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10 Best Bike Pedals of 2024

We've tested the best flat pedals, clipless mountain bike pedals, and road bike pedals available to help you find the best pair for your bike and budget.
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Best Bike Pedals Review (No matter what type of bike pedal you're looking for, we've got you covered.)
No matter what type of bike pedal you're looking for, we've got you covered.
Credit: Tara Reddinger-Adams

Our Top Picks

Friday April 5, 2024

With so many different bike pedals on the market, it's hard to know which is the best for your needs. Whether you're looking for new pedals for your road, mountain, gravel, commuter, or plain old bike, we have you covered. Over eight years, we've tested 89 pairs of mountain bike clipless pedals, flat pedals, and road bike pedals to determine the best models on the market. Our expert team of testers includes industry veterans, racers, coaches, and shop owners who are passionate about all forms of cycling. Together, they've spent hundreds of hours commuting, racing, riding gravel, road, and ribbons of single track across the country, putting each pair of pedals through our rigorous hands-on field testing and analysis. We aim to help you find the perfect pedals for your riding needs.

This review covers aluminum and nylon body flat pedals, clipless road bike pedals, and clipless mountain bike pedals. Suppose you want to learn more about options specific to your cycling discipline. In that case, you can read more in our best flat pedals for mountain biking review, our best road bike pedals, or our best clipless mountain bike pedals reviews. You can also visit our biking gear reviews to learn more about everything cycling, ranging from e-bikes to shoes, helmets, and more.

Editor's Note: On April 5, 2024, we added a new favorite pick for everyday commuting, the CXWXC CX-930.

Related: Best Clipless Mountain Bike Pedals
Related: Best Flat Pedals for Mountain Biking
Related: Best Road Bike Pedals

Best Everyday Pedal with Reflectors

CXWXC CX-930 Pedals

Weight per pair: 365 grams | Traction pins: 8 per side
Excellent value
solid platform
Inferior grip
Prone to pedal strikes

The CXWXC CX-930 provides a surprisingly attractive option for those on a budget. While it does not have an overly impressive grip, the wide concave platform and built-in reflectors make it a worthy pedal. We tested it on both mountain and commuter bikes and found it can be used as a serviceable flat pedal but is better suited as a full-time commuter pedal, as it excelled on electric and commuter bikes. The larger size provides a rigid platform, ideal for generating better power transfer between you and the bike. While the traction is not overly grippy, the hex pins provide enough to accommodate a wide range of different shoe types, ideal for commuters. The CXWXC is a step above what you would find equipped on a bike from the factory and has a place for those who need a larger platform with better durability and increased traction.

Worth noting with the CXWXC CX-930 Pedals is that they must be installed using an 8mm hex Allen key. Unlike most pedals that provide the ability to install using a wrench, these pedals do not accommodate that. Additionally, the grip is not on par with comparable flat pedals in the entry-level category. The tradeoff is having a larger platform and built-in reflectors for your commute, as well as being able to use a variety of shoes without damaging the soles. While there are some minor nuances with these pedals, they still have a valuable place in the market for those needing a flat pedal to use on their e-bike/commuter bikes.

A close look at the CX-930 pedals.
Credit: Kenji Mowrey

Best Everyday Flat Pedal

Race Face Chester

Weight: 358 grams | Traction: 8 pins per side
Nice size platform
Axle lacks traction pins
Eight traction pins per side

The Race Face Chester scores well across our test metrics and is a great value. While this pedal lives in our Best Mountain Bike Flat Pedals review, it is also just a great pedal for every day commuting and cruising around town. The Chester's nylon pedal body has a comfortably sized platform of 101 millimeter x 110 millimeter with a 14-millimeter profile. Tapered edges reduce rock strikes, and during our testing, we experienced fewer pedal strikes with the Chester than with other nylon body pedals. Eight traction pins along the perimeter of the pedal body provide a good grip with proper foot placement. However, there are no pins along the axle, which is less than ideal in muddy conditions. We appreciate that the Chester is fully serviceable and that the process is straightforward, with replacement parts being available through numerous online retailers.

