What pedals for MTB?… Shimano SPD’s Long Term Review

Recently I have been asked by several people what pedals they should get, what I’m using and what would I recommend. For the initiated you will understand that this is not as easy a question to answer as it would appear on the surface. I thought I may as well take the several emails I have written and write up a brief guide to the different types on offer and roll that into a review of the 2 different Shimano SPD peddles I have been using over the last 2 years. All of what you will read here is coming from the point of view of general off road trail riding. If you know this part already, skip down to the “My Pedals” bit.

Pedal Types

There are essentially 3 types of pedals that you might see on mountain bikes.

Toe Clips – Exactly as the name suggests, its a flat pedal with a clip that goes over the toe. Personally I haven’t ridden with a pair of these since my old 5 speed racer I had in 1994. These are probably the least common pedal you will find from the 3 I mention here. Personally I think they would be awful for off road and I remember not even really liking them all those years ago for road riding. Although they will go some way to keeping your foot on the pedal, it won’t hold your foot still in any meaningful sense and they restrict how easily you can get your foot off the pedal as you can only pull you foot backwards. I’m really only describing them here for the sake of completeness not because I think they have any place on a mountain bike.

Flats – This refers to the most common type of pedal found on any bike. Most mountain bikes will normally come with a cheap pair of flats that will do the job but when the riding starts getting rough you will start to understand why they need changing. A good pair of flats will have a number of pins that really dig into the bottom of your shoes and provide you with the grip you need to not slip off the platform. I started off with a pair of DMR v12 which are a decent pedal which I was happy with for a while. I did find how ever that although the pins do provide a lot of grip, it wasn’t enough and I still have a selection of shin tattoos to prove it.

Clipless – The least intuitively named component on a bike. Clipless pedals allow you to be “clipped” to the pedal via special shoes that have a removable metal cleat on the bottom. They can take some getting used to, surprisingly it can be just as tough getting used to getting into the them as getting out of them. There are several different standards by different manufactures the most common of which is probably Shimano’s SPDs. Personally this is the type of pedal I use, as I find something very reassuring about being connected to the bike. I don’t think that I would ever go back to flats as it just doesn’t feel right any more.

My Pedals

Shimano DX M647

Currently I run 2 different pairs of Shimano pedals, the PD M530 and the DX M647. I decided that I would go for a platform type for a couple of reasons. Firstly I sometimes use the bike to pop down the shop and I don’t want to have to change shoes, so the surrounding platform makes it a little easier to wear normal trainers. Secondly when you are trying to get your foot clipped in and you don’t manage it for whatever reason, having more surface to get some grip on can be the difference between barely hanging on and stacking it big time. Thirdly I think its worth having something round the clip to protect it a little from rock strikes.

As both of these pedals are so similar I thought it a little redundant to write a review for each so I thought I would just write up more a “one vs the other” type review.

I have used both sets of these pedals for at least 18 months now and have put somewhere in the region of at least 3000 miles on each. I ride in all sorts of conditions so I can definitely say they have taken a battering in terms of the mud and grime that the British trails throw at components.

I would say the main differences between the 2 is that the DX has a larger resin platform that brings it in at 568g per pair, where as the PD has a smaller metal platform and weighs in at 455g per pair. Weight is only important if you are some kind of 10% body fat whippet and to be honest if you are why aren’t you looking at XTR you cheap tight wad?

Another big difference is the price point that these come in at. The cheapest I have found either is from actionsports.de (who I can highly recommend by the way) in Germany. The DX M647 is 48.90Euro and the PD 530 is 21.90Euro .

Shimano PD M530

After the initial set up of the tension of the clamp I have not done any servicing to either pedal.

I would say that the PD530 is starting to feel a little rough now and possible needs a bearing service or change but I would also say that I have put more miles on this pair as they are on my hardtail which simply gets used more than my full suspension bike.

I have read that the DX has a “better” clamp but to look at they are identical. I would say however that the DX does feel a little better. There is a certain click when the cleat goes in that is more reassuring than the PD. It’s a very small difference though and all else being equal not one that I would pay over double for again. Also I think the bearings feel a little smoother when the pedal is turning and that smoothness has not deteriorated over time like it has on the PD. I would guess at this point that the extra money possibly buys you a better seal. Looking at the spec sheets though the make up the axle seems very similar in this area.

I have had one issue with the DX model with something in the axle area breaking, but this was replaced under warranty and I haven’t had any repeat, so I’m assuming I had a dodgy one… shit happens.

Both pedals shed mud well enough and where they didn’t, the mud didn’t jam the clamp stopping me getting the cleat locked in. I have not found the size difference in the platform or the weight difference to be of any consequence.

In summing up the DX M647 is a better pedal, but really not by much. Certainly it feels better and personally I find it ascetically more pleasing but at the present time I’m really struggling to think why I would pay double the price for these over the PD 530 in future.

So, what do you think ?

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