The Best Mountain Bike Pedals of 2019
|Price||$134.99 at Competitive Cyclist|
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|$164.99 at Amazon|
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|$164.58 at Amazon|
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|$89.00 at Amazon|
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|$100.00 at REI|
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|Pros||Lightweight, adjustable, low profile, inexpensive, available in many colors.||Lightweight, low profile, available in 2 different axle lengths||Silky smooth float, lightweight, great mud shedding, additional platform width||Platform feel, proven durability, good value||Stable, great power transfer, excellent traction while engaged, inexpensive|
|Cons||Heavier cleats, float isn't as smooth as Shimano||Narrow platform, expensive, not recommended for trail or all-mountain riding||Expensive, rear platform is under utilized, questionable durability||Higher stack than the XTR, lower mud clearance||Heavy, sharp pins are a hazard to everything but your shoe|
|Bottom Line||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.||Top of the line offering from Shimano, they're silky smooth, adjustable and renowned for their consistency.||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||HT Components T1||Shimano XTR M9100 Race||Shimano XTR M9120 Trail||Shimano Deore XT M8020||Shimano Saint SPD M820|
|Ease Of Exit (25%)|
|Ease Of Entry (20%)|
|Mud Shedding Ability (10%)|
|Specs||HT Components T1||Shimano XTR M9100...||Shimano XTR M9120...||Shimano Deore XT...||Shimano Saint SPD...|
|Weight per Pair (grams)||372g||314g||397g||404g||550g|
|Weight of Cleats and Bolts (grams)||62g||51g||51g||50g||50g|
|Cleat Type||HT X1 or HT X1F||SPD mountain||SPD mountain||SPD mountain||SPD mountain|
|Style||mini-cage||no cage||no cage||mini-cage||mini-cage|
|Platform Dimensions (lxw)||68mm x 83.5mm||71 x 68 mm||100 x 71 mm||96 x 64 mm||100 x 79 mm|
|Total Width from Crank Arm||90mm||84mm||84mm||89mm||95mm|
|Bearings||EVO+||dual angular contact, metal retainer||dual angular contact, metal retainer||dual angular contact, metal retainer||dual angular contact, metal retainer|
|Cage Material||extruded/CNC machined aluminum||annodized aluminum||annodized aluminum||annodized aluminum||forged and machined aluminum|
|Pedal Wrench Type||8mm allen||8mm allen||8mm allen||8mm alllen||8mm allen|
HT Components T1
The HT T-1 is a gloriously low profile mid-cage clipless pedal that checks our boxes. The pedal is built tough enough for the rigors of enduro racing but is light enough to consider for your XC bike. The wide platform design, forward placed grub pins, and trick adjustable clipless mechanism make for quick and solid engagement. This pedal is feature packed and handily takes home our Top Pick award. The lowest profile pedal in our test, the HT's have an ample surface area and provide a reliable connection. They feature a minimalist engagement mechanism that allows for efficient mud clearing. Unlike the XTR M9120 Trail pedal, the small body maximizes contact with your shoe creating a stable pedal platform. Release tension is adjustable, and the fore-mounted grub pins can be adjusted up or down. Included with the pedals are two sets of cleats, the X-1 cleats provide 4-degrees of lateral float, and the X-1F cleats provide 8-degrees of lateral float. The movement within the range of float isn't quite as smooth as what we experience with the XTR M9100pedals but didn't affect the efficiency or performance of the pedal.
The CNC machined Chromoly steel axles ride on Evo+ precision sealed bearings and IGUS bushings. The pedal bodies are CNC machined extruded aluminum and available in a staggering fourteen colors including stealth black that feature an anodized black clipless mechanism and spindle.
Read review: HT T-1
Top Pick for Versatility
These newer dual sided pedals aren't made for riding your enduro rig to the store in flip flops, although they'd work for that. The Xpedo Ambix melds a full feature, stable and grippy flat pedal with a lightweight and efficient clipless pedal. The 6061 aluminum pedal body and Chromoly axles roll on three sealed cartridge bearings. Like an 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 how 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 riders haul up the hill.
