When it comes to mountain biking, one of the most important components on your bike are the pedals. They help you transfer maximum power to the bike, they help keep you connected and stable on rough trails, and they help you stay in control during technical riding.
For these reasons, you should definitely make sure that the pedals you have are adequate for your riding style. If it turns out that they are not, or you are in the market to upgrade, then you have come to the right place.
In this article we will discuss some of the top mountain bike pedals, the different pedal styles, and their appropriate uses, and what features you should be looking for in a pedal to make sure you make a good selection that will last you for many miles of riding.
Stick along as we dive into some of our top picks for mountain bike pedals.
Top Clipless Mountain Bike Pedals
Top Platform Mountain Bike Pedals:
These SPD pedals from Shimano are an excellent choice if you will be riding lots of cross-country mountain bike trails, or if you are a racer.
For the pair, they weigh only 310 grams and have an excellent open design for maximum mud-shedding abilities. They come in two axle-length options to get your fit fine-tuned, which is an important detail that will really be noticeable on longer rides.
They are able to be clipped into on both sides, so you really should not need to fight with them too much before clipping in.
When you look at the M520 from Shimano, you are going to notice they look rather similar to the M9100 XTRs we just mentioned above. This is true, but these come in at a much more affordable price.
You should be able to pick up a pair for less than $50 or so at most outdoor retailers or online stores. They are going to weigh a bit more, 380 grams to be exact, but if you are a cyclist on a budget it is not hard to realize 70 grams is not a huge penalty for the cost savings.
These would make an excellent foray into the world of clipless pedals if you have never ridden with any before. They aren’t going to have the same mud-shedding abilities as the M9100 XTRs, but that generally should not be too big of an issue.
Some people love the Crank Bros pedals with their 4-sided entry, and some people do not. Ultimately, you are just going to have to give them a shot to determine if they are for you or not.
What makes these pedals one of our top picks for clipless mountain bike pedals is their extremely open design, which is great at shedding mud.
If you are riding in some super wet stuff, or if you are considering throwing these on a ‘cross rig, you will not be disappointed.
By utilizing different cleats available from Crank Bros, you can customize the amount of float and the release angle, which is a pretty nice feature.
These pedals weigh in at 340 grams, feature a 5-year warranty, and are made out of 6061-T6 aluminum. For a price of around $140, they represent an excellent deal and any rider will be satisfied with these.
Crank Bros Mallet E
The Mallet E, along with the Sixpack Racing Vertic (which we will discuss next), is a slightly different style of the clipless pedal.
These two pedals feature a bit more of a platform, which does not affect much if you are riding clipped in, but can come in handy on technical parts of the trail where you may have unclipped but do not have enough time to clip back in immediately.
By utilizing the pedals like a normal bike pedal, you can remain in control and continue riding until a better opportunity presents itself to clip back in.
What is nice about the Mallet E from Crank Bros is it takes the platform part of the pedal to a new level, with adjustable traction pins.
Even though you will likely be riding these clipped most of the time, for the times when you are not or are unable to clip back in, the adjustable traction pins allow you to really get a solid connection with the pedal.
This also allows them to work with a wider variety of mountain biking shoes because you can make sure you are not experiencing contact with the bottom of the sole in places that you do not want to when you are clipped into them.
These pedals weigh in at 419 grams, come with a 5-year warranty, and sell for approximately $170.
Sixpack Racing Vertic
The Sixpack Racing Vertic is a sweet pedal coming from a German brand. This is their first clipless pedal, and it is definitely a solid choice for people looking to add a little to the bling-factor of their bike.
It comes in vibrant blue, green, and red, and utilizes your standard SPD cleat. The body of this pedal is aluminum, and the axle is steel.
They weigh in at 370 grams, which is a bit lighter for a platform-clipless pedal, thanks to the aluminum platform. The Vertic, like the Crank Bros Mallet E, features adjustable traction pins, but there are only 2 of them.
They are located on the front of the pedal, while the back of the pedal is recessed down to make clipping in from behind a little easier.
These pedals would be great for the rider who wants a clipless pedal with more body for situations where you can’t always get clipped in right away but ultimately plans on riding clipped in for the vast majority of the time.
45NRTH Helva Platform Pedals
If clipless pedals aren’t for you, then you should definitely check out the Helva platform pedals from 45NRTH. They are designed with shedding mud and snow in mind, so they’re perfect for a rider who rides in extreme conditions.
