Best mountain bike clipless pedals 2024 – the top-rated clipless MTB pedals for XC, trail and gravity riding

A pair of mountain bike clipless pedals
(Image credit: Graham Cottingham)

Best mountain bike clipless pedals are popular across all mountain bike disciplines and racing, giving riders a secure connection on the pedals to stop feet from slipping off the pedals on rough terrain and enhancing pedaling efficiency.

Clipless pedals feature a sprung mechanism built into the pedal body which attaches to a cleat bolted to the shoe sole. Clipless pedals come in a wide range of designs and cleat/mechanism interfaces, affecting how they feel when riding and their performance on the trail.

So how do you work out which gives the best foothold for your budget and your style of riding? We break down the best mountain bike clipless pedals we have tested by discipline. If you aren't sure what you're looking for, scroll to the bottom to find out everything you need to know when choosing the clipless pedals for mountain biking.

Clipless pedals are only as good as the shoes that you use, if you are looking for some shoes to pair with your new pedals head over to our best mountain bike shoes guide. If you prefer to ride without clipping in, our guide to the best MTB flat pedals covers everything you need to know. 

Best mountain clipless bike pedals: XC 

Why trust BikePerfect Our cycling experts have decades of testing experience. We'll always share our unbiased opinions on bikes and gear. Find out more about how we test.

1. Best for cross-country

Hope Union RC pedal

Hope Union RC pedal has proved to be outstanding on all fronts (Image credit: GuyKesTV)
Light enough for racing with excellent evergreen clip and release action and outstanding bearing life

Specifications

Weight: 308g
Width: 50mm
Float: 4 or 5-degrees
Cleats: 4-degrees, 5-degrees

Reasons to buy

+
Totally consistent clipless action
+
Outstanding bearing and cleat life
+
Lightweight titanium axles
+
Fully serviceable and re-buildable
+
Six color options

Reasons to avoid

-
Initial investment is expensive
-
Some shoes need cleat shims
-
There was a cleat bolt glitch at one point but they’re fine now

Guy Kesteven subjected Hope' Union RC pedals to two years of hard testing during which they have proved themselves worthy of taking the top spot as the best XC pedals.

We found engagement and release were super consistent in all conditions. Both pedal jaws are sprung so you can push in rather than needing to toe in and the connection is sharp and positive.

Build quality is top-notch as you would expect from Hope, with machining, assembly, and quality control all taking place in-house in-house in Barnoldswick Lancashire. Bearing wear has been impressive and the pedals can be fully stripped down and serviced at home if needed, the whole pedal clip mechanism can also be serviced although you will need to send your pedals to Hope for that.

There is a little extra faff when it comes to cleat setup as some shoes may require a shim for the right spacing. The pedals come with a simple but effective cut-out card tread depth gauge to easily determine whether you need a shim or not.

It's Hope Union RC's all-round performance that made these pedals stand out when we reviewed them. Hope’s Union RC is a superb investment with tough construction, smooth bearings, incredibly consistent long-term entry and release action, and excellent product support. 

Check out our Hope Union RC review for full details.

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The lowdown: Hope Union RC
AttributesNotesRating
SupportGood connection with XC shoe when shimmed correctly★★★★★
WeightCompetitive with main competitors★★★★★
DurabilityTough and rebuildable★★★★★
ValueHigh end price but worth it★★★★

2. Best cross-country value

Shimano Deore XT PD-M8100

It's difficult to fault the performance and reliability of Shimano's dependable XT pedals (Image credit: Sean Fishpool)
Few pedals hit such a sweet spot of performance and reliability

Specifications

Weight: 342g
Width: 50mm
Float: 4-degrees
Cleats: 4-degrees (multi-release)

Reasons to buy

+
Clear, reliable clip engagement
+
Super-durable
+
Very low maintenance
+
Great value

Reasons to avoid

-
Average weight

If there was ever a benchmark for a cross-country pedal, it has to be Shimano's venerable XT clipless pedal. It's a pedal many of us at Bike Perfect reach for cross-country and gravel bike testing due to its reliable performance and durability.  