The lack of pins along the axle can create a challenge in muddy conditions, and good foot placement is imperative before descending chunky terrain. Riders with a larger foot may not have enough lateral support from the pedal's body. Overall, the Chester performs well and is a great choice for riders looking for a more cost-effective flat pedal option. If you have a larger foot, the OneUp Composite is a great choice and offers a substantially larger platform than the Chester at a similar price point.

Read more: Race Face Chester review

bike pedals - this budget-friendly nylon pedal has a nice sized platform and...
This budget-friendly nylon pedal has a nice sized platform and offers good grip while riding.
Credit: Tasha Thomas

Most Affordable Everyday Pedal

Fooker Nylon Fiber

Weight: 370 grams | Traction: 8 pins per side
Easy to adjust foot
Replaceable pins
Devoid of axle pins
Lower quality finish on axle and dust cap

The Fooker Nylon Fiber is one of the most affordable pedals we have tested and performs admirably. The 110-millimeter x 100-millimeter platform is available in six colors and features eight bottom load traction pins per side. The traction pins provide good grip and foot mobility, and the pedal spins well on its axle, making it easy to adjust your foot position. The Fooker Nylon is available in two versions: one with three sealed bearings and one with two needle roller bearings. The pedal with the needler roller bearings is slightly more expensive, but its bearings have a higher load rating, and the axle features a dust cap.

We tested the Fooker Nylon Fiber pedal with three sealed bearings, and during our servicing, we found the axle and protective end cap do not have the same level of quality as other pedals in our review. However, we did not experience any issues with the axle or dust cap during testing. For those looking for an affordable nylon flat pedal that provides good traction and mobility, the Fooker is a great choice. If you aren't a fan of nylon and you're searching for a top-tier, high-performance flat pedal, check out the Wolf Tooth Waveform.

bike pedals - this cost-conscious pedal looks similar to more expensive pedals and...
This cost-conscious pedal looks similar to more expensive pedals and blends good mobility and grip.
Credit: Kenji Mowrey

Best Overall Flat Pedal

Wolf Tooth Waveform

Weight: 373 grams | Traction: 11 pins per side
Natural feeling platform
Outstanding grip
Parts available
Steep price tag
The Waveform pedal from Wolftooth left a lasting impression on our testers due to its exceptional qualities. It stands out with its natural-feeling platform, outstanding grip, and ease of maintenance, solidifying its position as one of the top mountain bike flat pedals we've tested.

The Waveform features a dual concave aluminum platform with 11 bottom load traction pins that provide remarkable grip on various flat pedal shoes. The traction pins have a secure and confident feel while climbing and descending, yet allow riders to make minor adjustments by lightly unweighting their feet. The aluminum pedal body incorporates tapered edges to help deflect pedal strikes on rocky terrain, although it's worth noting that the pins on the leading and trailing edges can become bent. The Waveform is available in two sizes, small and large, allowing the rider to match their pedal size to their foot size and terrain. The Waveform is easy to service, including the bearings, and only requires three Allen keys. Wolftooth's “Right to Repair” means the pedal is fully rebuildable, with all individual parts available as replacement parts.

The Waveform's price may be a deterrent to some folks. However, the higher upfront cost is offset by their being fully rebuildable. Replacement parts, including the pedal body, bushings, pins, seals, and more, are available through Wolftooth and can indefinitely extend the pedal's life. The dual concave platform may also not work for all riders, who may feel that their foot sinks into the platform too much and prefer a flatter or convex profile. The Waveform's traction, platform, weight, and serviceability combine to make them one of the most impressive pedals we have tested. If the Waveform's price tag is a bit too steep, we recommend looking at the HT Components ANS10 Supreme, which offers similar qualities at a lower price.

