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The catchily titled Shimano PD-ES600s are Ultegra-level, single-sided SPD road pedals, and they are very good: small, light, and with enough foot support to be perfect for those who like to put in the miles but still walk around a bit.
Looking like the lovechild of a mountain bike SPD pedal and an Ultegra road pedal, they're not to be confused with the similar looking but larger platformed Shimano PD-A600s.
These are pedals for road riders who want some of the foot support of a traditional three-bolt triangular cleat system but the walkability of a shoe with a recessed two-bolt cleat – but not the usual double-sided pedal engagement.
An update of the longstanding PD-A600 single-sided pedals, the ES600s are smaller, sleeker and lighter, qualities that are achieved by removing much of the support cage of their predecessor. They retain the colour, look and finish you'd expect from an Ultegra-level component, though.
Unlike the open design and tall engagement clasps of a mountain bike pedal, the ES600 has one set of cleat jaws sitting proud of what looks like a small version of a 'normal' road pedal. The flat platforms either side of the pedal are there to offer a level of support to the tread on the bottom of your recessed cleat shoes, and it's something they do pretty well.
Despite having the sturdy metal springs and bindings of an SPD pedal, they're not heavy; Shimano says they're the lightest SPD pedal it makes for road use, and at 282g (a bit higher than the claimed 279g) they lie between a 105 (285g) and Ultegra (248g) road pedal in weight. They sit well on a road bike, too, with their low-profile design looking like a standard road pedal and not a clunky mountain bike SPD one. The Ultegra-level grey finish works well on the aesthetic stakes here too.
Riding a normal mountain bike SPD shoe and pedal combo on the road is fine, but the open, mud-shedding design of an off-road pedal can lead to a significant amount of yaw and play on the foot, and a lot of rattle when the cleats start to wear, which can be annoying and far more noticeable with the more static riding position on a road bike compared to an off-road bike, where you're moving about all the time. The double-sided design also means less cornering clearance if you're into pedalling round bends at speed. The ES600 pedals address these issues.
The pedals come with SPD SH51 single release cleats (they only release when you twist your foot outwards, whereas multi-release cleats come out if you pull up hard too), and entry and release spring tension is dealt with in usual Shimano SPD fashion with a 3mm hex key out the back of the pedal. I've been happy with the ease of click-in and let-go tightness at the factory setting.
The exposed rear binding looks like it might be to susceptible to unwanted external forces or be attracted to shin flesh, but it hasn't been a problem.
Being a single-sided design, the ES600s need a little more of a practised action to clip into the correct side than the stamp-and-hope of a double-sided SPD pedal. Initially, I found them pretty tricky to get into. Out of the box, the sealed cartridge bearings weren't very free spinning – they were rather sticky to be precise – but this does bode well for the future as it suggests they're going to wear in rather than wear out, and quite a few thousand miles on they're still running silky smooth.
For the first few rides, though, the tenacity of the bearings would hold the ES600s at whatever angle they were released at, making re-engagement a tutting, fumbling affair. After a while, the bearings loosened up enough for the pedals to spin freely on the cranks, allowing them to hang naturally, which has made them easier – if only slightly – to clip into.
Their weight distribution means the pedals rest at an off-vertical angle, with the tip pointing towards the rear of the bike, showing a lot of the underside. Stamp on an ES600, as you might a double-sided mountain bike pedal, and you're most likely to pointlessly and annoyingly scrape the bottom of the pedal. Clipping into these requires a forward-motion, toe-first, flip-and-clip action to engage them, and while it soon becomes second nature, it can sometimes be an issue when a fast and certain connection is required.
Shimano has slid these pedals into its GRX gravel groupset line-up, but the single-sided toe-first aspect might get annoying if you ride terrain that requires frequent clipping in and out through technical sections.
If you swap from a normal SPD mountain bike pedal to these, you'll immediately notice the difference in foot feel. The recessed cleat design of an SPD shoe means that the grippy tread sections on the shoe's sole, for walking about on, rest on the side platform sections of the pedal and offer a significant level of support that's both comfortable and reassuring. I'd say the difference in sole support between the ES600s and a standard SPD unit makes it well worth swapping over if you're already using a mountain bike SPD for road riding.
I used these pedals for long days, and day upon day riding, and there was never any issue with hot spots or any feeling of power being lost on its way through the pedals.
Swapping from these to traditional three-bolt, large triangular-cleated road shoes, there was a noticeable amount of extra stability and a feeling of feet being connected to the pedal, but it didn't seem to make any difference to either speed or comfort, though I don't have access to fancy devices to measure such things scientifically.
Swapping again to the older A600 pedals reveals a level of foot support somewhere between the ES600 and a road pedal, thanks to the extra loop of pedal to the rear, so if you want SPDs with near-road shoe levels of support I'd suggest you look there, though they're no longer readily available.
