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The Top 5 Clipless (Clip In, Step In) Mountain Bike Pedals Under $50

Updated on April 21, 2012


OK so, the top 5 or top 10 idea is thrown around a lot in online reviews, but there much to support the criteria established by the reviewer. The result is that many of the products are simply the first ones that the reviewer will come across in a quick Internet search. Well, I'm trying to avoid that here. I'm not familiar with everty clipless pedal out there,and I'm sure you might have a slightly different view on this, but this review and top 5 list is based on my personal experiences, professional experiences and the input of a of other riders I consulted.

Clipless Pedals

Lets get one thing clear: I am not here to argue the use of platform pedals vs. clip-in style pedals in this hub. Riders choose to run clipless pedals for a variety of reasons, and honestly the decision is often based on the riding style. You definitely gain some wattage being clipped in, but many riders feel more comfortable on jumps with platforms. A lot of riders choose platforms for downhill, free ride or all mountain riding where XC riding drifts towards clip-in style. Here we are looking at the function of the pedal and what it is suited to do. For clipless pedals under $50 we are not assuming that the dual-sided pedals are not the optimum choice, as the cheap platform side on dual-sided pedals under 50$ are not good for anything beside communting or long treks. Don't believe me? Go ahead and hit a jump or two or a tech downhill section on the cheap dual-sides, and see if you can stay on the bike.

That being said, the characteristics that define a good clipless pedal and the ones used to write this top 5 are the following:

  • The clip system must function properly and keep you securely stuck, but able to clip-out easily.
  • The pedal must not flex on the axle and should be designed to provide a stable foothold without pressure points.
  • The pedal must spin smoothly and easily on the bearings. Cartridge or sealed replaceable bearings are preferred.
  • It must shed mud.
  • Any kind of float allowed by the pedal is a big plus, as it helps save your knees and ankles.
  • Other characteristics that define any type of good pedal such as duribility, bearing life and aesthetics are also considered.

All of the pedals on this list are approximately under $50 (USD). This means these are the enrty level, cheaper, pedals and not top of the line.

1. Time ATAC Alium MTB Pedals

These are pedals of legend. They shed mud amazingly. They have a fantastic system for entry and exit that is smooth like butter. Their clipless system is not SPD, and resembles that of Crank Brothers pedals, which many people prefer to the SPD style pedals as it tends to feel more forgiving on entry and exit. The look sweet, and the width of the pedal makes it feel secure under your foot.

These are very durable, and as close to bombproof as you are going to get in a clipless pedal under $50. Two options for entry exit angles and resisitance tuning make this a personalize-able pedal. The steel spindle and alimunum body bring this pedal in at 410 g per pair. They aren't the lightest pedals out there, but their features and durability make them a no-brainer for the top position under $50.

Now, you might not be able to find these under $50 at your local shop. Yet, I have never had to look far online to find a them kicking around for $45-50 from online sellers.

2. Crank Brothers Candy 1

Ok, so this pedal generates a lot of argument. Some people love them, others hate them, but objectively, I think they are hard to beat for under $50. They have a stable platform, good entry and exit system with 6 degrees of float and two release options. The Candy 1 is a simple, flat and low design with a nice stainless spindle which makes them spin forever. They look slick and shed mud decently. So why the hate on these pedals? Well the body is plastic. Polycarbonate to be specific, but plastic nonetheless.

Plastic has an upside, its light (262 grams per pair), and pretty durable. Yet MTB riders want really durable, and plastic is not, it scratches, wears down and will shatter in cold weather collisions. The upgrades in the more expensive versions of the Candy feature aluminum bodies which you might be able to find for somewhere around $75. For under $50 (after a quick search I found 5 places that sold these for sub $50) these are an excellent entry level or back up clipless pedal that will last you a long time if you can get over your initial hesitation to the plastic construction.

