Looking for the best new mountain bike pedals? After researching nearly every clipless pedal on the market, we bought 19 to test and compare side by side. When a new model hits the market, we buy a set and put them through the same rigorous testing process. We test each pedal over hundreds of miles of riding with a variety of shoe styles, various bikes, and the full range of trail types and terrain. After rigorous testing, we rate each model on ease of entry and exit, adjustability, mud-shedding ability, weight, platform, and durability. We have recommendations for everyone, no matter your riding style, preferences, or budget.Related: Best Flat Pedals for Mountain Biking
Best Mountain Bike Pedals
Best Overall Mountain Bike Pedal
HT Components T1
The HT T-1 is a quality, low profile mid-cage clipless mountain bike pedal that checks all our boxes. This pedal is built tough enough for the rigors of enduro racing but is lightweight enough to consider for your XC or trail bike. The wide platform, forward placed grub pins, and adjustable clipless mechanism make for quick and solid engagement and predictable release. Boasting the lowest profile in our test, the HT's still have an ample surface area and provide a reliable connection. They feature a minimalist engagement mechanism that allows for efficient mud clearing. The small body maximizes contact with your shoe creating a stable pedal platform and excellent control. Release tension is adjustable, and the fore-mounted grub pins can also be adjusted up or down. Included with the pedals are two sets of cleats, the X-1 cleats provide 4-degrees, and the X-1F cleats provide 8-degrees of lateral float to suit your preferences.
The HT-1's CNC machined Chromoly steel axles ride on Evo+ precision sealed bearings and IGUS bushings. The pedal bodies are CNC machined extruded aluminum and are offered in a staggering fourteen colors, including stealth black that features an anodized black clipless mechanism and spindle.
Read review: HT T-1
Best Bang for the Buck
Shimano M530 SPD
The M530 is a clipless pedal from Shimano that is an excellent value. It features the same basic design as the Shimano XTR M9120 at about a third of the price. The standard cleat, adjustable tension, and bit of platform combine with legendary durability to create a pedal that is hard to beat for the price. They're ideal for a wide variety of bikes, hardtail to all-mountain, and are a great choice for your first pair of clipless pedals.
The M530 sacrifices some of the fancy features of the XTR while picking up an additional 56-grams. If the weight doesn't scare you and you don't frequent muddy trails, the Shimano M530 is an excellent choice. The only model we tested that is less expensive is the Shimano M520. The M520 is lighter and less expensive than the M530. However, it has such a small platform that we think most riders, especially beginners and intermediates, will prefer the M530.
Read review: Shimano M530
Another Great Trail Riding Pedal
Shimano PD-M8120 XT SPD
Shimano recently updated their XT Trail pedals, now known as the M8120 XT. They carried over the same reliable and predictable performance of the previous version while managing to slim the pedal's profile and enlarge the overall platform, creating more shoe to pedal contact and a greater feeling of foot stability and control. Ease of entry and exit remains as precise as ever with the proven SPD retention mechanism and cleats. We feel this is a great pedal for anyone from enduro racers to hardcore XC trail riders, or anyone looking for consistent entry and release with a generous platform. We also feel the M8120 is a great value considering the durability of these long-lasting and high-performing pedals.
We loved most things about the new M8120 XT pedals, but we found one flaw that was hard to overlook. The hexagonal locknut by the spindle tended to protrude above the level of the pedal body when tightened to the recommended torque specification. This resulted in slight interference with the shoe/pedal interface. The new version is also slightly heavier than the previous one. Beyond that, our love affair with the XT Trail pedals continues, especially with the improvements and updates to the new version.
Read review: Shimano PD-M8120 XT SPD
Best for Versatility
The Xpedo Ambix combines a full-featured, stable, and grippy flat pedal with a lightweight and efficient clipless pedal. These dual-function pedals aren't made for riding your enduro rig to the store in flip flops, although they'd certainly work for that. The 6061 aluminum pedal body and Chromoly axles roll on three sealed cartridge bearings. Like a regular SPD, the clipless side features a wide-open engagement mechanism with a static front bar and spring-loaded rear. The flat side of the pedal features eight nicely spaced and adjustable grub pins. The release tension is adjustable, and the included XPC cleats offer 6-degrees of float.
