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The top 9 best clipless pedals for cyclocross

With this blog I’ll be giving you my top picks for the best clipless pedals for cyclocross racing.

It seems like cyclocross imagery is dominated by mud-caked individuals riding epic courses. So when you think about this particular cycling discipline it’s obvious that good mud-shedding capabilities should be at the forefront of what makes a good cyclocross clipless pedal.

And when riding in muddy conditions, it also makes very much sense to focus on bearing quality and longevity. Clipless pedals which have dominated the cyclocross scene have always been the most minimalistic versions, with hardly any platform to speak of.

These race-oriented pedals are basically the cleat mechanism attached to the spindle. So any weight gain you could get resides in the axle, with titanium versions being the most premium ones.

Since I understand not everybody is looking to spend hundreds of dollars on a minimal pair of pedals with titanium axles, I’ve included a range of pedals within the same category. The gains between pedals is mostly marginal whereas its functionality is almost the same since the mechanism doesn’t change between pedals.

So on this list of the best clipless pedals for cyclocross racing you’ll find both extremely pricey and very budget-friendly options. A table overview at end of the article is added for your convenience.

Crankbrothers Eggbeater 11

Crankbrothers Eggbeater 11
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Among each product category there are always a number of items that jump out, and the Crankbrothers Eggbeater 11 is definitely one of those products.

Before I say anything else about this pedal, let me state that it’s one of the best clipless mountain bike pedals on the market for sure. It’s absolutely stunning, the lightest one by a huge margin, and exquisitely crafted.

And we can talk all day long about the ease-of-use of this pedal versus your standard SPD one, float, release tension, what have you, but the fact is they are too expensive when compared to other titanium offerings.

What sets these Eggbeaters apart from the rest of its namesakes is that everything is made from titanium, meaning the spindle, wings, and body. It ensures it’s the only mountain bike pedal below 200 grams (claimed 179 grams).

They’ve long since taken care of bearing issues, which means the single needle bearing and cartridge bearing still perform smoothly after prolonged use. If I would create the ultimate XC racer, this pedal would probably be on that bike.

That being said, if money is even somewhat of a concern, you’re better off buying the Eggbeater 3, which is a third of its price.

Expert Experience

82 | MBA Action – 43255

The minimalist approach of the Eggbeater 11 lends itself to a stiff-soled shoe. We would recommend sticking with a shoe that has a carbon fiber (or carbon fiber reinforced) sole.?Could the Eggbeater 11 be used for trail riding? We abused our pedals for months and they suffered little more than a few scratches. If you come in below the pedals’ weight limit and don’t mind riding in stiff, carbon-sole shoes, we don’t see any reason why a trail rider should not consider this pedal. For racers, it is an easier decision. Reducing every ounce, regardless of cost, is the mantra, and the Eggbeaters indeed turn up the volume to 11.

Pros and Cons

Crankbrothers Eggbeater 3

Crankbrothers Eggbeater 3
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Crankbrothers Eggbeater 3
Crankbrothers Eggbeater 3
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The Crankbrothers Eggbeater 3 is one of the lightest mountain bike pedals on the market at a claimed weight of 280 grams.

The minimalistic design of these clipless mountain bike pedals is known for its mud-shedding ability, because there’s hardly anything to cling to, and the single glide bearing and cartridge bearing ensures smooth action, with the proper care. Its body and wing are both made from stainless steel, with a chromoly axle.

It’s recommended to use Crankbrothers cleats, which are a tad bit more expensive than the standard Shimano ones.

They offer an industry standard float of 6°, and a release between 15° or 20°. The 4-point engage system, versus the traditional 2 takes a bit of getting used to, but once you get the hang of it, getting in or out of the pedals will feel natural and easy.

The pedal doesn’t have any platform at all, so it’s recommended you use them with carbon shoes.

Expert Experience

98 | Joshua Hutchens – 42909

The Eggbeater is bare minimum underfoot and delightfully simple. That same lack of complication results in a less than user-friendly pedal, it requires precise aim when engaging and there’s not much to adjust. Once accustomed to the size, clipping in becomes second nature and won’t likely make you regret buying these. Very stiff cross country shoes will help compensate for their size.

