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The top 8 best clipless pedals for touring

With this article I’m going to cover what I feel to be the very best clipless pedals for touring. Not the easiest subject to cover, because the concept of bicycle touring is quite broad.

This list features hybrid pedals, which are pedals offering both a flat pedal as well as a clipless side. But they are not the majority of clipless pedals here, because their usage is quite specific if you ask me. The reason being that you can’t really ride the flat pedal side with shoes with cleats.

So these pedals are meant for people who’re going to use two pairs of shoes, which severely limits its flexibility. And if you only use one of the pedals options, either the flat or clipless side, naturally you’re much better off buying a non-hybrid pedal.

That being said, hybrid pedals are featured here because they do make sense for bikepacking and multi-day touring where it’s much more likely you do have a pair of non-cycling specific shoes, and your cycling will include much shorter trips where you’ll quickly want to slip in a pair of comfy shoes rather than cleated ones.

The rest of the options for clipless pedals for touring are made up of pedals with platforms, and I would argue that either trail or even enduro pedals are your best bet for high-quality, long-lasting, durable, and comfortable touring pedals. These pedals are heavier than XC race pedals, which doesn’t really matter, because weight is either less of an issue or no issue at all for touring and bikepacking.

Furthermore a platform provides stability, is a factor in preventing hot-foot and aid in comfort, and protects the clipping mechanism from unwanted impacts and pedal strikes. And with that out of the way, let’s head over to my list of the best clipless pedals for touring.

Shimano Deore XT PD-M8120

Shimano Deore XT PD-M8120
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The Shimano Deore XT PD-M8120 sets a benchmark in terms of value-for-money. Not as expensive as the XTR, but basically offering all the tried-and-true functionality you’ll ever be going to need from a clipless pedal for trail riding.

Shimano pedals are known for their bearing quality and longevity, with low service intervals and excellent riding quality offering many miles without worry. A dual cup-and-cone style setup is specific to the Shimano brand, and as far as longevity is concerned I don’t know any difference.

The XT pedals are slightly heavier than the XTR at 438 vs 398 grams, and also have a slightly larger stack height of 16.2 mm vs 15.4 mm. Those two figures alone aren’t enough in my opinion to make up for the difference in price. Especially considering the fact that the platform and SPD mechanism itself is almost similar.

This means that both pedals offer the extremely user-friendly SPD cleat mechanism. 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 mechanism is a dual system with a single spring, which means you engage toe-first and then clip in. Although it takes a bit of practice once you get used to it, both engaging and releasing your foot from the pedals is what makes Shimano pedals so popular, since it’s the best you could ask for.

Shimano pedals are boring. They are a single color, don’t look flashy, and don’t really stand out. But as far as functionality, there are very few pedals that come close or rival the build-quality, longevity, and user-friendliness of the Shimano Deore XT PD-M8120, except maybe the XTR version. And in the end, build quality is the most important factor of any product, including one that gets as much abuse as a clipless pedal for trail riding.

Expert Experience

87 | Simon Kohler – 45001

The Shimano DEORE XT PD-M8120 pedals have established themselves as the standard among clipless pedals for a reason. The spring preload offers a large adjustment range, and the mechanism feels defined, though the float feels somewhat on/off. However, their self-cleaning is poor and the small cages don’t provide much grip or support. Their durability, on the other hand, is among the best and, together with the availability of spare parts, that makes the XTs a superb low-maintenance option.

Pros and Cons

Shimano Deore XT PD-T8000

Shimano Deore XT PD-T8000 clipless side
Shimano Deore XT PD-T8000 flat pedal side

The Shimano Deore XT PD-T8000 are the Japanese brand’s premium single-sided clipless option. They are one of a number of hybrid pedals from Shimano and are arguably the best they have to offer for a couple of reasons.

For starters, if you’re specifically choosing a single-sided clipless pedal, you can’t go wrong with the SPD mechanism of the XT pedals. There is no XTR hybrid pedal, since XTR’s focus lies in a very small weight reduction and stack height, characteristics which don’t make sense for a hybrid pedal.

What does make sense for touring and bikepacking is bearing life, and Shimano delivers with their signature cup-and-cone style setup. which is similar to the one used for mountain biking.

The PD-T8000 is markedly more expensive than the Shimano PD-EH500. But it does provide a much larger platform measuring 80 mm in length with a width of 90 mm. Especially if you have larger feet the added width will provide more comfort.

The flat side also offers 8 height-adjustable pins. Although in general this is not as much as a true MTB flat pedal, it does provide an ample amount of grip on harsher rides. The pins are front-loading, which can be an issue when damaged or broken, and reside in a machined aluminum body which is open enough for the SPD mechanism to not easily clog with mud.

In line with its touring characteristics, the pedals also feature replaceable reflectors for increased visibility in low-light conditions.

