Throw away those new MTB pedals

Buying a new mountain bike? The odds are, it will come with a set of basic plastic pedals, that are basically junk. They are heavy, and don’t have quality internal bearings (possibly just bushings). Why is this; the bicycle companies know that serious riders will upgrade, even if they put something usable on, and casual riders won’t know the difference, or take it into account when choosing a bike. So, if you get a new bike, plan on changing out the pedals right away. And if you have an existing bike and haven’t, change them now; it will make a surprisingly big difference to how your bike performs.

The good news is that some really good pedals are affordable for not much money. Replacing your pedals is also really easy to do at home. See below for links to some good options, and a Youtube video on how to swap them.

IMRider Nylon Pedals are our favorite budget pedals; they are really cheap, have great bearings, have held up well to abuse and get great ratings from others.
DMR V12 Magnesium are thin, light, provide a wide platform and they last. I’ve been riding them for a couple of years and they just work.
Raceface Ride are a great option for someone who is intimidated by the sharp metal edges of the other pedals here. They are a great option for someone new to mountain biking who won’t be hitting big jumps or technical trails (yet).
Crank Brothers Stamp 7 are a classic with a cool new look. Crank Brothers are probably the best known and respected MTB pedal company and these are the quintessential platform pedal

What makes a good MTB pedal

In modern mountain biking, there are two types of pedals; platform and clipless. Platform pedals are flat with some sort of grip element, usually little spikes that stick up and engage with the tread of your shoes. Clipless have a mechanism for cleats in special shoes to clip into (the name refers to the previous “technology” of “toe clips”). If you wanted clipless, you already knew you were changing pedals, so we will focus on platform pedals here.

The pedals are a pretty important part of your cycling experience:

  • Contact point

    They are a primary contact point for staying on the bike while you ride and they are the way you transfer power to move the bike. For both of those functions, your feed need to stay planted and not slip around-or-off.
  • Moving parts

    Pedals need to stay flat and with your feet while the cranks turn in a circle. This means they need to have good bearings that don’t slow you down with friction, and those bearings need to survive the water, dust, mud and grit that are part of mountain biking.
  • Weight to be moved

    You pedal to shift the weight of yourself and your bike along the trail. The parts of your bike that move the most (pedals and wheels) matter most when it comes to weight; the less weight, the easier it is to move. Stock pedals are almost always really, really heavy.
  • Ground clearance

    This may seem silly, but as soon as you get out on a trail with rocks, roots or logs, you will see that you really don’t want hitting them to interrupt your pedaling. The stock pedals on new bikes are usually a good bit thicker than what you want.

Installing pedals yourself

In general, all you need to install pedals is a 15mm wrench. An adjustable crescent wrench might even do it, but they are sometimes too thick to fit into the space. Because each side screws in a different directly, and the cranks want to move with the wrench, it can seem tricky, but give it a try and you should be able to install pedals in just a few minutes. Here is a video to get you started:

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