Choosing the right pedal is important as it is one of the main contact points with the bike and is how you transfer power through to the wheels. Therefore, it is important that you choose the right ones.
We give you a list of the top 5 XC mountain bike pedals and why they are good, and who they would suit. If you still don’t think any of them are for you then check out the buyers guide in the second half of the article. It will outline everything you should specifically look for in XC pedals.
Best XC MTB Pedals
Here we have gathered a list of the top XC mountain bike pedals on the market today. Check out the table below for the products selected and their weights.
Shimano PD-M520 SPD Pedals
- Great value
- Durable and reliable
- Easy adjustment
- Slightly heavy, but that’s being picky considering the price
The Shimano M520 is one of the most popular pedals on the market, and for a good reason. They are renowned for their outstanding value and excellent durability. They are many people’s go-to set of pedals and are also very popular with commuters thanks to their double-sided entry.
They feature the same clip mechanism as the more expensive XT and XTR versions of the pedal, with the only difference being the material.
Weighing in at a respectable 374 grams, you can’t complain about that considering their incredibly cheap price point. If weight is a big issue for you, then the Shimano PD-M540 might be better for you. It is essentially the same pedal weighing in slightly lighter at 352 grams but for a slightly higher price.
Overall the Shimano PD-M520 is an excellent value pedal offering that great Shimano build quality and adjustability, at a super low price point.
Shimano XTR SPD Pedals
The ultimate Shimano cross-country mountain bike race pedal. Best suited for those that like to ride the undulating cross-country trails or even for the gavel bike.
- Lightest SPD pedal
- Large contact platform
- Durable and reliable
The Shimano XTR XC SPD Pedals are essentially a much lighter and built more for racing than the previous Shimano PD-M520s. However, this does come at a higher price, a much higher price.
So what do you get extra for your money? Well, first of all, it is Shimanos lightest SPD mountain bike pedal weighing in at an impressive 310 grams for the pair.
The ultralightweight design doesn’t compromise on durability, however, as these were my go-to pedals for many years, they were completely bombproof and required little in the way of maintenance.
They are slightly heavier than the Crankbrothers Eggbeaters due to their larger platform, which many will appreciate as it provides a bit more stability for the foot. The larger platform does, however, mean that the mud-shedding abilities of the XTR are not as great as the Eggbeaters, but they certainly aren’t bad.
Overall the XTRs are my pick for the rider with a reasonable budget who cares about the pedal’s weight.
Crankbrothers Eggbeater 3
- Great mud-shedding
- Small platform
- Little adjustability
The Crankbrothers Eggbeater 3 is a super minimalist ultralightweight cross country mountain bike pedal. You can see why when you look at it, well there’s not much to look at, really. This does help in getting the pedal weight down to an impressive 280 grams.
It is the lightest pedal on the list, but comes at a cost to some other features. First of all, there is little in the way of adjustability. You pick your cleat based on whether you want 10 or 15 degrees of float, that’s it.
Also, they come with a tiny platform, which is fine, so long as you have a stiff pair of shoes to go with it. It is this reason why we don’t recommend these pedals for beginners as the clip mechanism can be hard to find, and they require very stiff shoes.
Their minimalist design does mean that they have incredible mud-shedding abilities, and even in the muddiest of conditions, you will struggle to get them clogged up with mud.
Overall these will be a great pedal for the XC racer who cares little about adjustability and platform size but really wants to save every gram that they can.
Time Atac XC8 Pedals
A great pedal for those looking to save their knees or find the SPD pedals too restrictive. There is plenty of room to move the foot around in Atac XC8.
- Great in mud
- Knee friendly
- Soft engagement
The Time Atac XC8 Pedals are many people’s go-to choice with bad knees or those that just want to save them. They feature a large degree of float and movement, allowing you to position your foot how your knees would like to.
Having said that, they can take a bit of getting used to if you are coming off the back of SPD pedals. The large amount of movement can feel not secure until you get used to them.
The XC8 are the mid-range cross country pedals in Times lineup and weigh in at a very respectable 293 g with a very reasonable price tag.
The open front end of the pedal gives a great platform for the mud to be shed. The forward hoop design forces mud out when engaging, which makes them great for wet, muddy riding.
The clips’ engagement is very soft and won’t suit everyone, but if you think the SPDs are too restrictive, then these pedals will be great for you.
