The Great Bike Pedal Overview and Buyers Guide 2023

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Bicycle pedals are crucial because they allow your legs to power the bike. The pedals attach to the crank, which moves the chains and puts the bike in motion. While it seems like they have a simple job, the wrong pedals can make all the difference in your ride.

Finding the right pedals means you need to know the bike pedal types. Within the categories of clipless, clip, and flat pedals are small details that can make your ride more efficient. You’ll also want certain pedals depending on your biking type.

Read on to find out what you should consider when buying new bike pedals. You’ll also learn maintenance tips to get the most out of the pedals so you can enjoy many rides.

Types of Bike Pedals

Before you learn about specific pedals, you might wonder, “What is a pedal bike?” Many people call all types of bicycles by the same general name without knowing what it means. A pedal bike is a bicycle powered by pedals and manpower instead of a motorcycle. Children often start learning bicycle basics on a balance bike with no pedals.

There are three broad types of bicycle foot pedals: clipless, clip, and flat. Each one makes a difference in how you ride, so you want to find the best pedal for your needs.

Clipless Bike Pedals

Clipless bike pedals keep your foot in place when you wear cycling shoes. The cleat attaches to the pedal, so you don’t need toe clips to pedal efficiently. The types of riding that most often require your foot to attach securely are road biking and mountain biking.

You might choose clipless pedals if you want the security of your feet staying in place when you’re on natural trails that could otherwise bump your feet off the pedals and put you in danger. They’re also suitable for tricks like hopping on curbs. Take time to familiarize yourself with clipping in and out of the pedals before you take your bike out for a spin.

Best Clipless Mountain Bike Pedals

Pedal float refers to how much movement you have with clipless bike pedals. Since your cleats lock, you might think your foot can’t move much while pedaling. In reality, the pedal float lets the cleats move slightly, so your foot doesn’t stay at a fixed angle. Some clipless pedal brands set the amount of float while others allow the riders to customize it themselves.

Some people get confused by the word “clipless” since these pedals keep your feet attached while riding. They don’t have the standard toe clips, but they still require some training before using them on the roads and paths. If you stop suddenly, you can fall over since your feet stay on the pedals.

Riders wanting to ease into clipless pedals might consider a hybrid option. You use a flat pedal on one side of the bike and a clipless pedal on the other. It gives you a chance to learn how it feels to have your shoes locked into place while still having the option to put a foot on the ground for balance.

What are Clipless Bike Pedals?

Clip Bike Pedals

One of the oldest bike clip pedal types is toe clip pedals. These pedals have a clip, cage, or strap on the front of the pedal. You slide your foot into place, and the attachment keeps it from falling off the pedal as you ride. You don’t need special cycling shoes as you would with clipless pedals.

Most bike clips types are on recreational bikes or stationary bikes. You wouldn’t be as safe if you put clip pedals on a mountain bike or road bike. You need to be able to quickly put your foot flat on the ground to prevent accidents, and it’s hard to pull your foot out of the cage when you’re riding.

While you can buy clip bike pedals, you can also purchase the straps alone. The straps or clips attach to the front of flat bike pedals to give your feet extra security.

Best Bike Pedal Straps

Flat Bike Pedals

Flat bike pedals are as straightforward as they sound—they have no special attachments or holes for cleats. You don’t need a special shoe to get the most out of these pedals. These pedals are common on road bikes, mountain bikes, and recreational bikes.

Many professional BMX riders use flat pedals, also called platform pedals. You can buy more upscale pedals that have better traction for off-roading. You can also find options that have good bearings and strength to get the most speed from your ride.

Flat pedals are the most common type you’d find on store-bought bikes. You probably had flat pedals on your first bike. You can keep your foot flat on the pedal and take advantage of the large surface area to push more power through to the bike. If you’re feeling unsteady, you can quickly take your foot off the pedal to steady yourself on the ground.

Best Flat Bike Pedals for Road Bikes


Types of Bike Riding

As you can tell from the different types of pedals, what you need greatly depends on the type of bike riding you do. While clip pedals are most often used for recreational riding, you still need to know about the bike pedal clip types. If you don’t want to invest in cycling shoes, then you want to find the pedals that keep your feet in place.

The bike pedal systems can impact the speed and efficiency of your ride. What you need to commute to work is vastly different from what you need on your hobby mountain bike. Read on to find out what types of pedals work best for your riding style.

Road Biking

Different road bike pedal types work with cleats, so you need to make sure your cleats fit into the holes of the clipless pedals before installing them on your bike. Road bike clipless pedals typically have three or four holes for your cycling shoe cleats. They have a large surface area, so you can push more power into each pedal rotation.

Some cycling shoes come with road bicycle pedals, so you know they fit together. If you’re buying the items separately, test them to ensure they fit, or else it could be dangerous to wear the cleats with your pedals.