Expert Experience

109 | Emma Silversides – 44378

I’ve been won over by the performance of these pedals. While there are cheaper options, the solid yet easy-to-maintain build, sensible design and excellent versatility should result in some serious mileage – they’re an investment that promises to pay off.

Pros and Cons

Shimano PD-EH500

Shimano PD-EH500 clipless side
Shimano PD-EH500 flat pedal side

The Shimano PD-EH500 is another single-sided pedal from the Japanese brand. Although it’s much cheaper than the Deore XT PD-T8000 it’s also very different from that pedal in a number of ways.

The most important difference is the pedal platform. Although it does offer the same amount of pins, 8 front-loading ones on the flat side, it’s much less wide at 71mm versus the XT’s 90. That isn’t that much of an issue for people with small feet, but if you move upwards of a size 10 (for men) there’s noticeably less platform to support you.

The lack of support is much more apparent on the side where the SPD mechanism resides. Since the pedal body is curved, there is no support at all, giving it the same feel you’d have with a minimal XC pedal body. The only upside of this design is that the pedal, with its dark gray aluminum body, is very pretty to look at compared to the much bulkier XT single-sided pedal.

Another big difference with that pedal is the bearing quality. Instead of a dual cup-and-cone style setup, you have a single cartridge bearing and bushing on the chromoly steel axle. That’s fine for normal use, and you can replace them should you wear them out, but don’t expect the same longevity as its more premium counterpart.

Mud-shedding, should you find yourself needing it, is decent enough, and the mechanism provides the familiar SPD feel even if road conditions take a turn for the worst. Adjustability happens with a single allen key and is easy to do with solid clicks to audibly confirm you of its position change.

This is not a better pedal than Shimano’s XT version, but its price, and the fact you can run the SPD mechanism in a hybrid setup does make it a worthy contender.

Expert Experience

110 | Rupert Englander – 44974

If you are in the market for this kind of solution then weight is not really going to be a huge contributing factory to choice, but I was slightly surprised to learn they came in at 383g (where a standard SPD set of pedals will weight in around 342g) for the pair as they certainly feel a lot lighter.

Pros and Cons

Shimano Click'r PD-T421

Shimano Click'r PD-T421 clipless side
Shimano Click'r PD-T421 flat pedal side

There are a couple of good reasons why you’d want to opt for the Shimano Click’r PD-T421 pedals.

The Click’r mechanism is a variant of the well-known SPD system. The difference resides in the fact that both engaging and disengaging the pedal is much, much easier. It means the target audience for these pedals is not people familiar with SPD, but rather newcomers to clipless pedals.

Or people who want maximum ease-of-use disengaging because they’re going to use the mechanism for commuting and touring in urban environments with lots of starts and stops.

The increased amount of float and the fact you get multi-directional SM-SH56 cleats shipped with the pedals furthermore distinguishes these pedals from ones with the standard SPD mechanism. The multi-directional cleat provides more freedom of movement for disengaging the pedal. Either the horizontal outwards option or a diagonally upwards one. You can buy these cleats separately with SPD pedals that come with standard cleats.

The flat pedal side has a non-slip surface rather than a pinned construction. Together with the reflectors makes for a more commuting look than either the Shimano PD-EH500 or even the XT PD-T8000.

Expert Experience

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Pros and Cons

HT GT1

HT GT1
HT GT1

The HT GT1 is an affordable trail and enduro pedal with a large cast aluminum body spinning on a chromoly axle with a sealed bearing and bushing. That’s a lot of value for a trail pedal.

Its dual spring loaded mechanism and different cleat configuration lets you adjust how to use the pedal, with up to 8 degrees of float for those with knee troubles, or simply because you like that amount of wiggle room.

The pedals have 2 replaceable pins on either side of the platform and large smooth areas next to the mechanism. It ensures an easy engagement.

Access to the innards of the pedal is easily achieved by loosening a hex nut.

If you’re looking for an affordable trail and enduro pedal with a decent amount of build quality, make sure this one is on your list.

Pros and Cons

Time MX 6

Time MX 6
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The Time MX 6 is the French brand top-of-the-line clipless trail pedal. The unique glass-filled composition makes it the lightest in its category, sitting at 380 grams.

The pedals use the ATAX mechanism, which is a dual leaf spring system for easy engagement providing 5 degrees of both lateral and angular float. The standard 13 degrees of release tension can be cranked up all the way to 17 degrees, a number you’re probably never used to but it’s nice to know you can.

The French composite butterfly design is definitely different from your more standard aluminum platform versions, but the overall quality of the pedal, its ATAC mechanism, and the floaty feel without ever getting unclipped has attracted a lot of fans, myself included. I would like to be less stiff than I am, but I’m not, so these pedals are the most forgiving in getting you into the position you want to ride in.