Look X-Track Race Carbon Pedals
A great pedal for someone looking for a large platform and lightweight design for a lower price than the Shimano XTR. Not to mention, they are also SPD compatible.
- SPD compatible
- Large contact surface
- Great value pedal
- On the heavier side, but still very light
The X-Track Race Carbon Pedals are a great set of cross-country mountain bike pedals that ticks all the boxes.
First off is the respectable weight coming in at 345 g which although that is not super light, it is pretty good considering the features coming up.
The mid of the range weight is due to the very large platform that the X-Track has. It is the biggest on the list and will help prevent hot spots occuring on your feet and will improve power transfer. On top of this you get the extra stability that comes with a wider platform pedal, which will help when the trail gets rough!
Also they are SPD compatible, they have that nice familiar spring loaded clip that comes with Shimano pedals, a feature that many will appreciate.
All in all they are a very similar pedal to the Shimano XTR pedals but for a much lower price, they may not be as bomb proof as the XTRs but they are certainly no slouch.
A great pedal for someone looking for a large platform and lightweight design for a lower price.
What to Look for When Buying XC Pedals
If you need a little more help deciding which cross country pedal is right for you, you have come to the right place. Here we will go into specifically what you should look for when purchasing XC MTB pedals.
First is your budget, this is really important as you dont want to splash out too much, especially if that means compromising on your safety such as sacrificing on a good MTB helmet.
Speaking of helmets, check out our picks for the best mountain bike helmets for XC mountain biking.
The good thing is, if you are on a budget then the Shimano PD-M520 pedals are a great choice. Essentially when you step up in price from these then the biggest thing that changes is the weight of the pedal.
Of course if you have a slightly higher budget and you take part in a few XC races, then it is worth the extra money to get a lighter set of pedals that may give you that little edge on your competitors.
In saying that, for most people the weight won’t make a huge difference and if you are on a tight budget then the PD-M520s will be a great pedal.
Pedal Weight and Size
The next thing to consider is whether spending extra money on a lighter set of pedals is right for you, and also if you will be better suited to a larger contact area on your pedal.
If you race or are a gram counter then spending that bit extra for a lighter set of pedals will be worth it. However, on the other side, if you are just a weekend warrior, and not worried about the weight then going for a cheaper heavier set of pedals is a great option and will mean that you have more to spend on a great helmet.
Tied to the weight is the contact area of the pedal, if you don’t have super stiff MTB shoes then you will be better off with a pedal that has a larger contact area to prevent hot spots on your feet.
If you do have stiff shoes then going for a super light pedal like the Crankbrother Eggbeaters will be just fine and will save you a huge amount of weight.
If you need more help choosing XC mountain bike shoes, check out our article here.
Finally, choosing the right cleat system for you is super important and can save a lot of hassle if you have multiple bikes.
The most important thing to consider here is whether your other bikes already have mountain bike pedals on them, and if so then you want to make sure that the new pedal you buy has the same cleat system.
The two main cleat systems are Shimanos SPD cleats and Crankbrothers cleats. They both have a very different feel to them when in use as the SPD cleats have a spring loaded mechanism that has a firm click when attaching to the pedals. SPD pedals also give you little room to move your feet around when riding, which some people dont like.
In comparison the Crankbrothers tend to have a much softer engagement and feel when riding, ultimately you eventually get used to what you ride but the SPDs are much more adjustable.
However, if you suffer from knee pain then a pedal and cleat such as the Tima Atac XC8 would be a good option as there cleats offer a wide range of movement which is better for the knees. However, some people feel as though they are loose and never feel secure when riding these pedals.
It comes down to personal preference but if you already run a pair of SPD pedals then sticking with them will save a lot of hassle.
Well there you have it, thats everything you need to know about what to look for in XC mountain bike pedals and which ones are best and why.
Picking a cross country mountain bike pedal comes a lot down to personal preference and your budget. The low budget option that will do everything you need is the Shimano PD-M520s.
A step up from that is going for something like the Shimano XTR pedal which are essentially a lighter version of them.
If your completely focussed on getting the lowest weight pedals then the Crankbrothers Eggbeaters are the pedal for you.
And finally, if you struggle with bad knees then checking out the Time Atac XC8 is a good idea to see if will make your time riding that bit more comfortable.
If you’re looking for pedals for your road bike, then check out our best mountain bike pedals for road biking.
If you’re looking for the lightest pedals, check out our research on the lightest MTB pedals.