Clipless pedals not only transmit leg power efficiently, but they also bond cyclist and steed
Find the best mountain bike clipless pedals, including what to look for and what to buy. Clipless pedals transmit leg power and bond cyclist and steed.
For a long time, riders wanting to clip-in have had to put up with running smaller, cross-country oriented pedal systems. Whilst these pedals are light and perform well in the mud, they don’t quite offer the levels of foot support and confidence that many riders require when riding more technical trails. And that’s where the new breed of bigger platform trail pedals come in. When we last tested this relatively new breed of trail friendly pedals a couple of years ago there were limited examples, with Shimano and Crank Brothers being the front runners. But the good news is more pedal brands are now producing their own versions, so riders have much more choice. And while we are not saying that cross-country pedals shouldn’t be used for trail and gravity riding, the typically wider, platformed trail pedals suits the softer soled trail and gravity shoes that many riders prefer over stiffer race shoes.
The advantages extend beyond simply looking better on modern trail bikes. The predominately flat pedal inspired shape also provides considerably more foot support. Improving ride comfort, pedaling efficiency and bike control. That larger platform also makes a better target to aim for when needing to quickly clip back in after putting a foot down. Yes, they do suffer a weight penalty when compared to XC clipless or flat pedals and do tend to cost more. But there is nothing better for garnering confidence and security for everything from trail riding to downhill racing.
Here we go then. Reviews first. Conclusions after that. And then some general buying advice jargon-busting at the end. Clip in!
When Shimano’s patent for a sprung loaded clipless mechanism expired, the DMR V-Twin jumped on the design to create DMR’s first ever clipless pedal.
The new Funn Ripper follows in the footsteps of Funn’s popular fixed position pedal, the Mamba, in having a super wide body for extra foot support.
Nukeproof Horizon CL CrMo DH
The Nukeproof Horizon CL CrMo DH is the larger of Nukeproof’s two clipless pedals (the smaller being the Nukeproof Horizon CS Trail).
Shimano Saint M820
Rather than going for the articulated, caged pedal like the old DX M647, the Shimano Saint M820 is a fixed position pedal in the same vein as the XT Trail.
Time MX 6
It’s fair to say the Time MX6 is not a great looking pedal, especially in this insipid Plasma yellow, but it uses the company’s proven ATAC mechanism, is lightweight and offers tons of support.
Shimano XT M8020 Trail
What’s good about the XT is that the pedal body is forged aluminium, so can really handle abuse, making it great if you ride regularly on rocky terrain. The amount of support is similar to most of the other mid-sized pedals tested, but with a steel axle it feels super-solid under foot.
Shimano DX M647
The DX pedal is probably 10 years old, but even up against far more modern competition it’s still a great caged clipless pedal. It’s not the lightest, and the plastic platform only really offers support towards the rear of the shoe, but the unique feature of the DX is the floating mechanism.
The X2 is another downhill pedal, and this one was developed with the help of two-time World Cup champion, Aaron Gwin. The aluminium platform is 5mm longer than the Mallet DH, but it’s thinner at either end and has fewer pins.
With the same sized platform as Shimano’s XT pedal, direct comparisons are inevitable. The T1 is lighter, has excellent cornering clearance and works better in muddy conditions. However, the Shimano XT is more robust, has a more positive and audible engagement and is, crucially, £20 cheaper. The only reason we can see to buy the T1 over XT is for the colours, of which there are seven.
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Crank Brothers Candy 2
The Candy 2 spins on a simple bushing and we’ve found this can suffer from premature wear. But, Crank Bros has recently made a running change to the bearings in all of its pedals and the Candy now feature a better quality IGUS bushing and Enduro cartridge bearing.
The S-track is the only clipless pedal on test that can be ungraded by buying an aftermarket cage which bolts on the outside. It all adds up to a tremendously versatile pedal system that is the lightest on test and worth consideration whatever type of riding you favour.
Funn Tactic MTB
The Tactic is available in black, blue, orange, red and silver and everyone agreed it would be a particularly handsome addition to any bike, but at £80 it’s the most expensive pedal on test, and there are better value options available elsewhere.
Mavic Crossride SL
The plastic body gives a modicum of support; for more foot stability you could always opt for the caged Crossride XL model, which is — weirdly — £6 cheaper.The Crossride SL really did everything to a superb standard, it’s also lightweight and great value at £65.
Ritchey Comp V4 Mountain
With such a small platform, the Comp V4 Mountain provides less support than the XT or Funn pedals, but that did mean it tended to react more favourably when ridden in sticky mud. A few well-placed kicks soon cleared the open mechanism and narrow axle of gloop, ice and snow. With better quality bearings we would find it easier to recommend the Comp V4 Mountain as a budget SPD-compatible option.
Shimano XT M8000 Race
The XT is not the lightest, or cheapest option on the market, but if experience is anything to go by you can guarantee it will last and last, continuing to perform to a high level over years of service.
Crank Brothers Mallet DH
Ignore the DH label because this is the best caged clipless pedal for trail riding and easily deserves top marks. Great purchase on the pedal for improved control. Can ride on the pedal when not clipped in. Works well with shoes such as Giro’s Chamber, Five Ten’s Impact SPD and Shimano’s DX. Plenty of float.
The only reason we haven’t given the M540 a 10 rating is because you can pick up the excellent Shimano PD-M520, which functions nearly as well, lasts just as long and weighs only 30g more, for £27 (and perhaps even less if you shop around a little).
