The best flat pedals for mtb are more stable and efficient than ever. Here's your guide to what to look for — and which are our favourites here at MBR
Your pedals are one of your major contact points and whether you’re sitting down or standing up you’ll want a secure connection to your drivetrain. If you’re constantly slipping off your bike or you’ll end up on rides that are neither fast nor fun, so getting your pedals sorted is essential.
There are two main types of pedals:
- Flats – Your shoe is free to move from the pedal and is gripped by pins on the pedal
- Clips – Your shoe is attached to the bike using a cleat.
Over the last few years, we’ve seen trends change in everything from wheel size to fork construction and flat pedals are no different — they’ve shifted towards lower platform heights with bigger surface areas.
The theory is that a bigger platform offers greater stability, while a thinner profile increases ground clearance while eliminating the top and bottom pedalling dead-spots you get on thicker, BMX-style designs.
Slim, wider pedal bodies are now commonplace, and over the past few months we’ve put some of the best modern flats through their paces.
It’s been widely documented that platform pedals can offer the best way to learn correct technique in mountain biking. Thanks to the direct (rather than ‘floating’ clipless) connection between shoe and pedal, you can use the pressure to lean and control the bike, and to generate grip and momentum.
There are a few downsides to this design too — you’re not joined to the bike, so it can still bounce around all over the place, and flats are also less efficient when climbing, but whether you’re a total beginner or on old hand, it’s never too late to see if the humble flat pedal can change your ride.
Scroll down for a selection of the best mountain bike flat pedals, but first, here’s a quick guide to what to look for.
What to look for
A slimmer platform has become a priority in modern flat pedal design. Riders and engineers have noted a huge range of benefits, including improved ground clearance, reduced rider centre of gravity, resistance to flipping, and improved efficiency by spinning closer to the centre of the pedalling axis.A thinner platform can also be made wider, which increases shoe contact for more stability and control.
The closer the pedal body sits to the crank arm, the greater the ground clearance when you’re leant over and the more efficient your pedalling stroke. Using a stubby axle allows companies to position the platform further in-board, but you may occasionally experience some rubbing where your heels catch the crank arms.
Pin height, placement and removal
It’s inevitable that flat pedal pins will get damaged as they’re in the firing line for ground strikes. Bottom-loading pins are easier to replace as the Allen heads don’t get crushed or full of mud, and some designs also offer hex-bolt heads as a back-up for removal. Some pedal brands also offer a choice of traction studs, and the height, width and thickness of these pins are critical to grip and performance.
Bearings and seals
Most mid to high-end pedals have good internal sealing, which is usually in the form of one or two rubber-lipped seals or O-rings to prevent water or grit getting into the axle/bearing interface. Replacement sealed bearings and bushes should be readily available for most modern pedals these days, and servicing is generally straightforward enough for competent home mechanics.
As a direct link between you and the bike, a flat pedal needs to be as stiff as possible. With a rigid platform, minimal energy is wasted and it also allows you to feel exactly what’s going on underneath you, which helps with control, balance and grip. Most of the pedals in this test are plenty stiff enough but, like most things, it’s all about compromise as making a pedal wafer-thin can cause it to flex more.
Best mountain bike pedals: flats
An amazing signature model from the flat pedal master - £79.99
There's a good reason why this is MBR's favourite flat pedal - £99.99
A great value flat pedal that's a strong performer too - £55
A good investment for those with deep enough pockets - £119.99
Great grip and versatility - £149.99
US firm produces a surprisingly UK-friendly flat pedal - £89.99
Race Face's trail pedal offers excellent grip coupled with a smaller platform - £99.95
Highly regarded DH pedal reinvented for the trail - £99.99
You simply won't find a better flat pedal for less than £35 - £34.99
Overpriced and underwhelming - £64.99
There are two clear winners in this test – the DMR Vault and the Nukeproof Horizon Sam Hill – both of them have great platforms and top notch reliability. The Sam Hill pedal just edges it by being that little bit cheaper. If you’re after a more budget option, you can’t go too far wrong with the Superstar Delta however.
Don’t forget that a flat pedal will be almost useless without a decent shoe to compliment it. Have a look at our buyer’s guide to mountain bike shoes here.