The Ultimate Guide To Pedals

Ultimate Pedal Guide

Many of our readers are confused about pedal selection. There are so many options for release mechanisms, platforms, pins and debris deflection. For this test we rode in fairly dry conditions. We used the same shoes throughout the entire test for consistency and focused on engagement and release characteristics. Your experiences may differ if you ride in wet and muddy terrain. SPD cleats are not ideal in muddy conditions, while Time or HT cleats are better designed to keep soil from accumulating. Shoes are another huge factor. The curve of the sole, stiffness, material and size will change a number of characteristics for clipping in, traction and disengagement. We will tell you how each pedal rides and describe the ease and comfort of the entry and release. Take our opinions, and your terrain and shoe selection into consideration, and you should have all the information you need to choose the right clipless pedals for you.


Time

Time began over 30 years ago in Nevers, France and was a pioneer of the automatic (clipless) pedal. We put Time’s platform trail pedals and cross-country race pedals to the test.

ATAC Speciale

Tech features:

The Time ATAC Speciale has a double-sided, 6106-T6 aluminum body; oversized, hollow-steel axle; and steel bearings. Additional features include Time’s ATAC-patented engagement system, replaceable grip pins and a micro-adjustable Allen-bolt tension spring. The pedals are available in red, blue and dark grey. The pedals use a two-bolt, brass, proprietary ATAC cleat system designed for traditional MTB clip shoes. With a footprint of 113 × 749 × 36mm, the pedals weigh 412 grams per pair and sell for $275.

Field test results:

The engagement is simple and effective and resists mud and debris, making it extremely easy to use in adverse conditions. The Time ATAC Speciale has a nearly frictionless feel through the center of the pedal float. We ran our spring tension at 540 degrees (one and a half turns) from open out of the recommended 720 degrees (two full turns) without any unwanted disengagement. The release was firm and predictable. At first it felt like it might need more tension with the free float and smooth release, but after riding aggressively and not unclipping, even on big turning jumps, we decided that more tension would not be necessary. By design, pedal strikes were nearly nonexistent with the pedal’s narrow leading edge and width. Riders with a lot of body movement will love this pedal and the ability to move around a lot while staying clipped in. Beginners will love the ease of release at lower tensions.

ATAC XC8

Tech features:

The Time ATAC XC8 has a double-sided carbon body; oversized, hollow-steel axle; steel bearings; Time ATAC-patented engagement system; and a micro-adjustable Allen-bolt tension spring. The pedals are available in black only. They use a two-bolt, brass, proprietary ATAC cleat system designed for traditional MTB clip shoes. With a footprint of 60 × 72 × 36mm, the pedals weigh 291 grams per pair. MSRP is $180.

Field test results:

The Time ATAC XC8 has a surprisingly easy engagement on the ATAC receiving spring, one of the easiest non-platform entries. With three progressive clicks of tension, we ran ours with the easiest setting, as it came stock out of the box. The float had very minimal resistance and allowed a lot of hip motion without unclipping at all, yet still had a very smooth and confident release point. This is one of the best pedals on the market in wet and muddy conditions. Our Sidi test shoe felt right at home on this pedal without pins or a platform. Pedal strikes were nearly nonexistent due to the minimalist body and narrow width. Although this was designed as a pro cross-country pedal, beginners will be extremely comfortable and confident with the engagement and release.

Overall comparison:

It is extremely difficult to choose between these two pedals. Aesthetically, the ATAC Speciale is one of the most beautifully designed pedals, but the ATAC X8 has a technically designed carbon body. Both pedals have very similar float feelings, and the engagement and disengagement are nearly the same. The ATAC Speciale platform provides durability, but the ATAC X8’s light weight is a real plus. Both pedals had nearly the same feel once we were clipped in and riding. Because the pins and platform didn’t make contact with our test shoe, we preferred the ATAC X8. We may have chosen differently if we were testing with a softer-soled shoe. Either way, this was an extremely close call.


Xpedo

Xpedo has been making pedals for over 30 years and is the world’s largest pedal manufacturer.