These pedals feature 12 replaceable pins that are designed not to be too aggressive, which is a major bonus. If you have ever slipped off a platform pedal with traction pins and hit yourself in the leg then you know exactly what we are talking about.
These pedals feature sealed bearings, which will keep them spinning smooth for many miles. Made out of CNC-forged aluminum, they weigh in at 310 grams due to their low-profile design and sell for around $165 at your local REI or online.
The Hope F20 pedals are for the more discerning rider who wishes not to ride with clipless pedals. They are CNC machined, which allows them to be lighter than other pedals due to the ability to remove material where it is not necessary.
They feature hollow traction pins, which save precious grams, and the pins are replaceable if you damage them. The F20s come in an array of six colors (black, silver, red, purple, orange, and blue) so that you can coordinate them with your bike’s color scheme.
With three cartridge bearings, these pedals will be smooth for years to come, and they only weigh 390 grams. Overall, these pedals are quite impressive, and the price is impressive as well- only $120 (for the black model).
You probably have not heard of this brand, but they are making some nice and affordable mountain biking pedals. If you aren’t the most serious mountain biker but are looking to upgrade the pedals that came with your bike, we strongly recommend checking these out.
They make multiple different models, but one that is particularly nice can be found on Amazon by following this link. They have adjustable traction pins in a nylon platform.
Because the platform is plastic and not aluminum, it will not stand up to the same amount of abuse that some of the other pedals we listed will, but they will definitely do the trick for a casual mountain biker.
They also come in 5 colors, which is a nice bonus, especially at this point. In fact, they look so nice that most people will not know how little they cost. They are not particularly thick either, which makes them look like they cost two or three times as much as they do.
Clipless vs Platform Pedals
So, now that we have discussed some of our top pedal picks, let’s talk about clipless versus platform pedals and who they are right for. Clipless pedals clip into your shoe with a cleat that attaches right to the sole of your cycling shoe.
They are generally better for power transfer because they keep your foot locked onto the pedal, but you can easily remove your foot by twisting your ankle slightly until the cleat pops out.
The amount of force required to do this is adjustable so they are well-suited for a variety of uses and riders alike. Platform pedals are not quite as good at transferring power from your pedaling into the bike because they allow your foot to slip and slide.
One way that manufacturers combat this is by integrating traction pins into the pedal to provide more bite on the bottom of your shoe.
The nice thing about platform pedals is that you can ride them with any shoe, and so it makes it easier to just grab your bike and go, anytime and anywhere.
What are some features to look for in mountain bike pedals?
Well, one thing that should be at the top of your list is sealed bearings. Mountain biking is a dirty sport, filled with rocks, mud, sand, and water.
All of these things wreak havoc on bearings, and so making sure that you purchase a pedal that has sealed bearings is a must.
One exception is that if you purchase a clipless pedal like the Shimano M520, it has loose ball bearings, so you can open up the pedal, clean it up, and re-grease it. This is nice if you really don’t get into much extreme riding.
For example, if most of your mountain biking is done on simple, clean single or double track, or even just gravel trails, this would not be a bad option for you because the ease of maintenance outweighs the inconvenience of not having sealed ball bearings.
Another thing that you should consider when you are purchasing clipless mountain bike pedals, in particular, is the cleat that is necessary. Some brands, like Crank Bros, have their own proprietary cleat.
You are going to want to make sure that this cleat is compatible with your shoes and their tread on the bottom. If not, there are ways around it, like using a Dremel to remove some of the treads to make room for the pedal and cleat, but ideally, you’d get a pedal where the cleat is compatible with your shoe from the factory.
Well, that is going to wrap up our pedal round-up of 2020. Hopefully, you were able to get some good information out of this article and have a few pedals moved onto your shortlist to look into further.
Whether you go with clipless or platform pedals, we are confident that any of the pedals we listed in this article will work well for you for many miles to come. Until next time have fun, ride safe, and keep the shiny side up!
Jake V is an avid cyclist from Wisconsin. Over the last 12 years, he has explored the worlds of road biking, mountain biking, cyclocross, and urban riding. He currently has too many bikes (if that is even possible), but his favorite would be his Colnago EPS or Cinelli Tutto, depending on what kind of riding is in store for him that day. When he is not riding bikes, he likes to go sailing, skiing, and enjoy a few craft beers.