with a hard-soled, cross-country oriented shoe like the Giro Privateer R or Sidi Dominator 5 Fit. It can work on a wide range of bikes from commuter bikes, to hardtails, to bikes with 4 to six inches of travel.

Other Versions and Accessories


Shimano M540
Shimano PD-M540 SPD Pedals
  • Cost - $90
  • Does not have a pedal wrench flat
  • The lack of a wrench flat saves a few grams, but it's not worth it in our opinion

Shimano M530
  • Cost - $69
  • They are very easy to get in and out of
  • Earned our Editors' Choice Award
  • Least expensive offering in the the mini-platform pedal category
McKenzie Long and Luke Lydiard

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