Clip-in or foot-out flat out, there's a pedal for you in this lot
Looking for the best mountain bike pedals, no matter whether you clip-in or ride flats? Here’s our comprehensive buyer’s guide to all things pedal.
What are mountain bike pedals?
There are two types of mountain bike pedals: flat pedals and clipless pedals. Flat pedals are just what they sound like, flat pedal bodies with no engagement mechanism for use with flat sole shoes. Clipless pedals have a mechanism built into the pedal bosy and require a cleat bolted to specific cycling shoe soles.
Best mountain bike flat pedals for 2019
Here our are current favourite best mountain bike flat pedals. See the links to full reviews down the page.
- Nukeproof Horizon Pro, £74.99
- HT PA03A, £34.99
- DMR Vault, £100
- Chromag Contact, £89.99
- Nukeproof Neutron EVO, £29.99
Best mountain bike clipless pedals for 2019
Here our are current favourite best mountain bike clipless pedals. See the links to full reviews down the page.
- Crank Brothers Mallet DH, £149.99
- Nukeproof Horizon CL CrMo DH, £100.00
- Look X-Track En-Rage Plus, £99.99
- Time MX6, £89.99
- Shimano XT M8020 Trail, £94.99
Flat pedals first. Scroll on down for clipless pedals.
The best mountain bike pedals: flat pedals
A flat pedal is a simple component – it’s nothing more than an axle, a couple of bearings and usually an aluminium platform with some pins threaded into the surface. The thing is there are hundreds of flat pedals on the market, with different shapes, sizes and thicknesses. There are this many because every pedal manufacturer believes that their design offers the best grip. And it is grip that is the defining principle behind all flat pedal because if you can’t keep your feet on the pedals you won’t be able to stay control the bike.
Grip is created primarily by the pins, which dig into the bottom of your shoe, but also the shape and thickness of the platform. Some of the very best pedals have a slight amount of concavity, which helps keep your foot centred when descending rough gorund or grinding up steep inclines. Size and shape are important but there are also several other factors involved in pedal design so we’ve outlined most of them on the page opposite.
Having tested dozens of the over the years we’ve come to the conclusion that although a flat pedal looks deceptively simple; delve deeper and it can be subtly sophisticated in shape, design and profile.
To cover as many price points as possible this time round we split our test into two – there are eight top-end aluminium pedals and four budget plastic pedals, and the latter are not just there to make up the numbers, there are some cracking pedals in this category.
The best pedals have a concave platform and to understand how this works just imagine putting a tennis ball on a plate and tilt it to one side, then put the same ball in a bowl and do the same thing. A concave pedal is like the bowl and keeps the ‘ball of your foot’ centred and also lets you reset it easily when you take it off to dab.
A thin platform offers better ground clearance, keeps your foot close to the axle for efficiency and it’s also less likely to roll over, increasing the grip and stability. However, manufacturers can’t go too thin because they then can’t build in concavity, so they often compromise slightly on thickness.
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 flats (this is the square interface for a pedal spanner) means platforms can sit tighter into the crank arms, which increases ground clearance and creates a more efficient your pedalling stroke. The big downside with you shoe closer to the crank arms means it can wear the crank arms.
Pin size, layout and shape affect traction and grip. Grub screws with a hollow centre offer the most grip because they are small and sharp. The downside is they are easier to bend and break. If they do take damage being able to remove them easily is a huge benefit – look for bottom mounted designs, where the pin threads in from underneath.
The best mountain bike flat pedals: reviews
The HT PA03A has good support and grip that’s close to the very best alloy pedals. Overall, it’s easily the best plastic pedal we’ve tried to date, and at £35 it’s also fantastic value for money.
Nukeproof Horizon Pro
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.
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. Totally sorted in terms of feel and surefootedness.
The Contact doesn’t have the deep scalloped platform of the 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.
Nukeproof Neutron EVO
The Neutron has the performance to compete with some of the best metal flat pedals. The price and weight also make them very appealing. It’s only the fragile nature of the pin material that stop the Neutron from being a perfect option.
The best mountain bike flat pedals: winners
The best mountain bike flat pedals: Nukeproof Horizon Pro (it’s worth noting that you can get significantly cheaper non-Pro Horizons that are virtually the same in performance).