Clipping in and out is standard Shimano with a crisp and clear clunk signifying engagement or release. The pedal body has a decent shoe contact patch with the shoe giving good stability on rough trails. 

Servicing is a simple job, although maintenance requirements should be few and far between considering we have seen years of all-season riding pass with zero upkeep required. Shimano cleats have a long life span and are easy to get ahold of in any bike shop if they need to be replaced.

As Sean Fishpool stated in his review, "nobody ever regretted buying XT SPD pedals". For more details, read our full Shimano XT PD-M8100 pedal review.

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The lowdown: Shimano Deore XT PD-M8100
AttributesNotesRating
SupportDecent support with most XC shoes★★★★
WeightAverage weight★★★
DurabilityEasy to service and tough build★★★★
ValueExtremely good value★★★★★

3. Best for durability

Shimano PD-M520 pedal

Shimano's M520 are hard to kill (Image credit: Sean Fishpool)
Indestructible mountain bike pedal with a bargain price tag

Specifications

Weight: 378g (actual
Width: 50mm
Float: 4-degrees
Cleats: 4-degrees (multi-release)

Reasons to buy

+
Clear, reliable clip engagement
+
Super-durable
+
Great value

Reasons to avoid

-
Heavy

Shimano’s entry-level M520 can be bought ridiculously cheap and is as near to indestructible as you’ll find. It might not have the fancy coatings or lighter materials of posher Shimano SPDs, but the tangible actual on-trail operation is indistinguishable. From experience, they often last longer than their more sophisticated siblings too, and the bearings are fully serviceable if they start to develop play. The axles are heavier than the 8mm Allen key shafts on 540 and above, but you can fit and remove them with a garage spanner if you don’t have an 8mm.

The Shimano ‘toe-in’ engagement is easy once learned and connection and release are clearly communicated. Spring tension is adjustable, they shrug off rock strikes very well, and Shimano cleats last longer than any others. The ‘Multi-Release’ cleats let you pull out upwards and sideways if you’re scared of being trapped but premature ejection means we generally stick with the standard cleats.

The relentless reliability and price of the 520 makes it the ‘no brainer’ cost-effective choice though and means there are about a dozen pairs of these roaming free in the northern Bike Perfect workshop as they just refuse to die. 

Check out our Shimano M520 review for full details.

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The lowdown: Shimano M520
AttributesNotesRating
SupportReasonable support for stable suppor★★★
WeightHeavy★★
DurabilityExtremely tough★★★★★
ValueExtremely good value considering durability★★★★★

4. Best for mud clearance

Crankbrothers Eggbeater 3

Minimal body means maximum mud shedding (Image credit: Future)
Minimal pedal body sheds mud with ease

Specifications

Weight: 286g
Width: 75mm
Float: 6-degrees
Cleats: Standard, premium or easy release

Reasons to buy

+
Great in mud
+
Light
+
5-year guarantee
+
Low maintenance and easily repairable
+
Float and release angle options

Reasons to avoid

-
No tension adjustment
-
Not so good for soft shoes
-
Less support for movement than a platformed pedal

The Crankbrothers Eggbeater 3 pedal's design looks wild compared to other pedals on the market. This minimal pedal design gives the Eggbeater pedal some very unique advantages over other more traditional pedals.

The first is its ability to deal with mud, by removing the pedal body dirt can't get clogged within the cleat mechanism making it a popular choice for riders who frequently ride in mucky conditions. The exposed mechanism is also the only pedal that has four clip-in entry points, while all the other pedals on this list have two.

Crankbrothers uses its own cleat and mechanism for clipping in with two sprung bars engaging with the cleat. That means you don't need to toe into the pedal, instead, you can stamp and go. They offer plenty of options to fine-tune float and release angles by fitting different cleats. However, although they are secure once you clip in, the smooth clip-in and-out action will feel vague for riders used to the positive clunk of an SPD system.

