There is a lot more to mountain bike pedals than just a place where you can put your feet when cycling. This critical component will keep your feet in proper posture. These pedals allow you to transfer your force to the bike. If you’re not comfortable with them, your entire biking experience wont be great. So, if you are in search of which mountain bike pedals are best, clipless or flats, then read on to find all about them.
If you have bought a new MTB, then you will most likely not receive great stock pedals. Therefore, you need to replace them because usually they are made of cheap plastic. A good quality pair of mountain bike pedals can keep your feet securely in place.
So let’s begin answering your question of which mountain bike pedals are best, by having a look at their types!
Different kinds of Mountain Bike Pedals
To investigate what pedals are best for mountain biking, we need to look at their different types. There are two different types of mountain bike pedals: one is clipless, and the other one is flat. The flat pedals are also called platform pedals. Neither of them is superior to the other, and they both have their merits and demerits.
Clipless Mountain Bike Pedals
The clipless mountain bike pedals have a misleading name because you do need to clip your feet to the pedal for better grip and control. These pedals come with a cleat clip into the body of this pedal, and it screws into a compatible pair of shoes. Your shoe will remain secure in place until you decide to twist your foot sideways for releasing.
With this MTB pedal, your feet cannot break contact from your bike’s pedals when you are going through tough terrains. On the downside, they slow you down getting your foot out in time to prevent a crash. As the bike is attached to you, in case you crash, it’ll also go down with you.
These pedals are designed to release those cleats in case of a crash. But you will see the bikes are still attached to the rider in many crash situations where the feet are still on the pedals.
In the past, people thought it is a more efficient practice to have your feet clipped to the pedals. This myth has been time and time again proved to be wrong, but cross country racers and road cyclists are still among the believers.
Flat Mountain Bike Pedals
These pedals come with a wide platform and feature pins to grip the sole of your shoes. You need to buy special kinds of shoes to work with these pedals. These shoes have a very flat sole, and it is made of grippy rubber. A major advantage of these pedals over their clipless counterparts is that you get to put your foot down on the ground conveniently and quickly.
Hence, most novice riders begin with flat pedals as these pedals give them a more secure feeling. However, this is a disadvantage, as well. When you’re riding over rough terrain, you might end up with your feet disconnected from the pedal. And the pins present on these pedals can be hazardous in case of a crash.
Clipless Vs Flats Mountain Bike Pedals
The simple answer to this question is neither one of them. Clipless Mountain bike pedals will keep your feet attached and in place. They don’t help when you need to put your foot down on the ground. On the other hand, flat mountain bike pedals keep your feet free to quickly place them on the ground. Still, they are not as efficient as the clipless pedals on rough terrain.
At this moment, you might have a feeling that clipless pedals are better overall. Nevertheless, you can apply various techniques to learn with the help of platform pedals. It is because clipless pedals allow you to cheat.
A typical example here is bunny hop. Clipless pedals will allow you to do this trick easily because as you pull your feet up, the pedals, along with the rear wheel will come up with them.
No proper bunny hopping needs a highly explosive action as well as sweeping back with your feet. You won’t be able to learn the technique properly when you are using clipless pedals. While using platform pedals, you must do the bunny hop with a proper technique, or you won’t get any air time.
Several MTB racers prefer to use clipless pedals, and the trend usually dictates that these pedals must be better than the platform pedals. But the best riders incorporate the use of both these pedals to make sure that they are riding correctly and only use clipless during race times for extra security through tough terrains. Nevertheless, if you need to choose only one, then it is better to go with platform pedals.
How do I Choose Bike Pedals?
No matter what pedals are best for mountain biking, there are some important considerations you must keep in mind before finalizing your purchase. We have listed them as follows:
It is usually the case with most of the components: with more pedal weight, your bike gets heavier, and you have to push around all of it while riding. Lighter pedals are expensive, but some pedals do feature titanium axles and magnesium bodies to keep the load off from your bike as well as your pocket.
At some stage, your pedal will get smacked into a rock, whether you like it or not. And over time, it will happen again and again. Therefore, you need a good quality pair of mountain bike pedals that can handle this much abuse without breaking apart.
All kinds of bearings tend to wear out after some time, and similar will happen with the bearings in your mountain bike pedals. If you can easily replace them, then it will save you from a lot of frustration in the future. Therefore, keep this aspect in mind when buying a pair of MTB pedals.
