Looking for the best mountain bike flat pedals, no matter what your budget? Here's our comprehensive buyer's guide to all things flat pedal.
Combined with a pair of the best mountain bike shoes for flat pedals, the extra feedback and enhanced connection with the bike and terrain you get by riding flat pedals are the main reasons that most of us here at MBR choose them. There’s also nowhere to hide with flat pedals when it comes to your technique. If you can only bunny-hop the bike, or keep from getting bounced around on rough terrain, by using clip-in pedals then you’re doing it wrong.
Flat pedals force you to improve your skills. So we’re sold on the principle then, but which pedal should you buy with so many options on the market and only minimal differences in terms of appearance?
Ultimate alloy pedals with design input from the fastest flat-dirter around (Sam Hill)!
Weight: 416g | Size: 102 x 100mm | Rating: 10/10
Reasons to buy: The best just got better. Is this where we say “flat pedals win medals”?
Reasons to avoid: Not the thinnest. Nor the lightest.
This Horizon Pro is a perfectly rounded package that isn’t the lightest or the thinnest on test, but any pedals that rate higher on these fronts also have greater compromises elsewhere. It’s proven tough and simply feels so solid and secure underfoot for all shapes and sizes of rider, the Horizon is hard to beat. This new shape Enduro pedal is a very well-rounded package. Even with material shaved away to save meaningful grams, grip is still unquestionable and the platform is solid and secure underfoot for all shapes and sizes of rider, making it easy to recommend.
Great shape, great bearings
Weight: 390g | Platform size: 101 x 97mm | Rating: 10/10
Reasons to buy: Great all-rounders
Reasons to avoid: Not as thin as alloy Burgtec Penthouse Flats
Burgtec has platform shape and pin placement totally dialled, so this pedal is rock solid and stable under foot, and the sharper, narrower, traction pins here are even gripper than on the alloy version; itself one of the most locked-down available. Shoe hold is superb then, and the platform is not so massive that it catches on the ground all the time either. Of all the composite flat pedals we’ve tried, Burgtec’s has the best shape and also the sharpest bite into shoe soles. Using fully swappable, bottom feeding steel pins for ease of replacement is a nice touch too.
Big step up in performance compared to the previous versions
Weight: 360g | Size: 105 x 102mm | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: Decent grip and foot stability. Durable and serviceable. Well made. Multiple colour options.
Reasons to avoid: Could be more concave. Not the biggest platform if you have large feet.
CNC machined in Lancashire, the new F22 platform has been made more concave (one of the key changes I’d hoped for) and uses a new asymmetric shape that delivers a claimed 30% more usable surface area than the previous F20 pedal. Built to be durable and fully serviceable, these are pedals that should stick with you through thick and thin, as well as lasting many years of shredding. Placement of the taller, sharper pins and the new platform shape make it immediately noticeable how much gripper these pedals are than the old Hope F20 flats. Hope has made a big step forward with its new pedal, and can now stand shoulder to shoulder with the best flat pedals on the market.
More clearance the DH pedal, and almost as much grip
Weight: 420g | Size: 100 x 93mm | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: Increased ground and cornering clearance. Excellent shape and pin placement. Durable construction. Replacement service parts available.
Reasons to avoid: Average bearing quality. Foot security is a touch lower than on DH Horizon.
The Horizon Sam Hill Enduro pedal uses a similar forged 6061-T6 aluminium body as the DH-version, but it’s cutaway at the corners to increase pedal clearance. Because when racing enduro you are on the gas more often in rough terrain and you don’t want to catch a pedal on a rock or a stump. The Sam Hill Enduro may be smaller than the test-winning Nukeproof Pro Downhill but it’s still got the great shape and durable construction. However, it doesn’t quite have the same security, especially when pedalling hard in the rough. The price has crept up a touch too.
Weight: 351g | Size: 105 x 107mm | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: Ingenious platform shape is thin yet cradles the sole. Lighter than alloy.
Reasons to avoid: The two inner plastic pins are its minimal Achilles heel in the wet. Not currently recyclable.
