Two hundred+ hardcore off-road winter miles.
Better? You bet
Every now and then something new really is an improvement over the older version. Massive product developments are usually the exception rather than the rule though. Shimano's brand new PD-M959 pedal is an exceptional case. A significantly better pedal than any of its predecessors. The two main improvements address Shimano SPD's biggest weaknesses: clogging and ease of entry/exit.
A significantly more open design means mud literally falls out of the pedal. We rode several rides with one of the new M-959 pedals and one of the older M-858 pedals under the other foot. The M-858 clogged every single ride while the M-959 remained spotless every time. The new, mud-shedding design is aided with a non-stick fluoride coating on the removable claws. It's worth saying that in the short time we've had these pedals the claws have become fairly heavily marked. No doubt most of the fluoride is gone now but there's still absolutely no sign of any clogging problems. These are without doubt the best mud-shedding pedals we've used. Ever.
Please release me
So they don't clog. But you can get in and out of them too. The claws stand well proud of anything else on the pedal and this makes it a cinch to locate your foot on the cleat and clip in. And with no dirt clogging the claws (the cleats on the bottom of our shoes seem to be as dirty as always) clipping out is instinctive. Float remains the same 5deg that all Shimano pedals have.
The main body of the pedal is aluminium with steel claws, steel axle and sealed(ish) bearings. Grumbles first: the traditional 6mm allen bolt has been junked in favour of an 8mm one. Okay, this is the top of the range racing pedal. And the 8mm fixing is not really a problem as long as you don't have any problems on the trail. We haven't, in heavy use, and don't expect you will either. The only other glitch is that the tension adjusting bolt has a washer on it which rattles, although only loud enough to hear when the pedal is off the bike. All moaning is now over.
Pick of the pops?
Everything indicates that Shimano have done a cracking job with these pedals. We've used them everywhere: grit, clay, sandstone, gloop, sticky gloop, etc. Not once have had the slightest bit of clogging. The difference between these and our other Shimano SPD pedals is frankly remarkable. And the really excellent news is that we've had fairly heavy hints that these improvements will be seen further down the product lines in the future.
- In days gone by the only single release cleat available was the SH-51.
- When released the M-858 pedal had a new, specifically designed single release cleat the SH-52.
- The new M-959 uses the old single release cleat, the SH-51.The SH-52 cleat is now only used with the M-858 pedal.
- Ben Sutcliffe, a product manager at Madison Cycles, recommends all other mountain bikers, with the exception of SPD-R pedal users, should use the SH-51, single release cleat.
- In reality you can probably get away with using any of the cleats in any of the pedals but that would make for a boring cleat compatibility box wouldn't it?