How to Choose Bike Pedals that are right for you

How to Choose Bike Pedals

Of the three touch points between you and your bike (handlebars, saddle, and pedals), pedals are the most important contact points for transferring power to the bike. While pedals are somewhat universal in function, they vary greatly in application. As a newer rider or someone diving into a new riding style, selecting the right pedals will help ensure your ride is comfortable, safe, and efficient. So read on to learn how to choose bike pedals that are right for you.

Clipless Platform Pedal for Mountain Biking

Consider the type(s) of riding you plan to do.

Will you be riding on pavement or off-road? Knowing this will help you quickly narrow down your search as most pedals are split handily into these two disciplines. Planning to ride a little of both? Most people will then select mountain bike pedals for mixed-surface riding.

Determine what your performance goals are as a rider.

Are you planning to put out a lot of power in all out sprints? Do you need to dab your foot down on the ground when you hit tight corners on the trail? Or are you just looking for a stable platform as you leisurely ride around town?

You’ll want to consider how powerful, efficient, versatile, and convenient you’ll need your pedals to be. Because those considerations will help you…

Decide whether you want clipless or flat pedals.

Do you want your foot to be attached to the pedal, or do you prefer to have your foot to move on and off the pedal freely? Check out the pros and cons of each below to help you decide which pedals would be right for you.

Clipless vs. Flat Pedals

What are clipless pedals?

Even though the name indicates they are clipless, the pedals do require you to clip in using the corresponding cleats attached to the bottom of the shoe. Clipless pedals work by mounting a small plastic or metal cleat on the sole of your shoe that typically snaps into a set of spring-loaded “clips” on the face of the pedal. Clipless pedals feature cleats with a 3-hole or 2-hole design.

Bontrager Road Shoes with Cleats
Bontrager Road Cycling Shoes with 3-bolt cleats
Mountain Bike Shoes with 2-bolt cleats and SPD pedals

Clipless pedals help maximize pedaling efficiency, power transfer, and control. Clipless pedals and shoes allow you to power through the entire pedal stroke; pushing down on the downstroke AND pulling on the upstroke on each pedal rotation, equaling more pedal efficiency overall. Not to mention all the sweet bunny hops you can do easily when your feet are connected to the pedals.

Bontrager 2 bolt SPD pedals for mountain or gravel riding
Bontrager SPD mountain/gravel pedals
Shimano Ultegra SPD-SL Road Bike Pedals
Shimano Ultegra road pedals

Clipping in and out can take a little time to get used to, but it’ll feel like second nature after a little practice.


  • More power and efficiency
  • More control & secures feet in position over rough, technical terrain


  • Requires compatible shoes
  • Learning curve for beginners
  • Challenging to walk in clipless shoes

What are flat pedals?

Flat or platform pedals allow greater freedom for you to quickly take your feet off the pedals. The loss you might notice in power transfer is balanced out by the ability to jump off your bike in a flash, put your foot down at the traffic light, or to stick that foot out to stabilize yourself when you come in too hot on a loose corner out on the trail.

Mountain Bike Flat Pedals with Flat Shoes
Race Face Chester MTB Pedals Blue

Platform pedals are often the best choice for beginner riders because it’s easier to put a foot down if you start to tip over.


  • Feet can move freely on and off the pedals
  • No special shoes needed
  • Great for a variety of riding styles including mountain biking, fitness, recreational, and leisurely cruising


  • Considered to be less efficient because there’s no power on the pedal upstroke
  • Feet can move freely off the pedals, which may be hazardous over rough terrain
Flat Pedals for Leisurely Riding
Flat pedals for recreational biking
Cruiser Pedals for Leisurely Riding
Flat pedals typically used on cruiser bikes

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View posts by Shannan
Marketing Manager & Mountain Biker at Bikes Palm Beach in Juno Beach, Florida
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