The company has also perfected the shape on the PA03A – it’s the largest platform here with plenty of concavity, allowing your foot to fall naturally over the axle. There are no ridges or bulges to upset your balance – it feels stable and secure. And despite the large size the PA03A is also the lightest pedal on test. We have two small niggles – HT uses a bearing/bush combo and these were a little rough out of the box and after several months of hammering haven’t loosened up. The threads on the axle were also a little stiff when winding them into our test cranks. We’re not enamoured with the name, but you’ll need to remember it because the HT PA03A is the best shape, best grip and most sure-footed and comfortable plastic pedal we’ve used to date.
UK-made, machined loveliness
Weight: 422g | Size: 104 x 100mm | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: UK-made. Quality construction. Good size and shape. Loads of bite and grip.
Reasons to avoid: More expensive than mass-produced rivals such as Nukeproof.
Not only does the Carder TenFour look fantastic, with its machined ridges and anodised finish, but it sticks to your foot like rice to a saucepan. There’s some built-in concavity, so the ball of your foot nestles into place, then the nine stainless steel pins really lock it down, even on the roughest tracks. Construction is first rate, but you will need to stretch your budget to afford a pair over mass-produced rivals from Nukeproof and DMR.
Totally sorted in terms of feel and surefootedness
Weight: 418g | Size: 115 x 105mm | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: Some people won’t use anything else. They are very wide.
Reasons to avoid: Arguably need Moto pins upgrade to get the best out of them. They are very wide.
With cutaway corners, the Vault’s leading platform edges glance off trail obstacles better for more ground clearance and the aluminium used is very durable and resistant to breaking if the metal body does strike the ground. In terms of feel and surefootedness, the Vault is totally sorted, but the price and weight is slightly higher than some rivals and the way the extreme outer edges stick out more than some could lead to more ground strikes when leant over.
Chunky Penthouse pedal gets an excellent revamp
Weight: 386g | Size: 100 x 102mm | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: The Penthouse flats we’ve all been waiting for. Durability is second to none.
Reasons to avoid: They ain’t cheap. Not the biggest platform.
Burgtec’s MK5 is now 65g lighter a pair and a match for anything on the market in terms of traction and comfort, plus it packs a low maintenance design that trumps most other brand’s durability. Add to this good ground clearance (to reduce the chance of catching a pedal and accidentally damaging yourself) and resistance to flipping too easily, and just about the only fly in the ointment is the £110 cost.
Burly and British!
Weight: 442g | Size: 110 x 100mm | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: High quality at a great price
Reasons to avoid: We’d prefer a different pin that was bottom-loading
The UK-made Pembree D2A flat is machined from a high-grade aluminium and features a 100x110mm platform with 10 stainless steel pins per side. These are slightly thicker than most here but thread into, rather than through, the platform. The pedal gets a stainless-steel axle with 8mm hex for fitting and runs on an inner Igus bushing and two SKF sealed outer bearings.
Normally with a pedal of this quality and finishing there’s a price tag to match, but not this time. The Pembree D2A is excellent value, and when you factor in the build quality and five-year warranty, this pedal is going to last at least the life of your bike. Pembree just needs to offer an alternative pin profile to put the icing on the cake.
Loads of support for big feet
Weight: 391g | Size: 113 x 103mm | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: Great for big feet.
Reasons to avoid: Not quite as good as the Burgtec Composite for smaller feet. More expensive than most plastic pedals.
Its new Defttrap is inspired by the company’s aluminium TMAC. Like most nylon flats, the Deftrap uses nut-and-bolt pins, which thread in from the opposite side. They are sharp, so offer a good amount of bite, but Deity also supplements the eight steel pins with two fixed nylon pins. The Deftrap provides a big target and the build quality is as good as any, especially since the Deftrap runs on a cro-mo steel axle with a 6mm hex fitting and uses a composite bearing assembly, which pairs a DU bushing and mini cartridge bearing. Some plastic pedal bearings we’ve tested are often rough as old boots, but the Deftrap is silky smooth.