Xpedo GFX

Tech features:

The Xpedo GFX has a double-sided, 6061, CNC-machined aluminum body; chromoly spindle; three sealed cartridge bearings; eight removable pins; and an Allen-bolt tension spring. The pedals are available in blue, orange, red, oil slick and black. The GFX uses Xpedo’s Latitude Entry System, which enhances engagement with the front claw sprung up off of the axle for easier cleat access. The GFX uses a two-bolt XPT cleat with 6 degrees of float. It is designed for traditional MTB clip shoes and is SPD compatible. With a footprint of 103 × 89 × 33mm, the pedals weigh 470 grams per pair and sell for $169 (oil slick, $199).

Field test results:

The Xpedo GFX offers extremely comfortable engagement with its Latitude Entry System. The whole spring body rotates toward your cleat for a more precise entry. We ran our spring tension at five clicks from open and did not experience any unwanted disengagement. We still felt confident with the release not being too firm. With the GFX, you experience a free float with a sharp, distinct release—not a progressive spring-tensioned release. We experienced a few pedal strikes, mainly on the outside of the large platform. They are low profile, so it didn’t affect the leading edge of the platform. The GFX is definitely suited for the enduro/downhiller more than your basic trail rider. Our Sidi test shoe did not make any contact with the platform or pins. A softer-soled downhill shoe might have better contact results with the platform. This pedal inspires confidence but is a little heavier than a standard trail pedal. Beginners will feel comfortable with the lower spring tension release, and pros will feel secure with the heavier tensions.

M-Force 8

Tech features:

The Xpedo M-Force 8 has a chromoly spindle, double-sided titanium body, three sealed cartridge bearings, and an Allen-bolt tension spring. The pedals come in one color—raw titanium. The body uses Xpedo’s PosiLock retention system with spring-loaded adjustability. The M-Force 8 uses a two-bolt XPT cleat with 6 degrees of float. The pedal is SPD single-release compatible and is designed for traditional MTB clip shoes. With a footprint of 54 × 51 × 32mm, the pedals weigh in at 259 grams per pair and sell for $189.

Field test results:

The Xpedo M-Force 8 has a very smooth and free float with a precise disengagement point. Our spring tensions were set at eight clicks from full open, and we did not experience any unexpected clip releases. The spring tension releases abruptly after the float but provides a confident exit. We experienced no pedal strikes with the minimal surface area. The M-Force 8 is a cross-country racer’s dream considering its light weight. A stiff-soled shoe works well with the minimal contact area. Beginners will struggle a little bit with targeting the entry, but once in, they will feel secure while still having a confident release tension.

Overall comparison:

This is a difficult comparison because we are hitting the two extremes of the spectrum. Since we are making the comparison for a trail bike experience, the GFX has a few advantages over the M-Force 8. The platform makes clipping in a little easier and adds protection for the spring. Both pedals offer comfortable ride quality, engagement and release. The weight savings of the M-Force 8 is nice, but in the trail bike world, weight isn’t as crucial as in cross-country. That being said, we have to give this one to the Xpedo GFX.


HT

Hsing Ta (HT) was started in 2005 in New Taipei City, Taiwan, as a high-end pedal brand. To provide innovative and quality products, the development team in Taiwan works closely with its factory in Shenzhen, China.

M1

Tech features:

The HT M1 has a CNCmachined chromoly spindle, double-sided, extruded/CNC-machined aluminum body, sealed bearings/IGUS bushings and an Allen-bolt tension spring. The pedals are available in a dozen different anodized colors, including black. They use a two-bolt HT exclusive cleat system designed for traditional MTB clip shoes. With a footprint of 91 × 67 × 32mm, they weigh 295 grams per pair and sell for $155.

Field test results:

The HT M1s have a very distinct and predictable engagement and release. We were able to run mid-setting tension and never had any unexpected release issues. We were still able to unclip easily at slow speed, which is always the trouble with clip pedals. We set our spring tension at four full rotations from open, which was almost exactly halfway. This pedal is great for beginners and pros alike. It is also one of the better pedals for wet and muddy conditions. There are no surprises, and the spring tension adjustments are very noticeable, so you can tune the release exactly to your riding style. We experienced very minimal pedal strikes with this pedal due to its small dimensions and ground clearance. We did not experience any unexpected clip releases during our rides.