Not all riders are going to get along with the minimal design either. We found the Eggbeaters offered a surprising amount of stability underfoot but for riders who would prefer a little more pedal support and guidance when finding the clip-in point, Crankbrothers offers the Candy 3 pedals

For more details, check out our full Crankbrothers Eggbeater 3 review.

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The lowdown: Crankbrothers Eggbeater 3
AttributesNotesRating
SupportSecure when engaged but little to no support if you aren't★★★
WeightOne of the lightest pedals around★★★★★
DurabilityCrankbrothers' durability has been improved in recent years★★★
ValueGood balance of performance vs price★★★★

5. Best for cross-country racing

Shimano XTR PD-M9100 pedal review

Shimano's XTR is a smooth spinning XC race ready pedal (Image credit: Sean Fishpool)
One of the best race-ready pedals

Specifications

Weight: 312g
Width: 50mm
Float: 4-degrees
Cleats: 4-degrees (multi-release)

Reasons to buy

+
Light
+
Low, wide contact patch
+
Buttery-smooth engagement
+
Best SPD pedal for mud clearance

Reasons to avoid

-
Moderately expensive

Shimano's XTR is the top-of-the-range SPD cross-country pedal and has been the racer's choice for years from local leagues to the World Cup circuit.

The XTR PD-M9100 pedals are sleeker, lower, and lighter than Shimano's XT workhorse and have the same distinct and familiar Shimano clip-in mechanism. The forged body offers more mud clearance and extends further down the axle too, increasing platform and support to the sole of your mountain bike shoes. The 8.1mm stack is impressively low giving a slightly more planted feel and a little more pedal clearance.

Although Shimano's XTR pedals have been carved out for racing, it hasn't come at the detriment of reliability either. Like the XT's they spin on easy serviceable and well-sealed cartridge bearings. 

We found the marginal gains of the XTR's present a significant upgrade over the XT's if you can justify the extra cost. 

Check out our full review of the Shimano XTR PD-M9100 pedals.

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The lowdown: Shimano XTR PD-M9100
AttributesNotesRating
SupportReasonable support for stable riding, slim profile enhances ride feel★★★★
WeightLightweight but not the lightest★★★★
DurabilityExtremely tough★★★★★
ValueReasonable pricing considering it's Shimano's top spec pedal★★★★

6. Best for XC platform support

A close view of the Candy 3's cleat mechanism

The Candy's minimal body adds a little extra pedal protection (Image credit: Sean Fishpool)
A great, tuneable trail option for riders who want a softer release feel

Specifications

Weight: 356g
Width: 72mm
Float: 0-10-degrees
Cleats: Standard, premium or easy release

Reasons to buy

+
Soft, all-angle entry with decent support
+
Massive range of soft-release adjustment

Reasons to avoid

-
More expensive than Shimano
-
Brass cleats wear quickly (but that saves pedal wear)

Crankbrothers makes three versions of its Candy pedal and the 3 sits right in the middle, offering a full range of tuning features in a relatively wide one-piece, three-color-option body design. The mechanism is the classic X-Wing Eggbeater design which rotates freely in the center of the shoe to give all-angle release and engagement no matter what filth is on your shoe. While the medium spring tension is fixed, the float and release angle can be altered by switching cleats left to right or choosing from premium, standard, or easy-release options that give 0-10 degrees of float and 10-20 degrees of release angles.

Clearance between the shoe and pedal can be tuned with shims under the cleat and the Candy 3 also comes with clip-on ‘traction pads’ for the body. With a bit of fettling, you can get just the right amount of foot support and connection for your riding tastes. The extra body support also reduces shoe wear from the stainless steel wings compared to the skeletal Eggbeater design. Protection is improved too but they are 75g heavier than a pair of Eggbeater 3s.