The pedal's platform size and pin placement interface well with a clipless shoe and aren't overly obtrusive when riding the clipless side. We loved that while riding either side of the pedal you could forget that it had another function. They satisfy a demand for a pedal that can give the clipless rider a chance to step back from commitment in precarious situations or add some efficiency to a flat pedal rider's haul up the hill. Our only real gripe is that it can be a little more complicated to clip back in with the mechanism on only one side of the pedal.
Read review: Xpedo Ambix
Best for Enduro and Downhill Riding
Shimano Saint SPD M820
If you care more about your trail, enduro, or gravity bike's performance and stability than how much it weighs, you might want to check out the Saint M820. These gravity-focused pedals were stable and confidence-inspiring on the trail. The Saint is a wide-bodied, fixed mechanism, clipless platform pedal with four traction pins on each side. The forged pedal body is burly and appropriate for the rigors of gravity-focused riding. The platform is substantial, helping you engage quickly and giving you secure footing. We prefer the Shimano Saint M820 to its closest competitors in this test because they're slightly smaller, lighter, and have a lower profile height.
The Saint pedals aren't lightweight, and adding them to your bike may add a little heft compared to lighter models. The platform is also quite large, which may lead to more pedal strikes for riders who frequent especially chunky terrain. That said, we found them to be the best option for their intended application, and we highly recommend them to the gravity crowd.
Read review: Shimano Saint M820
Best for Weight Savings
Crank Brothers Egg Beater 3
Cross-country riders and racers or those seeking the lightest weight gear will most appreciate the Crank Brothers Eggbeater 3. At only 280-grams, it's the lightest weight mountain bike pedal in our review. Named for their striking resemblance to an eggbeater, these pedals have a unique, open design that made them the highest scorer in our mud-shedding test. They resist clogging and allow entry on all four sides of the pedal. They also have a floaty feel that can take some getting used to but may help to alleviate knee strain for some users.
The Eggbeater 3 is the smallest of all the pedals tested, and we don't recommend them for beginners or those new to clipless pedals. They're not too difficult to engage, but the small cage does take some skill and patience to get your foot lined up perfectly. They also have virtually no platform, so they may not feel quite as stable as other pedals that provide more to stand on. The lack of any substantial platform also makes these pedals best suited for use with stiff-soled shoes.
Read review: Crank Brothers Egg Beater 3
Best Overall Flat Pedal
OneUp Components Aluminum
OneUp Components may not have the most creative names for their pedals, but the Aluminum impressed our testers. These lightweight alloy flat pedals have a large, 114 x 104mm platform with ten well-placed bottom loading traction pins per side. Testers were awed by their grip both on the descent and the climbs, and the platform size provided a balanced and supportive feel for a huge range of foot sizes. The pedal's profile is thin, with 8.8mm thick leading and trailing edges, and a 12.1mm thick body at the axle. These slim pedals help to avoid pedal strikes, and we found them to work well for disciplines ranging from trail riding to lift-served days at the bike park.
While we were enamored with the Aluminum pedals, we did have a couple minor complaints. The grip of these pedals may be a little too much for some riders, and might not be ideal for dirt jumping or people who appreciate easy foot mobility. The slightly convex shape of the pedal also might turn some riders off, as could the bulge on the inboard side of the pedal body at the axle that houses a large bearing. Despite these issues, we feel these well-rounded, lightweight, and moderately priced flats are the best of the bunch.
Read review: OneUp Components Aluminum
Best Bang For Your Buck Flat Pedal
Race Face Chester
The reasonably priced Race Face Chester flat pedals impressed our testers. The composite bodied Chesters boast decent levels of grip with eight well-spaced pins per side to bite into your soles. These lightweight pedals have a good mid-sized platform that measures 110 x 101mm and works well with a large range of foot sizes. The composite pedal body feels rugged and durable and will likely stand up to years of abuse. While they don't have the most tenacious grip, they do allow for small adjustments of the feet, and the pedal itself has good controlled mobility and doesn't spin too freely on its axle. This pedal is easily serviceable and pins are readily available and easily replaced.
For the price, we think the Chesters are an excellent flat pedal option. That said, they don't provide the same levels of grip as our top-rated competitors. The lack of pins along the axle can leave some riders wanting, especially in wet conditions. Beyond that, we found little not to like about these affordable workhorse pedals.