Read more: Wolf Tooth Waveform review

bike pedals - these pedals impressed us with how natural they feel underfoot and...
These pedals impressed us with how natural they feel underfoot and for their exceptional grip.
Credit: Tara Reddinger-Adams

Best Large Platform Flat Pedal

OneUp Components Composite

Weight: 359 grams | Traction: 10 pins per side
Budget price
Good performance
Servicing requires a deep socket
Thick at axle

For the budget-conscious rider who prefers a larger pedal platform, the OneUp Composite is a great choice. The Composite is one of the few pedals in our test with a convex shape, with the pedal's axle sitting slightly higher than the leading and trailing edges. Some riders prefer a convex shape to a concave, as the pedal's shape mimics the foot's natural arch. The large 114-millimeter x 104-millimeter platform makes the Composite a great choice for riders with larger shoe sizes. Ten traction pins are found along the perimeter and axle of the pedal and provide good grip even through rock gardens and on chunky downhills, especially when you push into the pedals and drop your heels. Repositioning the foot is easy with a small unweighting of the foot, and the bearings have the right amount of drag to spin freely away from your foot when you unweight the pedal. Despite the pedal's thickness, the tough composite platform withstands rock strikes surprisingly well.

The budget-friendly Composite has some drawbacks to consider. For those seeking a thin pedal, the Composite's 16.8 millimeter thickness at the axle and 13.8 millimeters at the leading edges may be a drawback. And, while the pedals are serviceable with bearings and replacement pins available, they require a 9-millimeter deep socket to remove the axle nut from the pedal body, a tool that may not be in every rider's toolbox. However, these drawbacks are relatively minor, especially if you prioritize price, platform size, and durability. The OneUp's platform is indeed large, so if you're looking for something similar with a smaller platform and at a similar price point, we recommend the Race Face Chester.

Read more: OneUp Components Composite review

bike pedals - this pedal features a large platform, making it a great choice for...
This pedal features a large platform, making it a great choice for riders with a larger shoe size.
Credit: Pat Donahue

Best Overall Mountain Bike Pedal

HT Components T2

Weight: 380 grams | Profile Height: 17 millimeters
Excellent stability
Easy to clip in
Two sets of cleats included
Unclipping takes practice

The HT Components T-2 impressed our testers with its wide platform and excellent mud-shedding abilities and is one of our top picks for clipless mountain bike pedals. The 380-gram T-2 features a stable aluminum platform with a CNC machined Chromoly spindle with a smooth bearing and bushings. Clipping into the pedal is quick thanks to four grub screws that help to guide the cleat into place. We appreciate the adjustability of the grub screws as well as the release tension, which requires almost no effort on the lightest tension to being locked in on the highest tension. Increasing the release tension means that you'll need to apply more pressure as you turn your heel inward or outward, but you'll hear an audible click, letting you know that you've unclipped. For riders who prefer a choice of how much flat their pedals have, the T-2 comes with two sets of cleats, one with four degrees of float and one with eight degrees of float.

The T-2 has a retention bar at the front and a floating rear retainer. New users of HT's pedals will want to practice unclipping before riding, as the floating rear retainer has a different release than other pedal designs. The cleat for the HT is slightly larger than other brands, but we did not experience any problems with its interface with the cleat opening on any of our test shoes. However, if you're using a shoe with a narrow cleat opening, you may want to take measurements to ensure the cleat will fit. If you're looking for a great performing, clipless mountain bike pedal with a stable platform and adjustability, the T-2 is a great choice. Another similar option that lacks a floating rear retainer is the Shimano PD-M8120 XT SPD. Its tried and true design has recently been redesigned and is now slimmer than ever.

