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.
The Superstar Nano Tech pedal was one of our favourites, but you can’t buy it anymore. Fortunately, the replacement Nano-x actually feels better and costs even less.
Azonic World Force
On the trail, the pedal feels good — grip is sorted, the bearings are smooth, without spinning too fast (and causing the pedal to flip over), and the slightly dished-out shape feels spot on. Our shoes overlapped the edges more than some pedals, though, and, given the choice, we’d still always prefer a bigger, more stable platform.
Nukeproof Horizon Sam Hill
After riding and rating flat pedals for years, we’re confident this Nukeproof Horizon Sam Hill design is right up there with the very best — it’s also a tad cheaper than similar top performers, making it great value.
There are cheaper pedals, but the Vault’s platform profile is impeccable and very durable. Our only criticism is their weight and the way that the outer edges stick out more than some rivals, which could lead to more ground strikes when leant over.
Grip and security are plentiful, although there’s the slight sense that feet aren’t quite as planted and comfy as on those benchmark Nano Techs. The reduced height, clearance and stability are noticeable though, and the newer pedal is less likely to flip over than the old one.
HT Components ME03
If you have deep enough pockets and a desire for something special, then these are definitely worth a look.
The Contact doesn’t have the deep scalloped platform of the mbr test-winning DMR Vault, but the finish and bearings are way better quality. It may not be the thinnest either, but it’s stiff, solid underfoot and the multiple pin placement allows you to really tune the grip level to match your riding style and preference.
Loaded Flat AMX Signature V2
Compared to the DMR Vault, the Loaded Flat AMX Signature V2 is a tad smaller but has a lower profile. It’s also slightly cheaper and has better quality bearings, which felt smooth out of the box, and have stayed that way since.
Race Face Aeffect
This Aeffect isn’t cheap, but looks classy, is reasonably low-profile with its 17mm thick platform, and recommended if you’re after a smaller design.
Burgtec Penthouse MK IV
Burgtec’s proven reliability is now cheaper than ever, and if you’re after the ultimate in grip, then look no further. We’d actually prefer a less locked-on feel, and if shorter studs were a stock option we’d rate this as one of the best trail-riding flat pedals around.
The Electron is fantastic value, and tough enough to handle the abuse of aggressive riding, but it could be better if the body shape was a bit flatter or even slightly concave.
Cube All Mountain
There’s nothing wrong with these pedals, but you don’t have to look very hard to pick up the near identical Superstar Nano tech for less money. Better still, for something as crucial as this contact point, I’d recommend you spend a bit more for a bigger platform and bite from something like the excellent DMR Vault.
Syntace Number Nine Titan
Feet come in a wide range of sizes, so why are flat pedals one size fits all? That’s a question Syntace has answered with its new NumberNine Titan pedal, which is available in three platform sizes: small, medium and large. These correspond to 35-42, 38-45 and 43-50 shoe sizes (EU) respectively. Although it’s a remarkable pedal, we’ve found it difficult to award it top marks simply because of the price.
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.