The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

How We Tested MTB Clipless Pedals

By Joshua Hutchens ⋅ Review Editor
Monday June 10, 2019
Testing pedals in the Sierra Nevada's you encounter a wide diversity of terrain.
Testing pedals in the Sierra Nevada's you encounter a wide diversity of terrain.

How We Tested


To test these fourteen pairs of clipless mountain bike pedals, we rode in rain, sun, mud, sand, snow and perfect loamy single track. We tested in several different types of mud, ranging from coffee to Nutella. We rode them on hardtails, trail and enduro bikes using ten pairs of shoes with male and female testers. We swapped cleats countless times and got fast at moving pedals from one bike to another.

What a great excuse top ride a few hundred miles of single track!
What a great excuse top ride a few hundred miles of single track!

The shoes we used ranged from stiff cross-country racing shoes to free ride Five-tens. We took pedals apart, analyzed their components, counted bearings, and even used a microscope. We sent emails, called tech support, and pestered companies to provide us with more accurate information.

On display are most of the shoes we used for testing. A combination of stiff cross country  lugged outsole and sticky rubber shoes with and without cleats allows us to evaluate them on multiple criteria.
On display are most of the shoes we used for testing. A combination of stiff cross country, lugged outsole and sticky rubber shoes with and without cleats allows us to evaluate them on multiple criteria.

Ease of Entry


We clipped in, clicked in, kicked in, slid in, and rode these pedals for dozens of hours. Using a wide variety of the most popular cycling shoes on different riders in every conceivable condition. Each time we encountered an engagement anywhere shy of perfect, we took note.

Ease of Exit


We used static and real riding tests to evaluate the ease of exit. In general, there were only subtle differences in the pedals here, with one notable exception. If the pedal induced panic or we fell over, we took note of its position and tried to determine the cause.

Unclipping from the Candy 7.
Unclipping from the Candy 7.

Adjustability


We noted three main attributes when considering adjustability — adjustability of the engagement mechanism, cleat options that changed the float or release, and accessories such as traction pads or grub pins that augmented the fit and feel of the pedal. Some pedals have little to no adjustability while others check every box.

we weighed each set of pedals and each set of cleats
we weighed each set of pedals and each set of cleats

Weight


We weighed each set of pedals with and without hardware and also weighed their cleats. We compared our weights with manufacturers stated weights; most pedals were close to their stated weight.

Measuring the Q-factor on the Mallet E.
Measuring the Q-factor on the Mallet E.

Platform


We measure each pedals cage dimensions using calipers and measure the profile height from base to base directly over the pedal spindle. We also measured the Q-factor of each pedal using calipers, which is the distance between the flange of the spindle where it meets the crank arm and the center of the engagement mechanism.

Mud Shedding Ability


This is where we play in the mud, literally. We assess the performance in this metric using real-world riding conditions, but we also seek out the mud. Setting up our pedal and shoe test station along the muddiest part of a trail we can find helps assure our attempts at clogging the pedals will use the same mud.