Mountain Bike Pedals – Flats vs Clipless

The Shimano PD-M520 is one of the most popular mountain bike pedals out there due to its simplicity and reliability.
The Shimano PD-M520 is one of the most popular mountain bike pedals out there due to its simplicity and reliability.

Bike Pedals An integral part of your connection to the trail. With so many different options, including the age-old debate between flat and clipless pedals, choosing the right mountain bike pedals can be a daunting task. Whether you’re looking to equip a new bike, want to upgrade, or try something new, we’ve analyzed the pros and cons to help you make a more informed decision about how to choose mountain bike pedals. , to help you get the most out of your mountain bike pedals. your revolution. 

Types of Mountain Bike Pedals

There are two main types of mountain bike pedals. Flat or platform pedals and clipless pedals. Most people are familiar with flat pedals or platform pedals. These are on countless bicycles. Clipless pedals, on the other hand, are a bit confusing because they are functional “clip-in” bike pedals that use cleats to connect your shoes to the pedals. Read this article to help you choose the best mountain bike pedals for you. 

Flat vs Clipless Mountain Bike Pedals

There are many things to consider when choosing flat or clipless pedals for your mountain bike. It’s not that one style is objectively better than the other. Both have advantages and disadvantages. In general, flat pedals are good for beginner riders, riders who do tricks and jumps often, and who don’t want to have the obligation to get pinched. Clipless pedals, on the other hand, are great for everyday riders who want the security of not slipping off their pedals, or for riders who want maximum efficiency when pedaling. Here are some pros and cons of flat and clipless pedals. 

Reasons to Choose Flat MTB Pedals

  • You value being able to take your foot off the pedals and put your foot down at any time
  • You are a beginner rider
  • You do a lot of tricks or slopestyle riding
  • You’re riding slippery, wet terrain with unpredictable traction
  • You’re scared of the commitment of clipless pedals
  • You don’t want to buy dedicated mountain bike shoes
The Shimano PD-M520 is one of the most popular mountain bike pedals out there due to its simplicity and reliability.
The Shimano PD-M520 is one of the most popular mountain bike pedals out there due to its simplicity and reliability.

Reasons to Choose Clipless MTB Pedals

  • You value efficiency over convenience
  • You want to be locked on while riding rough terrain
  • You are okay with the learning curve
  • You want better control of your bike

How to Choose Flat or Platform Mountain Bike Pedals

Flat or platform pedals on a bicycle are familiar to most cyclists. These pedals have a flat platform so you can ride them with any type of shoe. Flat pedals do not have cleats, cages, or clips that hold them to the pedals. You can hop on and off as you like. Flat mountain bike pedals have little spikes called pins that keep your shoes from slipping off the pedals – a painful and scary experience. Most novice mountain bikers choose to use flat pedals because they are more comfortable, don’t require special shoes, and require less effort. There are some important features to consider when choosing the right flat pedals for you. These are described below. 

Flat Pedal Material – Metal vs Composite

Flat pedals are typically made of metal or composite materials such as nylon and various plastics. These materials have advantages and disadvantages. Flat metal pedals are durable. Resistant to stones and other pedal impacts that can scratch or damage composite pedals. Similarly, metals are harder, which allows for better power transfer. Composite pedals, on the other hand, work well enough for the low price. 

Flat Pedal Size

The next thing to consider is the size of your platform. The larger the pedals, the more evenly the force is distributed to them when pedaling or standing, making the ride more comfortable. The bigger the mountain bike pedals, the less likely you are to slip off them. However, if your platform is larger than your shoe, or if you can’t get all the pins in place properly, your pedals may be too big. Many pedals come in multiple sizes, so you can find the right size for your foot and shoe size. 

Flat Pedal Shape – Concavity & Convexity

Although still called flat, some platform pedals incorporate a small concave or convex surface to increase grip. A similar effect can be achieved by changing the length of the pedal pins by raising or lowering the inner pin relative to the outer pin. These pedals actually offer even better grip than flat platform pedals. 