T1

Tech features:

The HT T1 has a CNC-machined chromoly spindle, double-sided, extruded/CNC-machined aluminum body, sealed bearings/IGUS bushings, replaceable grip pins and an Allen-bolt tension spring. The pedals come in 13 different colors, including all black. They use a two-bolt HT exclusive cleat system designed for traditional MTB clip shoes. With a footprint of 62 × 50 × 33 millimeters, they weigh in at 370 grams per pair and sell for $129.

Field test results:

The HT T1 has the same engagement characteristics as the M1. We set our spring tension the same as on the M1 (four full rotations from open) and never had any problem at all with unexpected clip release. The release on the HT pedals is smooth and very predictable. The spring winds up just before release and feels very natural and precise. It is also one of the better pedals for wet and muddy conditions. The platform did not make contact with our Sidi test pedal, so the pins are virtually unnecessary. A downhill shoe with a lot of sole flex might need pins, but the distance to the pins with our shoe was way too much. The platform was one of the leanest of the lot, and we suffered minimal pedal strikes with good ground clearance.

Overall comparison:

Both HT models use the same spring tension mechanism, so they felt virtually identical. With a stiff cross-country sole, the platform is not advantageous. With a soft-soled downhill or enduro (skate style) shoe, there may be a reason for the pins, but they were a fair distance away from our test Sidi sole. The spring body is high-centered over the platform, so you don’t really feel the cage on the arch of your shoe when you are unclipped. The cage seems to offer more protection than traction. The bearings on both pedals spun smoothly, solidly and quietly with no play.

Based on weight, ground clearance and no noticeable advantage to the platform of the T1, we have to go with the HT M1. Visually, we preferred the T1, and for some reason felt a weird confidence in knowing there was a cage on it, so it was extremely close.


Shimano

Shimano began producing single freewheels in Sakai, Japan, in 1921. Today, still based in Sakai, Shimano produces bicycle components, fishing tackle and rowing equipment. Shimano product sales constitute 50 percent of the global bicycle component market.

Shimano Deore XT (PD-M8020)

Tech features:

The Shimano Deore XT (PD-M8020) has a double-sided steel body, chromoly spindle, cartridge bearings and an Allen-bolt tension spring. The ped-als are available in black only. They use a two-bolt SPD cleat system designed for traditional MTB clip shoes. With a footprint of 94 × 67 × 33mm, they weigh 408 grams per pair and sell for $119.

Field test results:

The Shimano Deore XT (PD-M8020) has one of the smoothest and most precise engagement systems of all of the pedals we tested. The M8020 has almost the exact feeling of the M8000 with a platform wrapped around it. Our spring tensions were set at eight clicks from full open, and we never experienced any unexpected clip releases, just as with the M8000. The release is smooth but has a slight ramp up at the end of the release. This is good for not coming unclipped if you move your upper body around a lot. Beginners will run this pedal with very low tension confidently. Our Sidi test shoe did not make any contact with the platform, and with no pins, this platform serves little to no purpose besides protecting the leading edge of the pedal. This platform pedal had very few pedal strikes, just as the M8000 without the platform. There were no surprises at all with the XT pedals. Beginners and pros alike will be satisfied.

Overall comparison:

The platform on the Shimano Deore XT (PD-M8020) serves little purpose. We ran both of these pedals with the same spring tension, and both pedals felt exactly the same in engagement and release characteristics. Both pedals had an amazingly smooth bearing feel. For the weight savings of 65 grams and only a small advantage to having the platform, we chose the Shimano Deore XT (PD-M8000) for this one.

Deore XT (PD-M8000)

Tech features:

The Shimano Deore XT (PD-M8000) has a double-sided steel body, chromoly spindle, cartridge bearings and an Allen-bolt tension spring. The pedals are available in black only. They use a two-bolt SPD cleat system designed for traditional MTB clip shoes. With a footprint of 66 × 63 × 33mm, the pedals weigh 343 grams per pair and sell for $119.

