Best Gear for Gravel Rides

1) Shimano XT PD-M8000 Pedal

Road pedals and shoes work fine for riding well-groomed dirt roads, but on adventurous gravel rides, you’re better off with mountain bike pedals and shoes. Off-road pedals resist clogging with mud and debris and are easier to get in and out of in tricky sections. Walking, and even dabbing, is far easier with treaded soles too.

My favorite pedal for gravel riding is the Shimano XT PD-M8000. Being the cross-country pedal in the XT line, it lacks the outer cage platform of the XT trail pedal, which is less necessary on gravel roads where you have more time to clip in before a rock or tree tries to kill you. But the PD-M8000 maintains a large interface with the shoe’s outsole, providing excellent stability and power transfer that feels close to a road setup. It also plays nice with a variety of shoe treads, and has class-leading feel—and ease—of entry and exit. Although not the best choice for extreme mud, the PD-M8000 clears itself far better than it looks like it would. And with durability and performance that’s nearly indistinguishable from the pricier XTR version, there’s no need to upgrade unless you’re a weight weenie (the XTR version is 13 grams lighter).—Ron Koch

Weight: 390g/pair (with cleats and hardware)
Price: $120 at amazon.com

2) Yokozuna Motoko Road Disc Brake

Yokozuna’s Motoko disc brake offers an affordable upgrade over the mechanical disc brakes found on most lower-priced ’cross and gravel bikes. These are the best cable-actuated disc brakes I’ve used, with power, modulation, and feel that’s on par with good full-hydraulic systems. In dry, muddy, and snowy conditions, the Motokos were quiet, with a smooth pull and firm engagement. The caliper is lightweight, compact, and attractive.

Most mechanical disc brakes use a cable-actuated system to push one moving pad against the rotor, which presses the rotor into a fixed pad. This can be noisy and cause a mushy feel. On the Motoko, the brake cable pulls…

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