On the hunt for the best mountain bike pedals? We exhaustively researched virtually every clipless pedal on the market before buying 19 to test and compare. Every time a new model hits the market, we buy that too and put them through the same rigorous testing process in our vast Sierra Nevada mountain bike playground. In an effort to uncover their performance differences, we test each pedal 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.
The Best Mountain Bike Pedals
Best Overall Mountain Bike Pedals
HT Components T1
The HT T-1 is a gloriously low profile mid-cage clipless mountain bike 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 or trail bike. The wide platform design, forward placed grub pins, and trick adjustable clipless mechanism make for quick and solid engagement and predictable release. This pedal is feature-packed and handily takes home our Editor's Choice 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. 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 of lateral float, and the X-1F cleats provide 8-degrees of lateral float.
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
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
Another Great Trail Riding Pedal
Shimano PD-M8120 XT SPD
Shimano has 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 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, hardcore XC trail riders, and 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 pedals.
While we loved most things about the new M8120 XT pedals, we found one flaw that we had a hard time overlooking. The hexagonal locknut by the spindle had a tendency to protrude above the level of the pedal body when tightened to the recommended torque specification. This resulted in some 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 of the new version.
Read review: Shimano PD-M8120 XT SPD
Best 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-featured, 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
Best Overall Flat Pedal
Deity Components TMAC
Diety's TMAC pedals offer an excellent blend of thoughtful engineering and a clean and polished look, earning them our Editor's Choice Award for flat mountain bike pedals. Considering these are legendary professional mountain biker Tyler McCaul's signature pedals, it comes as no surprise that they've been well designed to meet the demands of gravity oriented riders. The pedals are symmetrically designed and made from durable T6 aluminum. They feel well balanced and have a large platform, plus 14 pins per side that give them some of the fiercest grip of all the models we tested. Their 2.5mm concavity also works to enhance grip and foot comfort on both the climbs and descents.
While we generally loved the high level of grip the TMAC pedals offered, we will admit that they may be too grippy for some users. Subtle foot adjustments didn't come quite as easy as some other pedals, and those new to flat pedals may struggle with foot placement. The large platform and symmetrical shape also make this pedal a little thicker and wider which can result in pedal strikes. They are also on the heavier side compared to many of the other models in our test. That said, if you seek the utmost in grip from your flats we think the TMAC is the best there is.
Read review: Deity Components TMAC
Best Value in a Flat Pedal
Nukeproof Horizon Pro
The reasonably priced Nukeproof Horizon Pro flat pedals impressed our testers and took home our Best Buy Award. The Horizon's boast outstanding grip with 10 well-spaced pins to bite into your sole per side. This tenacious grip made them a tester favorite for charging through chunder or down steep rock gardens where you want your fee to stay glued to the pedals. These forged aluminum pedals have a large supportive platform with angled leading edges to reduce pedal strikes.
The Horizon Pro pedals aren't especially lightweight at 450g for the pair, so they may not be the best choice for those who spend a lot of their time pedaling uphill. Testers also found the grip to be so good that they might be too grippy for people who like to adjust their feet often or those who ride in the bike park regularly. Otherwise, we feel this is a quality, grippy flat pedal offered at a reasonable price.
Read review: Nukeproof Horizon Pro
Best 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 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
Best 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, gravel, and cyclocross riders.
Read review: Crank Brothers Egg Beater 3
Why You Should Trust Us
Author 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 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 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 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 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. 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 M8120. 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 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. 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 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 the consistency we'd prefer.
Ease of Entry
This metric assesses how quickly and easily a rider can clip into a pair of mountain bike 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, 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. By contrast, the small Time ATAC or the Crankbrothers Eggbeater contenders were 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 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'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 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. Our Editor's Choice winner, 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
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. 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.
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. 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 costing around $25 and service can be done in less than 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 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