Pros and Cons

Crankbrothers Eggbeater 2

Crankbrothers Eggbeater 2
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Crankbrothers Eggbeater 2
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The Crankbrothers Eggbeater 2 is almost similar to the Eggbeater 3, with the same axle, and body. Except the wings are made from stamped steel instead of stainless. And it offers a standard enduro bearing instead of the MAX version of both the 3 and 11.

Naturally pedal manufacturers try to differentiate products in their lineup, and with the Eggbeater 2 they’ve done so in such a way that I would favor the more expensive 3 or cheaper 1 over this pedal. That’s because I deem the better Enduro Max bearing of the 3 worth paying the price for it. Yet opting for the fully stamped steel body of the 1 and just having a stamped steel body instead of a stainless steel one doesn’t really make much difference at all

Expert Experience

99 | McKenzie Long – 42223

This stylish pedal will be most attractive to those trying to keep their bikes as light as possible, and we give it our Top Pick Award for weight savings. The Eggbeater allows a rider to clip in and go without any extra bulk or weight whatsoever. The downside to this is that it requires precise aim when clipping in, but this is a technique that can easily be learned.

Pros and Cons

Crankbrothers Eggbeater 1

Crankbrothers Eggbeater 1
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Crankbrothers Eggbeater 1
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The Crankbrothers Eggbeater 1 lowers the cost even more by replacing the stainless steel body with a stamped steel version. They are the entry level version of these types of pedals.

Considering the fact that the ride quality is very similar to each other pedal in the Eggbeater lineup, they offer the best value-for-money by far, for a pedal still below 300 grams (at 290).

Expert Experience

100 | Alan Muldoon – 42206

As 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 I’ve tested in the past also had issues with the bearings.

It could be the inherently light design and the fact that the lightweight axle flexes more, which puts more stress on the bearings. The stamped steel body was also showing signs of rust too — another indication that the Crank Brothers Eggbeater isn’t too happy in my damp climate.

Pros and Cons

Shimano XTR PD-M9100

Shimano XTR PD-M9100
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There is no best of list without Shimano XTR, and the Shimano XTR PD-M9100 is the best, most minimalistic clipless pedal in their lineup.

Where every other manufacturer offers versions with titanium axles to reduce weight, Shimano does not, which means these pedals are light enough at 310 grams, but not the lightest. Third-party titanium axles are available that enable you to get these pedals below 300 grams, but it’ll cost you multiple dollars per gram to do so.

At 15.1 mm the XTR pedals have one of the lowest stack height of all clipless pedals, which means a very low risk of pedal strikes.

The rear part of the mechanism is spring-loaded, which means you engage the pedals toe first. This takes a bit getting used to, especially when you’ve never used clipless pedals before. When attached they offer a snug feel with minimal float of 4 degrees, and reasonable release tension at 13 degrees. This is good for those people who want a super consistent pedal feeling and maximum energy transfer.

The pedal comes in two different axle lengths, 52 and 55 mm, and are the only pedals that offer a dual cup and cone bearing setup. Such a bearing setup enables the pedal to enable a higher load.

The SPD system is outstanding with definite clicks to let you know you’ve either engaged or disengaged the pedal. There are multi-release cleats available, of which I’m not a fan, that allow you to disengage both ways and upwards.

Mud shedding is excellent with a minimal round machined body where debris has little change to pack. The platform is rather small, which means that I’d opt for the larger M9120 or other more trail-oriented pedals when moving away from XC or gravel riding.

The XTR pedals have been the benchmark against which all other pedals are measured, and these pedals ensure they keep that status.

Expert Experience

102 | Sean Fishpool – 44712

Two very minor gripes came up in my testing. The shoe cleat quickly started to wear through the very end of the polished contact patch on the inboard side. And I noticed that the bearings on one of the pedals had a very slight roughness to them, which I’d probably have sent back to the shop for a perfectly smooth pair, had I bought them.