As well as having the traction pads included as standard, the 3s get a Hex key end cap and double seal system protecting the Enduro cartridge bearings and Igus bushings inside. We have found the reliability of recent pedals has been excellent too and a five-year warranty covers them if you do have problems.

This makes them a great XC option for riders who want a softer release feel and more tuneable support than Shimano with a similar level of reliability and weight.

For more details, read our full review of the Crankbrothers Candy 3 pedals.

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The lowdown: Crankbrothers Candy 3
AttributesNotesRating
SupportIncreased support and improved engagement from pedal body★★★★
WeightCompetitive weight★★★
DurabilityCrankbrothers' durability has been improved in recent years★★★
ValueCompetitive with other pedals★★★★

7. Best Shimano SPD alternative

Look X-Track Race Carbon pedals

If you like Shimano's SPD mechanism but want more float, the Look X-Track pedal is your best option (Image credit: Graham Cottingham)
Look's take on a minimalist SPD pedal

Specifications

Weight: 352g
Width: 57mm
Float: 6-degrees
Cleats: Standard, Easy

Reasons to buy

+
Very familiar SPD clip in action
+
Compatible with Shimano cleats
+
Stable pedal platform

Reasons to avoid

-
Heavier and thicker than competing Shimano XT pedals
-
Need a specific Look tool to service

Look's take on an SPD-compatible pedal carries over the brand's expertise in road bike pedals. So there's a robust build and the bearings are rock-solid, even after thousands of miles of use in the usual muddy/dusty/wet mix of conditions. The black anodizing on the standard pedals tends to wear over time, but the metal bodies cope well with bashes and abuse.

The platform is a bit wider than more minimalist pedals so there's decent shoe support from the gridded side areas. More body does mean there's a bit more tendency to clog with dirt, although we haven't found it to be any worse than other SPD designs. 

Like other SPD pedals, there's easy adjustment of release tension. and the open springs continue to work well. Look supplies its own cleats, which are durable and give six degrees of float and there's an easy release version available with multiple release directions, rather than just the side-to-side of the standard cleats.

The more substantial design means that the Look X-Track pedals are a bit heavier than equivalent-priced XC pedals, you can shave a bit off by opting for the pricier carbon-bodied and titanium spindle models.

Check out our full review of the Look X-Track Race Carbon pedals.

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The lowdown: Look X-Track Race Carbon
AttributesNotesRating
SupportGood support and extra float for SPD riders★★★★
WeightCompetitive weight★★★
DurabilityReasonable durability although special tool required for servicing★★★
ValueCompetitive with other pedals★★★★

Best mountain clipless bike pedals: trail and enduro

8. Best clipless trail pedals

Hope Union TR pedal

Hope Union TR pedal combines high quality CNC machining with its own clip mechanism (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)
Premium clipless trail pedals from legendary UK CNC machinists Hope

Specifications

Weight: 440g
Width: 69mm
Float: 4- to 5-degrees
Cleats: 12-,13-degrees release

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent connection
+
Easy, adjustable exit even in filth
+
Proven long-lasting bearing system
+
Tough stainless steel contact points
+
Two sets of cleats
+
Fully rebuildable

Reasons to avoid

-
Hope cleats only
-
'Different' cleats aren't that different
-
High price

Hope has been CNC machining mountain bike parts for a long time, yet the Union pedal range is the first clipless pedal range that the brand has offered. This isn't completely new territory though, Hope already has its F20 flat pedal which is well proven on a durability front and the newer F22. The Unior pedal uses the same heat-treated and plated cro-mo steel axles and triple cartridge bearing, single Igus bushing internals.

What is completely new is the clip-in system, rather than use Shimano's SPD format Hope has developed its own which uses proprietary cleats, of which two are included in the box. The double-sided cleat retention mechanism can be stamped into with a flat foot rather than a forward hooking motion. We found the clip action to be light but positive and the pedal provides a broad platform for a really planted and secure feel.