HT has made a pretty good first attempt at a clipless DH pedal, and if you don’t like Crank Brothers’ rather vague mechanism, you’ll probably love the X1. On the downside, we found clipping in more difficult, and the aluminium body didn’t quite give the same level of grip and support as the Mallet DH.
On the trail, testers were pleased with the consistency and force needed to clip in and out, once the tension was increased sufficiently. Though some riders reported an occasional poor release, when they were momentarily kept in the pedal beyond the release ‘click’, no one considered it a great problem.
Crank Brothers Candy 1
The light action and lack of adjustment makes us think this pedal would be ideal for clipless newcomers, who could either continue down the Crank Brothers line as time went on, or switch to another system if their riding became more aggressive.
The platform doesn’t really give a huge amount of extra support when you’re not clipped in, but the fact that the front of the mechanism is always tipped up and ready to receive the cleat definitely helps engagement.
If you ride in all conditions, the E-PM824 may not be the best pedal for you, but if you are more of a fair weather rider and are after a solid, supportive pedal that can take some abuse, it’s a safe bet. It’s also half the price of the Mallet DH and the similar-looking, HT Components X1.
Crank Brothers Eggbeater 1
s with the Crank Brothers Candy, by the end of the test, the bearings had begun to show a tiny amount of play in our sample pedal. It hasn’t got any worse, but it set off alarm bells as some of the Eggbeaters we’ve tested in the past also had issues with the bearings.
Crank Brothers Mallet E
While the DH Race model still offers the ultimate combination of flat pedal feel and clipless security, the Mallet E is a great choice for anyone who rides with a stiffer-soled shoe and wants improved pedal clearance on rocky trails.
Best mountain bike clipless pedals verdict
With trail pedals reaching maturity it’s becoming much less about clipless being a compromise when the terrain becomes more tech. Looking at all eight of the contenders, it’s good to see that in the most part they all offer a viable choice for the rider seeking the security and efficiency that this type of pedal can bring. Rather than being split fifty fifty in terms of platform size, it’s only really the evergreen Shimano XT Trail M8020 that looks like a beefed up cross country pedal. All seven of the alternatives have more in common with flat pedals in terms of the shape, level of foot support and grip.
One thing to consider though before choosing one of these eight as your next set is your current choice of shoe. Riders who are happiest using a lighter, stiffer race shoe will be perfectly happy with the smaller XT Trail or Crank Brothers Mallet E pedal thanks to the better support that style of shoe can bring. If you prefer a softer shoe such as a Giro Chamber or Specialized 2FO then the extra support of the larger caged pedals is a better match.
Both the DMR V-Twin and the Funn Ripper have produced their take on our old favourite Shimano DX M647, with its articulated, sprung-loaded clip mechanism. Both have added their own slant to more or less good effect but neither has achieved a pedal that eclipses the original. They are both suffering the effects of a British winter and look to need more regular TLC than any of the other pedals.
The newly launched Shimano Saint M820 clipless pedal has pushed its nose into the wind as Shimano’s premier gravity pedal and if you are looking for the most robust pedal then you needn’t look any further. Its solid bulk should have rocks quivering in its shadow. It also has one of the most positive engagements thanks to Shimano’s ubiquitous SPD design and the mid-sized shape offers good clearances for warp-speed trail riding.
Whereas in our previous trail pedal test the Crank Brothers Mallet DH was the clear winner, this time around it sustained heavy fire from the Nukeproof Horizon CL CrMo DH. The Horizon CL offers great foot support and requires far less fettling to create a stable position, it’s also fifty quid cheaper and uses Shimano compatible cleats. But it’s a touch heavier and a shade harder to engage the cleat, especially in muddy conditions and after a quick dab. And it’s this edge in performance combined with the without doubt the only true flat pedal-like shoe/pedal connection that hands the Crank Brothers Mallet DH our coveted Test Winner award. It still remains the pedal by which all others should be measured.
Get to know your pedals with this handy glossary.
The bigger the platform around the clip mechanism, the better the foot support. A larger platform will give you somewhere to rest your foot if unclipped, especially on a technical section of trail. A larger contact patch will also make pedaling more efficient and much more comfortable, especially with softer soled trail shoes.
The cleat is the physical link between pedal and shoe. Normally made of steel or brass alloy, all mountain bike cleats use a two bolt design to attach them to the shoe. They have special shaping to enable them to engage with the pedal mechanism. Many cleats are based on Shimano’s original SPD design and are cross-compatible. But some brands such as Crank Brothers use a specific, unique design.
All of the pedals here have floating cleats. Float is the free movement you feel when you are clipped into the pedal. For the majority of systems it comes Float is a good thing as it helps to reduce the stresses of being clipped in on your joints and can prevent unwanted release.
Bearings and sealing
Most pedals use a combination of bearings to keep them spinning smoothly and prevent lateral play. The typical setup is a combination of one or two cartridge bearings combined with a plastic or ceramic bushing. Sealing is very important due to the location and forces that go through the pedals in order to keep mud and water from penetrating.
This is how much force it takes to release your foot from the mechanism. Most of the pedals on test allow for some form of adjustment to make them easier to release from or less likely to accidentally unclip. On pedals such as Crank Brothers with a twin-bar mechanism tension cannot be adjusted. In this case release angle can be changed by switching the cleats between shoes.
Many of the larger trail style pedals take inspiration from flat pedals and include adjustable height pins to alter grip. In most cases these need to be fine tuned to balance traction and the ability to unclip safely.