You don’t have to be an avid bicyclist to know when your comfort and performance while riding could use some improvements.
While there are many ways to improve your endurance and experience when riding your bicycle, the wrong bike pedals can be the root of your problems.
We have created a comprehensive guide on bike pedals and have selected some of the best bike pedals on the market. Whether you’re an everyday cyclist or a weekend rider, you deserve to enjoy your ride every time you hit the road or trail.
In a hurry? The test winner after 6 hours of research:
Race Face Chester
Why is it better?
Race Face Chester
Look KEO 2
Best Mountain Bike Pedals
If you’ve been mountain biking for years with a flat pedal, maybe you’re ready to try out a clipless pedal or vice versa. Here are some of our top picks when it comes to mountain bike pedals.
1. RACE FACE CHESTER MOUNTAIN BIKE PEDAL
If you’ve been using a clipless pedal for years and want to return to riding with a flat pedal, the Race Face Chester Mountain Bike Pedal is one of the best mountain bike flat pedals available.
Even if your bike is outfitted with a flat pedal, maybe you’re looking for something a little more lightweight. We love this flat pedal because not only is it durable and can take a beating on rugged terrain, but it’s also lightweight and comfortable.
This pedal is a perfect option for the cyclist who wants to sharpen his or her technical skills and have a little more control and freedom with his or her footwork.
Available in a variety of colors, this 340 gram pedal is made of nylon composite and has a chromoly steel axle. There are 8 hex pins, which are removable, and provides excellent grip.
2. SHIMANO PD-M540 SPD PEDALS
Talk to anyone in the mountain biking community, and they are familiar with Shimano mountain bike pedals. We’ve chosen these Shimano pedals as the best clipless mountain bike pedals because not only are they reliable like other Shimano bike pedals but they’re affordable, too.
The dual-sided design of the pedal makes it easier to “clip in” and out with confidence and ease, regardless of how rocky the terrain is when you’re riding. The design of the pedal also helps to keep mud from building up and slowing you down.
The aluminum pedal with chromoly spindles is lightweight (about 352 grams for the pair), and you can adjust your tension settings for easier entry and release. Additionally, the cleat design makes it easier for you to walk if your bike shoes have a tread.
Whether you’re starting out with a clipless pedal or are just looking for a high-quality and durable option, this is one of the best mountain bike clipless pedals on the market. In general, this pedal has all the things you need in a clipless pedal for a mountain bike.
Best Road Bike Pedals
Riding a road bike can be a great adventure, but it can also be a lot of work and a little tiring if you don’t have the right pedal on your bike. If you ride a road bike, there’s a good chance you log in a lot of hours and spend a lot of your time pedaling at high speeds.
As we mentioned earlier, the right pedal can help you be a more energy efficient rider. Here are a few of our top picks for the best pedals for a road bike.
1. SHIMANO 105-5800 ROAD PEDAL
Once again, a Shimano pedal has made our “best” list, and it’s also one of the best SPD pedals for a road bike. Clipless pedals are essential for road bikes because you need all the power and control you can get without tiring out after a few miles.
The right clipless pedal can help you create an energy efficient pedal stroke and one the best ways to do that is get rid of some extra weight. The clipless pedal has a carbon composite body and weighs only 285 grams (this is about 35 grams less than previous versions).
Not only does a lighter pedal make you more energy efficient but the wide bearing placement makes each pedal stroke more stable and have uniform load distribution.
Like other Shimano clipless pedals, you can easily adjust the tension settings for clipping in and out more easily.
If your goal is to improve your performance on the road, this clipless pedal can help you reach that goal.
2. LOOK KEO 2 MAX PEDAL
Look bike pedals are another favorite of ours for road bikes because they are lightweight and reliable.
Each pedal weighs an impressive (and light) 130 grams, which is due to a carbon injection process to ensure a clipless road bike pedal that weighs less.
Although clipless pedals are known for their small surface area, the Look KEO 2 Max Pedal has a 12 percent increased contact surface area and a steel wear plate.
Like comparable clipless pedals, this one has a carbon body and chromoly axles.