Find out more about the Hope Union TR pedal in our detailed review.

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The lowdown: Hope Union TR
AttributesNotesRating
SupportGood connection with trail shoe when shimmed correctly★★★★★
WeightExtra pedal body adds a bit of weight★★
DurabilityTough and rebuildable★★★★★
ValueHigh end price but worth it★★★★

9. Best clipless pedals for adjustability

Crankbrothers Mallet Trail pedal review

The Mallet Trail pedals fill the gap in Crankbrothers range (Image credit: Graham Cottingham)
Crankbrothers mud shedding and adjustable action in a lightweight trail format

Specifications

Weight: 357g
Width: 65mm
Float: 0-10 degrees
Cleats: Standard, premium or easy release

Reasons to buy

+
Traction pins add a clip-in point of reference and a little extra grip
+
Lightweight
+
Five-year guarantee
+
Low maintenance and easily repairable
+
Float, release angle, and shoe engagement options

Reasons to avoid

-
Vaguer clip in action than SPDs

Up until last year Crankbrothers pedal range had two very distinctive flavors, there were the bare bones Eggbeaters and minimal Candy formats on one end and the large platformed enduro and downhill pedals. To fill the gap Crankbrothers released the Mallet Trail which features a small pinned platform.

The Mallet Trail combines the four-sided Eggbeater mechanism which gives customizable float and release by using different cleats, shipped with a the standard six-degree float, and 15-degree release (or 20 degrees by putting switching the left and right cleat). The pedal/shoe interface and cleat engagement feel can be further fine-tuned with the replaceable traction pads. Surrounding the mechanism is a 6061-T6 Aluminum pedal body with two adjustable supporting pins  to help guide your feet into the pedals.

If your a fan of Crankbrothers light engagement and adjustability then the Mallet Trail's are an excellent option for any riding that might require a little extra support but not require a fully platformed pedal. 

Check out our full review of the Crankbrothers Mallet Trail.

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The lowdown: Crankbrothers Mallet Trail
AttributesNotesRating
SupportEasy clip in action and added pedal body support★★★★
WeightDecent weight considering additional pedal body★★★★
DurabilityCrankbrothers' durability has improved over the years★★★
ValuePremium price and no budget options★★★

10. Best SPD pedals for trail riding

Look X-Track En-Rage Plus pedal review

Look combines an SPD mechanism with two front pins (Image credit: Graham Cottingham)
Trail ready SPD with added float

Specifications

Weight: 451g
Width: 67mm
Float: 6-degrees
Cleats: Standard, Easy

Reasons to buy

+
Very familiar SPD clip in action
+
Stable pedal platform
+
Compatible with Shimano cleats
+
Two front pins help clipping in while riding
+
Six degrees of float

Reasons to avoid

-
Special tool required to service the pedals
-
Pins don’t offer much riding traction

While Shimano has some semi-platformed trail versions of its XT and XTR pedals, it's only a basic hoop around the cleat mechanism. If you want an SPD trail pedal with the added support of a couple of pins, then Look’s X-Track En-Rage Plus is the best alternative. 

Its not just the addition of a couple of adjustable grub screws threaded into the front of the pedal that separates the Look pedals from the Shimano offerings. Although the pedals are completely cross compatible with Shimano's SPD cleats and have an almost indistinguishable clip in and out feel, Look uses its own cleat. This slightly modified cleat gives an extra two degrees of float which we found gave a little more freedom under foot which helped us move our body weight around when riding rowdier terrain.

Reliability of the single inboard bushing and a pair of outer sealed ball bearings has been impressive so far. Although when it comes to servicing you will need to source and purchase a special tool from Look.For more details, head over to our full review of the Look X-Track En-Rage Plus.