Read review: Race Face Chester
Why You Should Trust Us
Author and lead tester Joshua Hutchens is a mountain bike veteran who has held almost every job in the bike industry. From shop gopher to shop owner, bike guide to bike coach, Joshua has led cycling trips around the world and competed in every discipline he has discovered. He rides like Lionel Richie sings and has a meticulous and analytical approach to testing.
We put these mountain bike pedals through rigorous testing in the Sierra Nevada mountains. We search out nasty, technical terrain, take the big lines, smash obstacles, ford streams, and occasionally we stop for pictures. These aren't the pedals you want to buy second hand once we're through with them. We carefully scrutinize their performance and rank them based on predetermined metrics. We evaluate them for ease of entry, ease of exit, overall adjustability, weight, platform feel, and how well they can shed mud. We fret over the results so you can kick back and read about it.
Related: How We Tested MTB Clipless Pedals
Types of Pedals
There is no shortage of things to consider when buying a pair of mountain bike pedals. There are many different types of pedals for different styles of bikes and riding. You'll have to decide if you want to clip into clipless pedals or ride on flats. This review focuses on the full spectrum of clipless mountain bike pedals.
Analysis and Test Results
There are few things as exciting as buying a brand new bike. New bikes, however, rarely come with pedals. Although a seemingly minor part of the bike, you can't really ride without them. When considering a new bike purchase, we recommend thinking ahead and buying pedals in advance if you don't already own a set. It's also a great time to get some new shoes, that way you can optimize your connection to your new bike. Likewise, upgrading or replacing your old pedals can enhance your bike's performance and your riding experience.
We don't rate the products we test based on their price, but we always appreciate a good value. Price and performance often go hand in hand, but that is not always the case. The Shimano M530 and M520 are great values. They're a third of the price of the pedals that score higher. The 520 is less expensive than the 530, but it has a small platform and isn't as easy to engage. We feel the 530 is a better all-around option. Best of all, both of these pedals are so widely sold that you can often find them at a discount. Another great value is the Shimano Deore XT M8120. It scores just behind the HT T-1 but typically sells for considerably less.
Ease of Exit
Ease of exit refers to how easy it is to unclip your foot from the pedal. If you're unable to unclip when you want to, it can create an unsafe situation that may result in the rider falling over in awkward and sometimes dangerous ways. As such, we weighted this metric a bit heavier than others. Unclipping isn't something you do only at the end of the ride, technical sections and loose corners often call for a quick foot dab to maintain balance.
Generally speaking, the easiest pedals to exit are those with the least amount of obstruction or interference. Some of the newer pedals without traction pins are easier to disengage because there's nothing for your shoe to hang up on when unclipping. Those with multiple grub pins and larger cages can create obstacles to getting your foot free.
Some of the models that can be more challenging to get out of were those with lots of floatation. Floatation refers to the number of degrees you have to twist your foot before the cleat releases from the retention mechanism. If too much heel movement is required to disengage, the toe of the shoe can engage the crank arm before the cleat releases. The Shimano XTR M9120 and XTR M9100 pedals were the easiest to exit. The M8120 XT is right up there with its more expensive siblings. These above-mentioned Shimano pedals have four degrees of float and no traction pins. The Time ATAC XC 8 was the most difficult pedal to disengage as it has 13 or 17-degree release angles. Though the Crank Brothers have 15 or 20-degree releases, we still found them easier to get out of than the Time pedals.
The Time and HT pedals are the only pedals in the test to use lateral float, which allows your foot side to side movement. While often touted as beneficial for those with existing knee issues, we didn't feel the consistency of release was worth the potential upside. It wasn't just the full range of motion that made them difficult — it was the lack of consistency.
The Time pedals feature a front arch that is responsible for release tension. If you're pedaling or standing on the pedals with toes pointed downward, you're exerting pressure on the release spring. This can create an inconsistent release which makes them hard to trust. The HT pedals have spring tension on both sides of the engagement mechanism and considerably less float which is less troublesome but still doesn't provide perfect consistency.
Ease of Entry
This metric assesses how quickly and easily a rider can clip into a pair of mountain bike pedals. This is important because it determines how fast you can start pedaling your bike. Ideally, clipping in should be a simple process that doesn't require too much thinking or effort so you can focus on the trail and on not falling over.