Whether you use your road bike for recreation or competition, this pedal is another great clipless option. The care that went into the design is proof that this pedal was not only made to be comfortable but also made to last a long time.
This clipless pedal is another great option when you want to conserve your energy and make the most out of every pedal stroke you make on your ride.
Best Bike Pedals For Commuting
If you’ve committed to ride your bike more and drive less, you will want some of the best commuter bike pedals available.
While commuting is typically much different than taking long rides on a road bike, it can take a lot of energy and time to get from point a to point b.
We’ve selected our the pedal that we think is one of the best bike pedals for commuting and the best part? You don’t need to buy special shoes or cleats.
1. SHIMANO A530 SPD PEDALS
If you thought that the hybrid pedal sounded like a great idea, you’ll love the Shimano A530 SPD Pedal. We love this pedal for commuters because you have options. We don’t assume that every commuter likes to wear cleats or even owns any.
This Shimano pedal is not only versatile but also practical. Right your bike to work while wearing your work shoes and pedal comfortably on the platform side of the pedal.
On the weekends when you want to put in a few extra miles and wear your cycling shoes, flip the pedal and “clip in” for a long and ride.
This pedal has a lightweight steel body with a chromoly spindle which means that it stays clean, is durable, and will make pedaling comfortable and easy regardless of what side of the pedal you use.
With the Shimano A530 SPD Pedal, you can truly make your bike a day-to-night ride.
What Are Bike Pedals?
Have you ever stopped to think how difficult it would be to ride a bike without its pedals? Unless you’re coasting downhill, you don’t have a chance at getting very far without pedals.
In short, the pedal propels the bicycle forward.
When the cyclist puts his or her foot down on the pedal, the pedal turns a crank, which transfers energy to the drive chain, the wheel turns, and the bike moves. Remove the pedals, and you would have to push the bike with your feet.
Types of Bike Pedals
Remember the bike pedals of your youth? They were probably made out of a black plastic and had orange reflectors built in. If your bike was without hand brakes, you backpedaled to stop. A pretty basic yet functional design.
Even as you ride your bicycle today, as an adult, you might not even think much about different types of bike pedals.
Aren’t bike pedals pretty much the same?
While all bike pedals have the same basic function, there are different bike pedals for styles of riding and even the personal preference of the cyclist. We’ll discuss some of the most common types of bike pedals.
Flat and Platform
When you think about the first bicycle you ever rode, the pedals were most likely flat or platform. A flat pedal is just as it sounds. The pedal surface is flat and often smooth (sometimes there’s a little grip added to the surface), it adds a little stability and can be used with any kind of shoe.
Flat pedals are best for brand new bicyclists, as they have a larger area for resting the foot, and they are a common and suitable pedal for many types of bikes from beach cruisers to mountain bikes.
Platform bike pedals are pretty much the same as flat pedals and although a simple design and function, they can benefit any cyclist who wants to improve his or her technical riding skills.
One of the main reasons that some cyclists prefer a flat and platform pedal is the ability to get off the bike more easily and having better control overall.
Types of Riding
Consider mountain or downhill cycling, many of these adventurous mountain or downhill enthusiasts use a pedal with a clip or strap. Mountain bike flat pedals can help some cyclist learn to rely on their riding skills rather than being clipped into the pedal.
In many ways, mountain bike platform pedals can help a rider become more “in tune” with the trail, the terrain, and his or her balance and technical skills. BMX riders can also benefit from a flat pedal as there’s more freedom and better control of the bike.
Today’s flat and platform pedals aren’t made out of the hard, heavy rubber of our early biking days. Now, these pedals are made with lightweight materials and even have sealed bearings to lock out moisture and dirt.
Flat and platform pedals are available in titanium, aluminum, magnesium, or lightweight, heavy duty plastics, just to name a few.
Some of the flat and platform pedals allow you to add more grip to the pedal when needed (such as wet and slippery conditions). While flat and platform continue to be a relatively basic pedal, there are far more options today.
As you grew up and started riding ten-speeds or other “grown-up” bicycles, there’s a good chance that your pedal was a quill pedal. While similar to flat and platform pedals, the quill pedal typically has a toe clip and toe strap.