The ATAC mechanism only closes when engaged, which means they offer a larger contact area for the cleats, and this in turn results in an easier engagement. Furthermore, the pedals have just the right platform size to aid in finding them in the correct position, yet not too big when you need to rotate them to get them into that correct position. Unlike a number of other pedals the entire rear of the platform supports your shoe, instead of just hanging there doing nothing.

There is no audible or tactile click, as with the Shimano pedals, so you’ll need to get used to them to feel secure enough to pedal without wiggling your foot around first to see if you’re actually engaged with the pedal.

The chromoly axle has two sealed bearings and a single bushing, and together with the high-quality engineering of the internals, it means the longevity and durability of these pedals are above average.

I always love products that stand out in a certain way and these pedals do. Beside the low weight, which is a good thing, the stack height sits at the upper end of the spectrum at 19 mm. I don’t really care for those extra 2 to 4 mm, depending on the pedal you’re comparing with, but it’s only fair to mention it for those that do.

Expert Experience

114 | Jason Mitchell – 44790

One of the hallmarks of the ATAC design are the parallel spring clamps that allow easy entry, smooth float and consistent exit. With the TIME MX 6, that’s also paired with a composite platform for added forgiveness when clipping in on technical terrain. Built for all-mountain and enduro riding, but you can certainly use them as your daily drivers on whatever trails you ride. Compared to the standard XC 6, you’ll gain 100 g. of total added weight and a composite platform.

Pros and Cons

Look X-Track En-Rage

Look X-Track En-Rage
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Similar in look-and-feel to the Shimano PD-ME700 the Look X-Track En-Rage is the French’ brand entry-level trail pedal.

They come with cleats and are compatible with shoes using SPD cleats. Although Shimano pedals are known for their longevity, you could argue that the 2 sealed cartridge bearings and 1 Glide bearing setup of these pedals are capable of a bigger load.

If you want to service the pedal you’ll need a proprietary tool to remove the dust cap, but they are pretty cheap and come in packages alongside spare dust caps.

I like the design of Look pedals and these ones have unassuming and clean looks. The body without pins offers a bit of support and makes it somewhat easier to get into the pedal.

The pedal offers tons of adjustability, both in the setup of the mechanism as with optional cleats offering an easier release. So depending on how securely you want to attach yourself to the pedals, you have the entire range from easy out to downhill secure.

The cast aluminum body is strong, but does make a set of pedals tip the scales at 420 grams. This weight is ok for its category and to be expected from an affordable pedal such as this one.

In terms of mud clearance the pedal performs adequately enough, though the compact mechanism in combination with its aluminum body will get into trouble in really muddy conditions.

The fit is secure and snug as we’re used to from SPD systems.

Expert Experience

89 | Robert Johnston – 44810

Comparing the Look pedals to the options they’ll surely be compared with – Shimano’s XT and XTR trail pedals – the feel of the Look pedals when clipping in and out is slightly nicer in my eyes, and of course the maximum tension can go a few notches higher, but that’s about where the benefits end for me.

The platform shape of the X-Track EN-Rage gives considerably less support when it’s needed the most; there’s slightly less real estate to give support when trying to get clipped in, and the mechanism sits lower to the ground and is therefore more susceptible to damage. In terms of value, or at least the sticker price, Look undercuts these comparable Shimano offerings by a notable amount, but for an enduro pedal I’d be saving up the extra pennies.

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 touring

Name
Price
Weight
Length
Width
Height
Body
Spindle
Bearings and bushings
Pins
float
release
Shimano Deore XT PD-M8120
130 USD
438
16.2 mm
aluminium
Cr-Mo
2 cup and cone bearings, 1 bushing
none
Shimano Deore XT PD-T8000
130 USD
392
80 mm
90 mm
17 mm
aluminium
Cr-Mo
2 cup and cone bearings, 1 bushing
8, single-sided
Shimano PD-EH500
79 USD
383
90 mm
71 mm
17.4 mm
aluminium
Cr-Mo
1 sealed cartridge bearing, 1 bushing
8, single-sided
Shimano Click’r PD-T421
79 USD
418
19 mm
aluminium
Cr-Mo
1 sealed cartridge bearing, 1 bushing
none
HT GT1
79 USD
400
94 mm
73.2 mm
17 mm
aluminium
Cr-Mo
sealed bearings, bushings
4
4°or 8°
13°
Time MX 6
95 USD
380
19 mm
fiberglass / composite
Cr-Mo
2 cartridge bearings, 1 bushing
none
10° / 13° / 17°
Look X-Track En-Rage
89 USD
420
63 mm
16.8 mm
cast aluminium
Cr-Mo
2 sealed cartridge bearings, 1 Glide bearing
none
13°
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°
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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