Pedals, without them you can still technically ride a bike, but it would be a lot slower and nowhere near as fun. They are also one of only three contact points on your bike.
Putting this together means that they are an essential part of your bike but have you ever really put any thought into your pedals?
Pedals come in one of 2 varieties. They can either be flat, or they can be clipless. Below these two broad areas pedals further, get diversified.
The simple way to think about them is with flat pedals you can use whatever shoes you want, and with clipless pedals, you’ll need to buy specialist cycling shoes.
Flat pedals tend to get overlooked by the serious cyclist, which is a shame. For the majority of people, a set of flat pedals makes the most sense.
If you have flat pedals, you can add clips/cages to make them ride similar to clipless pedals, and many people go down the route of adding cages to their pedals before going clipless.
For many people, they think of this as a cheaper and easier way to try the idea of clipless.
It is certainly cheaper but it isn’t easier, and I’d also add it may be slightly more dangerous.
If you have an accident on flat pedals and clipless pedals you can move your foot forwards or to the side to save you, this is quite a natural reaction.
Don’t get caged in
When using cages, you have to pull your foot backward and out of the cage before you can use your foot to save you.
The movement here is not as natural and by the time you’ve moved your foot you’ve already hit the deck. A lot of the time you could have saved yourself if you had a different pedal on.
One of the reasons people go for cages/clips is that when they bought the bike, it came with a set of plastic or metal flat pedals that offer no grip.
The first day it rains, and your feet are sliding about all over the pedal. You don’t though have to be stuck with that.
You can now get flat pedals that sit anywhere between $10 and $100+. When you start to get more expensive flat pedals the grip you get is amazing. Indeed it can even be hard to move your foot if you put it in the wrong place.
There is a way around this though. On better flat pedals you’ll find that the metal pins that grip your shoes can be altered. You can take some out, you can fit smaller pins, or you can fit larger pins. Doing so allows you to tune your setup.
You can remove pins for a hybrid and have a pedal that grips you nicely as you ride to work. You can then fit huge pins if you fancy a day racing down the side of a mountain.
The tuning you can do on some flat pedals offers more settings than you get with clipless pedals.
The best value flat pedal
The HT PA03A has a name that just rolls off the tongue. It is a light flat pedal that comes with removable pins. It is light as it comes with a nylon reinforced composite body; we would probably just call it plastic.
One of the things that makes the PA03A great is that it comes with a relatively flat large pedal body. So if you’re flying downhill and dab your foot, it is easy to get back on. If you put a foot down at traffic lights, this is also true.
The pedal also comes with a chromoly axle which adds strength and has some great sealed bearings. It is at heart a simple pedal that excels at being a pedal and is well worth trying out.
Clipless pedals are the pedals that technically you clip into. The problem was the name clips was already taken for pedal cages so now you had pedals with no cages, voila clipless pedals. Clipless pedals are seen as the serious cyclists choice.
The one thing that always puts people off clipless pedals is that they worry about crashing. The excellent news is clipless pedals are easy to release from in a situation when you’re crashing, and you probably won’t even notice that you’ve done it.
Pretty much everyone will have one silly fall from riding clipless. There will be the day that you slowly fall over sidewards as you forgot you were clipped in.
The biggest damage here will be done to your pride, and the embarrassment will stick with you long enough to make sure it never happens again.
There are a few reasons you’ll want to go clipless if you take cycling seriously.
- Efficiency. You and your pedals are now attached to each other and should work in a seamless union.
- Power. With a more efficient pedal stroke you should now be able to generate more power.
- Control. When clipped in it is easier to stay in control of your bike.
Mountain, touring or road style
Clipless pedals come in 3 varieties. Road pedals are larger and need a bigger cleat to work. The bigger cleat needs a flat sole to work so road shoes and cleats will be more awkward to walk in.
Mountain bike cleats and pedals are smaller as the shoes come with a sole that allows you to walk.
Touring pedals tend to use a mountain bike cleat, but the pedals come with a platform so you can ride without being clipped in, offering you a choice. These are the pedals and systems that gravel, cyclocross, and urban riders use as well.
The best clipped in pedal
We have recently written an article on the best pedal to start out riding clipless on, and it is excellent for mountain biking and gravel riding. To read about the Look S-Tracks pedal click here. The best value clipless pedal for road cycling then is the Shimano 105 pedal.
Shimano 105 pedals are pretty light and offer a big pedal platform to make getting clipped in easier. You can ride away not clipped in and not have to worry. The bigger platform also helps to give a stable base that maximizes your power transfer.
The 105 pedals are a pedal that does their job and lets you get on with the job of pushing your limits. You’ll find them to be a durable and efficient set of pedals.
How to Choose Bike Pedals Video
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.