When it comes to clipless mountain bike pedals, two brands have long ruled the market: Shimano and Crank Brothers. Biggest share probably goes to Shimano SPDs for their tried-and-true clipping mechanism, as well as the ubiquity of pedals and cleats. But Crank Brothers has a devoted (rabid?) following for the simplicity of design, ergonomics, and ease of use.
There are other options, but none have had the chops to challenge the big two. Until now.
We’ve been riding the Time Speciale 12 pedals for half a year, and we are convinced these could unseat Shimano and Crank Brothers from pedal dominance. They certainly have become our go-to clipless option.
But wait a minute, you might be saying: Time has been around for decades, and the Speciale line dates to 2019. Why the interest now?
Simply put, SRAM acquired Time pedals in 2021 and has spent the last two years integrating the company into its operations and ecosystem. So while these have always been great pedals, they are now great pedals with the manufacturing and marketing might of the current king of mountain biking drivetrains behind them.
Buying power aside, what makes the Speciales so good is the convergence of a simple design with a robust list of features.
The Speciale 12s unibody aluminum build feels solid and bombproof. And the brushed anodized finish (red, blue, or gray) is super sleek looking. Even after months of bashing a set into rocks and roots, they’re basically unscathed. And the clipping mechanism is as buttery smooth as day one.
Billed as enduro pedals, these have a large cage (70 x 90mm) and eight removable grip pins for security. That might sound like overkill for day-to-day riding, but the large platform and added traction is ideal for Sedona because they’re a big target when you’re starting and stopping technical obstacles. And while some people prefer cageless designs for weight savings, the support of a platform underfoot protects the clipping mechanism and prevents sore feet on long days.
What makes the Speciales so…ahem…special is how they stack up with the competition.
One of Crank Brothers’ big selling points is its pedals’ float, meaning you can move your foot around a bit while clipped in, which is easier on the knees. Crank Brother’s open frame design is also a big benefit as it sheds mud and remains operational even in the nastiest conditions. Meanwhile, SPDs are popular for their durability and the micro-adjustable clipping mechanism that allows riders to increase or decrease clipping tension—features missing on Crank Brothers.
The Time Speciales 12 tick all these boxes.
They offer 5 degrees of float (compared to Shimano’s 4 and Crank Brothers’ 6). But unlike Crank Brothers, which can feel vague to clip in and out, the Times make a firm, tactile click on entry and exit, even when tension is dialed down to the easiest setting. They feel even more secure and certain than SPDs. Meanwhile the clip mechanism and pedal cage are wide open and jettison mud as well as Crank Brothers and better than Shimano. They are competitive on weight, too: 404 grams per pair, compared to 419 grams for Crank Brothers Mallet Es and 438 grams for Shimano PD-M8120 XTs. (Shimano’s comparable enduro pedal, The Saint, tipped the scale at a whopping 546 grams.)
“They’re lighter, they clip better, they’re durable, and they’re more adjustable,” Thunder Mountain Bikes owner Mike Raney said in discussing the pedals. “What’s the downside?”
All that performance doesn’t come cheap. At $270, these pedals are around double the cost of Shimano XTs ($130) and some 50 percent more than Shimano XTRs ($190) and Crank Brother Mallet Es ($180). Does the added performance merit the cost—maybe, maybe not.
Will SRAM be able to bring the price down with its economies of scale? We’ll have to wait and see.
Are they compelling of their own accord. Definitely.
Alternatively, Time also offers the Speciale 8, with the same aluminum body design and slick ano finish in a slightly smaller platform (64x80mm) with just four grip pins per pedal. At $158, these might just be the SPD killers.