Engaging the Shimano or Xpedo models requires little effort and produces an audible click. This helps you know that you're engaged and ready to roll. Clipping into the Crank Brothers or Time pedals doesn't reliably produce the same audible confirmation. There is a dull, somewhat vague sound that often accompanies the engagement but not always. Overall, most of these pedals are relatively easy to engage but knowing that you're securely clipped in aids in confidence.
The mini-platform pedals are the easiest to engage in. The extra bit of material helps guide your feet and kicking the cage flattens them out underfoot, putting them in the prime spot for engagement. We rated the HT T-1, Shimano XTR M9120, and the Shimano XT M8120 highest in this metric. The Shimano XTR M9120, with its long body, felt almost magnetic with the cleat. In contrast, the small Time ATAC and Crankbrothers Eggbeater pedals were a harder target to hit, and when you did, the pedal wasn't always oriented perfectly for engagement.
On the other end of the spectrum, the large-bodied Crank Brothers Mallet E and HT D1 were easy to find and orient, but their sticky traction pins could hang up on your sole and complicate the engagement process.
Adjustability refers to how much we could change the feel and function of each pedal. Some pedals allow us to adjust their release tension. Some allow for different degrees of float (that is, how much you can move your foot around, or float side to side, before the cleat releases). Others have adjustable pads or pins that interface with the sole of the shoe creating friction or helping to orient the pedal for engagement.
The most adjustable pedals are the DMR V-Twin, HT T-1,, and XPedo GFX. These pedals feature adjustable release tension, adjustable float, and had traction pins, allowing you to customize their performance in a variety of ways.
Some models we tested didn't allow us to personalize the feel or adjust for performance. The Crank Brothers pedals don't have adjustable release tension, which is likely fine for the average rider. Beginners and lightweight riders, however, may benefit from less release tension and an easier exit from the pedal. Similarly, heavy or aggressive riders can lessen their chances of accidental release by having a pedal that can accommodate their level of force.
The Shimano, Time, DMR, HT, and Xpedo pedals all allow the rider to increase or decrease the effort required to release by adjusting the amount of spring tension holding the cleat. Crank Brothers pedals have a bit of a disadvantage in this regard because they do not feature adjustable release tension.
The Time Speciale 8 cleats can be mounted to provide 13 or 17 degrees of float depending on their attachment orientation. Time also sells an easy cleat that allows for 10 degrees of float. The Crank Brothers standard cleats provide 6 degrees of free float and a 15 or 20-degree release angle based on how they're mounted (more on that below). Crank Brothers also offers a zero degree or no-float cleat that is intended to enhance pedal efficiency. The Xpedo cleat allows for six degrees of float, and the Shimano cleats provide four degrees. Shimano sells a multi-release cleat that allows for release in any direction without changing the float, a great option for beginners. The HT T-1 includes two sets of cleats that offer 4 or 8 degrees of lateral float.
Traction Pins and Pads
The traction pins (or grub pins) on the HT T-1, Time Speciale 8, and Look X-Track En-Rage Plus are all adjustable. These pins provide traction while unclipped and can be raised or lowered by threading them up or down. Lowering the pins makes the pedal feel less aggressive, with less bite into the sole of the shoe. Raised pins engage the soles more, particularly on soft rubber shoes, but can complicate entry and exit to the engagement mechanism.
The Crank Brothers Candy 7 and Mallet E pedals feature textured traction pads. These pads are polyurethane bumpers that sit adjacent to the cleat interface on the pedal. Both models include 1mm and 2mm thick pads, and swapping them out will create more or less interface between the shoe and pedal platform. The thicker pads offer more resistance to float, and the interchangeable pads allow you to customize the pedal to your specific shoe. The DMR V-Twin uses nylon bumpers that sit fore and aft of the cleat mechanism, under the traction pins. Spacers beneath the bumpers will raise the pads and pins toward your shoe. Some pedals also include thin, 1mm cleat spacers that push the cleat further from the sole of the shoe, lessening the friction between shoe and pedal.
You can also adjust the feeling of the Crank Brothers by swapping the orientation of the cleats on your shoes. There is a small indentation on just one cleat. If you mount the cleat with this indent on your right shoe, you will have a 15-degree release angle. If the cleat with the indent goes on your left shoe, you will get a 20-degree release angle.
