How to Choose the Right Pedals
This month, we look to answer all your questions regarding pedals. Should you be riding flats? How about clip-ins? If clips, which brand should you go with? With so many options, purchasing a pair of pedals can be confusing, and if you’re new to riding, you’ll likely need to make your decision quickly. If you’ve been feeling the pedal blues, then there’s no need to fret, because we have you covered with all the pedal knowledge you’ll need. Follow these tips and you’ll be thinking less about the pedals you’re riding and more about riding the pedals you have.
THE FIRST DILEMMA
There are two main categories of pedals, referred to as clips and flats. Clip pedals, sometimes referred to as clipless pedals, are pedals that attach to a cleat on the bottom of a rider’s shoe. These pedals provide a locked-in feel and are often the choice of cross-country racers, trail riders and even some downhill racers. Flat pedals, on the other hand, are just what you would expect. They are flat and use carefully placed traction pins to keep your shoes in place instead of a locking mechanism.
Regardless of the style of pedals you choose, it’s important to purchase a pedal with quality construction, especially if you plan to keep the pedals long-term, which we hope you do. It’s usually best to avoid pedals made with any plastic parts, as these pedals will likely fall apart sooner than ones made from aluminum or steel.
Plastic pedals, however, tend to be less expensive and are light-weight. Next, make sure your pedals use sealed bearings, which will help keep water out and prolong your pedals’ lifespan. Spindle material will also cause the price of a pedal to fluctuate. High-end pedals use titanium spindles that are lighter weight but add cost. Most other pedals use chromoly steel spindles for strength, affordability and durability.
There are a few companies out there that offer pedals with different spindle lengths to ensure a perfect fit. Flat pedals tend to vary in width as well for similar reasons. If you have problems with your heels rubbing your seatstays or chainstays, then you can try using pedals with a longer spindle length to help space out your feet. This wider stance, however, may change the angle of your pedal stroke, putting pressure on your knees. Proceed with caution and seek out a professional bike fitter if necessary.
Clips: Clip-in pedals are the go-to choice for many riders from a wide variety of backgrounds. These pedals not only give riders the ability to add more power to their pedal stroke by allowing them to pull up on the pedals, but they also give riders a more secure feeling when barreling down rough trails. When it comes to clip-in pedals, first look for a pedal that matches your style of riding. Cross-country pedals are made to be lightweight and minimal, while downhill-style clip-ins are a blend of clips and flats. Downhill pedals tend to have a large platform surrounding a clip, offering better control and the ability to quickly get your feet in and out. These pedals, however, tend to be heavy, deterring trail and cross-country riders from using them. Trail pedals have a smaller platform or none at all but are made from durable materials, making them ideal for all-day adventures. Cross-country pedals cost the most due to their top-notch materials, such as titanium, which chops precious grams from a crucial area.
Once a rider knows what type of clip-in pedals he wants, he will need to choose a brand. Every brand offers a unique feel, so demoing different pedals may help you decide which features you like. Our test riders tend to like Shimano pedals due to their superb durability, reasonable weight and adjustable spring tension. Crankbrothers’
Eggbeater pedals are favored by riders who often ride in mud, due to their open design that easily sheds dirt and grime. These pedals also tend to provide more float (the amount of side-to-side play your cleat will pivot on before releasing). More float can help relieve pressure on your knees and better keep your feet attached over rough terrain. Some of our testers have also had good luck with pedals from HT Components. HT offers a line of clip-in pedals for everything from cross-country to downhill using its exclusive cleat design.
Flats: The saying goes, “Flat pedals win medals.” While this might be true in the case of Sam Hill winning last year’s Enduro World Series, it isn’t always the case. That said, if you want to impress your riding buddies, try keeping up with them (or, better yet, passing them) while using flat pedals. Flat pedals come in all shapes and sizes, but the most important features to look for are a durable design, adjustable pins and a size/shape that fits your riding shoes. Pedals that are too large will cause you to shift your feet around and will likely get hung up on trail obstacles. Pedals that are too small won’t provide enough support, hindering comfort and performance. The best flat pedals are ones that securely position a rider’s foot in a comfortable spot. A good pair of flat pedals will not let a rider’s foot float like a pair of clip-ins—unless the rider removes the weight from his foot and readjusts. Flat pedals are ideal for learning new skills or perfecting old ones. In fact, a few of our testers are flat-pedal enthusiasts. Flat pedals will likely never be seen attached to the bike of a cross-country racer, but they are a fun and challenging option for trail, enduro and downhill riders.
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