HT is probably best known for their many platform pedal offerings, but it's the company's new lightweight cross-country pedal that's reviewed here. A pair of the pint-sized Leopard M1 pedals weigh just 299 grams on my scale, and the tiny CNC machined body is home to a proprietary clip-in mechanism that only works with HT's cleats. The are two options to choose from: the $229.99 USD M1T model that features a set of titanium spindles and weigh 252 grams (claimed), or the standard M1s reviewed below that spin on steel spindles and retail for a more reasonable $129.99 USD.
Leopard M1 Details
• Intended use: cross-country / trail
• CNC aluminum pedal body
• Wide tension adjustment range
• Needle bearing / IGUS bushing
• Proprietary HT cleats (4° or 8° float)
• Cleats fit SPD bolt pattern
• Steel (tested) or titanium spindles
• Eleven colour options
• Weight: 299 grams (steel, actual)
• MSRP: $129.99 USD (steel spindle), $229.99 USD (titanium spindle)
It seems as though the majority of riders who clip-in choose either Shimano-style pedals that employ an SPD-compatible cleat, or something from Crankbrothers that require their own cleats. HT's pedal design features their proprietary clip-in mechanism, which calls for the use of HT's own cleats. Two different cleat options are available, with the pedals coming from HT with a set of their X1 cleats that offer 4° of float. Do you think your knees would prefer a bit more freedom? The X1F cleats, which can be purchased separately, supply a more forgiving 8° of float.
The clip-in mechanism itself works on the same wound-spring principle as other designs out there, although the shape of the rear jaw and the forward wire is different than what you'll see on other pedals. Tension is adjustable by using a 3mm hex key to preload the spring, and a visual indicator for each mechanism makes it easy to be sure that each one is running the same amount of tension. And speaking of tension, the M1s offer a massive range of adjustment, going from easy to get into and out of all the way to the rider feeling like he might be trapped for life. This should make the M1s good for both intermediate riders and advanced riders who are looking for a more secure feeling.
The CNC machined aluminum body is home to three different bearing setups that HT refers to as their EVO+ system. An IGUS bushing is used on the inboard end, much like some other pedals out there, but HT has gone with a needle bearing in the center of the pedal body rather than another bushing, a standard sealed bearing, or nothing at all. Finally, the outboard end of each pedal is home to a tiny three-part thrust bearing and an even smaller flat steel spring to provide a touch of preload.
The aluminum endcap can be removed from the pedal body with a 6mm hex key, and bearing tension adjustments can be made with a thin-walled 8mm socket if need be. I had trouble tracking down a thin-walled socket for some reason (most hardware stores should have them), but it took only five minutes on the grinder to make my own.
Entry into the M1s happens much in the same way as an SPD pedal, despite the cleat and locking mechanism design being different. Toe in, then push down with the heel, which is a motion that will come naturally to anyone who's already used clipless pedals in the past. There's also an extremely positive 'ka-chung' when you lock into them, leaving zero doubt as to if you're secure or not, and the same goes for exiting the M1s.
I've been using them with HT's X1 cleats that supply 4° of float, although it's hard to detect any free movement of the foot with these cleats - I literally thought they had zero float until I clipped a shoe into the pedal with my hand and rocked it back and forth. It's there, but 4° sure doesn't feel like very much, so people who are sensitive to this should probably opt for the X1F cleat that offers a more forgiving 8° of float. The funny thing is that I've used other pedals that offer the same 4° of float and found them to be fine, so I wouldn't be surprised if the M1s actually have less float than HT claims.
Just as with HT's other clipless pedals, the M1s offer a massive range of entry/release tension adjustment, with riders able to go from them being easy to exit to tight enough that shoe removal might be needed if you want to dismount. It may sound like I'm joking, but using a 3mm hex key to max out the tension results in incredibly high entry and release resistance, enough so that I'm more likely to be granted entry into the White House than entry into the M1s. Backing the adjustment screw out by two turns resulted in a much more useable setting, one that still provides a way more secure hold than what a standard SPD pedal supplies, but also not so much that I couldn't get out of them before I tipped over after stalling out on a technical climb.
In fact, I don't remember unclipping accidentally a single time while using the M1s, whereas I remember a foot coming unstuck from my XT and XTR pedals on nearly every ride, a scary thing when it happens at the wrong time. Of course, this comes down to riding style and how one uses their feet and legs, as I know people who run their Shimano pedals at minimum tension and never have an issue. You'll need to have the legs of Chris Hoy if you plan using the M1's with the spring tension maxed, but using the tension indicator windows to make sure that all four mechanisms are set to about three-quarters of max means that you'll never come unclipped by accident again.
My M1 test pedals might look like they've been through a war, but all damage is purely cosmetic and only to the aluminum pedal body. The left-side pedal did develop a touch of play in the bearing system, however, and I had to use a thin-walled (aka ground down) 8mm socket to snug up the locking nut that's hidden under the aluminum cap on the end of the pedal body. Other than that small adjustment, it's been smooth sailing. A pair of XTR pedals comes in at 305 grams, while the M1s weigh 299 grams.
It probably makes sense to compare the M1s to what many riders would consider the gold standard: Shimano's XTR pedal. Let's do that. Since we're talking about cross-country pedals, we pretty much have to talk about weight, and the steel spindled M1s actually come in a touch lighter than the XTR pedals, at 299 grams versus 305 grams for a pair. The titanium spindled version, the M1T, is even lighter at a claimed 252 grams, although that 47-gram weight loss costs an extra $100 USD. Hey, it's your money... When it comes to price, HT beats Shimano when talking strictly about MSRP, with the steel spindle M1s retailing for $129.99 USD while the XTRs have a sticker price of $179.99 USD.
As far as dimensions go, the outer end of an XTR pedal measures 15mm tall, while the M1s come in at 17mm.
Both the XTR and the M1s sport adjustable bearing tension, but how they go about it is drastically different. While Shimano uses a locking cup and cone setup, the inside of the HT pedals are home to an IGUS bushing on the inboard end, a roller bearing in the middle, and next is a three-part thrust bearing with spring-loaded tension applied to it that's adjusted via a lock nut at the end of the axle. Both setups seem to work well, although simply turning an 8mm nut is a lot easier than having to remove the axle and tinker with the cup and cone system of the Shimano pedals. Pinkbike’s Take:
|The Leopard M1s are lighter, cost less, and offer a wider range of release tension adjustment than Shimano's XTR pedals, but it's really that last point that makes them a winner in my mind. Being able to dial up the tension until I stop unclipping by accident means that I'll be keeping the M1s around for quite awhile longer. My one issue is that the stock X1 cleats seem to offer basically no float, and HT should either include both options or sell the M1s with only the X1F cleats that offer 8 degrees of float. - Mike Levy|
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