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Shimano PD-M540 Pedals Review for Cyclocross and Mountain Biking

Liam Hallam is a sports science graduate. He is also a keen cyclist and a lover of the Derbyshire Dales and Peak District.

The Shimano PD-M540 SPD Pedal

The Shimano PD-M540 SPD Pedal

The CyclingFitness Review Score

Shimano Clipless Mountain Bike Pedals Offering Value And Functionality

If you're new to clipless pedal systems on your mountain bike or are looking for a set of budget pedals for riding cyclocross during the winter, there are plenty of options to choose from and a lot of people trying to influence your decision.

The purpose of this review of the Shimano PD-M540 SPD Pedals is to offer insight into how the pedal works and how its capabilities translate for both mountain biking and cyclocross racing.

This review will concentrate on the performance and value aspects of the pedal to help you make an educated purchase of your next set of bicycle pedals.

The PD-M540 pedal is the second step along Shimano's double-sided mountain bike pedal ladder, ahead of their base model the PD-M520. The M540 builds on the success and value of the M520 by shedding 25g in weight and around 30 dollars in price on MRRP, though handy shoppers will always make significant savings purchasing online.

Dismounts and re-mounts are important within cyclocross racing.

Dismounts and re-mounts are important within cyclocross racing.

A Little About The Tester

How do you know this review is genuine and not some internet marketer trying to get you to buy a product? I ride cyclocross throughout the winter months and use the M540 pedals throughout the year on my mountain bike. I also use the cx bike on occasions for commuting during the summer on my Planet X Uncle John.

I will primarily review these pedals for cyclocross use. This combines everything you would need from a clipless pedal system to power transfer, the ease of entry/exit, to the requirement of shedding mud from the pedal body. All of these characteristics have relevance for mountain biking, though I also know of people who have used these pedals for road cycling as well.

The Shimano PD-M540 SPD Pedal combines value and functionality for beginner to experienced riders with long term durability. This is after two years of use.

The Shimano PD-M540 SPD Pedal combines value and functionality for beginner to experienced riders with long term durability. This is after two years of use.

Two Years in the Life of a Pair of Mountain Biking Pedals

I've been using my PD-M540 pedals on the cyclocross bike for around 2 years. I use them for both cyclocross racing and cross country rides through the local Sherwood Forest. I purchased them after destroying the spring action on a previous pair of Time Atac pedals.

After two years of heavy use and abuse they now seem to be on their way out. The cartridge bearings feel rough when I turn the pedal spindle on my handles, but they still turn can turn without a problem. Though they've never been serviced, I've been told that the bearings can be replaced if you choose. The pedals have been subject to a couple of winters. After riding in mud and water and after a recent heavy winter snow, the bearings are definitely roughened up.

Snow is great fun on a cx bike but it can have a deteriorating effect on bearings.

Snow is great fun on a cx bike but it can have a deteriorating effect on bearings.

Shimano PD-M540 SPD Pedals fitted to FSA Gosamer cranks on the cyclocross bike.

Shimano PD-M540 SPD Pedals fitted to FSA Gosamer cranks on the cyclocross bike.

Clip in and Clip Out Action

As a road cyclist, I'm always looking for a solid snap into place between cleat and pedal. There was something I always found distinctly spongey when clipping in my old Time Atac pedals so when replacing them, I wanted something with a more reassuring click into place.

Contact between cleat and pedal is relatively secure for a mountain bike pedal, and tension can be adjusted to add some firmness to the connection. More experienced riders will be looking to heighten the tension as I had to. I ramped mine up to the max to get the secure fit I desired.

It's perfectly adequate for mountain biking and cyclocross, though when compared to my road pedals the connection is nothing near what I would expect. I've read so many reviews of people using these pedals for road riding and feel the majority of those reviewers have not used a good quality set of road bike pedals. Someone will always argue that a mountain bike pedal is fine for road use, but for me, they just don't have the control and subsequent power transfer capabilities.

There is lots of space between the pedal body and axle for mud clearance and drip through on the PD-M540.

There is lots of space between the pedal body and axle for mud clearance and drip through on the PD-M540.

Performance in the Mud—Cyclocross Style

If you're racing cyclocross throughout the winter, your pedals need to be able to shed mud well as a result of the demands of the course. When the rain comes and muddy courses arrive, you need a pedal that isn't affected by the need to jump off and run through a quagmire.

The M540s feature lots of space between the pedal body and the axle for mud to drop between. The only time you really have a problem with these pedals is when the mud is particularly thick and gloopy. Then it will end up being compacted inside the pedal body, but this seems to be a problem among many mountain bike pedals. There are a few others (like the Crank Brothers Egg-Beater Pedals) that offer better mud shedding, but in reality, the PD-M540 offers adequate mud clearance for all.

What’s the Difference Between PD-M520 and PD-M540 Pedals?

If you're finding it hard to decide which to pick between the PD-M520 and M540, the main differences fall into categories of weight and hardware, as opposed to the actual performance aspects.

The M540 features a slimmed-down pedal body and a slightly slimmer pedal axle. This can only be fitted using a hex key (instead of a pedal wrench) which saves some weight over the 520 version, but that is about the extent of the differences. Pedal performance is almost identical, so if you're not worried about an additional 25 grams of weight plump from the 520 pedals, pick either one!