Read review: Xpedo Ambix
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Best Overall Flat Pedal[/award]
Weight 380 grams | Profile Height 14mm
These just edged ahead of the Race Face Atlas as our favorite flat pedal. The Raceface is a little lighter and grippier, but the Bladerunner has a better platform and mobility. While we didn't rate these on looks, the Deity would have led that metric as well. It was the easiest to reposition our foot into the right spot. While we used mainly for trail riding, they would excel in the park as well.
The Bladerunners can be hard to find, they're not sold in many retailers and are rarely on sale. While the broad beam in the middle made it easy to reposition our feet, it also means it's not quite as grippy as others. It's more versatile, but not best for downhill specific use. It's a tough call between this and the Atlas, but you'll likely be thrilled by either choice.
Read review: Deity Bladerunner
Best Bang for the Buck
Shimano M530 SPD
The M530 swooped up our Editors' Choice award in our previous clipless mountain bike pedal test. 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 create a valuable package that deserves our Best Bang for the Buck award. They're ideal for a wide variety of bikes, hardtail to all-mountain, and a great choice for your first pair of clipless pedals.
You lose 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 won Best Buy a few years ago and is lighter and less expensive than the M530. However, it has such a small platform, and we think most riders, especially beginners and intermediates, will prefer the M530.
Read review: Shimano M530
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Best Value in a Flat Pedal[/award]
Weight 415 grams | Profile Height 14mm
There are a lot of cheap flats out there, and they often offer low durability and poor traction. The VP-Vice bucks this trend with solid scores across the board. While they're not the absolute cheapest pair of pedals, they come in at much less expensive than any model that scored higher. Those cheaper models often have horrific durability and poor platform design. The VP-Vice both holds up to a beating and performs well. Adding to their value is just how versatile they are. These are equally at home on dirt jumps as downhill shuttle laps.
While they don't have the best grip and have a smaller platform than many of our favorites, they offer a solid value.
Read review: VP Components VP-Vice
Top Pick for Enduro and Downhill Riding
Shimano Saint SPD M820
Stealing the gravity-focused Top Pick Award from the Xpedo GFX, we found the Shimano Saint M820 even more stable and confidence inspiring on the trail. If you care more about your trail bike's performance and stability than how much it weighs, you might want to check out the Shimano Saint M820. The Saint is a wide-bodied, fixed mechanism, clipless platform pedal with four traction pins on each side. The forged body pedal is appropriate for the rigors of enduro and downhill racing. 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, the DMR V-Twin because they're slightly smaller, lighter, and have a lower profile height.
Not quite DMR V-Twin porky, the Saint pedals aren't light. While the DMR's have a similar weight before you install the pins and shims, doing so adds 60 grams to the V-Twins. Both pedals offered excellent traction, but the Shimano pedals dealt with the mud better and had a more stable platform. Not the most attractive looking pedal of the bunch, it will find its audience far beyond enduro bikes. For these reasons, we awarded them the Top Pick for Enduro and Downhill Riding.
Read review: Shimano Saint M820
Top Pick for Weight Savings
Crank Brothers Egg Beater 3
Cross-country riders or those wanting the lightest weight gear will appreciate the Crank Brothers Eggbeater 3. At only 280 grams, it's the lightest weight mountain bike pedal in our review. Scoring highest in our mud shedding test, its open design resists clogging and allows entry on all of its four sides.
The smallest of all the pedals tested, we don't recommend the Eggbeater to beginners. They're not difficult to engage, but the small cage does take some skill and patience. Best enjoyed with stiff soled shoes, these pedals are well suited to cross country and gravel riders.
