You’ve got a sturdy bike and you’re anxious to hit the trails. You’ve oiled your chain, aired your tires…but have you given any thought to your mountain bike pedals?
There is abundant variety among available mountain bike pedals. Determining the best mountain bike pedals for you involves a combination of your experience level and what features you want your pedals to include.
Platform Pedals for Beginners
Platform, or flat, pedals are the best mountain bike pedals for beginners. They are also ideal for anyone who may find it necessary to bail off their bikes, such as downhill racers, dirt jumpers, and free riders. Most of the best mountain bikes come with platform pedals already installed.
Clipless Pedals for a Secure Ride
Clipless pedals provide a solid connection between the biker’s foot and the pedal. The clipless system involves a cleat that is strapped onto the rider’s shoe. Stepping on the pedal engages the connection. Twisting your heel to the side allows for release.
Combo Pedals: The Best of Both Worlds
Combo pedals combine the larger footprint of platform pedals with a secure clipping mechanism. These pedals come in two types. One-sided combos have a clip on one side and a platform on the other. Two-sided combos have the clip integrated into the platform on both sides of the pedal.
Pros and Cons of Platform Pedals
- Less expensive than other pedals
- No special shoes needed, but available to enhance the riding experience
- Ability to easily bail off when necessary
- Less security than other pedals
- Larger footprint
- Slippage can occur during rough rides or certain tricks
Pros and Cons of Clipless Pedals
- Improved efficiency, as more energy can be transferred from the rider to the pedal, and thus to forward motion
- Keeping your feet attached to the pedals improves handling, especially on descents and during tricks such as the bunny hop
- Smaller size enables ease of clearing obstacles
- Lighter than platform pedals
- More expensive than platform pedals
- Cleats may not be compatible from one pedal to another
- Practice is needed to master safely clipping out upon stopping
Pros and Cons of Combo Pedals
- Highly versatile
- Can be used either with specialized cleats or normal shoes
- Most are made from highly durable metals
- Generally heavier than other pedal types
- Clips are generally more difficult to use than clipless pedals
- One-sided combo pedals tend to rotate where the clip is towards the ground, making the clip more difficult to mount
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: Why should I invest in specialized pedals?
A: Many riders spend hours researching the best mountain bikes before they buy. Why? They know that certain features and qualities will make their rides more enjoyable and enable them to take on specific tasks. The same goes for pedals. Factors such as pedal weight, mud and snow shedding abilities, replaceable parts, adjustability, and durability will all affect the quality of your mountain biking experience.
Q: Are the above mentioned pedals compatible with any bicycle?
A: Most bikes and pedals utilize a universal system. Most pedals can even be installed on indoor spin bikes for practice or a better indoor experience. You’ll need some tools, though – usually a specialized pedal wrench or 15 mm combination wrench, although some designs require a long handled Allen wrench. Be sure to grease the connection before installing, and pay attention to the “L” and “R” (left and right) markings on the pedals to ensure correct installation. If you find you need assistance, contact your local bike shop for help.
While the best mountain bike pedal for you will depend on a number of factors, combo pedals seem to demonstrate the best all-around efficiency and value. Combination mountain bike pedals eliminate the temptation to buy platform pedals today and upgrade clipless pedals tomorrow. They can save you money in this way, although they boast the highest initial cost. Another winning benefit is that of not having to switch pedals if you use your bike for both intense mountain biking and typical neighborhood use.