Field test results:

The Shimano Deore XT (PD-M8000) has an extremely smooth and precise engagement. We ran our spring tension at eight clicks from open and did not experience a single unwanted disengagement. Shimano pedals have always offered a very secure feeling and confidence-inspiring release. We experienced very few pedal strikes due to the small dimensions of this pedal and its low-profile design. The pedal is desirable for pro racers and beginners alike, as it allows for easy exit yet won’t unclip unexpectedly.


Funn

Funn was started in 1997 on a foundation of race-proven MTB components. Funn works exclusively with some of the best factories in the cycling industry in Taiwan.

Mamba

Tech features:

The Funn Mamba has a double-sided, CNC-machined AL6061 platform; chromoly axle, DU and cartridge bearings; replaceable grip pins and an Allen-bolt tension spring. The Mamba features a GRS (Grease Renew System), which is a set-screw accessible grease port. The pedals are available in red, orange, blue, green, grey and black. They use a two-bolt SPD cleat system designed for traditional MTB clip shoes. With a footprint of 111 × 98 × 33mm, the pedals weigh 508 grams per pair and sell for $129.

Field test results:

The Funn Mamba allows a very free float right up to the disengagement point. The release is very distinct and pronounced. Unlike most SPD pedals, there isn’t as much of a spring tension buildup; it’s more of a trigger feeling and you are out. We started the tension six clicks from open but came unclipped a few times in some rougher terrain with hip twists. We then upped to eight and finished at nine clicks from full open, which felt way more secure. The slow-speed release was still good, and we didn’t experience any unwanted releases from that point. Some pedals are difficult to unclip at the higher tensions, but with the Mamba, we were confident at all times. Pedal strikes may not be frequent, but the platform is extremely wide. The few pedals strikes we did experience were mainly from the outside of the pedal, not the low-profile leading side. Our Sidi test shoe did not make any contact with the platform or pins, just like most of our other pedals. The Funn Mamba’s platform was well-balanced and made for a solid target when locating the pedal and clipping in. This is a very comfortable pedal for beginners and worthy of pro enduro racing.

Ripper

Tech features:

The Funn Ripper has a chromoly axle, double-sided 6061 aluminum body, DU and cartridge bearings, replaceable grip pins and an Allen-bolt tension spring. The pedals come in six colors: red, orange, blue, green, grey and black. They use a two-bolt X-Track SPD cleat system designed for traditional MTB clip shoes connected to an (AES) Angular Engagement System that significantly improves smoothness of SPD cleat engagement action. With a footprint of 98 × 98 × 33mm, the pedals weigh in at 554 grams per pair and sell for $129

Field test results:

The Funn Ripper has the same spring mechanism as the Mamba but also includes the Angular Engagement System, which is an additional spring-loaded pivot point on the axle that allows the pedal to receive the clip easier. The engagement and release are nearly identical to the Mamba, and we ran the same nine clicks from full open as our preferred spring setting. With this tension, we did not experience any unwanted releases and were able to get unclipped comfortably as needed. The release is very predictable and smooth. Our Sidi test shoe did not make contact with the platform, but we did notice the pins when we were spotting the pedal trying to clip in. They are located in a good position and, with the AES, it may for very easy pedal entry. A softer sole on a more downhill-type shoe may get a little more benefit from the platform and pins on the Ripper. We experienced a minimal number of pedal strikes, which all came from the outside of the pedal, not the leading edge. These pedals are great for pro riders and beginners alike. The range of tension suits every riding style comfortably.

Overall comparison:

The platform on the Ripper pedal far outweighed the benefit of the cage on the Mamba. It offered ease of clipping in, fewer pedal strikes, and a more comfortable and confident feel. The Mamba platform is extremely large and would be highly beneficial in their flat/clip model on the flat side without clips. The platform on this pedal, once again, is more of a protective cage than a pedal surface. Locating the center of the pedal was really easy with the large platforms. We ran both of these pedals with the same spring tension, and both pedals felt nearly the same in engagement and release characteristics. Both Funn models had an extremely smooth bearing feel. We chose the Funn Ripper pedals for this one.