3. Shimano PD-M520L

Oh, these pedals. When you enter into the world of clipless, it is almost a requirement that you buy these inexpensive SPD style Shimano pedals. They are easy to adjust, have sealed bearings that will outlast the rest of the pedal, and shed mud halfway decently for the price ($30 - $40). I have personally killed a few pairs of these, but not until they took a serious beating. They are not really meant for jumping or any serious all mountain work, but they still hold up well and have minimal flex on the axles. A more narrow pedal, the 520s don't have any kind of platform for you to fall back on, but they work perfectly for single track and xc riding.

You can probably find a great deal on these if you look. I have purchased a pair or two on sale for around $20 during the off season. At 420g they aren't lightest pedals, but they just keep going, and I can't recall ever seeing or hearing of a pair just outright fail or wear out. These are definitely a purchase you won't regret.

4. Wellgo WAM-M727

These pedals are a lot like the Shimano 520s, a simple, efficient and durable SPD style pedal. The M727 has sealed cartridge bearings, adjustable tension and sheds mud decently. These guys are lighter than the Shimanos at 312g a pair. They look slick aside from the 'WELLGO' printed on the end and are great XC pedals. They don't have a platform to fix your foot on at all but they clip in and out well and hold the cleat securely. The design of the spindle taper also makes thes feel very stiff and without a lot of flex, akin to the feeling of a much higher quality pedal. They take either the 98A (wellgo ) or SPD cleats which is a plus as well.

The only downside to these is that the cleat housing feels a bit exposed on the pedal like it would be easier to catch than those of the other featured pedals. The design however, makes them super easy to service if you ever need to. I definitely recommend them, the CNC machining makes for a very nice, durable build that wears well. You can normally find these for about $50, sometimes as low as $35

5. Shimano PD-M540 SPD Pedal

So I am cheating. These pedals are hard to get under $50. Its do-able, but they generally hover around $55 or so. That's why they get the 5 spot and not the 2 or 3 (still, not quite as good as the ATACs overall). Yet they are far and away better than anything else that would be considered for this list. They are basically the Shimano M520s but lighter (352 g a pair), more precisely made, and a bit more durable. The enrty and exit is easy, and smooth, and the hold the cleat very securely. The tension seems a bit more adjustable on these and with a sealed cartridge bearing they are low maintenance.

For close to $50 you get a pedal that is suitable for entry level, and also great for those taking the next step into racing XC.I like these popular pedals a lot, and if you look they can be found for a really great prices. If you have an extra $5 to spend you can't go wrong here.

Well, that about sums it up, but If you have a bit more cash to spend I will be review clipless pedals under $100 in the near future. If you are unsure of clipless pedals check out the Top 5 Mountain Bike Platform Pedals Under $50, perhaps you'll find what you are looking for there.


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      Matt 3 years ago

      I'd have to disagree with your asisrteon of clipless pedals being the source of overuse injuries. Through what mechanism? Just as you ask for evidence or studies showing the increase power available from using clipless, I would ask where are your studies showing that the overuse injuries are due to clipless pedals? I would assert that most overuse injuries are due to lack of consistent training, weekend warriors with no midweek training pushing too hard on the weekends. Other overuse injuries are typically due to increasing training quantity too fast, or overtraining. I think that back when clipless pedals didn't have float, they were the source of injuries for some people, but all clipless pedal systems on the market today have more than enough float available. This is in contrast to flat pedals where you have zero float. This might seem counterintuitive to some people. They probably think, I have infinite float on a flat pedal, I can move my foot anywhere , but that's not what float refers to. Float is important with regard to the natural motion your foot makes DURING a pedal stroke. Clipless pedals, which have float, allow your foot to rotate naturally during the pedal stroke. Quality flat pedals, with all of the pins for traction, in combination with sticky-soled shoes, don't allow the foot to rotate at all during a pedal stroke. If your foot is able to rotate freely during a pedal stroke with flat pedals, then those are some greasy pedals. My case in point being that as we see an increase in flat pedal use for extended XC/Trail style riding instead of just DH/DS, we will probably see an increase in overuse injuries due to the inherent lack of float in flat pedal systems. March 3 at 3:20 pm

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      Lavonn 3 years ago

      Phnnemoeal breakdown of the topic, you should write for me too!