Flat Pedal Pins

In other words, the more and longer the pins on your bike’s pedals, the better the grip between your shoes and pedals. For mountain bikers, we recommend looking for flat pedals with 10-12 pins per side. There are a few other things to keep in mind related to pins. Some pedals, usually cheaper composite pedals, have the pin molded into the pedal and cannot be replaced. Other flat pedals allow you to adjust or replace pins using an Allen wrench. This means you can customize the “stickiness” of your pedals and replace pins if they break, fall out, or become dull. 

How to Choose Clipless Mountain Bike Pedals

Counter-intuitively, clipless pedals use a mechanical attachment between the shoe and the pedal (the term “clipless” refers to the absence of a toe clip or “basket”). The Mountain Clipless Pedals use cleat sole shoes with recessed cleats that allow for walking, making them perfect for casual commutes on the road as well. Most mountain clipless pedal systems have a “two-hole” design that allows you to adjust the tension so that the release can be precisely adjusted for your weight and strength. A click system provides a secure connection to the pedals and releases when you rotate your foot. Many models have some lateral “buoyancy” which is beneficial for those with knee problems.

As mentioned above, clipless mountain bike pedals work with his mountain bike style 2-hole cleats, most are double-sided and have a larger platform than clipless road bike pedals. This wider platform provided a better pedal feel while standing and descending. Some clipless mountain bike pedals have a wider platform with pins similar to flat pedals for better traction, power transfer and ride comfort. Many clipless mountain bike pedals use Shimano’s SPD cleat system, but there are some alternatives. SPD stands for Speed ​​Pedaling Dynamics and has evolved into a system of nearly ubiquitous clipless mountain bike pedals. There are other systems as well. So when buying, make sure your cleats and pedals are compatible. 

What is Clipless Pedal Float?

“Float” is a common notation given to clipless pedals. This number refers to the amount of rotation built into the pedal when it is actuated. Floats allow for some margin of error and allow you to use your feet and lower body to steer the bike. Almost all clipless mountain bike pedals have some play. The smaller the slip angle, the more likely you are to let go unintentionally and the less forgiving you are. However, there is a difference between free play and pedal release angle, creating a sort of gray zone between the two values. 

Clipless Pedal and Shoe Compatibility

Mountain bike shoes use a 2-hole cleat plate compared to the 3-hole pattern found in clipless road cycling shoes and cleats. Apart from the function of this cleat, the shape of the shoe and pedals should also be considered. Some clipless mountain bike shoes are similar to road shoes, with a higher curvature sole and a different sole pattern. This type of shoe engages the wider platform and pins of a clipless mountain bike shoe in a different way than flatter, skate-style, clipless mountain bike shoes with a flatter sole that more closely resembles a flat pedal shoe. There is a possibility. Neither style is better. Ultimately it comes down to preference, but to ensure the best traction and feel, it’s important to pay attention to how the cage or platform contacts the shoe. The pedals can be slightly adjusted by changing the height of the spacers and pins. 

How to Use Clipless MTB Pedals

It may seem intimidating at first, but with a little practice, clipless pedaling will quickly become a habit. It’s a good idea to first put the bike on a wall or something to hold on to so that you can hold the bike firmly and keep it stable while you practice hooking and unhooking. 

To install clipless pedals, place the cleat on the pedal and push slightly forward with slight downward pressure. Most clipless mountain bike pedals are double-sided, so it doesn’t matter which side you snap them on. Practice clipping with both feet and you’re ready to ride. Start with the foot that initiates the pedal stroke. Jump in and build your momentum. Once it’s moving and stable, snap the other foot into place. 

To release the clipless pedals, simply rotate your heels away from the bike. The solution turns out to be easier than it sounds. We’ve all fallen once or twice forgetting to unplug the device, but that’s part of the game. Some riders may worry that they may or may not fall off the wheel in a fall. In most cases, it will automatically disengage from the pedals when you fall to prevent entanglement with your bike.