These clips and straps keep the foot in place, while on the pedal but there is no commitment to cleats or special bicycling shoes.
Types of Riding
Quill pedals have been around for more than 100 years, and they work well for a variety of cyclists. Whether you’re a recreational cyclist or a daily bicycle commuter, quill pedals may be the perfect type of pedal for your ride.
Beginner mountain bicyclists may like to use quill pedals as well because it can make it easier to control the ride but then it can also be difficult to take the feet out of the pedals quickly enough.
Overall, quill pedals are a great option for a variety of cyclists because it helps with control and a little sense of security. The pedals are comfortable (once you get used to using the clips and straps) as long as the pedal and toe cage is wide enough.
Like many of today’s modern bike pedals, the quill pedal is available in a variety of lightweight materials like resin and steel. There are also many styles to choose from like a simple toe strap that goes across the foot or a toe cage that offers a little more security and control when riding.
If you’ve never used a clipless pedal, it’s not really want the name implies. A clipless pedal is a pedal where you clip into the bike pedal. Some experts compare clipless bike pedals like clipping into a pair of skis.
Unlike other types of pedals like the flat and platform or quill, you need to invest in a pair of cycling shoes that are made for clipless pedals.
The cleat, which is often made out of metal or plastic clips into the spring-loaded clip of the pedal and makes a secure and comfortable connection.
Types of Riding
While any cyclist might appreciate a more powerful and controlled push on a clipless pedal, it’s not an ideal pedal for recreational or beginner bicyclists. The riders who use clipless pedals the most are experienced road bicyclists, triathletes, and some mountain bikers.
These types of riders like the clipless pedal because not only does it offer a little more power and control, it can help create a more energy efficient pedal stroke. Clipless pedals are ideal for longer rides and riding at a faster speed.
Even though clipless pedals are just the fraction of the size of a flat pedal, they need to be made out of a lightweight material that’s easy to keep clean, so the cleat snaps in snug and secure.
When you shop around for clipless pedals, you’ll notice that the majority of pedals are aluminum and steel.
Pedal Toe Clips and Straps
We mentioned pedal toe clips and straps briefly as we discussed quill pedals. Toe clips are often referred to as “toe cages.” They attach to the front of your flat/platform pedal and cover your toe (like of like a slipper).
When you use toe straps with a toe clip, you have better control and your whole foot is more secure. The strap threads through the clip and goes around the ball of your foot.
Types of Riding
Whether you’re going for a leisurely ride around the park or a weekend ride on your road bike, toe clips and straps might be the ideal accessory for your flat/platform pedal.
Clips and straps can be a little awkward the first few times, but they are easy to figure out as long as they fit well and are adjusted correctly.
Clip and Strap Materials
Most toe clips are available in either a durable resin or steel. Strap materials are a little more diverse and may include leather, nylon, or a technopolymer material.
Other Pedal Types
With all the bicycle pedals we’ve mentioned already, you may be surprised to find out that there are a few more.
Although a less known pedal, the magnetic pedal offers another option for mountain bike clipless pedals. For some riders, particularly those who are mountain bike enthusiasts, the magnetic pedal offers a little extra power and security when using a clipless pedal.
Riders can also opt out of clipping in and rely on the magnetic pull so the rider’s foot sort of “floats” rather than clipping in completely.
A magnetic pedal is not likely for every rider, but it can make the ride a little more interesting. The rider can also work on technical skills with more confidence.
Since a bike is useless without a pedal, you may be curious as to why someone would want a foldable pedal. Foldable bike pedals are great for bicyclists who have to store their bikes in a small space.
While pedals that fold up are not as durable as regular pedals, they are suitable for recreational bike rides. Foldable pedals aren’t ideal for mountain biking and other high endurance types of riding.
Do you like having a clipless pedal but don’t always find it to be convenient? Maybe you want to try out or ease into using a clipless pedal. If you’re not fully committed to a clipless pedal, clipless/platform bike pedals may be the perfect option for you.