Read more: HT T-2 review

bike pedals - this is one of our top picks for a clipless pedal, it has great...
This is one of our top picks for a clipless pedal, it has great adjustability, a stable platform, and excellent mud-shedding properties.
Credit: Joshua Hutchens

Best Budget Mountain Bike Pedal

Shimano ME700

Weight: 482 grams | Profile Height: 19 millimeters
User friendly
Platform surface is slippery when wet
Holds mud

The Shimano ME700 provides clipless pedal users with a large, stable platform, user-friendliness, and adjustability for a modest price, making it a great choice for budget-minded riders. The ME700 employs similar features found in Shimano's higher-priced pedals, such as 20 clicks of adjustable tension for quick and easy engagement and exit. Shimano's reliable SPD clipless mechanism is surrounded by a 100-millimeter x 74-millimeter painted aluminum mini-cage that helps guide the cleat when clipping in and provides lateral stability. Like other Shimano SPD pedals, the ME700s are dual-sided, meaning you can clip in on either side. And, they can be installed and removed with a 6-millimeter Allen wrench or a 15-millimeter open-ended wrench.

During testing, we found that the ME700's painted mini-cage retained more mud when compared to their machined and anodized counterparts. However, the SPD mechanism performed well in muddy conditions. The biggest drawback to the ME700 is its 482 grams weight (for the pair), which may be heavy for weight-conscious riders. Overall, there is little to find fault with in this well-performing, budget-priced clipless pedal. For those looking for an upgraded version of the ME700 with a machined cage, we recommend the Shimano PD-M8120 XT SPD.

Read more: Shimano ME700 review

bike pedals - this budget-friendly pedal uses similar technologies to it's more...
This budget-friendly pedal uses similar technologies to it's more expensive siblings, and performs very well.
Credit: Joshua Hutchens

An Extra Durable Mountain Bike Pedal

Shimano PD-M8120 XT SPD

Weight: 430 grams | Profile Height: 18 millimeters
Stable platform
Good value
No float adjustment

The redesigned Shimano M8120 XT has a slimmer profile and larger platform than previous versions yet maintains the durability and predictable performance of previous versions. The anodized platform measures 100 millimeters x 71 millimeters and provides an excellent connection between the pedal and shoe in addition to lateral stability and overall control. A machined aluminum platform provides some grip that helps when clipping into the SPD clipless mechanism. The SPD clipless mechanism is reliable and predictable and features 20 clicks of tension adjustment ranging from very light to very stiff release tension — a turn of the heel releases the cleat from the pedal with an audible click. Those who ride in muddy conditions will appreciate the machined platform that sheds mud, and the SPD mechanism does not easily clog.

The pedal's locknut protrudes a touch above the pedal's platform when tightened to Shimano's specs, and some resistance can be felt in the pedal's float. However, this can be corrected by over or under-tightening the locknut. There is no float adjustment with the M8120 XT, but an alternative cleat that allows an upward release is available. We found the M8120 XT to be more durable than its more expensive sibling, making it a great choice for riders looking for a long-lasting clipless pedal that can withstand years of use and abuse. If you love the Shimano's design but want a more affordable option, the Shimano ME700 uses the same SPD clipless mechanism but has a painted pedal body.

Read more: Shimano PD-M8120 XT SPD review

bike pedals - the redesigned xt is as durable as ever but now has a slimmer profile.
The redesigned XT is as durable as ever but now has a slimmer profile.
Credit: Joshua Hutchens

Best Overall Road Bike Pedal

Shimano Ultegra PD-R8000 SPD-SL

Weight: 320 grams | Stack Height: 16 millimeters
Carbon composite body
High-performance bearings
Stack height is high

The Shimano Ultegra PD-R8000 SPD-SL is our pick for road riders seeking a lightweight pedal with top-notch, reliable performance. This latest iteration of the Ultegra PD-8000 utilizes an extra-wide carbon composite body with a stainless steel plate for enhanced stability, reduced flex, and increased power transfer. The carbon and stainless combination increases the pedal's durability while keeping the weight down, with the pair only weighing 320 grams. Inside the axle are smooth spinning, durable sealed bearings strategically placed to distribute the load uniformly. The adjustable release tension allows the rider to dial in the tension, and clipping in and out is always predictable and smooth, regardless of how worn your cleats are. We also appreciate that the Ultegra PD-8000 comes in two Q-Factors, allowing you to select the best axle length for your knees.

