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The top 6 best clipless pedals for downhill mountain biking in 2023

In this blog I’ll be giving you my top picks for the very best clipless pedals for downhill mountain biking. Since weight is less of an issue in downhill mountain biking this list is going to feature the biggest, most durable and stable clipless pedals around.

Since the clipping mechanism isn’t changed throughout a brand’s lineup, the main distinction between the top-of-the-line picks and their more cheaper alternatives is the quality of the pedal body, and the materials used for the spindle.

I’m not going to feature titanium axled versions of pedals here, because the price difference between titanium and non-titanium version is so large while it doesn’t add to longevity and the weight gain is marginal and pretty much useless for downhill.

In terms of durability the key factor to take into account is the build quality of the internals. Both bearing quality and quantity helps with a long lifespan and how much load a pedal can take, including pedal strikes. Naturally it’s a good thing if a pedal can be easily serviced, it’s better if you don’t need to service your pedal at all.

Normal use never wears out premium bearings, pedal strikes and defunct seals are the main culprit of bearings getting worn and showing signs of play. These pedals are best-in-class when it comes to bearing life, and will ensure many happy miles of downhill trail bombing.

And with that being said, let’s head over to my list of the best clipless pedals for downhill mountain biking.

Shimano Saint PD-M821

Shimano Saint PD-M821

The Shimano Saint PD-M821 is everything you want and need from an enduro-oriented pedal. Rock solid performance, far more platform stability than either the XT or XTR, and miles of pedaling without any worries.

The enduro-specific pedals from Shimano are all business, with a Japanese focus on longevity and durability. The cup-and-cone style bearings unique to Shimano offer one of the very best bearing setup you could ask for in a clipless pedal, which should be one of your most important concerns.

The focus on durability is ever-present in the robust platform, pushing the weight way over a pound to 546 grams. That’s a small price to pay for the 4-pinned stability the machined platform provides, as well as the renowned ease of entry with the trustworthy SPD mechanism.

Shimano never makes really flashy products, but they put in some effort with the gold preload screw. The pedal looks as sturdy as it performs in the wild. When compared to its more trail-oriented brothers, the large size platform is a welcome addition to rough trail riding, but even with a slimmer profile than its predecessor, the stack still sits at a respectable 16.9 mm. Luckily the pedals can take a beating.

Not the prettiest, but the pedals do everything they’re supposed to with verve, so there’s no denying its place on this list.

Hope Union Clip Pedal - GC

Hope Union Clip Pedal - GC black
Hope Union Clip Pedal - GC purple
Hope Union Clip Pedal - GC orange
Hope Union Clip Pedal - GC blue
Hope Union Clip Pedal - GC red

Essentially, the Hope Union Clip Pedal – GC are beefed up version of the TC or trail version, with GC being shorthand for Gravity Clipless.

Added support in the form of a larger platform, and added grip in the form of 7 pins per side should provide you with the confidence of staying in control when the trail demands it.

At 498 they are a burly set of CNC-machined pedals, which doesn’t really matter when getting into downhill territory. It takes some time getting the pedals dialed into your shoes and preference, but the adjustability is done easily enough and once set up the pedals offer the correct balance between float and grip.

The large platform is not as open as the Crankbrothers Mallet DH, but its mud-shedding capabilities are decent enough and only provide a less than ideal engagement when fully clogged, which is only to be expected. Otherwise the audible click is reassuring and easy to achieve with the dual-spring stainless steel mechanism.

The build quality is just as good as the XC and trail version with 3 sealed bearings and a bushing spinning rather tightly on a dual-sealed chromoly axle. For those willing to spend more than the already pretty extravagant price, there are titanium axle upgrades.

Chromag Pilot BA

Chromag Pilot BA black
Chromag Pilot BA purple
Chromag Pilot BA red
Chromag Pilot BA yellow
Chromag Pilot BA blue

The Chromag Pilot BA are the biggest and heaviest clipless enduro and downhill pedals on the market. Measuring 110 times 105 mm at 595 grams they sure provide enough support for riders with big feet or simply for those who prefer huge pedals.

