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Shimano M520 Review

The lowest cost clipless model tested that's also among the lightest
Shimano M520
Credit: Shimano
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Price:  $50 List | $50.00 at REI
Pros:  Decently lightweight, lightest adjsutable tension pedal we've tested, CHEAP
Cons:  Minimal platform, only come in black
Manufacturer:   Shimano
By McKenzie Long and Luke Lydiard  ⋅  Aug 7, 2015
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68
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#12 of 19
  • Ease of Exit - 25% 5.0
  • Ease of Entry - 20% 9.0
  • Adjustability - 20% 8.0
  • Weight - 15% 8.0
  • Platform - 10% 3.0
  • Mud Shedding Ability - 10% 6.0

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 M9100 Race which shaves 60 grams (about 18%). The M9100 is a better pedal but is about triple the costs.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Shimano M520
This Product
Shimano M520
Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award Best Buy Award 
Price $50 List
$50.00 at REI
$135 List$180 List
$162.80 at Amazon
$130 List
$101.69 at Amazon
Check Price at REI
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Pros Decently lightweight, lightest adjsutable tension pedal we've tested, CHEAPLightweight, adjustable, low profile, inexpensive, available in many colorsLightweight, low profile, available in 2 different axle lengthsSubstantial platform underfoot, legendary durability, solid valueCapable, versatile, inexpensive, easy to use and adjustable
Cons Minimal platform, only come in blackHeavier cleats, float isn't as smooth as ShimanoNarrow platform, expensive, not recommended for trail or all-mountain ridingOversized locknut can interfere with proper fit and float feelSlightly heavy, bulky for some uses, painted platform
Bottom Line The lowest cost clipless model tested that's also among the lightestThinner, lighter, and less expensive than the XTR Trail with more usable platform and more adjustabilityA highly evolved, race proven pedal that provides exceptional stability for its sizeThe capable all-mountain pedal renowned for its durability and solid performance ratchets up the performance specsAn adjustable, full-featured pedal offering stability and ease of use at a reasonable price point
Rating Categories Shimano M520 HT Components T1 Shimano XTR M9100 Race Shimano PD-M8120 XT... Shimano ME700
Ease of Exit (25%)
5.0
8.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
Ease of Entry (20%)
9.0
9.0
8.0
9.0
8.0
Adjustability (20%)
8.0
10.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
Weight (15%)
8.0
8.0
9.0
6.0
5.0
Platform (10%)
3.0
8.0
5.0
8.0
8.0
Mud Shedding Ability (10%)
6.0
9.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
Specs Shimano M520 HT Components T1 Shimano XTR M9100 Race Shimano PD-M8120 XT... Shimano ME700
Weight per Pair (grams) 374g 372g 314g 430g 482g
Weight of Cleats and Bolts (grams) 50g 62g 51g 51g 50g
Cleat Type SPD Mountain HT X1 or HT X1F SPD mountain SPD mountain SPD mountain
Style no cage mini-cage no cage mini-cage mini-cage
Platform Dimensions (lxw) 42 x 61 mm 68mm x 83.5mm 71 x 68 mm 100 x 71 mm 100 x 74mm
profile height 22mm 16.8mm 17mm 18mm 19mm
Q-Factor 55 mm 56mm 56mm 55mm 55mm
Total Width from Crank Arm 80 mm 90mm 84mm 92mm 93mm
Entry 2-sided 2-sided 2-sided 2-sided 2-sided
Adjustable Tension yes yes yes yes yes
Traction Pins 0 4 grub pins 0 0 0
Bearings Dual Angular Contact EVO+ dual angular contact, metal retainer dual angular contact, metal retainer dual angular contact, plastic retainer
Cage Material n/a extruded/CNC machined aluminum annodized aluminum anodized and machined aluminum painted aluminum
Pedal Wrench Type 8mm allen 8mm allen 8mm allen 8mm allen 6mm allen or 15mm open end

Our Analysis and Test Results

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


Shimano M520 mountain bike pedals - the m520 pedals are so inexpensive and durable, that they work well...
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.
Credit: Luke Lydiard

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. It is comparable to other Shimano pedals in their disengagement which is confirmed with an audible click. It is much easier than some other styles of pedals, like those made by Time or Crankbrothers, that require much more twist before you hit the release point.

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.

Shimano M520 mountain bike pedals - one of the biggest benefits to the shimano pedals is that the...
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.
Credit: Luke Lydiard

Weight


The M520 are relatively lightweight, but 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.

Shimano M520 mountain bike pedals - the two pedals in our test without a platform: the crankbrothers...
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.
Credit: Luke Lydiard

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 slightly more surface area.

Shimano M520 mountain bike pedals - size comparison between the shimano m530 (left) and the shimano m520...
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.
Credit: Luke Lydiard

Mud Shedding Ability


The mud shedding ability of the M520 is as good as it could be for an SPD pedal. Crankbrothers and Time pedals do have an advantage over SPD style 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.

Shimano M520 mountain bike pedals - curtis smith testing the shimano m520 with the giro terraduro shoe...
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.
Credit: Karl Anderson

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


The M520 is a quality clipless pedal at an unbeatable price. 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. 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 M520 mountain bike pedals - shimano pd-m540 spd pedals
Shimano PD-M540 SPD Pedals
Credit: amazon.com
  • 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
Shimano M520 mountain bike pedals
Credit: Shimano
  • Cost - $69
  • They are very easy to get in and out of
  • Earned our Best Buy Award
  • Least expensive offering in the mini-platform pedal category

McKenzie Long and Luke Lydiard
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