With clipless capabilities on one side of the pedal and a flat platform on the other, there are more ways to ride.
Some “How To’s”
Don’t consider yourself to be a bicycle expert or never really thought about how certain parts of your bike worked until now?
You’ve come to the right place.
Even if you only ride your bike a few days a month, it’s important to learn how your bicycle works. The more you learn, the more you might want to hop on and go for a ride.
How Are Bike Pedals Attached To a Bike?
When you think about how bike pedals are attached to a bike, take a look at the Anatomy of a bicycle. The pedals are attached to the crank arm, which is attached to the chainring.
How Do Bike Pedals “Work”
As we mentioned at the beginning of this guide, a bike pedal turns the crank, and the energy is transferred into the drive chain. The wheel propels forward, and the bike moves.
If you’ve ever taken your feet off the pedals or stopped pedaling all together, you notice that your bike will eventually slow down and stop moving.
Pedals make riding a bicycle more efficient, and they can also provide control and stability for the rider. When you ride your bike, you only go as fast as you move the pedals.
How To Change Bike Pedals
Now that you’ve learned more about the variety of bike pedals that are available, maybe you’re interested in putting a different pair of pedals on your bike.
While you could take your bike to your neighborhood bike shop to remove bike pedals, why not learn how to remove bike pedals and replace bike pedals on your own?
There are lots of videos that will show you how to change bike pedals, step-by-step, but we’ll give you the basics, just to give you a general idea.
Before you get started, it’s a good idea to have a repair stand (or someone to help you hold your bike), a pedal wrench, and some grease for the threads on the pedals (like polylube).
It’s also important to note that pedal threads are different from the left side and the right. Your right side pedal has a right-hand thread. You should go in a counterclockwise motion when removing the pedal, and clockwise when installing.
The opposite goes for your left pedal. If you’re unsure which pedal is left or right, most pedals are marked.
Removing The Old Pedal
Removing pedals may take a little “elbow grease” as they are usually screwed on tightly.
Installing New Pedals
Before you install your new pedals, look for the “L” and “R” marking on the axle or wrench flats.
If there are no left or right markings, left pedals have threads that slope upward to the left, and the right pedals have threads that slope upward to the right. Most pedals are marked.
Don’t forget to hang on to any packaging or instructions that come with the pedals as they may be helpful as a reference or if any issues arise during your installation or removal.
What To Consider When Choosing Bike Pedals
Now that you know there’s more to a life of bicycling than a flat pedal, you may need a little help deciding which bike pedal will be your best option. While we briefly covered some of this information earlier, we’ll touch base again to help you choose the right bike pedal.
Before you go out and buy some new pedals for your bike, you want to think about how you use your bike. If you are a recreational bicyclist who likes to put in a few extra miles on the weekend or likes to ride around the flat trails in the park, a flat/platform may be more than enough.
If you’re interested in logging in more miles and want to see give clipless pedals a try, why not consider the clipless/flat hybrid pedal? Even if you find out that you enjoy clipless pedals, it may not be convenient or practical to wear cycling shoes each time you ride.
Mountain bike enthusiasts ride differently than triathletes and even commuters. Consider your usage and try to settle on one type of pedal.
When thinking about your bike pedals, consider your biking goals. Much like your bike usage and purpose your goals can help you make a solid decision.
Do you have plans to do competitive racing or do more long distance riding? You’ll definitely want to check out road bike pedals like clipless pedals.
Want to get out in nature and challenge yourself? Mountain bike pedals like flat, magnet, or clipless are all good options.
Are you happy to go on short bike rides with your family but might dabble with logging in more hours in your own time? Hybrid pedals may be a good option for your biking goals.
Keep in mind that as your bike goals change, it’s okay to change your pedals, too. Once you figure out to remove and install pedals, you have more options.
Selecting The Best Pedal For Your Biking Needs
The biking world is a lot more diverse than many people think and just as there are different types of bikes, there are several types of pedals.
Choosing the right pedal for your biking goals, your bike type, and even your personal preferences will make your whole biking experience that much better.
Discover your endurance, your control, and your confidence once you put one of the best bike pedals to use.
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