The Ultegra PD-8000 one-sided entry may be a drawback for road riders who prefer to double-sided pedal, and their 16-millimeter stack height is not all that low. The other downside to the Ultegra PD-8000 is the steep price tag, but these pedals are built to last. For road riders willing to invest a bit more in their pedals, the durable and reliable Ultegra PD-8000 is a great choice. If you're looking for a pedal with similar performance at a more budget-friendly price, we recommend the Look Keo Classic 3.

bike pedals - these pedals are not only durable but they have reliable performance.
These pedals are not only durable but they have reliable performance.
Credit: Luke Hollomon

Best Budget Road Bike Pedal

Look Keo Classic 3

Weight: 348 grams | Stack Height: 17.8 millimeters
Proven design
Easily adjustable release tension
Cleats wear down quickly
Plastic composite body

Look's Keo Classic 3 is a budget-minded road bike pedal with a stable plastic platform and impressive performance. Adjustable tension release makes clipping out quick and easy. The Keo Classic 3 comes with Look's GRIP cleat, which has a layer of TPU on the shoe side to prevent the cleat from sliding on carbon-soled shoes. The provided grey GRIP cleat has 4.5 degrees of lateral float, and additional cleat options are available with zero degrees and nine degrees of float. Throughout our testing, the Keo Classic 3 performed as well as more expensive offerings from Look.

There are a few drawbacks to this budget-minded pedal. Look's GRIP cleats wear down rather quickly, and the plastic composite body is less durable than stainless steel or carbon composite versions. We recommend using cleat covers whenever walking to prolong the life of your cleats. The Keo Classic 3 also has less tension release adjustment than other pedals and a smaller platform, which means a reduced contact area between the pedal and the sole of the shoe. Despite these minor drawbacks, the Classic 3 is an impressive pedal and a great choice for those who value budget and performance or who are looking to try clipless road pedals. Perhaps you're looking for a road pedal with a metal body; if so, the Look Keo 2 Max is one of our top picks.

bike pedals - this pedal has impressive performance.
This pedal has impressive performance.
Credit: Luke Hollomon

Best Road Bike Pedal for Adjustability

Wahoo Fitness Speedplay Comp

Weight: 374 grams | Stack Height: 11.5 millimeters
Great adjustability
Two-sided entry
Very low stack height
Small platform
Costly cleats

For those who need or prefer high levels of float or double-sided entry on their road bike pedal, the Wahoo Fitness Speedplay Comp is a great pick. The Speedplay Comp is unique with its zero to 15 degrees of float, which provides an increased range of motion between the knee and foot and is a favorite for riders who have problems finding proper leg alignment with their pedal. The provided “easy tension” cleat allows for fore and aft, left and right, and rotational adjustment, allowing the rider to dial in the pedal to their body's biomechanics. The Speedplay Comp also has a very low stack height of just 11.5 millimeters, which means that your foot is closer to the pedal for increased power transfer. All of these features add up to one of the most adjustable pedals available. However, all of these adjustments mean that they need to be set up just right for optimal performance.

Speedplay's “Comp” cleat is provided with the pedal and has the lightest release tension of their cleats. The pedal is compatible with Speedplay's “Standard” tension cleat, which has increased release tension but is an additional and costly expense. The cleat is also prone to collecting dirt and other debris rather easily, which makes clipping in difficult and cleat covers necessary for walking. For riders who use a softer-soled shoe, the pedal can be felt underfoot on long rides despite the large cleat. For those who are looking for the most adjustable road bike pedal for biomechanics or who prefer a double-sided entry, we recommend the Wahoo Fitness Speedplay Comp. If the Speedplay Comp's design is not quite what you're looking for, we recommend considering the Shimano Ultegra PD-R8000 SPD-SL, which has reliable performance and a carbon body.

