Shimano XTR M9120 Trail Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Silky smooth float, lightweight, great mud shedding, additional platform width
Cons: Expensive, rear platform is under utilized, questionable durability
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The XTR M9120 Trail pedal is the newest and lightest version of their small platform all-mountain pedal. The extruded and anodized aluminum body has been widened and lengthened to provide more contact with the sole of the shoe. As is typical with XTR, the machining is meticulous, and the finish is superb. The pedals install using an 8mm Allen key into the hollowed out and highly polished Chromoly steel axle. The pedals use a smaller 15mm collar to hold the axles in place keeping trim with the narrower profile. As with previous iterations of XTR pedals, they use 22 polished steel bearings instead of the 24 we find in almost all other SPD pedals.
Like any connoisseur of gear, we relish the unboxing of fancy new products. It came as a surprise to us that the new XTR pedals didn't feel particularly smooth, at least not Shimano smooth and certainly not "assembled in Japan, XTR smooth." They were a little notchy, each of the four new XTR pedals exhibited the same mildly crunchy hand feel. We're not judging these pedals by their hand feel, but we found this odd and a bit disconcerting.
Ease of Entry
As with previous versions of this pedal, we found the new XTR Trail pedals incredibly easy to engage, the larger platform is an easy target. The platform makes it easy to line the pedal up for easy engagement every time, turning the pedal to the perfect flat position right before engagement. Shimano's tried and true engagement mechanism and cleat interface click right into place with a smooth and easy feel. Small amounts of mud and muck don't seem to affect the entry performance either. Once you're clicked in, the four degrees of float feels natural and impressively smooth.
The XTR M9100,
Ease of Exit
Tied with the XTR M9100 we found the 9120 Trail pedal quick and easy to exit. Like its predecessors, the new version has clean disengagement and a reassuring, audible click.
Regardless of the release tension you've chosen you still hear this audible signal that you've released from the pedal. For comparison, the Time Speciale 8 would release with a similar twist but doesn't always produce that same audible confirmation of release. Like other small platform pedals, the platform provides some stability while your shoe is engaged but it isn't intended for standing on without being engaged.
Like all previous Shimano SPD pedals, the XTR M9120 feature adjustable release tension which is adjusted with a 3mm Allen key on either side of the pedal. This adjustment features 20 detents from loose to firm release. These pedals don't feature adjustable traction pins like the HT T-1 or the Time Speciale 8 so they don't take home the top score for adjustability here.
A set of SH-51 cleats is standard equipment with every pair of Shimano mountain bike pedals. These cleats release from the pedal by rotating your heel in or out. For newbies or those who'd like an easier release, Shimano makes the SH-56 cleats that also allow release in several upward angles as well.
The big update for this iteration of the XTR trail pedal is the additional surface area we refer to as the platform. The larger the platform, the more connection your shoe makes with the pedal. It can be a challenge for manufacturers to create a supportive interface without increasing the pedal's weight, bulkiness, or complexity.
The M9120 doesn't have the platform width of the Shimano Saint M820 but is larger than the M9020, notably longer. In general, we're supportive of these platforms getting bigger and creating more contact with the shoe. This platform, although wider, doesn't do much to increase the interface between shoe and pedal.
The addition of this machined rear platform we assumed would be positive, but instead, we found it a relatively useless addition. We tested this pedal with Giro Terramoto shoes, 5.10 Falcons, Specialized 2FO, and Shimano AM7, and regardless of where we placed the cleats we never got the rear of the pedal to engage with the shoe. We speculated that under flex, our shoes would contact the rear and engage when it got gnarly but that never happened. As you can clearly see in the photos provided, the rear of the shoe just hovers above the pedal.
Profile height is an impressively thin 17mm which keeps your weight low and lets you sit lower in the cockpit. It also leaves you less prone to pedal strikes on uneven terrain. While impressive, the XTR pedals get beat out in the profile game by the 16.8mm HT T-1. Is the .2mm noticeable? That would be a hard case to make while riding, but the calipers don't lie.
Heavier than the XTR Trail 9020 pedal it replaces, we find it unfortunate that the additional material on this pedal doesn't create more interface with the shoe. The XTR Trail 9120 tips our scales at 397 grams. While still respectably lightweight, its bested again by the HT T-1 at 372 grams.
A few more grams isn't necessarily a bad thing, but the XTR doesn't feel like its picked up grams for a good cause. The HT T-1 feels like it gives you the most possible connection for the amount of metal used while the XTR feels simply stylish.
Mud Shedding Ability
Mud shedding has been a category where Shimano has excelled, and the XTR pedals with their slippery mechanisms have been at the forefront of Shimano's mud-shedding game. We tested the new trail pedal in every viscosity of mud we could find and found the XTR M9120 to be spot on in performance. The pedal's larger body occasionally held on to a bit of mud, but it didn't affect our engagement. In a shoot out that felt a little contrived we rode the HT T-1 on one side and theXTR M9120 trail pedal on the other and purposely dabbed in every bit of mud we could find. Neither pedal denied us entry but time and again the HT appeared to hang on to less mud. We attribute much of the HT's success to the narrow bar at the front of the clipless mechanism
Make no mistake, anything with the letters XTR printed on it generally isn't what we'd refer to as affordable. Considering the fact that the M8120 XT pedals performed as well as the XTR version at a significantly lower price, we'd recommend that anyone seeking the best value go for the less expensive sibling.
We're surprised that they didn't feel particularly smooth out of the box, surprised the seals came out on the second ride and surprised the additional rear part of the cage doesn't contact even their own All-mountain shoe. We were also surprised to have to adjust the play out of the axles before we hit 200 miles. Do we recommend them? Surprisingly, no.
Shimano intends their pedals to be paired with their shoes. We feel that shoes like the Shimano ME7 and the Shimano AM7 would be great options to use with the M9120. We think that other trail and all-mountain shoes, like the Specialized 2FO Cliplite or the Five Ten Kestrel Boa Pro would pair nicely as well.
— Joshua Hutchens