For new cyclists, buying gear, especially pedals, can be daunting. What kind of accessories do you need for a mountain bike, the road, or racing? And what is a clipless bike pedal?
We’ll walk you through all you need to know before choosing new bike pedals and show you the top options available.
If you’re in a hurry, these are the best bike pedals you can get right now:
What Are the Different Types of Bike Pedals?
Platform pedals are a great choice to get if you’re new to cycling or doing some challenging off-road biking.
The mechanism is simple — you just place your foot on top of and push down. However, you won’t be able to pull the leg up to perform a full circle motion. This is why platform pedals are not the best for speed.
You can find a wide selection of platform pedals, some made especially for mountain biking. These models are designed for easy mud shedding and usually, come with studs for extra grip.
Even though these pedals are called clipless, you actually clip-in. This confusing name is because there were pedals with toe clips or straps until Shimano designed the new clipless SPD system.
With clipless pedals, you’ll need to get specialized bicycle shoes, which adds to the price. You attach cleats with either two or three bolts to your footwear, and this cleat clips on to the pedal. Two-bolt designs are often used for off-road riding, while three bolts are for the road.
Clipless pedals allow you to cycle in a full circle pattern. As you’re attached to your bicycle via the shoes, you’re able to pull up as well as push down on the pedal stroke — generating more power and increasing speed.
This also allows you to save strength in the calf and hamstring muscles at the back of your thighs and make pedaling more smooth and efficient.
A hybrid pedal has a platform on one side and a clip-less design on the other. It's a great option for those who use their bikes for commuting and shorter urban distances.
Are Bike Pedals Universal?
Bike pedals are not universal, even though the 9/16-inch spindle size is very standard. This size refers to the size of the pedal’s screw thread, the part that’s connected to the bike. You can find some bikes, especially kid’s bikes, use a ½-inch size, but they’re not as common.
Do Bike Pedals Make a Difference?
Yes, bike pedals can.
With the right accessories, you’ll improve your grip and power. You’ll also be able to develop the proper technique for long-distance cycling.
The Top 5 Bike Pedals
Cleat Style: Three-bolt.
Weight: 8.7 ounces.
These Shimano clipless pedals come with SPD-SL-style cleats, featuring a six-degree float for flexibility. These are for road use, and the style is great even for professional level cyclists.
The carbon composite platform is extra wide for better foot stability, and the stainless steel body is durable. The broader surface area also allows for more consistent clip-ins — handy in stoplight situations!
They’re also incredibly light, which for those who are obsessed with keeping the weight to a minimum may appreciate.
- Wide platform.
- Easy to clip on.
- Three-bolt cleats are tricky to walk in.
- High price point.
Cleat Style: Two-bolt.
Weight: 9.6 ounces.
These minimalist pedals are geared for mountain bikes. They sport a sleek look and straightforward engagement thanks to the four-sided entry. The float and release angle are both adjustable, and the cleats are tiny, which makes it easier to walk in them.
Due to their platform-lacking style, they may not be the most stable pedals for challenging trails or jumps.
However, if you’re an all-weather mountain biker, these could appeal. Its design shouldn’t get clogged up with mud, and they’re also convenient to keep clean.
- Four-sided entry and “no look” clip-in.
- Affordable price.
- Includes brass cleats and mounts.
- Minimal maintenance required.
- No platform, may not suit some riders.
- May possess too much float for some.
Cleat Style: Two-bolt.
Weight: 13.5 ounces.
You could say these Shimano pedals are two-faced, but for a purpose — they’re constructed with a dual platform.
On one side, you have the option to use a two-bolt SPD cleat. When you flip it over, you also have a flat pedal surface. This allows you to use them with regular shoes as well as cycling shoes.
The open design gives you a nice mud-shedding capacity, despite the large surface. However, the platform side is a bit slick, and your feet may slide off in tough off-road settings.
In my opinion, these could be suitable for cyclists who are starting out with clipless pedals or for those who use their bikes in urban settings as well as for training.
- Versatile for training and urban settings.
- Good mud-shedding ability.
- Sturdy and durable.
- Wide flat pedal platform.
- High price.
- Better grip on the platform side would be an improvement.
Type: Clipless, but can be used flat.
Cleat Style: Two-bolt (adaptor required for three-bolt).
Weight: 14.7 ounces.
These pedals have the same engagement system as the Eggbeater model, but the inclusion of a platform provides more surface area for extra pedal-power.
This larger surface element also offers support and increases stability. If you unclip from your pedals bike on a tough trail, you’ll have something under your feet.
The adjustable traction pins allow you to fine-tune the surface grip — enabling more foot control during wet conditions. And, due to the corner-cutting shape of the Mallet E, I suggest it’s likely to curb clipping rogue obstacles as you fly down those dirt tracks.
I feel these appear to be bike pedals for riders who like the flexibility of choosing between negotiating that descent committed to clips or cautiously without.
- Low maintenance bearings.
- Adjustable angle release.
- Tight clip.
- Generous surface area.
- Pedals are heavy.
- Premium price.
Cleat Style: N/A.
Weight: 13.1 ounces.
I’d say this is a suitable choice for those who want the freedom of a platform pedal with some extra grip for mountain biking. The anti-skid nails are geared for digging into your shoe, which in turn should deliver an amazingly tight grip.
You may find these pedals also appropriate for commuting, thanks to the flat surface.
In short, the ROCKBROS Advanced 4 could appeal to those starting out in their off-road biking pursuits. I feel the price is also reasonable enough not to burst a blood vessel.
- Choice of blue or black design.
- Extra traction pegs included.
- Excellent mud-shedding.
- Reasonable price.
- Anti-skid pegs may ruin your shins.
- Center spindle is high and may feel uncomfortable.
Whether you’re into off-road, racing or commuting, bike pedals can make a difference to your riding performance and overall experience.
Out of those we’ve looked at, the Shimano Ultegra PD-R8000 would have to be my top pick.
I feel these pedals will give you more power for every mile and greatly improve your efficiency when pedaling. They’re also super lightweight and easy to clip in and out!
However, if gravel grinding is more your thing, then I’d say the Crankbrothers Eggbeater is worth a look, and for those who like to cover more than one riding style, check out the Shimano PD-A530 Dual.