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Shimano PD-M540 SPD Pedals Review For Cyclocross / MTB

Updated on May 2, 2013
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Liam Hallam is a sports science graduate. A keen cyclist, runner, and obstacle racer, he ran his first ultra-marathon in 2016.

Shimano PD-M540 SPD Pedals

The Shimano PD-M540 SPD Pedal
The Shimano PD-M540 SPD Pedal | Source

The CyclingFitness Review Score

4 stars for Shimano PD-M540 Pedals

Shimano Clipless Mountain Bike Pedals Offering Value And Functionality

If you're new to clipless pedal systems on your Mountain Bike, or looking for a set of budget pedals for riding cyclocross during the winter there are plenty of options to choose from and a lot of people trying to influence your decision.

The purpose of this review of the Shimano PD-M540 SPD Pedals is to offer insight into how the pedal works and how it's capabilities translate for both mountain biking and cyclocross racing.

This review will concentrate on the performance and value aspects of the pedal to help you make an educated purchase of your next set of bicycle pedals.

The PD-M540 pedal is the second step along Shimano's double sided mountain bike pedal ladder ahead of their base model the PD-M520. The M540 builds on the success and value of the M520 by shedding 25g in weight and around $30 dollars in price on MRRP although handy shoppers will always make a significant saving purchasing online.

The Tester In Cyclocross Action

Dismounts and re-mounts are important within cyclocross racing. In action for the Samcycling.com RT
Dismounts and re-mounts are important within cyclocross racing. In action for the Samcycling.com RT | Source

A Little About The Tester...Liam Hallam

How do you know this review is a genuine review and not some internet marketer trying to get you to buy a product via their website? I ride cyclocross throughout the winter months and use the M540 pedals throughout the year on both mountain bike and also use the cx bike on occasions for commuting during the summer on my Planet X Uncle John.

I will primarily review these pedals for cyclocross use as that combines everything that you would need from a clipless pedal system from power transfer and ease of entry/ exit to the requirement to shed mud from the pedal body. All of these characteristics have relevance for mountain biking although I also know of people who have used these pedals for road cycling as well.

Shimano M540's Two Years Of Abuse

The Shimano PD-M540 SPD Pedal combines value and functionality for beginner to experienced riders with long term durability
The Shimano PD-M540 SPD Pedal combines value and functionality for beginner to experienced riders with long term durability | Source

Two Years In A Life Of A Pair Of MTB Pedals

I've been using my PD-M540 pedals on the cyclocross bike for around 2 years. Using them for both cyclocross racing and cross country rides through the local Sherwood Forest. I purchased them after destroying the spring action on a previous pair of Time Atac pedals.

After two years of heavy use and abuse they seem to be on their way out now. The cartridge bearings feel rough when turning the pedal spindle in my handles but they still turn without problems and they've never been serviced but I'm told that the bearings can be replaced if you choose. The pedals have been submitted to a couple of winters of riding in mud, water and after the heavy recent winter snow the bearings are definitely roughened up.

Snow Plus Cyclocross Bike Equals Great Fun

Snow is great fun on a cx bike but it can have a deteriorating effect on bearings
Snow is great fun on a cx bike but it can have a deteriorating effect on bearings | Source

M540's Fitted To The Cyclocross Bike

Shimano PD-M540 SPD Pedals fitted to FSA Gosamer cranks on the cyclocross bike
Shimano PD-M540 SPD Pedals fitted to FSA Gosamer cranks on the cyclocross bike | Source

Clip In and Clip Out Action

As a road cyclist I'm always looking for a solid 'snap' into place between cleat and pedal. It was something I've always found distinctly spongey when clipping in on my old Time Atac pedals and when replacing them I wanted something with a more reassuring click into place.

Contact between cleat and pedal is relatively secure for a mountain bike pedal and tension can be adjusted to add some firmness to the connection. More experienced riders will be looking at heightening the tension- I had to ramp mine up to the max for the secure fit I desire in a set of pedals.

It's perfectly adequate for mountain biking and cyclocross although when comparing to my road pedals the connection is nothing near what I would expect in comparison. I've read so many reviews of people using these pedals for road riding and feel that the majority of those reviewers definitely have not used a good quality set of road bike pedals. Someone will always argue that a mountain bike pedal will be fine for road use but for me they just don't have the control and subsequent power transfer capabilities.

Plenty Of Mud Clearance Capability

Lots of space between pedal body and axle for mud clearance and drip through on the PD-M540
Lots of space between pedal body and axle for mud clearance and drip through on the PD-M540 | Source

Performance In The Mud- Cyclocross Style

If you're racing cyclocross throughout the winter your pedals need to be be able to shed mud well as a result of the demands of the course. When the rain comes and the muddy courses arrive you need a pedal that isn't affected by the need to jump off the bike and run through a quagmire.

The M540's feature lots of space between the pedal body and the axle for mud to drop between. The only time you really have a problem with these pedals is when the mud is thick and gloopy as it all ends of getting compacted inside the pedal body. This seems to be a problem amongst many mountain bike pedals. There are a few which negate a pedal body (Such as Crank Brothers Egg-Beater Pedals) which offer better mud shedding but in reality the PD-M540 offers adequate mud clearance for all barring the most gloopy of circumstances.

Fancy Some Shimano PD-M540 Pedals For Your Bike?

What's The Difference Between PD-M520 and PD-M540 Pedals?

If you're finding it hard to decide which to go for between the PD-M520 and M540 the main differences falls into categories of weight and hardware as opposed to the actual performance aspects of the pedals.

The M540 features and slimmed down pedal body and a slightly slimmer pedal axle which actually can only be fitted using a hex key (Instead of a pedal wrench) which saves some weight over the 520 version however realistically the differences end there. Pedal performance is almost identical so if you're not worried about an additional 25 grammes of weight plump for the M520 pedals

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