Shimano's Saint gruppo was introduced to the world 15 years ago, but it wasn't until late last year that a clipless pedal was added into the mix. The DX M647 had previously served as Shimano's de facto downhill pedal, but even though the basic design was still sound, that thick plastic body was starting to look dated compared to the thinner options hitting the market. Enter the M820.
The M820 looks (and feels) like it was built to take a beating, with a chromoly spindle, a wide aluminum body that can accept up to four traction pins per side, and a fixed SPD clip-in mechanism. The pedal uses the same cup and cone bearing system found throughout Shimano's lineup, which can easily be adjusted and greased should the need arise. The pedals weigh in at 545 grams, and retail for $160 USD.
Saint M820 Pedal Details
• Four replaceable pins on each side
• Platform dimensions: 99 x 79mm
• Weight: 545 grams
• Chromoly spindle, aluminum platform
• Float: 4-degrees
• MSRP: $160 USD
The M820s have a very solid feel to them, and the 545 gram weight displayed on my scale backed that up. For reference, Crankbrothers' Mallet DH pedals weigh 479 grams, HT's X2 pedals check in at 460 grams, and the tried-and-true XT trail pedals are 408 grams. Of course, we're talking about a pedal that's designed to smack into objects at World Cup race pace and keep functioning – I don't think shaving grams was too high on Shimano's list of priorities.
I'm a fan of that extra-sturdy construction, and I'm also glad there's a fixed, rather than spring-loaded clip-in mechanism. That means there aren't as many moving parts to wear out, which is what you want on something that's going to be dragged through mud and regularly pounded into the ground. The thin body keeps it from snagging on rocks and roots, and even with the extra length and width I didn't find myself hitting obstacles any more often than I typically do with a set of smaller XT pedals.
The M820's wide platform is easy to find underfoot, and clipping in results in a distinct, crisp “click.” As with the rest of Shimano's SPD pedals, the release tension can be adjusted with a 3mm Allen key. I ran my pedals with the tension almost exactly in the middle and didn't have any issues getting in or out, but there was plenty of range to go tighter if I wanted even more security. There's a reason this design is emulated so often – it works extremely well, time and time again.
The design doesn't shed mud quite as well as Crankbrothers' Mallet DH, but unless you're riding in the supper gloppy, sticky clay, it usually only takes a stomp or two to knock the muck off and get clipped in.
A look at how the platform size compares to the sole of a Shimano AM7 shoe, and to an XT pedal.
Is the wider platform noticeable compared to a more 'trail-style' clipless pedal? It really depends on what shoes you're wearing. With a stiffer soled shoe it's not going to make much of a difference, but the beauty of the M820's design is that you can wear slightly softer soled, skate-style shoes and use the wider platform for support when landing off a drop or pushing hard through rougher sections of trail.
What about those pins? Well, I'd say they're more for show than anything, which is often the case with a pedal with a fixed clip-in mechanism. I started off with all four pins installed, but removed the back two because they were hanging up on the sole of my shoes and making it harder to unclip. It is possible to use washers to adjust the pin height, but it was easier to remove them all together. I kept the front two in place, thinking they might provide a little extra traction if I ended up with my foot on the pedal and not clipped in. I didn't notice that ever happening, and I'm sure I'd be fine without them, but the option to have traction pins is there if you want.Durability
After a few solid months of use the M820 pedals are spinning just as silky smooth as when I took them out of the box, and there was still plenty of grease when I pulled them apart. There are the expected scuffs and scratches on the body, but they're still looking good considering what they've been through. In my experience, Shimano's clipless pedals tend to be extremely low maintenance, and so far that's the case with this set as well. I'll keep trouncing them through the winter and report back if any issues arise, but I'd be really surprised if anything changed. Pinkbike's Take