Weight is an important metric for certain riders and riding styles. Those who prefer pointing their bikes downhill while gravity does most of the work probably don't mind adding a few ounces here and there, particularly when there is a performance benefit. Cross-country riders and racers, on the other hand, tend to be more weight conscious. The less weight you're pushing, the faster you can go and the fewer calories you expend. For many riders, though, there are criteria more important than weight — performance and value come to mind.
The heaviest clipless pedals we tested are the DMR V-Twin, at 610-grams, and the lightest pedals are the Crank Brothers Egg Beater 3, at 280-grams. When you factor in the additional weight of their cleats, it's a 351-gram difference between the two. That's a significant weight difference between two parts that perform roughly the same function. In general, the manufacturer's stated weights corresponded closely to the weights we observed on our scales. When that's not the case, we take note and list our observed weights. The HT T-1 weighs in at 372-grams for a high performing pedal with a mid-sized cage. For comparison, one of our other most highly rated mid-cage pedals, the Shimano XT M8120 weighs in at 430-grams, nearly 60-grams heavier.
Mud Shedding Ability
We also evaluated how well each pedal sheds mud and resists jamming in muddy conditions. The muddier the trail, the more likely you are to put a foot down. When this happens, mud gets transferred to the pedal and may clog up the clipless mechanism. The best mud shedding pedals have some way of evacuating mud to allow engagement. Simple designs are often rewarded here.
The HT T-1, with its wide-open design, is well-built for the challenges of mud and sloppy conditions. The Shimano XTR M9100, with its conically machined platform, also did remarkably well when our soles and cleats got muddy. Surprisingly, the Time ATAC Speciale 8, with its solid body design, does incredibly well and is renowned for its ability to keep riders going through the slop. Like the HT, the Time pedal employs a minimalist front clip that leaves nowhere for mud to hang on.
Pedals like the Xpedo GFX and the Crank Brothers Double Shot 3, with lots of surface area, were notably worse on wet trails. Both accumulated mud as we rode.
We analyzed how effectively the presence or absence of a platform surrounding the clipless mechanism supports performance. The pedals in this test vary widely in the amount of platform provided, and there are advantages and disadvantages to more surface area. If you're spending your time in the saddle hammering away at the pedals with stiff shoes and not riding much technical terrain, a platform might be of little benefit. If you're riding more demanding terrain that requires more body movement and frequent unclipping, a platform becomes increasingly important. Pedals like the Eggbeater 3, with small platforms, are lightweight and resist mud well, but don't provide much lateral support for the foot.
A larger platform increases your feeling of stability and gives your feet more control. The Shimano Saint M820 and HT T-1 both offer wide, stable surfaces that are easy to find with your foot and are less likely to roll beneath your shoe. Likewise, the Shimano XT M8120 and XTR M9120 also provide a substantial platform that provides ample shoe/pedal contact and improved lateral stability and leverage. The downsides of the larger platform include added weight, increased incidence of pedal strikes, and more surface area for mud to accumulate.
To test durability, we rode these pedals hard. We bashed rocks and stumps and rode them in snow and rain, mud and sand, and swapped them between many bikes and riders. In the several months we spent abusing these competitors, we found some unexpected issues with our XTR pedals. Shimano pedals have been renowned for their durability, often lasting a decade or more. The XTR M9100 and XTR M9120 pedals that we tested, however, all had their seals pop out by the third ride, and by the end of the test they required readjustment. Interestingly, the new XT M8120 did not experience this same issue despite appearing to have a nearly identical design.
Throughout our riding careers, we've noticed that Crank Brothers, Time, and HT pedals require rebuilds every year or two. They all sell kits for this which cost around $25, the service process takes about an hour. Servicing a Shimano pedal's bearings, however, isn't typical. We have had many SPD's in our stables for years on end without servicing. Let's hope latest generation of Shimano pedals haven't changed that.
After months of riding around conjuring adjectives with our feet, chatting with each other, and compiling information, we've formed our opinions and awarded our winners. Hopefully, our hard work and pedaling make it easier for you to make an informed decision about the pedals that you'd like to hang on your whip. Using the results of our comprehensive evaluation and ratings, we hope this review will help you find your next set of mountain bike pedals with ease.
— Joshua Hutchens