There’s no avoiding it.

Choosing which mountain bike pedal to go for is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make before getting out on the dirt. It’s also an extremely personal one.

The three points of contact that any rider will have with their bike (handlebars, saddle and pedals) all serve their own fundamental purpose. But it is the pedals that attract the most attention from those looking to elevate performance levels on the trail.

Over time you’re likely to develop your own pedal preference based on a number of factors, ranging from ability and favourite terrain to style of riding. But maybe you’re still not sure which one will best suit you…

What does each type of pedal have to offer – and which kind should you go for?

We’re putting each one under the spotlight to bring you a complete rundown of what – and what not – to look for when buying your next pedal.

Clipless Pedals

If you want the ultimate in firm, fast and fixed riding, clipless pedals are the one.

More commonly referred to as ‘clip-ins’, these pedals use a mechanism which secures your foot to the bike and offers quick release via a simple twisting motion that’s easy to get the hang of.

These pedals can seem daunting to new users. The idea of being unable to bail freely is definitely a strange one to begin with.

Going clipless will make you feel as though the bike is an extension of yourself. So take a little bit of time to get used to them away from the trail and harsher terrains – to get familiarised with this type of riding, and avoid any mishaps.

Once you’ve nailed down the technique, these pedals will offer stability and help to boost efficiency in the saddle. Although, just how much clipless pedals enhance your performance is a debate amongst many mountain bikers that rages on.

These pedals are suited to cross country biking and the more forgiving trails and courses out there. If this is what you’re all about then it may well be worth investing in clipless.            

If you’re on the hunt for fast clipping footwear to go with your clipless pedals, check out our review of Northwave’s Enduro Mid MTB shoe.

Platform Pedals

Popular with everyone from beginners to flamboyant riders, thanks to ease of dismount (whether that be controlled or crashed), platform pedals are the back to basics pedal for mountain bikers.

Just like the ones you used to use as a kid, these pedals typically offer a wider surface area than most other types. Bringing both support and comfort to your ride.

Don’t underestimate platforms though. Depending on where and how you choose to take to the saddle, they may be just the ones for you. In fact…

“In recent years, flat pedal technology has come a long way, with significant improvements in the pins and shape of flat pedals, and the grippiness of flat pedal-specific shoes.” – singletracks

An ergonomic, concave shape helps to cradle the foot and give it that extra feel of security – especially when faced by uneven terrain. And a whole host of manufacturers are now using ridged designs and metal pins to deliver increased traction throughout the ride.   

Platform pedals come highly recommended for newcomers, downhill specialists, dirt jumpers and freeriders, but may fall short in uphill scenarios and wet conditions.

You can also pick up nylon fibre versions of the flat pedal, which are lighter and just as durable as their metal counterparts. Brands such as Deity Components, Nukeproof and veteran pedal-pusher DMR’s V-line are leading the way on this relatively new-on-the-block innovation in design.

Combination Pedals

Yeah you guessed it. Double-sided (or SPD) and Combination mountain bike pedals offer the best of both worlds when it comes to choosing your preferred pedal.

While most riders will have their favourite – usually based on their discipline – these pedals are really useful for those taking on a variety of terrains.

Double-sided designs incorporate the clip mechanism on one side and the familiar platform feel on the other. However these pedals tend to be a similar size to the standard clipless model, so some may find the platform side to be a bit small.

Another popular combination design merges clipless with platform.

With the look and feel of a flat pedal, consolidated by the stability of a clip, this type of pedal is a solid choice and ideal for recreational riders who use their bike a number of different purposes.

Decisions, Decisions…

You may find yourself making several purchases before finding that perfect pedal. But in identifying the type that suits your ride, you’ll quickly narrow down your search. A great starting point is to define where and how you’ll be spending most of your time in the saddle.

Double-sided and Combination pedals are far more practical and adaptable.

However, if you’re a dedicated downhiller or a cross country enthusiast – why opt for half measures? There’s certainly no harm in committing to clipless or platform pedals.

Choosing the design that complements your riding style is what it’s all about.

So be sure to make the right decision for you.

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