The best mountain bike flat pedals on a budget: HT PA03A.
|Nukeproof Horizon Pro
||£74.99||436g||100 x 100 x 16mm||10/10|
|HT PA03A||£34.99||351g||105 x 107 x 12mm||9/10|
|DMR Vault||£100||418g||115 x 105 x 17mm||9/10|
|Chromag Contact||£89.99||405g||110 105 x 13mm||9/10|
|Nukeproof Neutron EVO||£29.99||344g||98 x 85 x 17mm||9/10|
The best mountain bike pedals: clipless pedals
Clipless pedals not only transmit leg power efficiently, but they also bond cyclist and steed.
For a long time, riders wanting to clip-in have had to put up with running smaller, cross-country oriented pedal systems. Whilst these pedals are light and perform well in the mud, they don’t quite offer the levels of foot support and confidence that many riders require when riding more technical trails. And that’s where the new breed of bigger platform trail pedals come in.
That larger platform also makes a better target to aim for when needing to quickly clip back in after putting a foot down. Yes, they do suffer a weight penalty when compared to XC clipless or flat pedals and do tend to cost more. But there is nothing better for garnering confidence and security for everything from trail riding to downhill racing.
The bigger the platform around the clip mechanism, the better the foot support. A larger platform will give you somewhere to rest your foot if unclipped, especially on a technical section of trail. A larger contact patch will also make pedaling more efficient and much more comfortable, especially with softer soled trail shoes.
All of the pedals here have floating cleats. Float is the free movement you feel when you are clipped into the pedal. For the majority of systems it comes Float is a good thing as it helps to reduce the stresses of being clipped in on your joints and can prevent unwanted release.
This is how much force it takes to release your foot from the mechanism. Most of the pedals on test allow for some form of adjustment to make them easier to release from or less likely to accidentally unclip. On pedals such as Crank Brothers with a twin-bar mechanism tension cannot be adjusted. In this case release angle can be changed by switching the cleats between shoes.
Many of the larger trail style pedals take inspiration from flat pedals and include adjustable height pins to alter grip. In most cases these need to be fine tuned to balance traction and the ability to unclip safely.
The best mountain bike clipless pedals: reviews
Nukeproof Horizon CL CrMo DH
Nukeproof’s Horizon Sam Hill is our go-to flat pedal, and has been since its launch, but if you prefer to lay down horsepower on the climbs and stay smooth as silk on the descents, this clip-in version is the one for you. The machined and anodised body offers plenty of support and bristles with six pins each side for maximum grip and feel, while the clipless mechanism has independently adjustable spring tension to tune engagement and disengagement.
Crank Brothers Mallet DH
Cruise around the pits at a World Cup Downhill race and 9/10 clipped-in riders will be running Crank Brothers’s Mallet DH pedal. There’s a reason for this; the Mallet DH does a supreme job of blending the support of a flat pedal with the security and efficiency of a clipless pedal. We’ve tested it three times now, and rated it 10/10 on every occasion.
Look X-Track En-Rage Plus
After a few months of solid abuse the Look X-Track En-Rage Plus has proved to be a solid and dependable set of pedals for trail and enduro use. Consistent engagement and disengagement gives you one less thing to worry about. Finally the robust build quality and smooth bearings ensure that the pedals will provide bombproof (dare we say Shimano-like) levels of reliability over long term use.
In this era of hybrid flat/clipless pedals, the chunky, pin-free composite body of the Time MX6 looks a little out-dated. But spend some time with it and you’ll find that it has the performance and function to compete with the best. The only downside to the pedal is just how tatty and tired the body looks after just a few rides thanks to the odd choice of colour.
Shimano XT M8020 Trail
Although it’s perhaps not a pedal for riders wanting the added reasurrance of a large grippy cage when unclipped but for sheer reliability and unfussy performance it’s still a contender.
|Crank Brothers Mallet DH||£149.99||480g||100 x 79mm||10/10|
|Nukeproof Horizon CL CrMo DH||£100.00||523g||109 x 83mm||10/10|
|Look X-Track En-Rage Plus||£99.99||447g||92 x 90mm||9/10|
|Shimano XT M8020 Trail||£94.99||405g||91 x 68mm||9/10|
The best mountain bike clipless pedals: winners
The best mountain bike clipless pedals: Nukeproof Horizon CL CrMo DH.
The best mountain bike clipless pedals with more float: Crank Brothers Mallet DH.