Shimano PD-M8120 XT SPD Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Substantial platform underfoot, legendary durability, solid value
Cons: Oversized locknut can interfere with proper fit and float feel
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Back in 1983 Shimano debuted two new products, a group called Deore XT for the burgeoning mountain bike market and the other was the first SPD pedal. After 37 years of evolution, both products have found their respective grooves and the Shimano XT M8120 is the latest product to carry both names. Shimano's innovation has allowed them to engineer and build products that continue to push the rapidly evolving sport of mountain biking. A reliable performer, the XT M8120 offers similar performance to the XTR M9120 without the durability issues. Just 26-grams heavier than its predecessor, this pedal features more surface area and lower stack height. The anodized and machined body extends further toward the heel with space that looks usable but rarely sees contact from the shoe. The unpolished Chromoly steel spindle houses a very familiar set of bearings, seals and a slightly revised 17mm lock nut. While the previous version used the same sized locknut, its 21mm body hid the edges of the hexagonal shape. Now that the body has been slimmed down to 18mm, the 17mm hexagonal locknut can protrude into the sole of the shoe, a small but unfortunate oversight.
Ease of Entry
Crisp, clean engagement is an attribute of Shimano pedals and the XT M8120 is no exception. Finding the slightly larger pedals is simple and the SPD mechanism engages readily. The pedal's machined aluminum surface provides a little bit of grip and consistent float regardless if your shoe is wet or dry. Due to the significantly larger size compared to its predecessor, clipping in was lightning fast, earning it high marks in this test for ease of entry.
Ease of Exit
Ease of exit is of obvious importance, we found the XT M8120 let us rapidly disengage when we needed to. The distance your heel travels from the end of the float to release is short, consistent, and accompanied by an audible click. When you unclip, you know it; there's no in-between or second-guessing and while still not an ideal place to perch, the larger platform is slightly more accommodating to an unclipped shoe. The XT pedals don't use grub pins as we find on many of the other pedals. The grub pins can aid in the entry but sometimes interfere with a smooth exit, delaying how fast our feet can get to the ground.
The XT M8120 features adjustable release tension and installs using an 8mm Allen key inside the spindle. Release tension is adjusted with a 3mm Allen key on either side of the pedal, this adjustment features 20 detents from loose to firm hold. Shimano offers an alternative cleat that can change the release behavior by allowing upward release but there are no other ways to adjust this pedal. There are no grub pins, no float adjustment, no shoe pads or replaceable bumpers. Consequently, there's no way to adjust the amount of grip you get on the pedal. In this metric, there are several other models that beat the XT in terms of adjustability.
Weighing in at 430-grams, the new pedals are 26-grams heavier than the XT M8020 pedals that they replace. While it's fairly uncommon for the new product to be heavier than the outgoing model it replaces, we'd be remiss to judge these based solely on weight. The similarly shaped XTR M9120 weigh in 33 grams lighter but proved not nearly as durable in our testing.
The XT M8120 and XTR M9120 share the same shape but oddly, neither pedal is really able to make use of the machined area at the rear of the pedal. That said, the platform of 100mm long x 71mm wide is quite substantial. Visually, it's apparent that the XT hasn't been machined quite as aggressively and it seems to provide a touch more contact with all of our test shoes, particularly on the locknut, which is odd. The locknut tightens into the pedal at 10Nm, if that torque is achieved while the hexagonal locknut sits proud of the pedal then it will interface with your shoe.
The locknut sticks up just enough to feel different than the other pedal and provides a touch more resistance while floating. To solve the issue, you could over-torque the bolt, under-torque the bolt, file it off or stand on it but this is a pretty unfortunate oversight in our opinion.
Mud Shedding Ability
The current generation of SPD pedals does quite well in the mud and the XT M8120 is no exception. The longer body provides someplace for mud to hang on but jamming the engagement mechanism took a wildly contrived effort. They couldn't shed the mud like a Crank Brothers Egg Beater 3 but we were pleasantly surprised by how they seemed unaffected by the muck.
The engagement mechanism on this pedal doesn't feel quite as slick as the XTR M9120 pedals but we found them virtually equal in their ability to remain functional in the nasty stuff.
Shimano offers an incredibly diverse range of SPD pedals, we find the XT M8120 best suited for the mountain biker wanting a bit more connection with the bike without breaking the bank. At 404 grams, they're light enough that we'd recommend them for just about any bike. All-mountain, Enduro and aggressive Cross country riders will certainly benefit from the substantial connection they provide.
Sometimes the real gem of the line up isn't all the way at the top. The new XT pedals have gotten wider, thinner, and have more surface area to connect with, all positive changes. While we found the terminal position of the locknut poorly engineered, it's not enough of an annoyance to distract from a package that is otherwise quite impressive. They picked up a few grams and kept the price around two-thirds of the XTR, which makes them a pretty compelling value and our Top Pick. We'd recommend them to riders looking to try a robust clipless pedal or anyone currently riding older SPD pedals, the additional stability feels worth the upgrade.
— Joshua Hutchens