Mountain Bike Pedals: Everything you need to know

As with your saddle and handlebar grips, your mountain bike pedals are points of contact with your bike. They are not just for powering along. Your choice of mountain bike pedals can have a huge difference to how your bike feels and rides.

Here is my guide to the types of mountain bike pedals and what the advantages and disadvantages of each are.

Clipless Mountain Bike pedals

To use clipless mountain bike pedals you need specific mountain bike shoes. This is because the shoe has a cleat that clips on to the pedal (yes, clipless pedals clip in). Being attached to the bike gives the rider a great connection with the bike. The advantages of this are:

  • Increased pedal efficiency – Being able to push with one foot and pull with the other makes pedaling easier.
  • Handling – When you are riding a technical section, your feet don’t bounce or slip off the pedals. This gives you lots more control and makes it easier to jump over roots and rocks.
  • Size – You will notice that clipless mountain bike pedals are much smaller than other types. This means you will get less pedal strikes on rocks and roots.

The disadvantage of this type of pedal, is that it can take some getting used to. When I first started using them, I had lots of slow speed falls, resulting in bashed hips and elbows.

If you decide to go down the clipless route, make sure that the shoes and pedals are compatible. This is because there are different systems on the market that won’t work together.

Flat Mountain Bike Pedals

Currently I prefer to ride with flat mountain bike pedals. This is because it is easier to jump off or dab a foot down if necessary. Flat pedals are surprisingly grippy, especially when they are coupled with some proper mountain bike shoes such as Five Tens. There are alternatives though, have a look at the link below to see.

Mountain Bike Shoes: 4 of the best pairs available now

Flat mountain bike pedals are great for beginners. This is because they do give you the option to jump off, they are cheaper and you don’t have to buy the necessary shoes straight away. You can just wear some good flat trainers that you don’t mind getting chewed up a bit by the pegs.

Combination Mountain Bike Pedals

These pedals allow you to ride either clipped in or not. There are two different versions. You can buy ones with a clip on one side, while the other side is flat. I used to have these, but I found them a bit annoying. This is because the clip tends to spin the pedal so it is facing down, making it awkward to clip in. The other type has clips on both sides.

The advantage of combination pedals is that if you like to ride the trails clipped in, but want to use your bike to go to the shop or to work on, you don’t need to change pedals or shoes.

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Other Considerations Before you buy

How adjustable are the pedals? – The amount of tension you get in a clipless pedal determines how easy it is to clip in and out. As does the float, which is the amount you can move your foot without becoming unclipped.

How tough are they? – Pedal strikes on rocks etc are not uncommon, so they need to be able to withstand some punishment.

How easy are they to maintain? – If you spend a lot of money on your new pedals, you will want them to last. You can increase their longevity by servicing them.

How much do they weigh? – Light is good, but don’t compromise durability for weight reduction. If you bend or crack a pedal on a ride, you will wish you got something a bit tougher.

The Best Clipless Mountain Bike Pedals to Buy

Shimano XTR M9100

Mountain bike pedals
The Shimano XTR M9100 Clipless Mountain Bike Pedals are available from Chainreaction

Shimano have really done their homework on these pedals. They have been developed over the years to be lighter and clear mud quickly. It is very adjustable, so you can tweak it to suit your own preference.


  • Material: Pedal Body: Aluminium; Axle: CrMo Steel
  • Binding: Dual Sided
  • Axle Type: Cartridge
  • Cleats Included: SM-SH51
  • Cleat Retention Adjuster: Yes
  • Offset Binding: Yes
  • Use: Off-Road SPD (dual pin)
  • Mechanism: Sealed
  • Weight: 320g (pair)

Also see the Shimano XT M8000 XC Race Pedal

Crank Brothers Mallet E

mountain bike pedals

The Crank Brothers Mallet E Mountain Bike Pedals are available from Chainreaction

These pedals have a concave shape to hold your foot securely. They are designed for enduro riding and racing with a low profile, to reduce pedal strikes. One of the good things about these, is how easy they are to clip in to, due to their size.


  • Concave platform for secure foothold
  • 6 adjustable pins per side for grip
  • Traction pad technology
  • Ribbed body for better traction when unclipped
  • Chamfered edges to reduce rock-strikes
  • 52mm q-factor for maneuverability on tight trails
  • Superior mud shedding
  • Customisable float & release angle
  • Premium bearings & double seal system

Nukeproof Horizon CL CrMo DH

mountain bike pedalsThe Nukeproof Horizon CL CrMo DH pedal is available from Chainreaction 

These pedals are the SPD version of the Horizon Pro flat mountain bike pedal. They are strong and light and their design has been heavily influenced by Nukeproof’s pro riders.

They feature the all new Nukeproof SPD system, but they do work with all brands of SPD shoes.


  • Tough and lightweight CrMo axle
  • Low profile contoured chassis with optimised leading edge
  • Side Support Platform
  • Dual Engagement Mechanism
  • SPD
  • Weight: 526g

Shimano Saint M828 Flat Mountain Bike Pedals

The Shimano Saint M828pedals are available from Wiggle

These have had an update. They are now extra wide with a stronger axle and a concave platform. All these characteristics give the rider extra control. Their design is specifically for downhill mountain biking, therefore they are very durable and ergonomically suited for the job in hand.

mountain bike pedals


  • Unique shape with concave platform for better control and efficiency
  • Wide with a low profile
  • Longer, replaceable pins, screwed in from the back for easy maintenance
  • Extra strong axle
  • 2 year warranty

DMR Vault V2

mountain bike pedalsThe DMR Vault V2 pedals are available from Chainreaction

These are the upgraded version of the pedals I ride with, although mine are pretty old now. They are very durable and have survived many strikes on rocks and roots. They are made from aluminum, so they are light and tough, while the pins hold on to my Five Tens very well. I ride a Canyon Torque on varied terrain around the Portes du Soleil in France. So, they are good for enduro rides and bike park riding.


  • Material: Extruded 6061 Aluminium with 4140 CrMo Steel Axles
  • Size: 105x105mm with 17mm concave foot bed
  • Tuneable: 11 ‘flipPin’ per pedal can be fitted ‘short’ or ‘long’ to fine tune the grip available
  • Serviceable: High load DU bush and cartridge bearing
  • Weight: 430g (Pair)

Shimano M324 Combination

mountain bike pedalsThe Shimano M324 Combination pedals are available from Wiggle

These are a good intro to riding clipless. The adjustable cleat tension allows you to start off loose and tighten them up as you get better.


  • Aluminum
  • SPD on one side
  • Spindle Thread: BC 9/16″ x 20 T.P.
  • Cleat Retention Indicato
  • Cleat Retention Adjuster
  • Serviceable cup and cone bearings add durability
  • Adjustable cleat tension
  • A sealed mechanism and serviceable cup & cone bearings
  • Weight: 533g (pair)

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