DMR

Based out of the British countryside, DMR Bikes has been designing and producing mountain bike frames, components and pedals for over 20 years. DMR has a lot of experience in the bicycle industry, even though it’s not the most well-known company.

V-Twin

Tech features:

The DMR V-Twin has a double-sided, extruded, aluminum, CNCmachined body; 4130 chromoly axle; serviceable bearing system; replaceable grip pins on an adjustable-height nylon bumper platform; and an Allen-bolt tension spring. The pedals are available in blue, gold, lemlime, magenta, nickel grey, orange red and black. The pedals use a two-bolt SPD cleat system designed for traditional MTB clip shoes. With a footprint of 109 × 87 × 37mm, the pedals weigh 564 grams per pair and sell for $159.

Field test results:

The DMR V-Twin has unusually smooth float for an SPD pedal. We ran our spring tension at 10 clicks from open. We did not experience unwanted disengagement and were able to release with confidence. Pedal strikes were extremely minimal and typically on the outside of the axle. The pin system is the best in its class, with multiple options personalizing the height. The V-Twin comes stock with a nylon plate and a metal shim, which you are able to configure to a number of different heights for contact with your shoe. The pedals also use the spring-loaded axle body to make finding the leading edge of the cleat easier. The pins were beneath our Sidi shoe sole when clipped in but would make better contact with a softer-soled enduro shoe. The V-Twin is good for beginners because of its super-light spring tension release but also provides confidence and security on aggressive terrain for pro-level riders.

Overall comparison:

With our Sidi test shoe, we preferred the pins at max height with the steel spacer below the nylon platform. Although the shoe still didn’t make contact with the pins, it made it easier to locate the pedal when clipping in and also provided a solid connection with our shoe when clipped out.


Exustar

Exustar has been around since 2002 manufacturing pedals, shoes and accessories, as well as being an ODM (original design manufacture) for other brands. They use a Shimano SPD-type interface, which they call EPS-M.

E-PM222TI

Tech features:

The Exustar E-PM222TI has a heat-treated, CNC-machined titanium axle; double-sided, extruded, CNCmachined aluminum body; a slimline dual needle and sealed bearing system; and an Allen-bolt tension gauge. The pedals are available in four anodized colors, including black. The pedals use an SPD-compatible, two-bolt cleat designed for traditional MTB clip shoes. With a footprint of 67 × 55 × 30mm, the pedals weigh in at a featherweight 258 grams per pair and sell for $195.

Field test results:

The E-PM222TI clips in firmly and securely, and we found ourselves backing off the spring tension as we never unclipped while riding. The release angle seemed a little further out than traditional SPD pedals, which was a blessing for those of us who move our hips and heels a lot, but it took a little more effort to unclip with the additional distance. Once we set the tension lighter (six clicks in from full open or less), the release was much easier, and we still did not experience any problems while riding. This is a good pedal for beginners but not the best for people with range-of-motion issues in their ankles. Ground clearance was great, and we did not experience any unexpected pedal strikes.

E-PM823

Tech features:

The Exustar E-PM823 has a double-sided, extruded, machined, low-profile aluminum body; heat-treated, CNC-machined chromoly axle; replaceable grip pins; anodized black platform; LSL bushing and sealed bearings; and a slimline dual-bearing mechanism. The pedals use an SPD-compatible, two-bolt cleat designed for traditional MTB clip shoes. With a footprint of 99 × 95 × 30mm, the pedals weigh in at 516 grams per pair and sell for $105.

Field test results:

The E-PM823 has the same engagement characteristics as the E-PM222Ti. We found that light spring tension—six clicks in from full open—was the stiffest needed on this pedal. You may be able to go even lighter if you have steady hips and heels and don’t twist while riding. The release seems a few degrees wider than with traditional SPDs, which on an enduro pedal really seems to be a good thing. The release is smooth but matter of fact. You can feel the spring tension build just prior to release, so it gives you a sort of warning just before you clip out. The platform pins did not come in contact with our Sidi test pedal, which is more of a traditional cross-country style, but it would probably work a little better with a more flexible-soled enduro shoe. The platform had good ground clearance, and we experienced minimal pedal strikes.

