Choosing the ideal bicycle pedals for you:
There are three basic types of bicycle pedals. There are platform, clip and clipless. Each type has a unique set of advantages and disadvantages. Choosing the right pedal for you can have a big influence on your gait and your bike’s performance. It is important to know the pros and cons of each type before buying a mountain bike or when looking for new bike pedals. Pedals are the main connection between you and your bike!
Flat or Flat Bike Pedals (also known as “Flats”):
This is a traditional pedal shape that most people are familiar with. Platform pedals are easy to use and ideal for those who prefer to ride in soft-soled shoes. They are probably the most universal types of bicycle pedals, as anyone can use them with almost any style of footwear. They do not offer any direct coupling between the foot and the bike, however they are designed to provide a good amount of grip and come in unlimited grip settings and levels. Platform pedals offer instant removal of your foot from the pedal for any reason, anytime, and without obstruction.
Platform Pedal Pros and Cons:
- Easy to use
- No need for special footwear
- Nothing to hold you to the bike
- The large surface area provides better contact for your feet.
- Lack of power transfer to pedal on upstroke
- Pedal teeth can hurt if your foot slips
- Loss of pedaling efficiency
Cage or toe clip style bicycle pedals:
This type of mountain bike pedal is probably the second most popular style. With this type of pedal, you slide your foot into a cage that is attached to the pedal and the cage has a strap that wraps around the top of the foot. Toe clips or cages offer advantages over standard platform style pedals because they allow the rider to pull the pedal up and down. They also help secure the foot on the pedal to reduce foot slippage and possible shin scraping with the cuffs. They also offer the ability to easily put your foot out if needed and are popular for people who ride bikes in traffic and need to make frequent stops.
Advantages and disadvantages of the cage pedal or toe clamp:
- Easy to learn to use
- Riders can use power to both push down and pull on the pedal.
- No special footwear is needed
- Some loss of power, the toe clip style cannot capture all the energy of the pedal cycle like clipless pedals can.
- A bit harder to get in and out of than platform pedals
Automatic bicycle pedals:
Clipless bike pedals are often the most popular choice for mountain bike riders. They work by directly attaching the foot to the pedal. Special shoes are worn that have a snug cleat on the sole and are “clamped” on the pedal receiver. This provides the most efficient transfer of power from the rider to the pedals and there is no energy loss. The feet remain attached to the pedal throughout the travel, resulting in the ability to pull up and push down on the pedals. Releasing the foot only requires a quick rotation to the side and the pedal is released, allowing you to put your foot on the ground or get off the bike. Many people choose clipless vs. Pedal clip because they keep your foot on the pedal even on rough terrain and also make jumping over obstacles easier.
Pros and cons of clipless pedals:
- Maximum efficiency with direct transfer of power to the pedals
- Secure attachment to the bike so you can focus and enjoy cycling
- Don’t worry if your foot slips and causes injury.
- Easier to jump over obstacles
- Specialized shoes are required
- You need to learn to click on and off the pedals.
- It can be difficult to take your foot off the pedal in an emergency and crashes do occur
So which ones do I choose?
You will need to find out which driving style you plan to do the most. Will you do easy mountain biking on non-technical trails, extreme downhill, or will you pedal down technical and difficult trails? Once you decide what type of riding to do, you can review the three main pedal styles and choose the one that you think is best for you. Basic platform pedals come in various grips, but are generally best suited for a relaxed, casual ride. When choosing clip vs. Clipless pedals, the choice can be reduced to personal preference. Clipless pedals, once you’re comfortable with them, are often the best option because they transfer power directly to the bike, making your leg movement more efficient. It’s also always possible to change your bike’s pedals if you decide that a different type might work better for you.