WHICH ARE THE BEST CYCLING PEDALS?
With so many different types of cycling pedals to choose from, selecting the best type for your riding style and needs can be difficult. Here we give you the low down on the most popular styles of bike pedals to help you decide...
FLAT vs CLIPLESS BIKE PEDALS
There are two main types of cycling pedals; flat and clipless. Both have their pros and cons but the overall deciding factor will come down to comfort and personal preference. Here’s our quick guide on each of the styles and the good and bad bits of each to help you pick the best style for you...
FLAT / PLATFORM PEDALS
WHAT ARE FLAT / PLATFORM PEDALS?
Flat or platform pedals are your standard pedal type that can be used on any bike and with any shoe. Made from nylon, aluminium or magnesium, flat pedals are versatile and easy to use whether you are riding around town or hurtling downhill.
Good for: Town Riding | Urban Riding | Mountain Biking | Social Rides
- Easy to use
- Can be used with any type of shoe
- More movement
- Less pedal efficiency
- Loss of foot positioning possible
MTB FLAT PEDALS
Most MTB Flat Pedals have a concave shape with the inner part of the pedal lower than the outer edge. This allows you to apply more pressure on the pins that stick out from the outer edge giving you good grip. Reliability is key when it comes to flat pedals so look for ones with good bearings and seals that will keep the dirt and moisture out and make sure they are well made for durability. Most flat pedals are made of nylon or aluminium, but if weight savings are important to you, magnesium pedals will be lighter, but less robust. Equally, titanium axles will save you a few precious grams.
Flat pedals for mountain biking come in lots of different sizes so make sure you choose a size to fit your shoe. You don’t want any overhang that could potentially hit the ground and slow you down or worse still, cause you to crash. Equally, you don’t want a pedal that is too small as it will limit your pedal power and stability on the pedal.
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WHAT ARE CLIPLESS PEDALS?
The name Clipless Pedals is a bit of a red herring as these pedals actually do involve your shoe being clipped into the pedal! The name derives from a previous form of pedal system using toe clips and straps. With clipless pedals you will need a special cycling shoe with a cleat bolted onto the sole which then clips into the pedal itself. This is released by simply twisting your foot out of the pedal. It takes a bit of practice to get used to clipless pedals but it’s not as scary as it sounds and once you have the hang of it, you’ll feel more connected to the bike giving you more control and better pedal efficiency. This type of pedal is used across a number of cycling styles including road, racing, commuting and mountain biking.
Good for: Road cycling | Commuting | Mountain Biking | Urban Riding
- Better pedalling efficiency
- Keeps foot positioning consistent
- Better bike control
- More power with less effort
- Can be difficult to jump off the bike in a crash (MTB)
- More expensive
- Need specific cycling shoes with cleats
- Clipless shoes are difficult to walk in
BENEFITS OF THE CLIPLESS PEDAL SYSTEM IN DETAIL
BETTER PEDAL EFFICIENCY
Pro cyclists typically achieve only 65% of their total stroke power during the downstroke meaning there’s at least 35% more power waiting to be had if you can learn to pull up on the pedal as well.
LESS MUSCLE FATIGUE
Using the full circle to pedal you can push down with your quads and pull up with your hamstrings allowing you to spread the work between the muscles, slowing lactic acid build up and preventing fatigue on longer and faster rides. Over time, you can learn to use different pedalling techniques to further increase this advantage.
By having a stiff soled shoe, little energy is lost in transferring power to the pedal stroke. Furthermore, a stiff and well moulded heel cup stops the foot from moving around, again improving pedal power efficiency.
CONSISTANT FOOT POSITIONING
Having your foot held firmly in place on the pedal prevents it from moving around. It might take you a while to find your optimal foot position, but once you have it set up, you can be confident that your foot will be in the right place on every stroke.
ROAD CLIPLESS PEDALS
Clipless pedals are very popular amongst road cyclists. Giving you good control of the bike and better pedal efficiency leads to a more comfortable ride and allows you to go faster with potentially less effort. The most popular road pedal type works with a wide cleat and has a large platform to give you better energy output. Clipless road cycling shoes will come with a three bolted cleat that protrudes from a stiff sole.
Some road pedals will come with the ability to adjust the tension to make it easier or harder to get in and out of and you can determine the amount of float (the amount you can move your foot around when cleated into the pedal) by choosing different cleat types, red, blue or yellow. If you do find standard clipless pedals hard to get into, you might want to try a Speedplay Pedal which gives you the option to clip in from both sides. This system uses a lollipop shaped cleat which clips into the shoe rather than the other way round.
The major downside of the road clipless pedal system is that the cleat sticks out from the bottom of a stiff soled shoe which makes them very hard to walk in and it is not advisable to wear them on tarmac for any great distance as they are likely to get damaged. For this reason, this may not be the best pedal set up for those wanting to hop on and off the bike and into shops, offices etc.