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The lowdown: Look X-Track En-Rage Plus
AttributesNotesRating
SupportGood support and extra SPD float feel★★★★
WeightHeavier weight puts them alongside larger platform pedals★★
DurabilityTest samples have proven to have good durability★★★★
ValuePrice puts these pedals mid-range ★★★

11. Best clipless enduro pedals

Crankbrothers Mallet E LS

Crankbrothers Mallet E balances weight and platform support (Image credit: Future)
The lightweight gravity pedal option of choice

Specifications

Weight: 428g
Width: 57mm
Float: 0-10 degrees
Cleats: Standard, premium or easy release

Reasons to buy

+
Smooth, reliable operation with massively tuneable support
+
Wide range of cleats and two axle lengths 

Reasons to avoid

-
Reliability and features come at a price
-
Cleats wear quickly (but that saves pedal wear)

After issues with early versions of the Candy, the Mallet helped save Crankbrothers' pedal reputation by becoming the gravity footholder of choice for a ton of high-profile riders. The Mallet E uses a slightly smaller platform but all the same adjustable pin and shim features to create an outstanding, fully tuneable lightweight Enduro/hardcore trail pedal.

As with all Crankbrothers pedals, the mechanism at the center is the brilliantly simple and effective stainless steel X-Wing Eggbeater design. That means easy, soft clip-in at all angles, no matter the amount of dirt on your foot. Spring tension is fixed but choosing different cleats or switching them left to right gives between 0-10 degrees of float and 10-20 degrees release angles making them (and other Crankbrothers pedals) the most adjustable around. Shoe-to-pedal clearance can be tuned with shims under the cleat or changeable ‘traction pads’ slotted into the two-tone anodized body (four colors are available) alongside the mechanism. Foot connection when clipped or unclipped can be further modified by screwing the six steel grip screws in or out of the body. This means you can have your feet locked down or skating around as you want but still get great impact and pedaling support at a reasonable weight. The LS (Long Shaft) axle gives a 57mm (rather than 2mm) extension for more leverage and crank clearance if you’re duck-footed.

The reliability of recent Crankbrothers pedals has been excellent and they’re covered by a five-year warranty. With eight different versions of Mallet from the entry-level E11 to the limited-edition ‘Super Bruni’ DH World Champion version there’s an option for most wallets and preferences.

For more details, check out our Crankbrothers Mallet E LS review.

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The lowdown: Crankbrothers Mallet E
AttributesNotesRating
SupportPlatform gives loads of support to trail shoes★★★★★
WeightGood weight considering size★★★★
DurabilityBearings last a long time★★★★
ValueExpensive but durable★★★

Best mountain clipless bike pedals: downhill

12. Best clipless downhill pedals

Crankbrothers Mallet DH

Big platform and adjustable float makes the Crankbrothers Mallet DH a popular choice with descenders (Image credit: Jim Bland)
Large platformed gravity focused clipless pedals

Specifications

Weight: 480g
Width: 77mm
Float: 0-10 degrees
Cleats: Standard, premium or easy release

Reasons to buy

+
Perfect levels of support
+
Secure hold
+
5-Year warranty
+
Highly customisable

Reasons to avoid

-
Not the cheapest
-
Finding your ideal set-up can take time
-
Cleats wear out fast
-
Top-loaded pins can be hard to adjust once used

Crankbrothers Mallet pedal has long been a firm favorite amongst downhillers combining the classic eggbeater x-wing clip-in mechanism with a huge supportive platform. 

The Crankbrothers pedal design lends itself perfectly to downhill riding, the floaty pedal connection enhances control through the feet and the easy mud-proof engagement helps when getting clipped back in mid-trail. You get all the same cleat and traction pad adjustment to fine-tune ride feel found on the other Mallet versions. Encasing the mechanism is a huge platform sporting eight adjustable and removable pins per side giving loads of support to the shoe. Once set up, our tester Jim Bland found the Mallet DH's intuitive when riding and offering equal parts flat pedal levels of support and clipped-in security.

The large platform adds a chunk of weight over the likes of the Mallet E LS however trail slammers will value the extra real estate. Reliability has previously been questionable although after a full summer of testing Jim's test pedals were still spinning smoothly. They are also serviceable and spares and service kits are available.

