So, you’ve just bought a brand new, and bang on trend, gravel bike but you’ve forgotten pedals. You’ll be wanting to know which pedals are then the best for getting out on your new gravel bike, and provide the best bang for your buck.
Read on and let our guide to the best pedals for gravel riding guide you to the equipment you need.
The best flat pedal for gravel riding
Even when riding them on the steepest of terrain we have found that these pins will stick in your sole and you’ll have a feel similar to riding with clipless pedals.
That may be an issue at times. If you put your foot on in the wrong place, it will take a moment to release your foot and set it back down correctly.
Doing so is easily achieved when you’re riding along on the flat but if you’ve dabbed for a rough section and trying to get your foot back on it can be an issue.
The HT PA03A is one of the rare breeds of plastic pedals that does feel like an upgrade and not something you’ll want to upgrade from using though.
Which is handy as HT also offers to rebuild kits that are very competitively priced, you can have these pedals for years and not feel the need to change to clipless pedals.
The best beginners clipless pedal for gravel bikes
They also look like a sleek road pedal from a distance rather than a set of mountain bike pedals, and it might look nice with those sleek lines of your gravel bike.
They have an SPD clip on one side and a platform on the other side. The platform is not as big as the platform on the HT pedals above, but they offer enough room for you to get your foot on. The platform is also why these pedals are great for beginners.
If you have to stop and unclip, for instance at a road junction, and then need to clip back in as you pedal off if you miss getting clipped in you’ll be able to put your foot on the platform and take a second before you try again.
It’ll save you from getting stressed out about missing getting clipped in, which can make it harder to try again.
The best budget clipless pedal for gravel riding
The Shimano PD-M520 might just be the best selling clipless pedal in the world. You’ll find them on road bikes, mountain bikes, race BMXs, cyclocross bikes, hybrids, and gravel bikes. The reason they are on so many different styles of bikes, as they just work for the vast majority of people.
The reason the double-sided PD-M520 is affordable is that you have an alloy body mixed with a steel mechanism and axle. They are are also easily serviceable thanks to having a cup and cone bearing system, it might seem like old technology, but it works, and it works well.
You’ll find people that have had a set of M520 pedals for years, and some may also have had multiple sets, never seeing the need to “upgrade” to lighter and cooler pedals.
LOOK X-track Race Mountain Pedals
The slight platform provides a grippy surface in the event that a cleat is not properly engaged, however the pedal has supports to help guide the shoe into the clip.
The pedal is designed for all conditions, and the pedals have adjustment screws to change the clip tension, so the pedal is suitable for all riders.
Overall, the LOOK pedal is a great low cost option for a less experienced rider, or someone who wants some extra security in worse conditions alike.
The best clipless pedal for muddy gravel riding
Crank Bros Eggbeater 3
The Crank Bros Eggbeater 3 is pretty minimalist, all you have is a spindle, and the spring retention mechanism is attached to that, with nobody. The lack of the body means that you have 4 entry points for your cleats. Making Eggbeaters easier to get into in the heat of the moment.
The Eggbeater 3 is the mid-point in Crank Bros Eggbeater range. As you can then imagine it is fairly light, at 280g. The main reason you’’ want Eggbeaters though is that minimalist design helps to shed mud. SPD pedals can easily get clogged up with mud and grit, making it hard to get clipped in again.
With Eggbeaters, you should never have that issue, which is great if you’re out competing in something like the Dirty Kanza.
The best lightweight clipless gravel pedals
Time ATAC XC 12
A set of Time ATAC XC 12 pedals will add 248g to your bike’s weight. The pedals have a great mix of low weight and strength and durability. To keep the weight down, Time has used carbon fiber for the pedal body, and titanium for the pedal spindle.
Time has a very simple to use cleat, and you can set it up in one direction for 13° of movement to unclip and reverse it for 17° of movement. As this is a gravel feature, we would recommend the 13° of movement. You’ll only want the 17° if you’re about to become a full-on downhill racer.
To help with clearing mud and gravel from your pedals, Time has used a cut out at the front of the body. You’ll find that your foot helps to push all the muck out through this hole as you ride, helping to make getting clipped in nice and easy.
Why did we pick mountain bike style pedals?
Road pedals will be lighter and offer a bigger platform for pedaling so why didn’t we pick them for our gravel pedal selections? The simple reason is that if you’re out riding gravel/adventure cycling, then you’ll have times when you need to get off the bike.
Walking in road style cleats is never fun. It is even harder if you have to do so off-road. Now if you’re just going to ride gravel roads that mean you’ll never get off the bike while you ride then go ahead and get a set of road pedals.
But, remember if you’re out in the middle of nowhere and see a view that you have to photograph, getting off and walking could be a fun experience.
Shoes designed to go with MTB pedals also tend to have soles with grip. That means walking into a bar at the end of the day for a “recovery beer” will be easier.
You’ll also find it easier to walk into trees if you need to take a comfort break when you’re out on a super long ride in the middle of nowhere.
What about shoes?
You can pick from a lot of mountain bike specific shoes for riding gravel, and we’re now also starting to see specific gravel shoes getting released as well.
There are a lot of mountain bike shoes out there, but gravel riding fashion tends to look at the less bulky shoes. Shoes that look like road shoes but come with a sole so you can get off your bike and not fall over.
Shimano XC5 shoes
The Shimano XC5 is a relatively new shoe, and it caters more to gravel than it does to mountain biking, and will soon be joined by Shimano’s new gravel racing shoe the RX8.
The shoe has a lot of nice features and the one that is most attractive, for me anyway, is that it doesn’t look too much like a cycling shoe when you’re off the bike.
The laces are the part of the shoe that helps to create this look. The laces follow a pattern that is designed to allow you to easily set up tension along with the shoe, following the shape of your foot. The lacing pattern helps to make your feet feel very secure when they are laced up.
There is also a large reflective panel at the back of the shoe. It doesn’t reflect badly on the style of the shoe but does add a nice little safety touch that lets you realize how much thought has gone into designing these shoes.
The sole of the shoe is not a performance style stiff sole, and it only rates 7/12 on Shimano’s scale, which makes them comfortable for wearing all day. Finishing off the sole you’ll find a that the rubber parts are supplied by Michelin, a company that knows a thing or two about rubber and traction.
Selecting the best gravel bike pedals is crucial for ensuring efficient power transfer and stability on unpredictable terrains. The right pedals can make a world of difference for gravel riders, enhancing both performance and confidence on the trail.
When equipped with the optimal pair, one’s gravel riding experience is elevated to new heights.
I’ve spent way more time in the bike trade than anyone should reasonably want to. In that time I’ve wanted to make cycling jargon and marketing easier to cut through to help people get the bike of their dreams.
When I’m not writing about bikes, I can be seen out bikepacking on single speed bikes or teaching kids how to ride.