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A Comprehensive Guide to Mountain Bike Pedals 🚵‍♀️

It’s not only a top of the line bike frame or a killer set of 29ers that is going to get you down those hills. It’s your mountain bike pedals. And if you’re like me, then I’m sure you’ve had some bad experiences with them – flats, jammed cleats, etc. – and even without these mishaps they just feel stiff and clunky when pedaling up steep inclines or you find yourself slipping over roots. 

The types of mountain bike pedals that exist are many and varied. They range from clipless to platform, flat pedal, caged and clip in.  Whether you ride old school or electric mountain bike, if you’re not sure which type is right for you or your riding style, read on to find out about the different types of mountain bike pedals.

Clipless Mountain Bike Pedals

Let’s start with good old clipless. A clipless pedal is a mountain bike pedal that has two parts. A cleat that attaches to the bottom of your shoe, and then you clip into the pedals with a clipless mechanism on top. The advantages are that they’re very easy to walk in, transfer power efficiently, and can be used for all types of riding (MTB racing or dirt jumping). However, sometimes beginners find them difficult because it’s hard to get out of ’em on the fly. You also have less foot clearance than other styles, so it’s important not to crash onto roots with these too much or you’ll end up buying new ones time and again. 

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Platform Mountain Bike Pedals

Then you have your platform pedals. Platform pedals are great for riders who want more control over their feet while pedaling, but don’t need any extra security from coming unclipped. They’re also great for riders who have a lot of foot clearance or pedal very slowly, because they offer more surface area to push on and are actually lighter than clipless pedals. The disadvantages include not maximizing torque on the upstroke pedal when cycling, so they’re not as efficient.

The advantage of platform pedals is the ability to walk around when off the bike when necessary, since they don’t require any special shoes or gear to utilize. 

They are generally less expensive than clipless because they require no special tools or maintenance requirements like knowing how to tighten the cleats onto shoes each time before riding. 

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Clip-In Mountain Bike Pedals

For those who want the increased stability of a platform pedal but like being firmly attached to something (#clinger), there are clip-in pedals. Unlike regular platforms that require you to move your foot back and forth between them (or even lift up for some), these clips allow riders more control over their feet while still providing an easy way for them to pull off or put on shoes in the event they need one hand free – all without sacrificing safety thanks to its cleat system which attaches securely into specialized cycling shoes. Clip-in pedals tend to offer riders increased control over their foot placement while still being able to move it like platform pedals (above). The kicker though is that clip pedals are generally more expensive than platform ones and require a specialized shoe with cleats that attach to the pedal.

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Slipper Mountain Bike Pedals

Then you have your slipper pedals. These are designed for riders who do not want their foot clipped into place, but also don’t mind if it shifts around while pedaling. These types of pedals usually have adjustable tension so that they can be loosened or tightened depending on preference as well as different levels of release which will determine how easy it is to remove one’s foot from them when needed, such as getting up an incline (they’re great for walking!)

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Cage Mountain Bike Pedals

Finally, you got your cage pedals. Cage pedals offer increased control over where your feet must go in order to get onto the bike because there is no movement allowed. This is a great option for beginners and riders who have knee or leg issues.

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👟 Shoes and Frames to Match Your Pedals

  • Mountain Bike Shoe Types: Hard-soled shoes are usually preferred when riding a mountain bike because they provide more stability and protection than soft soles, which can get caught up on rocks or other obstructions while flat pedals allow riders to walk with their feet still clipped into the pedals.
  • Basic Shoe Types: There are three basic types of shoes that cyclists may wear. The most common type is a flat shoe which has no treads or cleats, these work well with any pedals and can be used on almost any surface including mud, sand and snow as they provide grip to the ground by being put in contact with it at all times.
  • Clipless Shoes: Then there are clipless shoes where riders would need to use special style pedals for them to attach properly onto their bike’s pedal system so that they can stay securely attached while cycling. These require more practice before you get used to how they work but if done correctly then this ensures maximum efficiency when pedaling because your feet will always be working together rather than one foot trying to pull the other one.
  • Toe clips: These are similar to clipless shoes but they have an additional piece which presses down on your shoe’s upper that will stop it from sliding off during a cycle. This is usually achieved by attaching toe straps onto these types of pedals and then clipping them onto your feet with springs so you can get maximum power out of each pedal stroke while still being able to remain firmly attached at all times.
  • Bike Fit – Frame Size vs Standover Height: Riders should always refer to their height as that will determine what size frame they need, but standover height should also be taken into consideration since this would indicate how much clearance there will likely be between you and any obstacles you might come across while cycling. If your bike has no suspension it is recommended that you have a standover height of at least six inches. With suspension, it is important to check the bike’s specifications for clearance as this will vary from model to model.


The type of bike pedal system you use should really depend on what kind of terrain or road conditions you typically ride in most often as different styles may be more suited for certain situations than others. Flat pedals are a solid go to, given they work well in any condition, especially you (the rider) wants minimal contact between their feet and the pedals.



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