Although SPD-compatible, don’t expect the same smooth entry and disengagement you would normally expect from a Shimano pedal. This is a shame, and somewhat detract from the overall looks and otherwise excellent build-quality of the pedal.

Meant for enduro and downhill the large pedal with plenty of pins encourages riding without being clipped in. When riding with a softer sole the pins come in handy. The larger platform does mean you run a higher risk of pedal strikes. Luckily the pins are rear-loading so you can almost always get them out.

Maintenance is easy when needed, though the 3 bearing and single bushing setup means these pedals can take a tremendous amount of abuse. If sealed tightly against outside elements their longevity sits at the top of the range.

If you’re looking for a solid DH pedal in a nice color and love riding playful, the large 7-pinned platform will do the trick for you.

Crankbrothers Mallet E

Crankbrothers Mallet E black
Crankbrothers Mallet E blue

Although touted as an enduro pedal (that’s what the E stands for), the Crankbrothers Mallet E are just as good on normal trail riding, especially since the 94 mm platform length provides more support than the Mallet Trail.

One thing the Crankbrothers do best is offering a pedal with great mud clearance. This pricey set of pedals’ four-point engagement system is so minimal, there’s just no surface area for anything to attach to. The downside of this otherwise excellent system is the fact that you get them as-is, without any option for further adjusting.

The pedal provides excellent stability for those riders who don’t want to commit to a larger downhill pedal. The concave design of the platform with chamfered edges has 6 optional pins per side and provide ample stability and grip. Using pins on a pedal is definitely a rider preference since it can hamper getting into the pedal, but it does provide additional grip when riding unclipped.

The build quality of these premium pedals is top-notch with stainless steel wings for the clipping mechanism inside the machined aluminum body for a total weight of 419 grams.

Crankbrother pedals have a 4-way engagement system versus the standard 2, offering a royal 10 tot 20 degrees release angle depending on the type of cleat you like to run. The cleats also offer either 0 or 6 degrees of float. Getting into the pedals is easy because of the multi-directional engagement and because the mechanism itself is extremely resistant to getting caked up with mud.

The new Mallet E comes with just a single spindle length of 57 mm, but a smaller length is available should you want it. And although you can’t configure the mechanism itself, there are both 1 and 2 mm traction pads to provide the ultimate fit between the shoes you’re using and the platform.

I’m not the biggest fan of their bearing setup, with a single sealed bearing and bushing, but they are versatile, durable pedals, which are easy enough to get into no matter the ride conditions.

Time Speciale 8

Time Speciale 8 black
Time Speciale 8 orange

It’s really interesting to see each brand’s approach to the various mountain bike disciplines, and by interesting I mean not as I would expect.

Where the Time DH 4 has downhill in it, the Time Speciale 8 is dubbed as the enduro specialist, while having a noticeable larger platform.

The front of the platform holds 2 front-loading pins meant for some additional grip while riding not clipped in. But these do very little if nothing else than be in the way of properly re-engaging the pedal when set too high.

It’s equally funny to read people’s reviews on the feel of these pedals. You either like the angular and lateral float, or you don’t. I would argue that with all products, it’s largely dependent on what you’re used to. They may take some time to adjust to your personal preference, because a small adjustment takes the release tension quickly from loose to pincer-like. The float is a trademark of the entire Time lineup and is what you would buy them for, since every other aspect is as good as can get as well.

I’ve read that the pedals squeak when riding. It has to do with the tight seal, which is actually a good thing since it means the internals are well protected. Cleaning the pedal and putting some sewing machine oil on them should fix the issue. And with 2 sealed bearings and a single bushing they should offer you with a long worry-free lifespan.

A fact is that the ATAC system provides excellent cleat engagement and easy disengagement with a soft click. And the mechanism keeps working because the clips are easy enough to find, and mud can simply be pushed out at either side of the spring bars, which feels similar to what Crankbrothers offer.

