Mountain bike pedals: flat pedals, clipless pedals or SPD pedals?

Mountain bike pedals are different from normal bicycle pedals. They are made in such a way that you cannot easily slip off them. There are several mountain bike pedals. There are clipless pedals (XTR pedals), flatpadels and combi pedals (SPD pedals). In this article I’ll tell you everything you need to know about MTB pedals.

Different types of MTB pedals

Often a new mountain bike is delivered without mountain bike pedals. This is done so that you can make a choice from a specific type of MTB pedal. For example, there are click pedals (XTR pedals) that you can click in with suitable MTB shoes. Let’s discuss these and all other types of pedals and list the pros and cons for each choice.

mountain bike pedals

Flat pedals (platform pedals)

Flat pedals are also called platform pedals. These are the simplest pedals for a mountain bike. You do not need special shoes for this. However, these pedals are not completely flat. They have excellent tips, so you can keep a grip on the pedals. There are even platform pedals where you can adjust the tips higher or lower for more or less grip.

Contrary to popular belief, flat pedals are not only interesting for beginners. Even advanced riders often see them doing stunts or riding technical MTB routes. You can get off quickly if you threaten to fall. This reduces the chance of injuries.

Advantages of flat pedals:

  • You get off your bike quickly and easily
  • No special clipless pedal shoes required
  • They are a lot cheaper than other mountain bike pedals

Disadvantages of flat pedals:

  • You shoot faster with your shoes off the pedals
  • You can’t pull the pedals up, only push
mountain bike flat pedals
These are flat pedals, flat pedals for your mountain bike ©

Clipless pedals MTB (XTR pedals)

Many mountain bikers opt for clipless pedals. These pedals – similar to those of racing bikes – are also called XTR pedals. You need special shoes for this type of pedal. In addition, the range of click pedals is enormous. In fact: the clipless pedals per brand can differ enormously. For example, Shimano’s MTB XTR pedals are not comparable to those of Crankbrothers.

mountain bike clipless pedals
MTB clipless pedals from Shimano. ©

In the overview below you will discover the most popular brands with clipless pedals and their unique properties.

ShimanoHuge range of cleats and adjustable in how tight they are. However, these pedals drain dirt less well.
CrankbrothersRemove dirt extremely well and they can be clicked in from four sides. You have to maintain these pedals well (and a lot).
TimeLightweight and durable MTB clipless pedals. Like Shimano, these drain mud and dirt well. Lots of freedom of movement for your feet. This means you have less of the feeling that your feet are properly clicked into the pedals.
RitcheyThis is also a good choice for lightweight MTB pedals. You can easily adjust the spring tension. However, here too, take a lot of maintenance into account (grease often).
LookLook MTB pedals are made of carbon, which makes them nice and light. There is also a large surface, so that your feet are well supported.

When we look at MTB clipless pedals, they also have advantages and disadvantages. Let’s line them up.

Advantages of MTB clipless pedals:

  • You are less likely to get off your MTB pedals
  • You pull the pedals up with clipless pedals

Disadvantages of clipless pedals in mountain biking

  • Getting off is less easy
  • If you fall, you have a faster chance of injury

Combi pedals MTB (SPD MTB pedals)

In addition, there are also combi pedals. These are actually hybrid mountain bike pedals. You can use them with or without cleats. If you take a short ride, you can get on your mountain bike with normal shoes. Planning a technical route? Then grab your shoes with click plates!

Advantages of MTB SPD pedals:

  • You can quickly grab the bike, without having to put on your special MTB shoes right away
  • Larger surface area for your feet

Disadvantages of combi pedals:

  • You can only click in on one side with combi pedals
  • They are heavier than clipless pedals (they are also bigger after all)

Which MTB pedals should I choose?

But, which pedals are best for you? The answer to this question depends entirely on your riding style, needs and mountain bike level. Here are a few use cases to get you started.

Opt for flat pedals if you:

  • just starting mountain biking
  • have no experience with click pedals
  • have a low budget
  • want to stunt
  • technical course will drive
mtb flat pedals
MTB flat pedals require good mountain bike shoes. For example these Five Ten Freerider shoes. ©

Choose clipless pedals if you:

  • want to have a lot of grip on your pedals
  • also want to climb a lot
  • have or want to buy special MTB shoes
  • want to achieve high speeds

Choose combi pedals if you:

  • sometimes also want to use the bike without MTB shoes
  • want to be able to combine with driving styles

If you can’t choose or have additional questions, feel free to send me a message.

Frequently asked questions about mountain bike pedals

What different mountain bike pedals are there?

There are three different pedals: click pedals, platform pedals and a combination of these. The choice for one of the bicycle pedals depends on your riding style and level.

Why or not a cage on the pedals?

With clipless pedals you can opt for a cage around your pedals. These ensure that the pedals have a larger surface area. In addition, the pedals are better protected. However, a cage makes the pedals heavier.

What are the most popular mountain bike pedals right now?

The Shimano SPD pedals are the most popular. This is mainly due to the huge range on offer. Also in the field of cleats.

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