If you have a brand of pedal you like, get those first and then find shoes to match. You can also get your shoes first if you’re looking for specific qualities in the style and size and then find compatible pedals.

There are several road cycling pedal types. You don’t have to choose clipless pedals for your road bike. You can install flat pedals and not have to worry about buying cycling cleats. Many bikers find that flat pedals make it easier to ride the bike for long distances. It’s also easier to get off your bike and walk it across the streets if you’re not wearing cycling cleats.

Mountain Biking

Clipless pedals are best for mountain biking because they keep your feet in place over rough terrain. They’re slightly different from clipless pedals made for road biking but still give you better control over your bike.

Mountain bike clipless pedals have two holes for your cycling shoe cleats. They’re designed to keep mud off the pedal since that can gum up the works. The recessed cleats go into the shoe just enough that you can still get off the bike and explore comfortably.

If you don’t have cleats for mountain biking and don’t want your foot to stay attached to the pedals, you can choose flat pedals for mountain biking. You’ll still be able to have a powerful, efficient ride on the natural trails, but bumps in the path might kick your feet off the pedals. Using flat pedals while mountain biking means you need to pay more attention to your feet.

Mountain Bike Pedals Flat vs Clipless: The Big Debate

Recreational Biking

Recreational bikers usually prefer flat pedals for their bicycles. They’re not using their bike to commute longer distances, and they’re typically riding on paved roads or smooth paths, so there’s no need to prepare for bumpy terrain. Recreational biking is more casual than road biking or mountain biking, so flat pedals are a great choice.

If you want to try clip pedals, you can look into different types of bicycle clips. While clipless pedals require cycling shoes, you can get toe clips, straps, or cages and still wear your regular shoes. Clip pedals are an ideal solution for riders who need to wear their standard shoes to walk around but want to keep their feet in place while riding.


Bike Pedal Considerations

Once you’ve chosen the type of bicycle pedal based on the riding you do and what you feel most comfortable with, you want to ensure you’re using them correctly. Read on to see what you should consider in terms of using, maintaining, and replacing bike pedals.

Best Bike Pedals for Heavy Riders

Using Clipless Pedals

There’s a learning curve to using clipless pedals, so you should practice before you take your bike on the path. Hold the front brake to keep your bike from rolling as you clip in. Get your first cleat in place, and then let the bike roll forward slightly. As you roll, clip your other foot into place. Practice on a flat or downhill slope first, as it’s easier than trying to push uphill.

To unclip, you need to prepare before you come to a stop. As your bike rolls, pull the heel of your dominant foot out first. Pull your heel back away from the bike until you hear a click, which means the cleats are free. If you’re only stopping at a traffic light for a short time, you can unclip just one foot for balance.

Bike Pedal Maintenance

You should always keep your bike pedals clean so you get the best traction. If you let mud and debris build up on your pedals, your shoes will slip around and put you in danger while you’re riding. Washing pedals with warm water will remove dirt. Scrub with an old toothbrush to get the mud out of the treads.

If you have clipless pedals, you need to oil them after washing. Put one drop of lube on the clips so your cleats will continue to latch and unlatch efficiently.

Pedals get so much use that you also want to tighten them periodically. Make sure they’re properly threaded into the crank arm so they won’t spin as you pedal.

How Much Do Bike Pedals Cost?

You’ve learned a lot about the types of pedals but need to know things like “How much are bike pedals?” The cost can vary greatly.

Standard bike pedals aren’t expensive because they’re heavy-duty plastic that’s easy to manufacture, but that doesn’t mean they’ll last long. It’s better to invest in safe, sturdy bike pedals that will last for years instead of getting cheap ones that break easily.

Remember that when you buy clipless pedals, you also need a compatible cycling shoe. You need to budget money for both of these items. You can find quality clipless pedals for anywhere from $50 to $150. More expensive pedals make your ride easier and faster and will last for years.

Replacing Bike Pedals

When you’re replacing bike pedals, it’s essential to look at the threads. The right pedal has a right-hand thread, which means you screw it in clockwise and remove it counterclockwise. This method is the most common, and you can remember it with the “lefty loosey, righty tighty” chant.

The left pedal has a reverse thread, which means you screw it in counterclockwise and remove it clockwise. You can double-check which pedal is which by looking for the L and R at the end of the spindle.

How To Remove and Install Bike Pedals <- Check out our guide for detailed instructions

Final Notes

There are so many bike pedal types on the market that you want to get the right type for your needs. If you have a mountain bike or road bike, clipless pedals keep your foot in place while you ride. Recreational bikers might prefer flat pedals, so they don’t need cycling shoes. Getting the right pedal makes your rides fun and efficient.