To find out more, check out Jim's full review of the Crankbrothers Mallet DH pedal.

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The lowdown:Crankbrothers Mallet DH
AttributesNotesRating
SupportHuge pedal body gives excellant stability★★★★★
WeightThey are on the heavy side due to larger platform★★★
DurabilityDecent durability and serviceable★★★★
ValuePricey but performance boosts value★★★

13. Best downhill pedals for durability

Shimano Saint PD-M821 pedals

The pedal has a large aluminum platform and is stepped down either side with angled corners to boost clearance (Image credit: Paul Burwell)
Sure footed engagement an rugged Shimano reliability

Specifications

Weight: 556g
Width: 75mm
Float: 5-degrees
Cleats: 4-degrees (multi-release)

Reasons to buy

+
Adjustable release tension
+
Plug and play bearing assembly
+
Tough, reliable and easy to service
+
Cracking value for money

Reasons to avoid

-
Custom tool needed for servicing
-
A bit weighty compared to the competition
-
Pedal pins have a T-15 Torx head, why?

It's hard to believe that Shimano's Saint groupset has remained unchanged since its release in 2013, the Saint M820 pedals were a somewhat new addition to the range back in 2018. Since then they have seen a relatively minor update to the axle durability, indicated by the Shimano Saint M821 version we tested.

Unlike the svelte and pinless XT and XTR trail pedals, the Saint has a far bigger forged aluminum platform with an adjustable pin in each corner. The mechanism is the same as Shimano's proven SPD system giving a crisp reassuring clunk to tell you that you clipped in. There aren't as many float options as Crankbrothers but the spring tension can be adjusted to change the force needed to unclip.

The pedals feature a durable chromoly axle and like all of Shimano's pedals, they spin on ball bearings rather than bushings or cartridge bearings. Servicing is classic Shimano and they will rarely need anything more than occasionally being flushed with fresh grease to keep them play-free and spinning smoothly.

Check out our full review of the Shimano Saint M821 pedals.

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The lowdown: Shimano Saint PD-M821
AttributesNotesRating
SupportMedium sized pedal body and four pins add support★★★
WeightHeavy★★
DurabilityVery durable and easily serviceable★★★★★
ValueReasonable pricing compared to other large platform pedals★★★

How to choose the best clipless MTB pedals

There are a few questions you need to ask yourself before buying clipless mountain bike pedals but they’re all pretty straightforward. What isn’t so predictable are the answers.

What size pedal should I use?

The larger the pedal, the easier it is to find with your foot. Bigger pedals like the Crankbrothers Mallet DH and old Shimano Saint M821 also give more support under your shoe. Adjustable grip pins screwed into the platforms increase foot security whether you’re clipped in or not. Bigger pedals are heavier though, so big platforms are more popular with gravity riders.

That’s led to the development of the latest category of medium or ‘enduro’ sized platform pedals like the Crankbrothers Mallet E which use a smaller, lighter platform but often keep grip pins so they’re still useable unclipped.

Small platform trail pedals - like Hope Union TR, Crankbrothers Mallet Trail, and Look X-Track En-Rage Plus - offer a bit more contact area and mechanism protection than an XC pedal but without the extra front and rear support of a caged option. 

Finally, XC and 'skeleton’ mechanism-only pedals like Shimano XT  Crankbrothers Eggbeaters are super light and more resistant to mud clogging. With no support platform or protection around the mechanism though they’re best suited to very stiff shoes and more careful riders.

Which clipless system should I use?

As well as weight, platform size, and price, the ‘feel’ and operation of some pedals can make them particularly suitable for some riders. All the Shimano-compatible designs feel broadly similar using a single sprung jaw with adjustable release-spring tension. Those tension ranges and clip-in/out action can vary though and there’s no way to adjust shoe-to-pedal spacing. Crankbrothers pedals use hoop-based mechanisms that give a smooth, quiet, mud-proof engagement and disengagement. In contrast, Hope pedals use double-sprung mechanisms with a very obvious and secure feel.