Read more: Wahoo Fitness Speedplay Comp review

bike pedals - the comp provides tons of adjustment and float and has a low stack...
The Comp provides tons of adjustment and float and has a low stack height, meaning less space between your shoe and the pedal's axle.
Credit: Luke Hollomon

How We Test Bike Pedals

Our comprehensive pedal review leverages the expertise of industry professionals, pro and amateur racers, shop owners, and mountain bike coaches who bring over 50 years of combined experience to the process. For each pedal category, we meticulously researched the market, looking at both tried and true models and new models alike at varying price points. We then narrow our scope and purchase our test models for our extensive hands-on testing. Each type of pedal has its own set of test metrics, which are based on the pedal's intended use and function. We then begin the testing process, which frequently includes riding with different pedals on each crank arm or swapping pedals mid-ride to get real-time performance comparisons. We also weigh and disassemble each pair of pedals to analyze their construction and serviceability. After our testing is complete, each pair of pedals is awarded a value in each metric which creates its overall score. This detailed process ensures that our reviews provide consumers with valuable insights into each pedal's performance.

Each pair of pedals goes through extensive hands-on testing in real...
Each pair of pedals goes through extensive hands-on testing in real life conditions.
These road pedals have a unique design.
These road pedals have a unique design.
Having your pedal jam up with mud is no fun, so we test in as many...
Having your pedal jam up with mud is no fun, so we test in as many conditions as possible to see how well the pedals work.

Why You Should Trust Us

We have an all-star team of road cyclists and mountain bikers to inform our review of the best pedals. Luke Hollomon leads our road bike pedal review. Luke is a physical therapist who has raced bikes in various disciplines for 20 years. Luke lives a 90% car-free lifestyle and rides every day of the year, frequently pulling his dog Kiwi in a trailer behind him.

For our mountain bike pedal review, we lean on the expertise of Joshua Hutchens and Tara Reddinger-Adams. Joshua has worked in the bicycle industry since the age of 12 and grew up racing BMX. He has ridden and raced in every cycling discipline but prefers mountain biking. Joshua owned a boutique bike shop in the Pacific Northwest that was awarded Bicycle Retailer's “America's Best Bike Shops” multiple times. He later went on to found Lumberwood Indoor Bike Park. He now resides in South Lake Tahoe, where he can be found riding the trails and spending time with his family. Tara's formal background is in educational leadership, but to feed her passion she spent 11 years working in a bike shop learning the ins and outs of both sales and maintenance. She then transitioned to becoming a certified mountain bike coach and guide and owned her own coaching and guiding business. Tara loves to travel and explore the world on her mountain bike and share her passion with others.

bike pedals - pedals provide a platform that supports your foot as you pedal the...
Pedals provide a platform that supports your foot as you pedal the bike. The pedal body can be made from composite or metal materials.
Credit: Byron Adams

How to Choose the Best Bike Pedals

Bike pedals are a necessary component of riding a bike. Bike pedals provide a platform that allows our feet to turn over the crankarms and propel our bicycles forward. The pedal's platform is referred to as the pedal body and is what the foot rests on while pedaling. Pedal bodies can be made of various materials, such as plastic, aluminum, or carbon fiber.

The pedal body has a hollow core, which the axle inserts into. The axle holds bearings that allow the pedal to rotate. The type of bearing used will determine how much drag there is or how freely the pedal spins. Some drag is optimal — without drag the pedal will freely rotate when you remove your foot. Bike pedals are side-specific, meaning there is a left pedal and a right pedal. The axle of each pedal is threaded, and the pedal attaches to the crank arm by threading the axle into a hole in the crank arm using an open-ended wrench or a hex wrench. When installing bike pedals, it is important to thread the proper-sided pedal onto the crank arm, as cross-threading the pedal can damage the threads on the pedal and those inside the crank arm.

bike pedals - here a pedal is being installed using a hex wrench. pedals are...
Here a pedal is being installed using a hex wrench. Pedals are side-specific and generally, the writing can be read from above or behind the bike.
Credit: Tara Reddinger-Adams

There are three basic types of bike pedals: flat (mountain bike, cruiser, and general purpose) pedals, clipless mountain bike pedals, and road bike pedals. Each pedal has its advantages and disadvantages.

