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I'm making a switch over to shimano pedals this year for cross and I'm trying to see if there is any difference in these two models.  I'm most concerned with their ability to clear mud and the easy of getting in and out.  I like that the 520 has pedal flats but I'm willing to forgo that if the 540 is a lot better in the mud.  



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Honest opinion: go with the XT pedals if you can pony up the $. The 520 weren't bad but the XT level feel smoother and clear mud better. Plus they are a little lighter but that was not a selling point for me. Speaking of mud the 520 is better at clearing the gunk. I enjoy the easy of spring tension adjustment on the Shimano pedals. If a race course is littered with running sections, I'll back off the tension screws a bit and find my way on/off the bike a little quicker. My XT's have over a years worth of CX races, gravel rides, and plenty of dirt and mud crammed through them and I've just felt the need to service them.


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