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Shimano XTR M9120 Trail Review

Top of the line offering from Shimano, they're silky smooth, adjustable and renowned for their consistency.
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Price:  $180 List | $167.58 at Amazon
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
Manufacturer:   Shimano
By Joshua Hutchens ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jun 10, 2019
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81
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#3 of 19
  • Ease of Exit - 25% 9
  • Ease of Entry - 20% 9
  • Adjustability - 20% 8
  • Weight - 15% 7
  • Platform - 10% 6
  • Mud Shedding Ability - 10% 8

Our Verdict

The M9120 pedals are the newest iteration of the Shimano's original clipless mountain bike pedal. The new XTR Trail pedal is longer, wider and heavier than the model it replaces. While we find the additional width contributed to stability, the additional length is lost on us. The pedals continue to lead the pack in smooth float, and we found them efficient at shedding mud and debris. Both of the new XTR pedals have had their intended uses downgraded, does this mean less durability? Our experience in roughly 100 miles makes us wonder?


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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Silky smooth float, lightweight, great mud shedding, additional platform widthLightweight, adjustable, low profile, inexpensive, available in many colors.Lightweight, low profile, available in 2 different axle lengthsPlatform feel, proven durability, good valueStable, great power transfer, excellent traction while engaged, inexpensive
Cons Expensive, rear platform is under utilized, questionable durabilityHeavier cleats, float isn't as smooth as ShimanoNarrow platform, expensive, not recommended for trail or all-mountain ridingHigher stack than the XTR, lower mud clearanceHeavy, sharp pins are a hazard to everything but your shoe
Bottom Line Top of the line offering from Shimano, they're silky smooth, adjustable and renowned for their consistency.Thinner, lighter, and less expensive than the Shimano XTR Trail with more usable platform and more adjustability.A highly evolved, race proven pedal that provides exceptional stability for its size.This do it all pedal for most riders it renown for its durability and value.A big step up in stability and traction, we find them worth their extra weight.
Rating Categories Shimano XTR M9120 Trail HT Components T1 Shimano XTR M9100 Race Shimano Deore XT M8020 Shimano Saint SPD M820
Ease Of Exit (25%)
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
8
Ease Of Entry (20%)
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
8
Adjustability (20%)
10
0
8
10
0
10
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
8
Weight (15%)
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
0
4
Platform (10%)
10
0
6
10
0
8
10
0
5
10
0
7
10
0
10
Mud Shedding Ability (10%)
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
8
Specs Shimano XTR M9120... HT Components T1 Shimano XTR M9100... Shimano Deore XT... Shimano Saint SPD...
Weight per Pair (grams) 397g 372g 314g 404g 550g
Weight of Cleats and Bolts (grams) 51g 62g 51g 50g 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) 100 x 71 mm 68mm x 83.5mm 71 x 68 mm 96 x 64 mm 100 x 79 mm
profile height 17mm 16.8mm 17mm 21mm 19mm
Q-Factor 56mm 56mm 56mm 56mm 57mm
Total Width from Crank Arm 84mm 90mm 84mm 89mm 95mm
Entry 2-sided 2-sided 2-sided 2-sided 2-sided
Adjustable Tension yes yes yes yes yes
Traction Pins 0 4grubpins 0 0 4/side
Bearings dual angular contact, metal retainer EVO+ dual angular contact, metal retainer dual angular contact, metal retainer dual angular contact, metal retainer
Cage Material annodized aluminum extruded/CNC machined aluminum annodized aluminum annodized aluminum forged and machined aluminum
Pedal Wrench Type 8mm allen 8mm allen 8mm allen 8mm alllen 8mm allen

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.

Performance Comparison



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,
Quick and easy to get into  the XTR Trail are ready to ride
Quick and easy to get into, the XTR Trail are ready to ride
with a very similar feel, ranked second in ease of entry. WIthout the assistance of the mini platform, the pedal doesn't line up quite as readily, occasionally requiring a second attempt. The XTR trail pedal feels quick and easy to enter, always ready to go.

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.

The XTR pedal has more machined flat area but this doesn't equal more connection with the shoe.
The XTR pedal has more machined flat area but this doesn't equal more connection with the shoe.

Adjustability


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 XTR Trail pedal sometimes accumulated more mud than this but engagement was consistent regardless of conditions.
The XTR Trail pedal sometimes accumulated more mud than this but engagement was consistent regardless of conditions.

Platform


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.

Matching the Shimano XTR M9120 Trail pedal up with the Shimano AM7 shoe we still couldn't utilize the additional platform of the pedal.
Matching the Shimano XTR M9120 Trail pedal up with the Shimano AM7 shoe we still couldn't utilize the additional platform of the 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.

Running the cleat all the forward or all the way back  we just couldnt make use of this additional material on the XTR Trail pedal  even using Shimano's all-mountain shoe.
Running the cleat all the forward or all the way back, we just couldnt make use of this additional material on the XTR Trail pedal, even using Shimano's all-mountain shoe.

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.

Very similar dimensions between the XTR M-9120 and the HT T-1
Very similar dimensions between the XTR M-9120 and the HT T-1

Weight


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


Comparing the engagement mechanism you can see that the HT has significantly less material up front.
Comparing the engagement mechanism you can see that the HT has significantly less material up front.

Best Applications


These pedals are a great option for those splurging for the full XTR build on their new bike. While they offer a touch more surface contact than their predecessors, we'd recommend the Shimano M8020 Trail pedals that weigh an additional 7 grams and have held up really well since testing last year.

3 out of 4 seals had come out by the end of our second ride
3 out of 4 seals had come out by the end of our second ride

Conclusion


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.

Recommended Pairing


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