Mountain Biking at Sky Tavern, Mt rose

How to Choose the right MTB Pedals

As a mountain biker, you understand the importance of selecting the right gear to optimize your performance and enjoyment on the trails. One often overlooked component that significantly impacts your riding experience is mountain bike (MTB) pedals.

These seemingly small pieces of equipment play a vital role in power transfer, control, and comfort. Choosing the right MTB pedals can significantly impact your ride, so let’s delve into the factors to consider when selecting the perfect pair of pedals.

Pedal Type: Flat or Clipless?

The first decision to make is whether to opt for flat pedals or clipless pedals. Flat pedals provide a large platform for your shoes, allowing for freedom of movement and easy foot repositioning. They are suitable for beginners, downhill riders, and those who enjoy technical trails that require frequent foot dabbing. Many World Cup DH races have been won on flat pedals, hence the term “Flat pedals win medals”!

Clipless pedals, despite the confusing name, involve attaching cleats on the bottom of your cycling shoes, creating a secure connection with the pedals. They offer improved efficiency, power transfer, and control, making them ideal for cross-country and endurance riders.

mtb pedals

Riding Style and Terrain

Consider your riding style and the type of terrain you typically encounter. For downhill or aggressive trail riding, flat pedals are commonly preferred due to their ease of entry and exit, allowing riders to quickly disengage in technical sections. For cross-country or endurance riding, clipless pedals offer efficient power transfer during long rides and climbs. Additionally, clipless pedals are suitable for riders who engage in cyclocross or gravel riding, where the ability to quickly clip in and out is advantageous.

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Cleat System Compatibility

If you opt for clipless pedals, it’s essential to ensure compatibility between your chosen pedals and cycling shoes. Different manufacturers employ various cleat systems, such as Shimano’s SPD or Crankbrothers’ Eggbeaters. Check if your preferred pedal brand supports the cleat system used by your cycling shoes, or vice versa. This compatibility ensures a secure connection and optimal performance.

mtb pedals

Float and Release Tension

Float refers to the degree of rotational movement your foot can have while clipped into the pedals. It allows for a more natural pedaling motion and reduces strain on the knees. Some pedal systems offer adjustable float, allowing you to fine-tune the amount of movement to your preference. Release tension determines the force required to disengage from the pedals. Beginners might prefer lower release tension for easier entry and exit, while experienced riders may opt for higher tension for a secure connection during aggressive riding.

Durability and Maintenance

Mountain biking can be tough on equipment, so durability is crucial when selecting MTB pedals. Look for pedals constructed from high-quality materials, such as aluminum or titanium, for strength and longevity. Sealed bearings are essential to prevent dirt and debris from compromising pedal performance. Consider the ease of maintenance as well, as some pedal designs allow for easy servicing or replacement of worn-out components.

Personal Preference

Lastly, factor in your personal preferences and comfort. Consider the weight and aesthetics of the pedals, as these can play a role in your overall riding experience. Some riders may have brand loyalty or specific design preferences. If possible, test different pedal options to find the ones that feel comfortable and natural for your feet and riding style.

Mirnivator riding MTB in Lake Tahoe


Choosing the right set of MTB pedals is a vital decision that can significantly impact your riding experience. Whether you opt for flat pedals, clipless pedals, or even dual-sided pedals, consider your riding style, terrain, compatibility with cycling shoes, float and release tension, durability, and personal preferences. By carefully evaluating these factors, you’ll be well-equipped to select pedals that optimize your power transfer, control, and overall enjoyment on the trails. So, get ready to unleash your ride and take your mountain biking adventures to the next level with the perfect pair of MTB pedals.

Ronnie Schoff

My name is Ronnie Schoff. I am a professional Certified MTB Coach living in beautiful Truckee, CA. I can teach any level of mountain bike rider from absolute beginner to the advanced rider looking to improve their race times. I particularly enjoy coaching youth riders & helping them to progress their skills.

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