Read review: Crank Brothers Egg Beater 3
Why You Should Trust Us
Author Joshua Hutchens is a bike industry 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 pedals through rigorous testing in the Sierra Nevada mountains. We search out nasty, technical terrain, take the big lines, smash obstacles and ford streams, and occasionally we stop for pictures. These aren't the pedals you want to buy second hand. 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. You'll have to decide if you want to clip into clipless pedals or ride on flats. This review is comprised mostly 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 won't be riding without them. If you're looking for new pedals to go with your new bike, we recommend thinking ahead and buying them in advance. It's also a great time to get some new shoes, that way you can optimize your connection to your new bike.
We compare each model based on price and performance. Price and performance often go hand in hand but not always. The M530 and M520 are clearly the best values. They're a third 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. The 530 is a better all-around option. Best of all, both of these pedals are so widely sold that you can often find at a 20 to 40% discount. Another great value is the Deore XT M8020. It scores just behind the Editor's Choice HT T-1 but retails for much less.
Ease of Exit
Ease of exit dictates how likely you are to fall over. If you're unable to unclip when you want to, it creates an unsafe situation that universally causes panic. As such, we weight this metric a bit heavier than others and measure it by how quickly and easily a rider can unclip from the pedals. 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. 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 we had trouble getting out of were those with lots of float. 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 Shimano pedals have four degrees of float and no traction pins. The Time ATAC XC 8 is 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.
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 the consistency we'd prefer.
Ease of Entry
This metric assesses how quickly and easily a rider can clip into a pair of pedals. It's important because it determines how fast you can start pedaling your bike. You want clipping in to 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 SPD 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 confidence.
The mini-platform pedals are the easiest to engage. 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 and Shimano XTR M9120 highest in this metric. The Shimano XTR M9120, with its long body, felt almost magnetic with the cleat. By contrast, the small Time ATAC contender was a hard target to hit, and when you did, the pedal wasn't always oriented toward engagement.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Crank Brothers Mallet E and HT D1 were easy to find and orient, but their sticky traction pins could complicate engagement.
We evaluated 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 all featured adjustable release tension, adjustable float and had traction pins, allowing you to customize their performance.
The pedals that didn't score well didn't allow us to personalize the feel or adjust for performance. The Crank Brothers pedals don't allow you to adjust the release tension, which is likely fine for the average rider. Beginners and lightweight riders, however, can benefit from less release tension, allowing an easier exit from the pedal. Similarly, heavy or aggressive riders will 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 category as 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 the orientation that they're attached. 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 enhances 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 cleats that offer 4 or 8 degrees of lateral float.
Traction Pins and Pads
Traction pins (or grub pins) on the HT T-1, Time Speciale 8, and Look X-Track En-Rage Plus are all adjustable. The 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.
Crank Brothers Candy 7 and Mallet E pedals feature textured traction pads. These are polyurethane bumpers that sit adjacent to the cleat interface on the pedal. The pedals 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 having interchangeable pads allows you to customize the pedal to the type of shoe you use. 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. Many of the pedals also include 1mm cleat spacers that push the cleat further from the sole of the shoe, lessening the friction between shoe and pedal.
You can 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 put the one 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 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 less keen on picking up any unnecessary grams. The less weight you're pushing, 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've tested are the DMR V-Twin, at 610 grams. 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 big gap between two parts that have the same function. In general, the manufacturers 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.
Mud Shedding Ability
This metric evaluates how well the 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, you'll start transferring mud to the pedal and clogging 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. The Shimano XTR M9100, with its conically machined platform, also did remarkably well when our soles 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 mud. Like the HT, the Time 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, are notably worse on wet trails. Both accumulated mud as we rode.
This metric rates 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 light and resist mud well, but don't give you much footing.
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. The downsides of the larger platform include added weight, increased incidence of pedal strikes, and more surface area for mud to accumulate.
We rode these pedals hard, bashing rocks and stumps. We rode them in snow and rain, mud and sand, and swapped them between many bikes and riders. In the three months we spent abusing these pedals, 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.
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 costing around $25 and service can be done in less than an hour. Servicing a Shimano pedals bearings however isn't typical, we have many SPD's in our stables for years on end without servicing, let's hope these new 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 pedal with ease.
— Joshua Hutchens