The Bike List

Shimano M540 off-road pedals £55

Tested by Jon Adams, tester for The Bike List

If you're looking to invest in a pair of off-road SPD pedals or upgrade the set that came with your bike, then the Shimano M540 is a great mid-range buy. For the pair, they're only 25g heavier than the top-of-the-range XTR M970 pedals, and they pretty much share the design and spec of the XT M770 model. At 352g, they're light and the adjustable clip-in mechanism is firm and positive whether you're getting in or getting out. The layout is clean and fuss-free to encourage mud and grime to fall away rather than clog up the mechanism, and the sprung clip and tensioning system is the same design as the one found on the M970, so performance and looks are sound.

Entry-level pedals require a thin, open-ended 15mm spanner to fit or remove them, but you won't find any spanner flats on the M540s. Instead, there's an 8mm hex socket on the inside of the threaded spindle (just like the XT and XTR models above it), and this provides an excellent way of attaching and removing the pedals. Simply pass the hex wrench through the hole in the crank arm and do them up. You may want to check your multi tool has a 8mm key before venturing out on a long ride or tour (many of the small and light tools don't), but once this has been sorted you don't need to worry about pedal problems.

Before fitting them, though, one important step often overlooked by riders and bike shops is to grease the threads. Crank arms are alloy and the pedal spindle is cromoly steel, so you want a layer of anti-seize grease between the two to aid removal and prevent the different metals 'cold welding' to each other. The best stuff for this is copper grease (pop into Halfords and get a small tube of Copaslip or Copper Ease), and a small amount applied to the threads will stop the metals corroding and seizing. Once you've done this, you don't need to tighten them with too much torque - a short hex key will give you more than enough. Many people (and bike shops) do up pedals way too tight, but the purpose of the left-hand and right-hand threads is to prevent them undoing themselves with the normal pedaling motion, so it's daft to go overboard with your pedal torque.  

Once they're on, you can adjust the spring tensioner with a 3mm hex key and get the release as tight or loose as you want it according to your experience with SPDs. If you're new to clipless systems, then a very loose setting is sensible until you've got thoroughly used to flicking your heel outwards to disengage your foot. Tight SPDs and newbies don't mix well - especially in traffic or on technical off-road terrain, so have the mechanism just tight enough to prevent your foot detaching when you're applying a bit of power with one foot, and pulling up with the other. As a precaution, it also makes sense to unclip for difficult sections where you're likely to dab a foot - you can normally get enough unclipped foot on the pedal to see you through.

The M540s offer SPDs on both sides of the pedal, so clipping in is really quick and easy, and the platform is secure enough to apply lots of power when you need it. A set of cleats is included in the box, so you just need a 4mm hex wrench and a pair of shoes to bolt them to, and if you want them for after dark use, you can get the SM-PD22 accessory that clips in to one side of the pedal and adds a reflector to the front and back.

For £55 (or around the £40 mark if you shop around) these give all the benefits of the best Shimano off-road design yet come in at less than half the price of the XTR M970 units. Of course, you don't get the XTR badge on the side or the street cred that goes with it, but if you can live without those things, and aren't worried about the extra 2g these weigh compared to the XT M770 models, then these are the pedals to get.

Buy from

Shimano says:

Shimano's lightest off-road pedals featuring proven designs that work in real world conditions. Built on the Shimano's legacy of Quality, Dependability & Endurance

  • Compact dual sided SPD pedal designed for everyday use at good value price
  • Stable platform can be used with any type of SPD shoe and provides support for the foot
  • Mud repelling design is suitable for year round use
  • Cr-Mo spindle and low maintenance sealed bearing cartridge axle
  • Cleat tension adjustment
  • Weight: 352 grams per pair
  • Model Number - PD-M540 
  • Spindle Thread - BC 9/16" x 20 T.P.I.
  • Pedal Body Material - aluminum / barrel finish
  • Reflector - SM-PD22

Find out more

At a glance

Verdict Quality, mid-range off-road SPD pedal from Shimano. With an uncluttered, mud-shedding mechanism and a design that’s shared with the top-of-the-range offering, it’s hard to justify spending more.