Shimano Deore XT PD-M8100 SPD pedals are a durable, lightweight choice, as suitable for gravel riding as they are for cross-country mountain biking.
Mountain bike pedals on road.cc? We asked Shimano's UK distributor which pedals they'd recommend for gravel riding and they suggested these (along with the PD-M540 SPD pedals we reviewed a few weeks ago), although the gravel-specific GRX groupset contains PD-M530 dual-sided pedals (£44.99) and PD-ES600 (£69.99) with a single-sided binding. In truth, all of these do a great job.
The Deore XT PD-M8100 pedals, which I'm calling M8100 pedals from now on, offer a slightly wider platform than the 540s – we measured them at 59mm x 43mm – for a little extra stability, although in many other ways they're similar.
The axle is made of tough chromoly steel while the pedal body is forged aluminium alloy. I've been using these pedals for two months and there are a couple of faint scratches to the anodised finish, presumably caused by stones that have got stuck in the tread of my shoes, but that's about it.
There's a slight amount of wear to the body cover too. Actually, that's harsh. It's more that you can see that the pedals have been used rather than that there's a significant amount of wear. Even if the body cover does wear excessively, which would be ages down the line, it is replaceable.
The M8100 pedals have a cleat retention mechanism on both sides. The second binding adds a little weight over a single-sided pedal – our M8100 pedals weighed 340g versus a claimed weight of 279g for the single-sided PD-ES600 pedals mentioned above – but there's no danger of the pedal being the wrong way up because there is no wrong way up. I find a double-sided pedal that little bit easier when you don't want to take your eyes off the track/trail ahead, but that's a matter of choice.
Engagement is simple once you get your eye in, and it's easy to adjust the release tension with a 3mm hex key. Little clicks as you do so allow you to equalise the cleat-holding force between the two different sides and left/right. The adjustment bolt that winds in one end of the coil spring has a very deep head so you should never round it out.
One of the best features of the M8100 pedals – and many others in the Shimano line-up – is that you rarely need to worry about the internals. If/when you do need to open them up for re-greasing – which requires just a 17mm wrench – you'll find miles of thread between the bearing and the outside world.
I've been using the M8100 pedals mostly on gravel but also on the occasional stretch of muddy trail, and gloop tends to clear quickly. Any mud that gets onto the cleat retention mechanism usually gets pushed through and out the other side when you stamp your foot in place. I've certainly never got them gummed up in use. It could happen, as it could with any pedals, but it's going to be a rare occurrence here because there's so little for mud to stick on.
You could easily use these pedals for other types of riding too, of course. Many people like SPDs and shoes with recessed cleats for commuting and other urban use, and these would be well up to the job.
The M8100's biggest rival among the pedals that we've reviewed recently on road.cc is Shimano's M540, which is cheaper at £62.99. In truth, there's very little between them in terms of performance, although the M8100 has a slightly wider platform, it's very slightly slimmer, and it's about 12g lighter (according to our scales).
The M8100 pedals are super-durable, lightweight and they shed mud well. They'll likely last an age with minimal maintenance although there are better value SPD pedals in Shimano's range.
Lightweight and durable SPD pedals that are as good for gravel as they are for mountain biking
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Shimano Deore XT PD-M8100 SPD pedals
Size tested: One
Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
The PD-M8100 is designed as a cross-country mountain bike pedal.
Shimano lists these features:
* Large pedal platform
* Lower platform height for pedalling stability
* Robust retention claws provide smooth engagement and release
* Customise the entry and release tension settings
* Strong, durable chrome-moly spindle with 8mm hex wrench mount
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Binding: Dual sided
Pedal axle material: Chromoly steel
Pedal body: anodised aluminium
Cleat retention adjuster
SM-SH51 cleats and 1mm cleat spacers included
They're strong pedals with well-protected bearings. They'll likely last an age.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Entry/exit is easy, they feel stable in use and they shed mud well. It's a really strong all-round package.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
High-quality build, well-protected bearings.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Not a lot although, as is often the case, you get slightly better value at lower price points in Shimano's range.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
The M8100's biggest rival among the pedals that we've reviewed recently is Shimano's M540, which is cheaper at £62.99. There's not much to choose between them in terms of performance, although the M8100 has a slightly wider platform, it's very slightly slimmer, and it's a little lighter.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? I would.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
These are popular pedals for a reason: they do the job really well. They're a comfortable 8.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding,
Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now pushing 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.