The successor to Shimano's XTR M970 pedal is the M980 that you see in the picture to the left of these words. We took delivery of the all-new XTR groupset recently and the pedals have been put into use straight away, here's our first ride impressions.
What's new? At first glance, it doesn't look like much other than a mild facelift. But delve deeper and we discover Shimano has managed to find 15g to shave off, bringing the weight down to 310g for a pair.
However, while the weight loss is impressive indeed (just where do they find the weight to shed?) what is more interesting, unless you really fret about every excess gram on your bike, is the increased pedal contact surface area. Shimano claims it’s up by a massive 270%, which means that the shoe, even though the area of contact is small compared to a platform clipless pedal, should be supported more by the pedal.
Mud shedding has been improved as well. The body has been opened up and the axle casing is more of an oval shape to help mud find its way through and out of the pedal, avoiding those situations when the pedal is rammed with mud and you can’t clip in.
Taking the pedals out of the smart packaging, the bearings feel positively silky, there’s no detection of roughness. As with the rest of the new XTR groupset, the pedals look sharp with a dark grey finish contrasting with the machined surfaces, and nicely match the groupset, as you would expect.
There’s something a little bit special about fitting an XTR component to your bike. The groupset has always been the one most lusted over by mountain bikers, and despite stiff competition XTR still retains a rightful place at the top of the pile. These pedals proved no exception, drawing admiring glances even for such a humble out of sight component.
During our first couple of rides the pedals performed as smoothly as we fully expected them too. Smooth bearings and a solid and reassuring clip in. And while the improvements in the weight department and mud shedding ability and lower stack height are all good, it’s the increased pedal platform that was immediately noticeable. The pedals gave a more confident feel when scrabbling up the rough and rocky climbs around the Peak District where surefooted pedaling is needed.
So, the new XTR pedal is not a huge leap forward but marks another fine evolution of the best clipless pedal out there. We’ll be testing them continuously over the coming winter months and will report back in the New Year with a full review.