Crankbrothers pedals don’t have spring-tension adjustment but use pedal and cleat shims to tune the gap - and therefore connection/movement - between your shoe and the pedal. 

While some riders like a fixed foot connection, more rotational movement before the cleat unclips from the shoe (float) can reduce strain on your knees. Float varies between pedal designs but can also be altered from 0 to 20 degrees by using different shapes of cleats or switching the cleats from left to right. Crankbrothers currently offers the widest range of options.

How much can I expect to pay?

How much you’ve got to spend is always a significant factor, but with pedals, the gains aren’t always in line with the investment. Spending more does get you more choices. The cheapest pedals are all minimal platform ‘trail’ platforms and the price tends to increase as pedals get bigger or lighter.

Features like adjustable pins also cost more and some pedal systems use different coatings on mechanisms to improve performance.

Changes in axle material - better quality steel or titanium on fancy pedals - and more sculpted bodies reduce weight but push the price higher.

However, as with many components more expensive/complex doesn’t always mean more reliable. A prime example is Shimano’s SPD (Shimano Pedalling Dynamics) range. XTR (and to a lesser extent XT) are built from fancier materials and treated to smarter coatings than entry-level pedals to reduce weight and improve performance. You’d be hard-pressed to notice any difference between them and the basic M520 model under your feet though. More importantly, Shimano’s cheapest pedals outlast pretty much any pedal from anyone, despite sometimes being sold for less than a spare pair of cleats (that they come with as standard).

How we test the best mountain bike clipless pedals

We have tested all these clipless MTB pedals over several months to several years racking up countless miles on a wide range of trails to determine how they perform on the roughest terrains and the worst conditions. Pedals are ranked based on support, weight, durability, and value.

Meet the testers

Guy Kesteven
Guy Kesteven

Guy Kesteven is Bike Perfect’s contributing tech editor. He's written several million words about several thousand test bikes and a ridiculous amount of bike components and riding gear.

Graham Cottingham
Graham Cottingham

Graham has some of the best mountain biking and gravel riding in the UK on his doorstep. Although occasionally dabbling with flat pedals, the majority of his riding is on clipless pedals.

Paul Burwell bio
Paul Burwell

Paul has been testing mountain bikes and products for the best part of 30 years, he’s passed comment on thousands of components, bikes and hundreds of pedals.

Jim Bland
Jim Bland

Jim Bland is a product tester and World Cup downhill mechanic working Worldwide. Jim’s chosen riding genre is hard to pinpoint and regularly varies from e-bike-assisted shuttle runs one day to cutting downcountry laps the next. 

Sean Fishpool
Sean Fishpool

Sean has old-school cycle touring in his blood, with a coast-to-coast USA ride and a number of month-long European tours in his very relaxed palmares. Also an enthusiastic midpack club cyclocross and XC racer, he loves his role as a junior cycle coach on the Kent/Sussex borders, and likes to squeeze in a one-day unsupported 100-miler on the South Downs Way at least once a year.

Graham Cottingham
Senior reviews writer, Bike Perfect

Graham is all about riding bikes off-road, based in Edinburgh he has some of the best mountain biking and gravel riding in the UK on his doorstep. With almost 20 years of riding experience, he has dabbled in downhill, enduro, and gravel racing. Not afraid of a challenge, Graham has embraced bikepacking over the last few years and likes nothing more than strapping some bags to his bike and covering big miles to explore Scotland's wildernesses. When he isn’t shredding the gnar in the Tweed Valley, sleeping in bushes, or tinkering with bikes, he is writing tech reviews for Bike Perfect.


Rides: Cotic SolarisMax, Stooge MK4, 24 Bicycles Le Toy 3, Surly Steamroller

Height: 177cm

Weight: 71kg