If your wallet allows it, the XTRs are a significant upgrade over the XTs. With a wider contact patch, better mud clearance, lower weight, and a lower stack height, it brings the race performance you’d expect from Shimano’s XTR pedals.

Pros and Cons

Shimano Deore XT PD-M8100

Shimano Deore XT PD-M8100
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XTR and Deore XT are always very closely related to each other in terms of functionality, but of all Shimano’s products I feel their pedals are the closest.

The Shimano Deore XT PD-M8100 differs only slightly from its XTR counterpart. And the difference is a few grams, 32 to be exact, and 6 mm of stack height. It does mean the XTR is better, but ever so slightly.

I don’t need to repeat everything I’ve already mentioned with the XTR PD-M9100 because in terms of ride quality these are exactly the same. And nobody’s going to convince me that they can possibly discern the weight and stack height difference while riding.

Expert Experience

102 | Sean Fishpool – 44712

The sealed internals are extremely unlikely to let you down. Even without maintenance they often keep spinning smoothly for years, and like most Shimano pedals, the PD-8100 is very maintenance-friendly.

Nobody ever regretted buying XT SPD pedals, and the PD-M8100 will give you years of clean, smooth pedaling. If a few grams of weight, slicker looks, and a little stack height aren’t important, the cheaper PD-M520 will do you almost as well, but we’ll leave your head to battle with your heart over that one.

Pros and Cons

Ritchey WCS XC

Ritchey WCS XC pedal
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The Ritchey WCS XC is the best non-Shimano SPD alternative you can find. The clipping-in mechanism is virtually identical and works just as great.

The cleat tension can be adjusted with your standard 8mm hex tool and features a gauge so you don’t have to count the number of clicks to remember where exactly you are. Effective cleat tension options are both lower and lighter than Shimano premium SPD pedals, but offer enough room to suit all riders.

Very light indeed at a sub-300 298 grams, the pedal body is a forged alloy, which is considerably stronger than the cast alloy of the more budget-friendly Comp version. Little silver flat parts on the otherwise black body offer minimal support, so these pedals are definitely race-oriented for XC, cyclocross, and aggressive gravel riders.

Fully serviceable the dual bearings, one sealed and one needle bearing, alongside a single bushing on a chromoly axle ensures longevity. And as far as I know, there’s no weight limit set for these pedals.

Touted as being pedals that once helped Nino Schurter win races, you can’t argue with the fact that they are championship proven.

Expert Experience

120 | Matt Page – 44251

The pedals feature 10 click adjustment for cleat spring tension although in use I found closer to 6 useable. For the lowest tension settings the cage became loose and rattled and disengagement was also far too easy. As the tension grows the settings become more useable and give a reasonable range of adjustment that should be wide enough for the majority of riders.

The tightest settings give a firm connection but still disengage when you want, feeling reasonably fluid and should suit riders who prefer a more secure connection. The cleats feature 4 degrees of float, which gives a little movement and there is a definite point where you can feel where the cleat starts to disengage and this makes cleat setup quite easy to dial in.

Pros and Cons

Time XC 12

Time XC 12
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To create a weight of just 248 grams the Time XC 12 uses both a carbon body and titanium axle, which is a unique combination for a pedal.

Where the Eggbeater pedals don’t have any body for debris to cling to, all of the Time mountain bike pedals use their ATAC system. This unique system sheds debris out the front when engaged, which makes this pedal a go-to option for cyclocross or bad weather aficionados.

The carbon body is obviously more prone to wear than an aluminum or steel one, and with a large stack height of 19 mm the chance of a pedal strike is larger. By comparison the Shimano XTR PD-M9100 has a very low stack height of 15.1 mm.

The most important design feature of these XC pedals is the amount of float you have, which sits at the extreme end of the curve (a lot). Besides your standard 5 degrees angular float you also have 6 degrees of lateral float, unique amongst MTB pedals. This is excellent if you often have to deal with knee pain, because the pedal enables you to achieve your natural riding position more naturally. But the feel of movement can be disconcerting to those not used to it, and pedal disengagement is more inconsistent, than with pedals with a more fixed cleat position.