Look X-Track En-Rage Plus

Look X-Track En-Rage Plus

The Look X-Track En-Rage Plus has a bigger platform and 2 pins per side, making them more suitable for maximum grip for trail, enduro and downhill riding.

The platform moves from the 63 mm width of the standard En-Rage to 67 mm for the Plus version, adding 30 grams to the overall weight for a total of 450 grams per pair. The non-Plus version wasn’t already lightweight, and these are even heavier.

Two pins at the front makes them less likely to slip when you want to quickly disengage and engage in tricky situations. It’s remarkable what these two pins can do to help you in this respect.

Clipless Pedals Weight Rating

Saving weight is an ever important thing to strive for when buying bicycle products, and of course you want the lightest clipless pedals available. Yet there are a couple things to keep in mind. It’s very difficult to make strong yet lightweight products. The lightest pedals are usually also more expensive than heavier ones. And you have to ask yourself how much you’re willing to pay extra to save 50 to a 100 grams or more.

The lightest pedals like the Crankbrothers Eggbeater 11 and Time XPRO 15 use titanium spindles, and a titanium or carbon body. And in general clipless road bikes, cross country and/or gravel pedals are lighter, simply because they either have a small platform, or no platform at all to add weight.

In the following graph you can find all the pedals mentioned here and their weight ranking. A ranking of 0% means you’re looking at the heaviest pedal. A ranking of 100% means it’s the lightest.

Shimano Saint PD-M821
Hope Union Clip Pedal – GC
Chromag Pilot BA
Crankbrothers Mallet E
Time Speciale 8
Look X-Track En-Rage Plus

Clipless Pedals Bearing Rating

An important aspect of pedals is their internals and bearing setup. Almost all pedal manufacturers sell bearing kits, and it’s nice that you can rebuild your pedal internals if you need to.

What’s even better is that the quality of the bearings are of such a nature that you either don’t have to rebuild the internals at all, or after years of service. This saves you both time and money, and you simply enjoy your pedals more.

High-end Shimano pedals are known for their longevity and according to my personal experience pedals from Hope are at least just as good if not even better.

In the following graph you can find the bearing ratings in relation to the highest quality setup. The bearing rating is calculated based on the bearing setup and the maximum load it can endure. It’s an approximation of the quality of the setup that does not take into account how well the internals are sealed from outside elements. The setup deemed best receives a 100 percent rating.

Shimano Saint PD-M821
Hope Union Clip Pedal – GC
Chromag Pilot BA
Crankbrothers Mallet E
Time Speciale 8
Look X-Track En-Rage Plus

Specifications clipless pedals for downhill

Bearings and bushings
Buy at Amazon
Shimano Saint PD-M821
160 USD
16.9 mm
2 cup and cone bearings, 1 bushing
Hope Union Clip Pedal – GC
203 USD
103 mm
84 mm
3 cartridge bearings, 1 IGUS bushing
4°or 5°
12° or 13°
Chromag Pilot BA
164.95 euros
110 mm
105 mm
3 cartridge bearings, 1 IGUS bushing
Crankbrothers Mallet E
179.99 USD
94 mm
75 mm
aluminium / stainless steel
Igus LL-glide bearing
Enduro MAX cartridge bearing
0°or 6°
10° / 15° / 20°
Time Speciale 8
158 USD
81.3 mm
64.8 mm
19 mm
2 cartridge bearings, 1 bushing
10° / 13° / 17°
Look X-Track En-Rage Plus
89 USD
67 mm
16.8 mm
2 sealed cartridge bearings, 1 Glide bearing
bio vanseijen

Johan van Seijen

FoundeR Restoration.bike

Johan van Seijen is the founder of restoration.bike. His passion for cycling in general, and restoring older bikes turned into a website to share his knowledge with a broader audience. Starting out on his father’s road bike and riding classics as the Amstel Gold Race and Liege Bastogne Liege he has shifted his attention to trail, XC, and gravel riding since. No matter how much he loves writing about everything related to cycling, nothing beats actually using his ever-expanding bicycle collection.

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