Shimano Deore XT PD-M8100 Pedals
The Shimano Deore XT PDM8100 are one down from their flagship XTR. Aside from being obvious choices for cross country mountain biking, rough stuff touring, cyclo cross and gravel, I reckon they’re a good bet for winter road duties too.
Pros: Lightweight, solid build quality, excellent weather sealing, excellent mud shedding prowess.
Cons: PD M540 and lowlier 520 counterparts may trump them on the bargain front. Time Atac and Crank Brothers Egg Beaters Have a slight edge in the worst mud.
Arguably these won’t set pulses racing, but the execution and finish are extremely high. Beautifully machined, forged silver anodized aluminum alloy bodies (interestingly, at 59mmx43, they’re marginally wider than the lowlier PDM540 I referred to earlier) turn on sealed ball bearings, which are easily accessed, should need arise, using a 17mm (about 0.67 in) spanner.
Replacement balls are readily available, although provided some grease and mechanical empathy are shown, these shouldn’t need replacing very often. I have a set of original SPD from 1990 still going strong. Again, Cro-Moly might lack the wow factor of titanium, but these are similarly well machined and finished, without prescribed rider weight limits.
These attach to the cranks, via an 8mm Allen key - to 10nms, if you’re using a torque wrench. Otherwise, it’s the familiar dual sided cleat mechanism, release tension is dialled in using a 3mm Allen Key typical to most multi-tools.
If you got excited, popped ‘em in situ, clipped in and found release a little stubborn, it's easily tamed. The Allen head is also deeply recessed, so the likelihood of chewing one is small. A quick shot of maintenance spray - GT85, WD40, Jokker 440 et al should keep them sweet come sleet, slush, hell and high water.
Talking of cleats, the covers are sturdy and highly corrosion resistant and when they finally get sloppy, replacements also readily available. In the box, the PDM8100 come with the SM SH51 but I’ve had no issues with their multi-release brethren.
Shimano patterns have also enabled reliable entry/exit, say if you were swapping between shoes, but the risk is your own.
Given their build quality and execution, little wonder that they’ve impressed with their refined, seemingly bullet-proof competence. My fixed gear winter trainer was the first recipient, not least since I’d just replaced the headset and wanted to get some “bedding in” done.
As I hinted in my opening paragraph, I’d run the M540 for a good while and from the outset, there wasn’t much discernible difference in terms of buttery smoothness and creak-free power transfer, allowing me to clip in and concentrate on cadence.
In line with Shimano’s warnings, pulling too firmly on the up stroke with a multi-release cleat will indeed, disengage a foot. Something I experienced while grinding up a short but very sharp incline, though oddly (thankfully) wasn’t an issue when making sharp right turns or snatching away at the lights. Dual sided design also takes the gamble and faff from stepping in.
On the open road, I could whizz along at 85-90rpm, so long as gradient and reserves allowed. On longer distances-more than 2-3 hours, the slightly broader platforms provided small but surprisingly significant support, without sacrificing cornering prowess but then, given the bottom bracket height and crank length, not surprising. Reassuring mind, permitting some interesting angles of lean, when tackling tight S-bends at pace and no grounding when negotiating roundabouts.
Switched to Ursula, we’ve done our usual mix of country lanes, unmade roads and bridlepath. Much the same story really-lots of support to the feet, while still permitting a swift tempo. Variable gears have the advantage of greater torque- think spin, rather than grind along the climbs through the trails. No unwelcome, unintentional releases with the M (multi cleats).
I've yet to find a Shimano MTB pedal to have issues in mud, even the originals perform well - it's only the design has evolved considerably since. The M8100 have dumped impacted stuff competently and convincingly-I've never failed to engage- worst case scenario, I’ve given the shoes a more deliberate tap to dislodge excess.
In comparable conditions, the Time ATAC design has an edge, and they also have a bit more float, which is a consideration if you’re prone to knee trouble. Not that Shimano’s range isn’t good-it will suit most riders just fine, but if you’re coming down to the nitty gritty, it's another consideration.
Pedals lead hard lives and painted finishes can tire quickly. No such issues here. Look obsessively and you might find some swirls where I’ve disengaged-especially with gritty, muddy abrasive stuff clinging to my soles.
Otherwise, I’ve dropped ours (accidentally) onto hard concrete (from a metre) and I've struggled to find any trace of cosmetic blemish, which is testament to their quality. Similarly, aside from being well sealed from the elements, bearings are tucked quite deep inside.
Swerve the jet wash, show some mechanical empathy and they’ll just rack up the miles. Now, I’m known in some circles for having a “fetish”; a “thing” for patterns. Pattern cleats (Shimano) seem to be relatively durable, but the genuine articles are noticeably more so, which is another consideration, when we’re talking longevity. Both are easily found too-comforting should you need a new pair mid tour.
The M8100 aren’t cheap - we're talking a penny shy of £100 and I'm tempted to say, many riders may find, at £62.99, the M540 (below) strike the sweet spot between performance and price, although they’re 12g or so heavier.
Those looking to have some carbon in their diet (although with relatively little weight advantage over the M8100) may find Look X Track Race Carbon MTB Pedal enticing. These also employ Cro-moly axles, come complete with a 2-year warrantee SPD pattern mechanism. However, we’re talking £109.90.
The Shimano M8100 are a solid, yet lightweight set of pedals that perform reliably and impressively-on and off road. They’re a bit lighter than the M540 and slightly broader too. Spares availability is equally good. However, for some these advantages may not justify the additional £38, over their lowlier M540 stablemates.
Verdict 4/5 Seemingly bulletproof, benchmark pedals for mtb, touring and other duties.
PUBLISHED AUGUST 2022