Expert Experience

113 | Iain Murray – 43178

There is an element to the ATAC pedal that is unique and logical. While most pedals receive the cleat via the back, the Time pedal hinges at the front of the cleat. This means that the motion of clipping-in works in harmony with the foot driving the bike forward through the power phase of the pedal circle. The suggestion here is greater efficiency, especially in situations like repeated flying mounts in a cyclocross race.

Pros and Cons

Time XC 2

Time XC 2
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The Time XC 2 is the cheapest way to obtain the benefits offered from this lineup.

A composite body is used with a single sealed cartridge bearing on a chromoly axle, with the same 5 degrees of float and release angle between 10 and 20 degrees.

At 302 grams they are still pretty light, and definitely not much heavier than the more premium versions.

The ATAC mechanism is known for its above-average mud-shedding capabilities, so if you like cheap pedals for muddy XC or gravel riding, these are one of your best options

Expert Experience

58 | Rachel Sokal – 44956

It seems counterintuitive to say but the XC 2s are both really easy to clip in and out of, yet feel really secure when you’re clipped in. What’s more, pretty much all of this happens without you thinking about it. For instance, in all the times I’ve crashed / nearly crashed my bike off road I can only remember a couple of occasions when my foot didn’t come out the pedal when it needed to and this is running the cleats at the ‘hardest’ 17o unclipping position. All the other times my foot would come straight out to save my blushes.

Pros and Cons

Specifications clipless pedals for cyclocross

Name
Price
Weight
Length
Width
Height
Body
Spindle
Bearings and bushings
Pins
float
release
Crankbrothers Eggbeater 11
499.99 USD
179
32 mm
75 mm
15.2 mm
titanium
titanium
Enduro sealed needle bearing
Enduro MAX cartridge bearing
none
0°or 6°
10° / 15° / 20°
Crankbrothers Eggbeater 3
149.99 USD
280
32 mm
75 mm
15.2 mm
stainless steel
Cr-Mo
Igus LL-glide bearing
Enduro MAX cartridge bearing
none
0°or 6°
10° / 15° / 20°
Crankbrothers Eggbeater 2
99.99 USD
285
32 mm
75 mm
15.2 mm
stainless steel / stamped steel
Cr-Mo
Igus LL-glide bearing
Enduro cartridge bearing
none
0°or 6°
10° / 15° / 20°
Crankbrothers Eggbeater 1
59.99 USD
290
32 mm
75 mm
15.2 mm
stamped steel
Cr-Mo
Igus LL-glide bearing
Enduro cartridge bearing
none
0°or 6°
10° / 15° / 20°
Shimano XTR PD-M9100
179 USD
310
15.1 mm
aluminium
Cr-Mo
2 cup and cone bearings, 1 bushing
none
13°
Shimano Deore XT PD-M8100
130 USD
342
43 mm
16.5 mm
aluminium
Cr-Mo
2 cup and cone bearings, 1 bushing
none
13°
Ritchey WCS XC
149.95 USD
298
15.5 mm
forged aluminium
Cr-Mo
1 sealed cartridge bearing, 1 bushing, 1 needle bearing
none
Time XC 12
317 USD
248
19 mm
carbon
titanium
2 cartridge bearings, 1 bushing
none
10° / 13° / 17°
Time XC 2
42 USD
302
19 mm
fiberglass / composite
Cr-Mo
2 cartridge bearings, 1 bushing
none
10° / 13° / 17°
bio vanseijen

Johan van Seijen

Founder Restoration.bike

Johan van Seijen is the founder of restoration.bike. His cycling career has seen him at the starting line of classics such as the Amstel Gold Race and Liege Bastogne Liege. Realizing his racing capacity would fall short of what was needed he obtained a MS from the University of Amsterdam in engineering. His love for cycling changed into riding in an amateur capacity with his local cycling club TFC Weesp as a roadie and supporting MTB Noordwest as a mountain biker. He repairs, restores, and builds bicycles and shares his knowledge on YouTube, Facebook and this website. 

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