How we tested these flat pedals
We swapped between three of the best mountain bike shoes for flatties (Five Ten, Ride Concepts and Specialized 2FO) when testing the flat pedals here. The softness of the rubber is directly proportional to the amount of grip, but the tread pattern also influences how well a shoe grips, hence trying several designs.
Are flat pedals good for mountain biking?
‘Flat pedals win medals’, or so the saying goes. While mountain bike flat pedals aren’t for everyone, they are incredibly popular with a lot of mountain bikers and for good reason; you can put your foot down when you need to, reposition your foot on the pedal, and not being attached to the bike is a definite plus when things start getting sketchy. They also force you to learn correct technique when it comes to bunny-hopping, pumping, and even pedalling, as you can’t be lazy and rely on an attachment between your foot and the pedal.
What to look for in the best mountain bike flat pedals:
What is the best platform shape for a mountain bike flat pedal?
Slimmer, lighter platforms tend to rule modern flat pedal design, since taller pedals afford less ground clearance and aren’t as stable. Further benefits are reduced rider centre of gravity, resistance to flipping, and improved efficiency by spinning closer to the pedalling axis centre. Thinner pedals can also be made wider with equivalent clearance, which increases shoe contact for more stability and control.
How important is pedal concavity with a flat?
The best mountain bike flat pedals have a concave platform. This means the centre is dished to keep the ball of your foot centred and also allow you to reset it easily if removed for a dab or to stabilise in a corner. Being concave also means shoes are more resistant to inching back and forth or bouncing off on really rough terrain.
How important is platform size?
The rule of thumb is if you have big feet you want a big pedal but a bigger platform also means there’s more to aim at and it also offers more support. The downside is you have less cornering and ground clearance.
When it comes to pedal stance, is narrower better?
Using axles without pedal spanner flats means designers can get platforms closer to the crank arms. Platforms closer to the bike improve ground clearance and pedal stroke efficiency. One compromise can be rubbing if feet are too close to crank arms, and platforms with oversized bearing housings might also push feet outwards and dig into effective shoe area for bigger feet too. Really wide pedals generate more twist and flex in cranks, so this is a performance consideration too.
What do I need to look for when it comes to pedal pins?
Stud size, layout and shape affect traction and grip. In the firing line for ground strikes, pins inevitably suffer; bottom-mounting ones are harder to strip out in an impact, and easier to move or replace because Allen key heads are less prone to damage or getting crammed with crud. Some pedal brands also offer a choice of traction studs, and height, width and thickness are critical to grip and performance.
How important are bearings and seals?
Most mid to high-end pedals have sufficient sealing, usually in the form of one or two rubber-lipped seals or O-rings to resist moisture or grit entering the bearings or bushes. The best pedals use multiple seals, with price also usually dictating bearing quality. Look for some resistance to spinning too freely too, as this can help stop pedals flipping over too readily.
Can the best flat pedals be serviced at home?
A bearing or axle rebuild is a job most home mechanics can tackle and will make tired or baggy pedals feel fresh again (for under £20 on some models). It’s worth checking beforehand the price of new bearings or an axle on really expensive set of pedals, as, chances are, the platforms will far outlast the internals in UK conditions.
What’s better; a composite or alloy pedal body?
Until recently, the answer to this question was always alloy if you were looking for a serious MTB flat pedal. But recently a crop of excellent composite/plastic/nylon pedals have emerged that are as good, and in some ways better, than their alloy competitors. Why? Well you can now get them with proper traction pins, rather than studs moulded into the body. The pins are usually secured with recessed nuts, so they’re replaceable, and in many cases the shape of the body exactly mirrors their alloy cousins. Weights are usually similar (aside from the ultra-expensive alloy pedals with titanium axles), axles and bearings are the same, and they can often be better at resisting pedal strikes – composite pedals can bounce or slide on impact rather than stick or crack. And obviously the price is very appealing – often half the price of alloy options.