Axle width is the square interface for the pedal spanner, and using axles without pedal flats means that the pedal platform will fit tighter into those crank arms. It can increase ground clearance, and you can make your strokes more efficient. But your shoe will be closer to the crank arms, and it can wear out your shoes as well as the crank arms.
Another very important feature that most riders tend to overlook is the ability of a pair of mountain bike pedals to disperse mud as you ride. Mountain bikes see a lot of muddy trails. This mud can cause a lot of trouble for various components in your bike along with the pedals.
Clipless pedals can get mud clogged into the mechanism. Flat pedals also have machined spaces in them where mud can get stuck. This situation can weigh you down. A good pair will have a design to keep the mud-shedding off as you continue to ride.
Clipless Pedal Considerations
Apart from the points mentioned above, when purchasing clipless pedals, you also need to keep the following points in mind.
You should choose a pair of clipless pedals that make the clipping process effortless. Clipping in and out of your pedals shouldn’t take much time. Some pedals require you to put in a set amount of force while others come with some sort of adjustability.
It refers to the extent of rotation of your shoes that you need to unclip them from the pedals. With the float feature, you can rotate your foot slightly when pedaling, and it is very helpful in various leg and knee issues.
Some of the clipless pedals only come with a clip. Others feature a pedal body that resembles a flat pedal, especially around the clip. The latter is more popular with the gravity riders because these pedals provide you with better support. These pedals provide you with enough of a platform to keep your feet in place if you don’t clip your feet back in.
Flat Pedal Consideration
There are some considerations specific to flat pedals as well. And these are as follows.
Shape and Size of the Platform
Go for a pedal with a broader platform that can cover most of the area of your shoe sole. But its parts shouldn’t stick out of your feet. The best platforms in terms of grip are concave in shape either by design or body with shorter pins in the middle and longer ones on the edges.
Height is integral as well because flatter pedals tend to be closer to the ground, and they are more likely to strike objects like rocks etc. With time, as a pedal gets thinner, achieving concave shape becomes difficult, and you can counter this loss of grip with longer pins. These longer pins will make the platform wider once again.
Metal pins or grub screws are there on flat pedals that allow you to stick your shoe sole. The pins should be screwed in from the underside of these pedals. Otherwise, these pins will get damaged with rock strikes, and you cannot replace them.
Longer pins are better for grip, but they are more dangerous when crashes occur. You will have to deal with scarred shins a lot.
For your further guidance concerning which mountain bike pedals are best, we would like to mention the third type of MTB pedals too. These are the combination or combo pedals. These mountain bike pedals combine the advantages of both platform and clipless pedals by pairing a wide platform with a clipping mechanism.
Now, these combo pedals are available in two different styles. One style features a clip on one side and a platform on the other side of the pedal. The other style comes with clip integration into the platform of the pedals on both sides.
The combo pedal combines the positives of both clipless and flat pedals. But it presents you with a unique demerit as well. The primary trade-off here is the weight penalty. You might also find it very difficult to engage the clips on the clipless-only side.
As the clipless side weighs more than the platform pedal side, the clipless side will always be pointing downwards, and engaging it becomes far more cumbersome. It can be very annoying out on the trail. But combo pedals are also great if you use your MTB on ranging terrains.
Some people prefer to go for a platform pedal on one side and a clipless pedal on the other side. This way, they get a chance to use one of their feet to quickly place it on the ground while the other remains tightly in position on the pedal. You are getting the best of both worlds.
But of course, maybe you need to place your other foot on the ground to prevent the crash! And, when going downhill on a trail, one of your feet will keep getting out of its place, which can be somewhat frustrating.
You might end up making a decision tilted towards the clipless pedals. But in reality, neither one of them is superior to the other. No matter which mountain bike pedals are best in your case, you must decide based on your comfort level.
Both types of mountain bike pedals have their unique pros and cons, and they both are useful in various scenarios. It just boils down to what your preferences are and how skillful you are in using one particular type.
Therefore, we recommend using both types of pedals, the platforms, and the clipless pedals. This way, you can easily manage the combos as well. Just be sure to go for lightweight pedals. They might be a bit expensive, but they are truly worth every penny.