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Shimano Saint SPD M820 Review

A big step up in stability and traction, we find them worth their extra weight.
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $128 List
Pros:  Stable, great power transfer, excellent traction while engaged, inexpensive
Cons:  Heavy, sharp pins are a hazard to everything but your shoe
Manufacturer:   Shimano
By Joshua Hutchens ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Aug 29, 2018
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76
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#4 of 14
  • Ease of Exit - 25% 8
  • Ease of Entry - 20% 8
  • Adjustability - 20% 8
  • Weight - 15% 4
  • Platform - 10% 10
  • Mud Shedding Ability - 10% 8

The Skinny

The Saint M820 push the limits of control while challenging our ideas about acceptable weight. Taking home the Editor's Choice award, we found the pedal provided such a stable platform and so much grip that we could get more aggressive and carry more speed. While their hefty weight was initially off-putting, we came to accept that this is the price of performance. Already hugely popular with their intended crowd of enduro racers, these pedals could have a much wider audience. Pair them with the Shimano ME7 clipless shoe and you can experience the full potential of each of these products.


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Shimano M820 Saint are hefty out of the box. They're heavy, but they're also quite slim, measuring 19mm in the center. The platforms appear particularly wide mid pedal and offer four adjustable traction pins, two fore and two aft on each side of the pedal.

Dual row cup and cone bearings support the high strength chromoly steel axle. The bodies are forged, machined and anodized while the engagement mechanism is the same that we find on the Shimano XT M8020. The lock bushes are anodized gold, giving the pedal that rare bit of flare spotted on a Shimano product.

Performance Comparison


Fat skis  wide bars  big rims  giant pedals? I think so..
Fat skis, wide bars, big rims, giant pedals? I think so..

Ease of Entry


These pedals are among the easiest to engage in our test. The platform feels like a can't miss size and engagement is what we've come to expect from a Shimano pedal. The traction pins and platform offer only minor interference on the rear of the pedal. Even with the traction pins installed at full length, the entry doesn't feel compromised. Once engaged, however, this pedal is far more substantial feeling than any previous iteration of the SPD.


In dry conditions we thought the DMR V-Twin was easier to get into due to its highly polished clipless mechanism, earning it the highest ease of entry score. Even with its (somewhat dull) 7 pins per side, the engagement was slick and effortless. Read on to see how that slick engagement holds up in the mud.

You have 5 points of contact with your bike  increasing your pedal contact patch this can make a big difference in your level of control.
You have 5 points of contact with your bike, increasing your pedal contact patch this can make a big difference in your level of control.

Ease of Exit


The Saint M820 offers predictable SPD release with no appreciable hang-ups on the traction pins. Due to the platform's width, you're not jettisoned off the side when you unclip, which we appreciate.


The DMR V-Twin releases the cleat with less force, but its platform isn't quite as tacky as the Shimano pedal. While the Saint offers a strong audible confirmation, the DMR sounds a bit more subtle and requires less effort to release.

Adjustability


The Saint is very adjustable, and we score it accordingly. But it's no match for the DMR V-Twin in this metric. The DMR features all the adjustment options of the Shimano pedal and nylon bumpers that can be raised and lowered using steel shims. Those bumpers can be used with or without traction pins to customize their feel. The steel shims used on the DMR come with a serious weight penalty, but we address that elsewhere.


Like other Shimano SPD pedals, the Saint M820 pedals feature adjustable release tension, which you can adjust using a 3mm allen key on either side of the pedal. To ensure equal tension, adjust all four (1 on each side of each pedal) equally. To do this, twist each as far as you can go in one direction and then work backward, counting the clicks as you go. These have 20 clicks, or detents.

New to clipless? All Shimano SPD mountain pedals come standard with SH-51 cleats that release when you rotate your heel inward or outward. If you're just learning or want the easiest bail option possible, consider Shimano's SH-56 multi-release cleat. These allow you to exit with an upward pull as well.

Traction pins, if installed without washers, protrude 3mm. You can also decrease the pin height to approximately 1mm or 2mm by using the included 1mm or 2mm washers. The pedals install using an 8mm allen key. The chromoly axle does not have a 15mm wrench slot.

Weight


At 550 grams, the Saint pedal isn't for the rider counting grams or wanting the uphill edge. The pedals pack in a sizable platform, adjustable traction pins, and adjustable release tension, so it's not surprising that they're heavy. And, to increase durability, Shimano uses a forged aluminum pedal body which is significantly stronger than using cast or extruded aluminum.


Weighing in at almost double a set of CrankBrothers Egg Beaters, however, means we're expecting a big bump in performance. To put that in perspective, the Saint pedals weigh 130 grams more than the Crank Brothers Mallet E and 81 grams more than the Xpedo GFX. With the shims installed on the DMR pedals, they weigh an astounding 610 grams! As substantial as they are, if you're starting to push your limits on the downhill, or don't spend much time pedaling back up, they're probably worth it.

Wide and thin  the Saint pedal provides a substantial interface
Wide and thin, the Saint pedal provides a substantial interface

Platform


Substance! Its a feeling like getting on wide skis for the first time, big bad and bold. They're heavy, but the ride is so stable and confidence inspiring that it feels worth the trade-off. Stepping back on a mini cage pedal after riding the Saint really drove home how much surface contact has an impact on grip and feel.


Sporting four traction pins per side, the Saint's pins don't interface with the shoe the way most others do. The forefoot pins, even at full length, are minimally engaged on any of our test shoes. Instead, these pins function to grab the shoe and level the pedal for engagement.

Tremendously stable and reassuring
Tremendously stable and reassuring

Mud Shedding


A mud shedding pedal is a serious attribute as mud accumulation can render your pedal/shoe interface, and thus your bike, useless. We test this one on wet rides in the real world and by making a big mud pit. The kids love it.


The way this pedal feels in the mud reminds us of the Shimano XT M8020 despite the wide interface between pedal platform and sole. That's a good thing. The pedal body sports machined grooves to help the shoe grip in wet conditions. The groves also help clear the mud and debris that accumulate between them.

Best Applications


All mountain and enduro riders looking for extra control will find it here. Downhill riders that prefer the SPD mechanism finally have a replacement to those old DX pedals. If you're looking to eek out more performance from your trail bike and aren't afraid of a bit of weight, these are your ticket. Given their size and weight, these pedals will be appreciated most by bikes with a bit more travel and riders with higher levels of skill.

Value


Shimano offers some great value on SPD pedals, and the Saint pedals are no exception. With an MSRP of $128, the Saint undercuts so much of their competition. With durability and reliability being hallmarks of SPD pedals, we think they're an exceptional value.

Conclusion


Do you value control over weight? Our opinions have changed over the years, and while we once thought we'd be riding 5lb mountain bikes by now, none of us are disappointed in the performance of today's mountain bikes. For every weight saving innovation in cycling we've had, there's been another that enhanced performance, control or safety. These pedals are solid, stable and reliable. It's not without some pause that we bolt on a new part that's a couple of hundred grams heavier than the one it's replacing, but these feel worth it.


Joshua Hutchens