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The top 6 best clipless pedals for downhill mountain biking

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
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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.

Expert Experience

106 | Nic Hall – 44215

After passing these Shimano Saint SPD pedals around to the crew, we all have been looking for a reason to keep them on our bike. The pedal performs in all conditions and sheds off rock strikes with ease. We all love the larger platform and how much power and control it gives the rider while manipulating and placing the bike where you want it on the trail. We are happy to pay the weight penalty for the trade off. If you are looking for the last clipless mountain bike pedal you’ll need to buy and want to have the most powerful and stable platform to instill your will on the bike beneath you, these pedals are a must. Two thumbs up.

Pros and Cons

Hope Union Clip Pedal - GC

Hope Union Clip Pedal - GC black
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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.

Expert Experience

89 | Robert Johnston – 44589

The Hope Union Gravity Clip pedals, as with the rest of Hope’s ever-growing portfolio of components, oozes quality and refinement, with tough wearing finishes, well-sealed bearings, and durable materials. Over a harsh Scottish Winter test period, they’ve held up extremely well and show considerably less wear than you would expect. Crucially, they still spin as smooth as day 1, there’s no rusting or wear to the clip mechanism or cleats thanks to the materials used, and even the cleats have survived very well considering the granite rock walking, and rash stamping to get clipped-in they have faced.

Most importantly, entering the pedals still produces that reassuring “click”, and there’s no sign that it’s going to stop. As a gravity clip pedal 520g is perfectly acceptable, and the weight weenies can drop 100+g by opting for the Trail or Race versions instead if it’s a concern. Their price certainly isn’t cheap, but in my eyes, they seem surprisingly good value for the performance and longevity on offer.

Pros and Cons

Chromag Pilot BA

Chromag Pilot BA black
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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.

Expert Experience

97 | Deniz Merdano – 44880

Overall, I liked my time on the Pilot BAs and am quite happy to see Chromag take on another challenge from their Whistler think-tank, however I think there is still some work required to refine this setup. Perhaps with a proprietary cleat and retention setup to really set them apart from the crowd. I’m sure capturing the loyal Shimano SPD crowd with a familiar cleat is easier but I feel like most of the people who ride DH are either on Crankbrothers or Time cleats. (I have not done a thorough local research to confirm or deny this)

If I was in the market for new SPD pedals to attach myself to, I would put the Pilots to the top of the search list. Pilot BAs would be a close second. I found the platform to be big and supportive, suited very well to DH riding. For the Trails, I would prefer the smaller footprint of the Regular Pilots.

Pros and Cons

Crankbrothers Mallet E

Crankbrothers Mallet E black
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Crankbrothers Mallet E blue
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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.

Expert Experience

104 | Max Rhulen – 44978

The Mallet-E platform has great traction with the 6-pin design and ribbed body, so when I found myself riding a section of trail unclipped it was manageable. Having the platform outfitted with ribs, traction pads, and pins is nice when navigating trails unclipped, but those features caused my shoe to hang up a bit at times when trying to clip in. It was not often, but occasionally I was dancing around on the pedal trying to align the shoe properly to engage. Lowering the pins or removing them would make getting in and out of the pedal much easier, but then you lose that additional grip on the platform – there is a bit of give and take here that will depend on your style and preferences, and I was happy with the extra security for the majority of the time.

Pros and Cons

Time Speciale 8

Time Speciale 8 black
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Time Speciale 8 orange
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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.

Expert Experience

98 | Joshua Hutchens – 43626

The Speciale 8 pedals fall right about the median price for pedals in this review. I feel they are relatively reasonably priced, although they will probably represent the best value to the consumer who likes a floaty pedal feel or will benefit from the float by alleviating pressure on the joints.

Pros and Cons

Look X-Track En-Rage Plus

Look X-Track En-Rage Plus
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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.

Expert Experience

98 | Joshua Hutchens – 43626

Enduro riders experiencing durability issues with extruded aluminum pedals may be attracted to the forged bodies here. Riders that can’t seem to get their SPD pedals tight enough will rejoice at the death grip these pedals offer while still being compatible with SPD cleats. If you’re having clearance issues on your low bottom bracket trail rig, you might want to search out something a bit lower profile.

Pros and Cons

Specifications clipless pedals for downhill

Name
Price
Weight
Length
Width
Height
Body
Spindle
Bearings and bushings
Pins
float
release
Shimano Saint PD-M821
160 USD
546
16.9 mm
aluminium
Cr-Mo
2 cup and cone bearings, 1 bushing
8
13°
Hope Union Clip Pedal – GC
203 USD
498
103 mm
84 mm
aluminium
Cr-Mo
3 cartridge bearings, 1 IGUS bushing
14
4°or 5°
12° or 13°
Chromag Pilot BA
164.95 euros
595
110 mm
105 mm
aluminium
Cr-Mo
3 cartridge bearings, 1 IGUS bushing
10
12°
Crankbrothers Mallet E
179.99 USD
419
94 mm
75 mm
aluminium / stainless steel
Cr-Mo
Igus LL-glide bearing
Enduro MAX cartridge bearing
12
0°or 6°
10° / 15° / 20°
Time Speciale 8
158 USD
392
81.3 mm
64.8 mm
19 mm
aluminium
Cr-Mo
2 cartridge bearings, 1 bushing
4
10° / 13° / 17°
Look X-Track En-Rage Plus
89 USD
450
67 mm
16.8 mm
aluminium
Cr-Mo
2 sealed cartridge bearings, 1 Glide bearing
4
13°

Sources

106, Shimano Saint SPD Pedal Review, The Loam Wolf, 44215
89, Hope Tech Union Gravity Clip Pedal Review, The Loam Wolf, 44589
104, Crankbrothers Mallet E Pedal Review, The Loam Wolf, 44978
98, Time Speciale 8 Review, Outdoorgearlab, 43626
98, Look Cycle X-Track En-Rage Plus Review, Outdoorgearlab, 43626
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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