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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 an exciting 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.
The HT T-1 is a quality, low-profile, mid-cage clipless mountain bike pedal that came out on top at the end of our test period. 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. Despite the fact that these pedals have the lowest profile height in our test, they still boast a sizeable surface area to interface with the soles of your shoes for excellent lateral stability and control. They also feature a minimalist engagement mechanism that allows for efficient mud clearing. Release tension is adjustable, and the front-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, and the X-1F cleats provide 8 degrees of lateral float to suit your preferences.
The T-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 available in over a dozen colors, including stealth black which features an anodized black clipless mechanism and spindle. Quality and performance don't come cheap, but these pedals are competitively priced.
The Shimano ME700 is a new, entry-level small platform pedal with a very reasonable price. It looks and performs similarly to its higher-end XT and XTR siblings but costs considerably less. This pedal essentially replaces the tried and true M530 and features the same durable, adjustable, and reliable Shimano SPD clipless mechanism. Entry and exit are easy and consistent, with a wide range of release tension adjustment. The ME700 has a mid-size platform that surrounds the clipless mechanism, which aids in orienting the pedal and provides a nice width and added lateral stability.
The main drawback to the ME700 is its heavier weight. At 482 grams for the pair, they aren't absurdly heavy, although most weight-conscious riders will probably want to look elsewhere. The finish of the painted pedal body is more prone to holding onto mud and will show wear more quickly than the anodized finishes of the higher-end models. Beyond those concerns, we found little not to like about this versatile and affordable pedal.
Oversized fixing bolt can interfere with float feel
Shimano's most recent iteration of the ever-popular XT Trail pedals are 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 lateral 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 Shimano's 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.
If you like to switch between clipping in and riding a flat pedal, we feel the Xpedo Ambix is the best dual-function pedal we tested. This model combines a full-featured, stable, and grippy flat pedal on one side with a lightweight and efficient mid-cage clipless pedal on the other. These versatile pedals are made with performance in mind, and the 6061 aluminum pedal body and Chromoly axles roll on three sealed cartridge bearings. Like a regular clip-in pedal, the clipless side features a wide-open engagement mechanism with a static front bar and spring-loaded rear. The release tension is adjustable, and the included XPC cleats offer 6 degrees of float. The flat side of the pedal features eight nicely spaced and adjustable grub pins. If you're seeking clipless performance some of the time and want the option to ride a flat pedal other times, the Ambix does well at both.
The pedal's platform size and pin placement interface well with a clipless shoe and aren't overly obtrusive when riding that side. We loved that while riding either side of the pedal, you could forget that it had another function. The Ambix satisfies 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 less user-friendly to orient the pedal when clipping back in with the mechanism on only one side of the pedal.
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 a more secure, stable footing and excellent lateral support. 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, potentially leading 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.
Cross-country riders and racers or those seeking the lightest weight gear will most appreciate the Crankbrothers 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 top performer 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 should only be used with very rigid-soled shoes and may not feel quite as laterally stable as other pedals that provide more to stand on.
The redesigned Race Face Atlas earned top honors in our flat pedal review. With 10 well-placed, sharp, bottom-loading pins per side and a sizeable 111 x 107mm concave platform, these pedals provide excellent support and grip to keep your feet glued to the pedals, yet they still allow for a little mobility when you need to correct your foot position. The pedal profile isn't the thinnest with 14.8mm leading and trailing edges and 12.8mm at the spindle, but with chamfered leading edges we found pedal strikes to be minimal, and the concave design to feel great underfoot. The pedal spins in a very smooth and controlled manner, and they are among the most easily serviceable pedals we've tested when it comes time for a rebuild. They are also competitively lightweight, making these gravity-oriented pedals a viable option for trail and all-mountain bikes and expanding their versatility.
While we loved nearly everything about the Atlas, there's no denying that they are fairly expensive. That said, they now come with a lifetime warranty, and along with their quality construction, we feel most riders will get their money's worth. We've tested loads of flat pedals over the years, and we think the new Atlas pedals are the best of the best.
The reasonably priced OneUp Components Composite flat pedals impressed our testers. It is essentially a composite-bodied version of the more expensive Aluminum pedals, and they boast decent levels of grip with ten well-spaced pins per side to bite into your soles. These lightweight pedals have a good mid-sized platform of 114 x 104 mm and work well with a large range of foot sizes and they are relatively low profile to help avoid rock strikes. 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 are the grippiest among the composite models we tested. The pedal itself has good controlled mobility and doesn't spin too freely on its axle. They are also relatively easily serviceable, and pin and bearing kits are readily available.
For the price, we think the Composite is an excellent flat pedal option. That said, they don't provide the same levels of grip as some of the more expensive competitors. For the price, they grip quite well, and we feel they are a great option for those just starting out, or anyone who is operating on a budget.
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.
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 first need 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, so 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 ME700 and M520 are great values. They're roughly a third of the price of the pedals that score higher. The 520 is less expensive than the ME700, but it has a small platform and isn't as easy to engage. We feel the ME700 is a better all-around option for most mountain bikers. 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 Crankbrothers 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 Crankbrothers 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 Crankbrothers 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 Crankbrothers 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. Crankbrothers 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 Crankbrothers 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). Crankbrothers 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 Crankbrothers 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 the shoe and pedal.
You can also adjust the feeling of the Crankbrothers 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 Crankbrothers Eggbeater 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. Many times, price and weight go hand in hand. For example, the Shimano ME700 costs significantly less than the XT-M8120 and weighs 52-grams more.
Mud Shedding Ability
We 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 your cleats and 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 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 Crankbrothers 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. However, a platform becomes more important when you find yourself on more demanding terrain, which can often require more body movement and frequent unclipping. Pedals with small platforms like the Eggbeater 3 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, XTR M9120, and ME700 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, rain, mud, and sand. We 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.
We've noticed throughout our riding careers that Crankbrothers, Time, and HT pedals all require rebuilds every year or two. They all sell kits for this, which generally cost around $25. The service process takes about an hour. Servicing a Shimano pedal's bearings, however, isn't typical. We have had many SPDs in our stables for years on end without servicing. Let's hope the latest generation of Shimano pedals hasn'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.
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