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 for most of our riding. There’s also nowhere to hide with flat pedals as far as your technique goes. 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?
How we tested these flat pedals
We swapped between three of the best mountain bike shoes for flatties (Five Ten, Ride Concepts and Fizik) when testing the flat pedals. 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. We kept all the pins intact when testing the flats and tested all the pedals on the same bike, because that also plays a part in the amount of grip generated.
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Ultimate alloy pedals with design input from the fastest flat-dirter around (Sam Hill)!
Weight: 416g | Size: 102 x 100mm | Rating: 10/10
Pros: The best just got better. Is this where we say “flat pedals win medals”? Cons: 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.
Weight: 351g | Size: 105 x 107mm | Rating: 9/10
Pros: Ingenious platform shape is thin yet cradles the sole. Lighter than alloy. Cons: 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.
Great shape, great bearings
Weight: 390g | Platform size: 101 x 97mm | Rating: 10/10
Pros: Great all-rounders Cons: 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 here, 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.
Weight: 385g | Size: 100 x 110mm | Rating: 9/10
Pros: An excellent all-rounder. Not ridiculously grippy. Cons: Lack of concavity will put off some. Not ridiculously grippy.
The best thing about the E*Thirteen Base is its shape and foothold feels absolutely spot on. They’re long front-to-back too, so there’s a ton of support and a really comfortable, stable feel. There’s a tiny bit less bite than the grippiest pedals here, like Nukeproof’s Horizon, but this may also be preferable to some riders. This plastic version use the exact same traction pin layout as the brand’s LG1 downhill pedal that’s built a good reputation for high grip-with-feel levels in recent years.
UK-made, machined loveliness
Weight: 422g | Size: 104 x 100mm | Rating: 9/10
Pros: UK-made. Quality construction. Good size and shape. Loads of bite and grip. Cons: More expensive than mass-produced rivals such as Nukeproof.
Not only does the Carder Ten4 look fantastic, with its machined ridges and annodised 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
Pros: Some people won’t use anything else. They are very wide. Cons: Arguably need Moto pins upgrade ot 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
Pros: The Penthouse Flats we’ve all been waiting for. Durability is second to none. Cons: 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.
Tyler McCaul knows his stuff
Weight: 410g | Size: 110 x 105mm | Rating: 9/10
Pros: Arguably more foot support and solid connection with the bike than other pedals here Cons: Top-loading pins can be hard to remove if damaged. Sheer size can cause pedal clearance issues
The Deity T-Mac pedals are Tyler McCaul’s signature model. It uses a symmetrical, rather than offset shape, that places rider weight equally around the axle rather than slightly in front of it like most parallelogram designs. There’s plenty of concavity built into its supportive broad surface, and it’s excellent at keeping shoes well-centred. The machined 6061 aluminium platform isn’t the thinnest, but, with the 2.5mm deep dished-out central zone, there’s no sense of pedal roll or feet bouncing, even on the roughest trails. Well-positioned, sharp pins ensure grip levels are amongst the best around – feet are locked on, without grip being so ridiculous shoes accidentally get stuck, or cause the platform to flip when trying to dab. Grip levels here match any of the best flat pedals. Rider weight and impact forces are distributed over a broad area to keep feet from fatiguing.
What to look for in the best mountain bike flat pedals:
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.
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.
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.
Using axles without pedal spanner flats 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.
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 becuase 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.
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.
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. 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.
Composite or Alloy?
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 appealling – often half the price of alloy options.