I rode these with a stiff carbon-soled pair of off-road cross-country shoes and at no point did I feel any significant disadvantges over a 'proper' road shoe and three-bolt pattern cleat. There was no perceived power loss, comfort was fine, and there was no unwanted unclipping.
The pedal/cleat interface offers up four degrees of float, which is two degrees fewer than Shimano's most popular yellow-tipped road cleats and might be a problem for those who need more shimmy to their feet to placate ailing joints. I've been using Shimano SPD pedals on more off-road orientated bikes since they arrived on the scene, and I've never had a problem with this degree of float.
Cleat wear is impressively prolonged; being metal, it's going to last longer in general use than a plastic road cleat, and while wear will be related to how much you're walking about and on which surface, the protruding grip of your shoes will protect them a lot better than a road shoe will its exposed three-bolt cleat.
The pedals themselves are proving durable too. They've been put through a lot, heading towards a five-figure mileage, a lot of inclement weather and the general misuse of being stamped on that a pedal gets, and they're not showing many signs of giving in. The bearings are still in excellent condition, worn in and not out, with no play or grittiness.
That said, as well as cosmetic scuffing on the underside of the pedals from a metal cleat hitting the wrong side, there is noticeable wear on the sides of the pedals from a grinding shoe tread, which looks unsightly and has the potential to reduce support, so a bit of extra protection there would be nice – something like the bolt-on metal plates some Shimano road pedals have.
The single-sided road pedal market is a small one, so there's not much to compare these to directly, but they're less than half the price of the Ultegra road pedal, cheaper by a not inconsiderable £30 at RRP than the off-road hierarchy equivalent XT pedal, and only slightly more than the stalwart yet heavier and less stylishly finished Shimano M540 SPD.
They're cheaper than the previous A600s too, which have an rrp of £89.99.
The price:weight:longevity:looks ratio makes them well worth the money.
The big upside to these pedals is that you can walk around in your SPD cleated shoes, so if you like to combine your rides with being able to walk about, they're ideal.
I used to be a 'proper' road shoe and cleat disciple, but my riding and pedal needs changed, and I'm now a convert to SPD shoes and this style of pedal on the road bike.
While I don't have a power meter to accurately test matters, I can't say I've felt any tangible difference in performance, apart from being able to walk around off the bike without waddling like a duck or slipping on hard floors – and not having to buy new cleats every six months.
Small, light, sleek single-sided SPD road pedals that would be even better but for a user interface niggle
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Shimano PD-ES600 SPD Pedals
Size tested: n/a
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 Shimano PD-ES600 is a sleek, single-sided SPD road pedal that's for the rider who wants the walkability of a recessed cleat shoe but the support of a 'proper' road pedal. It's small, lighter than you might think and would be great but for a user interface niggle.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Adjustable entry and release tension
Shimano mountain bike SPD pedals have a reputation for sturdiness and these continue in that tradition, with excellent bearings too.
All the benefits of an SPD pedal and shoe combo with seemingly no drop off in performance over a traditional road cleat and pedal. They do have a clip-in issue that might bother some.
With metal endings, metal cleats and excellent bearings the whole combo is going to last. There's some platform wear – some metal plates might help.
For an all-metal pedal with hefty springs and bindings they're impressively unheavy, and compare favourably to a similar level road pedal.
Despite having a smaller footprint and less float than most road cleats, there was no decrease in comfort or increase in joint issues.
The single-sided road pedal market is a small one so there's not much to compare them to directly, but they're less than half the price of the Ultegra road pedal, cheaper by a not inconsiderable £30 at RRP than the off-road hierarchy equivalent XT pedal, and only slightly dearer than the stalwart yet heavier and less stylishly finished Shimano M540 SPD pedal.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
They're light enough, give enough support, and are long lasting. Clipping in requires practice and could be an issue for some. Get the Shimano PD-A600 pedals if you think you might need more foot platform and don't mind a larger pedal.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Light, great bearings, don't look like an SPD pedal.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Clipping requires practice, some metal side plates might be nice to reduce wear.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
The Shimano PD-ES600 SPD pedals are very good: small, light enough and with enough foot support to be perfect for those who like to put in the miles but still walk around a bit.
About the tester
I usually ride: It varies as to the season. My best bike is: The one I\'m on at the time
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, cyclo cross, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Fun
Jo Burt has spent the majority of his life riding bikes, drawing bikes and writing about bikes. When he's not scribbling pictures for the whole gamut of cycling media he writes words about them for road.cc and when he's not doing either of those he's pedaling. Then in whatever spare minutes there are in between he's agonizing over getting his socks, cycling cap and bar-tape to coordinate just so. And is quietly disappointed that yours don't He rides and races road bikes a bit, cyclo-cross bikes a lot and mountainbikes a fair bit too. Would rather be up a mountain.