Choosing the ideal bike pedals for you:
There are three basic types of bike pedals. There are platform, clip and clipless. Each type has a unique set of advantages and disadvantages. Choosing the pedal that is right for you can have a big influence on how you ride and how the bike performs. It is important to learn the pros and cons of each kind prior to buying a mountain bike, or when you are looking for new bike pedals. The pedals are the main connection between you and your bike!
Platform or flat style bike pedals (a.k.a. “Flats”):
This is a traditional pedal form that most people are familiar with. Platform pedals are easy to use and are ideal for those who prefer to ride in soft soled shoes. They are probably the most universal of the types of bike pedals as anyone can use them with almost any style of shoe. They do not offer any direct attachment between the foot and the bike, however they are designed to provide a good amount of grip and come in limitless configurations and grip levels. Platform pedals offer instant removal of the foot from the pedal for any reason, at a moment’s notice and with no obstruction.
Platform Pedal Pros & Cons:
- Easy to use
- No need for special footwear
- Nothing holding you onto the bike
- Large surface provides better contact for your feet
- Lack of power transfer to the pedal on the upstroke
- Pedal teeth can hurt if your foot slips off
- Loss of pedaling efficiency
Cage or toe clip style bike pedals:
This type of mountain bike pedal is probably the second most popular style. With this type of pedal you slip your foot into a cage which is attached to the pedal and the cage has a strap that adjusts around the top of your foot. Toe clips or cages offer advantages over the standard platform style pedals because they allow the cyclist to pull up as well as push down on the pedal. They also help to secure the foot onto the pedal to reduce the foot slipping off of the pedal and potentially scraping your shin on the grips. They also offer the ability to easily take your foot out if needed and are popular for people who bike in traffic and need to make frequent stops.
Cage or Toe Clip Pedal Pros & Cons:
- Easy to learn how to use
- Cyclists can use power to both push down and pull up on the pedal
- No special footwear is necessary
- Some loss of power, toe clip style cannot capture all the energy of the pedal cycle as the clipless pedals can
- Slightly harder to get into and out of than platform pedals
Clipless bike pedals:
Clipless bike pedals are usually the most popular choice for mountain bike cyclists. They work by directly attaching the foot to the pedal. Special shoes are worn which have a cleat fitted into the sole and are “clipped” into the receiver on the pedal. This provides the most efficient transfer of power from the cyclist to the pedals and there is no loss of energy. The feet remain attached to the pedal throughout the entire stroke resulting in the ability to both pull up and push down on the pedals. Releasing your foot just requires a quick rotation to the side and the pedal releases allowing you to put your foot down or get off of the bike. Many people choose clipless vs. clip pedals because they hold the foot onto the pedal even in rough terrain and they also make it easier to hop over obstacles.
Clipless Pedal Pros & Cons:
- Maximum efficiency with direct transfer of power to the pedals
- Secure attachment to the bike so you can concentrate on and enjoy cycling
- No worry about your foot slipping off and causing injury
- Easier to hop over obstacles
- Specialized shoes are required
- It is necessary to learn how to click in and out of the pedals
- Can be difficult to get your foot off the pedal in an emergency and crashes do happen
So which ones do I choose?
You will need to figure out which style of riding you plan to do the most. Will you be doing easy mountain biking along non-technical trails, doing extreme downhill or cycling through difficult and technical trails? Once you decide what type of riding you will be doing you can review the three main styles of pedals and choose the one that you feel is best for you. Basic platform pedals do come in various grips but in general are best suited for casual easy riding. When choosing clip vs. clipless pedals the choice can come down to just personal preference. Clipless pedals once you get comfortable with them are usually the best choice because they transfer the power directly to the bike which makes your leg movement more efficient. It is also always possible to change the bike pedals if you decide that a different type might work better for you.