Overall comparison:

Both pedals had nearly identical engagement and release. Unless you are running a softer-soled enduro shoe, the platform on the E-PM823 is not worth the extra weight over the E-PM222TI. The SPD spring body on the E-PM823 is high-centered over the platform, so even if you want to unclip and ride these pedals like flats, you aren’t making contact with the platform or pins. At that point, the main benefit of the platform would be protecting the spring body. With a softer-soled shoe, the traction is better while clipped in because of the standing pins in the platforms that allow less heel motion, maybe even making less spring tension necessary. The bearings on both pedals are tight, smooth and silent. Based on weight and ground clearance, we have to go with the E-PM222TI as our choice on this one.


LOOK

Look is headquartered in Nevers, France, where it does all of its R&D. Look is a pioneer of clipless pedals and the first road carbon frame in 1986. Look is an independent company with a staff of around 420 people globally.

X-Track Race Carbon

Tech features:

The Look X-Track Race Carbon pedal has a double-sided carbon fiber body, CNC-machined chromoly spindle, glide/sealed bearings, replaceable grip pins and an Allen-bolt tension spring. The pedals are available in black only. For efficiency, Look set out to provide the largest surface area possible in a cross-country pedal for optimized weight-to-contact surface area. The pedals use a two-bolt X-Track SPD cleat system designed for traditional MTB clip shoes. With a footprint of 69 } 79 } 31mm, the pedals weigh 351 grams per pair and sell for $129.

Field test results:

The Look X-Track Race Carbon has an extremely smooth and precise engagement. We ran our spring tension at eight clicks from open and did not experience a single unwanted disengagement. The Look pedals have a very progressive feel with a firm tension that gives you confidence that it will release when you want it to and stay snug the rest of the time. We experienced very few pedal strikes due to the very small dimensions of this pedal and its low profile. This pedal is desired by pro racers and beginners alike, as it provides the ability to exit and release freely and still have the confidence of not coming unclipped unexpectedly.

X-Track En-Rage Plus

Tech features:

The Look X-Track En-Rage Plus has a CNC-machined chromoly spindle; double-sided, forged-aluminum body; glide/sealed bearings; replaceable grip pins; and an Allen-bolt tension spring. The pedals come in two colors—black and bronze. Look is the only company offering a forged pedal body, and Look prides itself on the impact strength of its pedals. Look uses a two-bolt X-Track SPD cleat system designed for traditional MTB clip shoes. With a footprint of 94 } 84 } 31mm, the pedals weigh in at 448 grams per pair and sell for $129.

Field test results:

The Look X-Track En-Rage Plus has one of the smoothest and most precise engagement systems of all of the pedals we tested. Our spring tensions were set at eight clicks from full open, and we never experienced any unexpected clip releases. The release on the Look pedals is firm and progressive. Spring tension builds up smoothly, providing a very consistent release. Our Sidi test shoe did not make any contact with the platform or pins. A softer-soled downhill shoe might have better contact results with the platform. We experienced very few pedal strikes, and the cleat was easy to engage. This is a great pedal for riders clipping in for the first time, as the tensions can be set extremely low and the release is very smooth without any tension hang-up. Pro riders will also benefit from the firm spring tension and still have a confident release point.

Overall comparison:

The platform on this pedal is more of a protective cage than it is a pedal surface. Locating the center of the pedal was really easy with the larger platform. We ran both of these pedals with the same spring tension, and both pedals felt almost the same in engagement and release. Both pedals had an extremely smooth bearing feel. For the weight savings of less than 100 grams and having the platform for ease of getting clipped in, we chose the Look X-Track En-Rage Plus for this one.


Our Sidi test shoes did not make contact with many of our pedals’ pins.
A softer-soled, downhill-type shoe bridged the gap better.

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