Why are they called “clipless” pedals if they physically clip to the shoe? The misleading nomenclature of clipless pedals stems from an era when the devices we refer to as “bike pedal cages” were commonly called “clips.” If you were riding bikes in the '70s, '80s, or '90s, chances are you've seen cages – a mechanism that is most easily described as a basket that helps to hold the fronts of your feet to the top of a pair of flat pedals. When someone invented a way to attach shoes directly to pedals, there was no reason to use the cages or “clips” anymore, hence, clipless.

Clipless mountain bike pedals and road bike pedals require a specific type of cycling shoe that they are designed to work with. The sole of the shoes designed to interface with clipless pedals has threaded holes that are designed for a cleat to screw into. This cleat engages with the pedal and creates a secure connection between the shoe and the pedal. Flat pedals have a textured surface or small metal pins that help secure the sole of the shoe to the pedal. Most flat-soled athletic shoes can be used with these pedals, as well as cycling-specific flat pedal shoes. Flat pedals can be used on any type of bike, as can clipless mountain bike pedals when used with the proper shoe. However, road bike pedals are generally reserved for road bikes or commuters due to the type of shoe required, which is difficult to walk in.

bike pedals - road bike pedals require a shoe that can accommodate the cleat.
Road bike pedals require a shoe that can accommodate the cleat.
Credit: Luke Hollomon

Mountain Bike Clipless Pedals

Because of their design, clipless pedals are used for more than mountain biking. Despite their name, these pedals use a small cleat that is attached to the sole of the shoe. This cleat clips into the clipless mechanism on the pedal and creates a secure connection between the rider's foot and the pedal. The cleat is generally slightly recessed from the shoe's sole so that it does not interfere with walking. Mountain bike clipless pedals are known for their ease of use, ability to shed mud and dirt, and walkability, making them a popular choice for commuters, gravel riders, mountain bikers, and even road riders. Many clipless mountain bike pedals are also double-sided, meaning you can clip in on either side. People who use clipless mountain bike pedals like the ability to pull up on the pedals for increased power transfer and the locked-in feeling of being connected to their bike.

bike pedals - here you can see the recessed cleat box in the shoe's sole. the...
Here you can see the recessed cleat box in the shoe's sole. The cleat sits in this area and then attaches to the pedal's clipless mechanism.
Credit: Joshua Hutchens

Most mountain bike clipless pedals use a spring-loaded clipless mechanism that holds the cleat in place. The leading edge of the cleat is placed into the leading edge of the clipless mechanism, and then downward pressure is applied to secure the trailing edge. Once this connection is made, the foot is securely attached to the pedal. To release the foot from the pedal, you either twist or lift up on the foot. Many pedals, but not all, allow the rider to adjust this release tension to their preferences.

bike pedals - clipless mountain bike pedals generally have adjustable tension. on...
Clipless mountain bike pedals generally have adjustable tension. On this pedal, the tension can be set lighter (-) or harder (+) by using an allen wrench.
Credit: Jeremy Benson

Some companies use a pedal body that surrounds the clipless mechanism and provides a platform to help guide the cleat into place and, in some instances, a platform for the sole of the shoe to rest on. This body can be made of plastic, metal, or carbon fiber. The materials used play a role in the pedal's price and durability, with plastic-bodied pedals generally costing less than machined aluminum or carbon fiber pedals.

bike pedals - when you ride in muddy conditions, it's important that the pedal...
When you ride in muddy conditions, it's important that the pedal body does not clog with mud and that the clipless mechanism is still usable.
Credit: Joshua Hutchens

Flat Pedals

Flat pedals are the most widely-used and widely-available type of pedal in the world. Whether you've ridden a beach cruiser, a BMX bike, a commuter, a gravel bike, a mountain bike, a road bike, or enjoyed any childhood bike riding, it's safe to say that you have used flats at some point in your life. These pedals provide a large, stable platform for the foot to rest on while pedaling and do not require a bike-specific shoe, making them a popular choice for cyclists in general. Riders who use flat pedals enjoy the freedom of being able to quickly put a foot down without worrying about unclipping from their pedal. Flat pedals can be especially useful when learning new skills or riding more technically demanding terrain where the risk of falling is higher. They can also be a great choice for commuters who make frequent stops or who ride in highly trafficked areas.

