There are very few items on a mountain bike which you can just set and forget. And if something was to come pretty close, it would be the higher range Shimano SPD clipless pedals, notably from the M540 up to the Shimano XT and XTR models. Save for a bit of a clean up and light lubrication of the spring now and then, they just keep working. They might not be your choice of pedal, but after a couple of years moving away to other options on a number of occasions in the last 18 years of using clipless pedals – I always end up back on Shimano.
Shimano SPD clipless pedals do run on bearings though, and they do still need some maintenance. So here’s a run through taking the body off and greasing and adjusting the bearing.
You’ll know if your pedals need this as the body will either be hard to move on the axle, noisy, or have play. Or all three.
Get the right tools at hand
Make sure you have everything you need. For these Shimano XT pedals we need the following:
- 8mm allen key
- 7, 10 and 17mm spanner. These will chnage depending on the model pedal. XTR pedals need a 7,8 and 15m
- Fresh grease and some rags
- A bench vice is really useful, otherwise a large shifting spanner, multigrips on Knipex will hold the pedal body for you.
Remove the axle assembly from the Shimano SPD pedal
If you do have a vice, clamp the pedal body in it. Or use your big shifter or otherwise. Undo the axle. The right hand pedal is reverse threaded, the left hand is normal. The body usually tells you which way to tighten it (unless it has rubbed off) so just go the other way to loosen it.
Wipe it all down
Clean up the axle assembly. Unless it’s really filthy you only need to wipe it clean.
You can get some fresh grease on the inner bearings now, they’re underneath that cylinder. A grease gun makes it a lot cleaner and more precise.
Open up the outer bearings
I’ll preface this with the suggestion that you only really, truly need to do this if your bearings are in bad shape and there’s lots of play. It’s pretty easy to jostle things out of place and lose bearings.
Hold the axle steady with the 8mm allen key and undo the top nut with your 7mm spanner, then the 10mm (or 8mm) underneath.
Don’t take off more than this. Just wipe the bearings clean.
Wipe some fresh grease over the bearings, move them around, wipe it, and do it again.
Now rebuild it!
Put the main nut back down, so it’s not even snug. Just thread it down until it makes contact. This is your top bearing race so you only want it just on the bearings for now.
Now put the top nut back on, with a drop of locktite on the threads. This is the tricky bit as you’re adjusting the bearing. The 7mm top nut will ‘lock’ against the lower. So adjust the lower nut by hand and feel for play. Then tighten the 7mm down to lock it in place. Check it feels smooth, but has no play.
Clean up the pedal body
Before you put it put it back together, clean up the pedal body. You might use a spray cleaner, an old toothbrush or something else. But really you want a light degreaser, then wipe it all down.
Don’t forget to get a drop of an oil-based wet lube on the springs once you’re done.
Thread the axle back in
I actually put some more grease on the threads on the inside of the body and a smear over the whole assembly before refitting. Note which way it threads in, and cinch it up tight.
Use the vice, or your shifter or Knipex to get it tight enough.
Now you should be all done. But, check for play or tightness. If it’s too tight, you’ll have to remove the bodies again and back off the 10mm (or 8mm if XTR) bolt a tiny bit. And vice-versa. And if it’s a bit loose, snug it up a tiny bit.
Hopefully you’re good to go!