Wil and the clip-in crew have spent the last few months trying to work out which are the best platform clip-in pedals. For this group test, they took eight of the latest platform clip-in pedals to see what each brand has to offer. Each pedal has been tested under various riders with a variety of shoes and in a range of conditions, to determine four category winners: Best Feel, Most Durable, Best In Mud, and Best All Round.
Best All Round : Shimano Saint SPD M820
The winner of this award doesn’t necessarily go to the thinnest, lightest or most adjustable pedal on test, but one that is able to balance all of those attributes with durability, functionality, and value for money. That’s a pretty tall order, but there were no doubts about the winner here.
As the inventor of the off-road clip-in pedal, Shimano is also responsible for the whole platform pedal movement. Most pedals in our group test feature designs that are barely a year or two old, but Shimano has been at it since 1996 when it released the iconic red DX M636 – a pedal that many mountain bikers still remember fondly today.
However, in more recent years it’s been Crank Brothers that has dominated the platform pedal market. And so when the current Saint 820 groupset was launched with the first Saint MX80 flat pedal back in 2013, the Japanese brand began development on a dedicated Saint SPD pedal. Being a brand that takes its time with R&D, it is only now – five years later – that Shimano is ready to unleash the Saint SPD pedal.
As the first clip-in pedal to wear the coveted Saint name, the Saint uses a fixed mechanism that allows it to take a thinner 20.5mm profile, with a robust construction that’s designed to see off plenty of whacks and scrapes. The classic dual-sided SPD mechanism remains, and so do the twin-bolt cleats with their 4° of float. Tension is adjusted via a 3mm hex key, and each side gets removable traction pins.
Stepping into the Saint SPD is like walking into your local pub that’s just hired a new top chef. It’s as familiar and inviting as it’s always been, but the quality has stepped up a notch. Engagement is more positive than Time and Crank Brothers, with a solid clunk that sounds like closing a luxury car door. It’s as sturdy and reliable as you’d expect of any Shimano clip-in pedal, but the action is smoother than all the other pedals on test.
Compared to Shimano’s popular XTR Trail pedals, the Saint uses a more robust forged alloy body that measures 78.1mm wide and 91mm long. This adds weight, with the pair of pedals coming in at 535g (sans cleats). Q-factor is the same at 55mm, but there’s more usable surface area on each side of the SPD mechanism, making the Saint feel bigger underfoot with less rocking and wiggle. The flatter overall shape doesn’t quite cup your shoes like the concave platform of the Nukeproof, HT and Crank Brothers pedals, but the flip side is greater compatibility with different shoes and tread designs.
The pre-production pedals we’ve been testing arrived sans pins, though production versions will come with 2.5mm tall steel pins that thread in from the backside for durability. They can be run with washers to shrink them to 1.85mm, or removed completely.
With the thread being a standard size though, I was able to test the Saints with some steel M4 grub screws. These gave more bite at the rear of the platform, providing good hold when your heels are dropped on steep descents. Because the front of the platform sits off the shoe sole though, the two pins at the front are largely ineffective when you’re clipped in. Instead, those pins are there for when you’re not clipped in and need to stick a foot down temporarily. Here the Saints aren’t quite as grippy as the HT or Crank Brothers, but they’re miles better than Shimano’s existing Trail pedals.
It’s impossible to comment on long-term durability without further testing, but given Shimano’s reputation for building pedals that last years and not just seasons, we expect nothing less here. The Saints roll on a heavy-duty cromoly axle that’s built for proper abuse, while the dual-row cup and cone bearing system offers serviceability if you ever need it. To ward off contamination in the first place, the internals are protected by a high-quality labyrinth seal system borrowed from XTR hub tech. Like all Saint products, they’re backed with a three-year warranty against manufacturing defects.
Shimano’s existing Trail pedals are already one of our favourite clip-in pedals, and the Saints build on that with a broader body and adjustable pins that favour aggressive riding. They’re short of being the grippiest on test, but the familiar SPD mechanism provides smooth and positive engagement that is usefully audible and secure while riding down noisy descents. Along with that wider platform, there are no doubts that the Saints are some of the most reassuring pedals we’ve ever used.
Want to know more about all the other pedals on test? You can get your hands on the full feature from Issue #117 of Singletrack Magazine, which includes all reviews of the winning pedals along with a guide on what goes into making a high performance clip-in pedal. Head here to get a preview of the magazine, then get it shipped right to your door!
|Product:||Saint M820 SPD Pedals|
|Tested:||by Wil & The Test Squad for 2 months|