bike pedals - flat pedals are a popular choice for cyclists because they don't...
Flat pedals are a popular choice for cyclists because they don't require a special shoe and you can easily place your foot on the pedal and easily remove it.
Credit: Kenji Mowrey

Companies use various forms of composite materials, such as nylon or aluminum, for the platform body on a flat pedal. Small screws or pins, ridges, or textured surfaces are applied to the platform body to provide additional connection between the shoe's sole and the pedal. The screws or pins used on high-end mountain bike models are generally replaceable, as they can get bent or fall out after striking a hard object such as a rock.

This pedal uses a composite nylon pedal body with pins to help the...
This pedal uses a composite nylon pedal body with pins to help the shoe's sole stay connected to the pedal.
This pedal uses a machined aluminum platform with pins along the...
This pedal uses a machined aluminum platform with pins along the perimeter and axle.

Flat pedals can be used with most flat-soled shoes; however, companies have developed mountain bike flat shoes that are designed to increase the connection between the shoe's sole and the pedal through the use of strategically placed lugs and sticky rubbers. The soles of these shoes are stiffer than a traditional athletic shoe to help dampen vibrations felt through the feet while riding and to prevent your feet from curling around the pedals, which can cause some serious aches and pains.

bike pedals - the pins on mountain bike flat pedals are designed to bite into the...
The pins on mountain bike flat pedals are designed to bite into the soft rubber sole of the shoe. Mountain bike flat pedal-specific shoes are made to maximize this connection.
Credit: Byron Adams

Road Bike Pedals

Road bike pedals are the most discipline-specific pedals of the three in our review. This type uses a clipless mechanism to secure a large cleat on the shoe to the pedal. Unlike clipless mountain bike cleats, a road bike cleat protrudes from the sole of the shoe, making it difficult to walk on. Many road cyclists use rubber cleat covers, which makes walking easier and also protects the cleat from unwanted wear.

bike pedals - road bike cleats extend from the sole of the shoe. companies make...
Road bike cleats extend from the sole of the shoe. Companies make cleat covers to protect the cleat while walking.
Credit: Luke Hollomon

Road cyclists prefer to use road bike pedals because they keep the foot in a fixed position and provide increased power transfer and pedaling efficiency. To clip into a road bike pedal, the rider pushes the leading edge of the cleat into the leading edge of the pedal's clipless mechanism and then presses down, securing the trailing edge. The rider then twists or pulls up on the foot to release it from the pedal. Most pedals have adjustable tension, allowing the rider to set the amount of pressure required to release the cleat from the pedal.

bike pedals - some road bike pedals have adjustable tension, as seen here in red...
Some road bike pedals have adjustable tension, as seen here in red. This allows the rider to set the release tension to their liking.
Credit: Luke Hollomon

Road bike pedals are generally single-sided, meaning the rider can only clip in on one side. Some road bike pedals use a pedal body, while others rely on the cleat to make a larger platform. Pedal bodies can be made from composite materials, such as nylon or carbon fiber, or from metals, such as stainless steel or aluminum.

bike pedals - road bike pedals are single-sided and generally have adjustable...
Road bike pedals are single-sided and generally have adjustable release tension, as seen at the back of the pedal.
Credit: Luke Hollomon


Finding the right pair of pedals for your bike is important. Choose the pedal that best suits your needs, and don't get too hung up on their “intended” use. Many people use mountain bike clipless pedals on road bikes, just as people use flat pedals on commuters and road bikes. Consider how and where you'll be riding and if you want to always be clipped in or if you prefer to just jump on your bike and ride without changing into a cycling-specific shoe. We encourage you to read more about each type of pedal in our in-depth reviews as you make your buying decision.

Joshua Hutchens, Tara Reddinger-Adams, and Luke Hollomon