What Type of Pedals Are Best for Mountain Biking?

Last Updated on January 17, 2022

Mountain biking gives you two choices, whether you want to be a flat pedal rider or become more of a professional-looking clipless pedal cyclist.

Well, the thing is, it’s really up to you on which side you want to dive into. Your riding style, preferred mountain bike discipline, as well as your fitness goals, play a huge part in deciding which type of pedal you should choose.

In this article, we aim to help you choose which of these two kinds of pedals is right for you. We are also going to show you the pros and cons of each kind so you can carefully assess the type which will help you become a better mountain biker.

Flat pedals

Flat pedals are the most common kind of mountain bike pedals because they are very easy to use. They are beginner-friendly because you just have to step on them with your feet to use them. These are usually found on stock bikes.

What makes these pedals interesting is that they aren’t that complicated to use. They just have sharp pins that keep your feet from moving.

You just need to learn the right foot positioning and body weighing skills so that you can utilize your pedals and make the most out of them.


Clipless pedals

Then there are the clipless mountain bike pedals which are the choice of most professional mountain bikers. Clipless pedals are also what most mountain bike racers choose because they can secure their foot properly on the pedal platform.

It also improves pedaling efficiency because it creates a more smooth motion every time you pedal, knowing that there are no wobbles that happen every time you move your feet.

However, using clipless mountain bike pedals comes with a steep learning curve. You need to time your clipping motion right so that you won’t fall off your bike.

You also should adjust it accordingly so that you won’t have a hard time clipping on and off from it every time you ride.

Related: 8 Best Mountain Bike Clipless Pedals

What are the advantages of flat pedals?

Freedom of movement

The best thing about flat pedals is that you have the freedom of movement you need to stay comfortable.

Aside from comfort, you are also more confident in tackling technical sections or steep downhill trails because you can easily dab your foot out of the pedals and touch the ground to maintain balance and prevent a crash.

You won’t have this luxury if you’re on clipless pedals because you need to slide your feet first and time the pedal stroke right so your feet can separate and unclip from it later.


Another nice thing about flats is that they are safer compared to clipless variants.

This is because you can immediately remove your feet from the mountain bike pedals and touch the ground to regain footing and balance.

This is important especially if you are into downhill biking where dabbing is an essential skill to learn so that you won’t easily fall off your bike.


Then there comes the versatility factor which allows you to use any kind of shoe there is. However, we recommend that you only use mountain-bike specific flat shoes.

Nonetheless, skate shoes still work fine. You don’t even need to buy clipless shoes just so that you can ride your bike.

And what’s more is that flat pedal mountain bike shoes look just like ordinary casual shoes, so you can wear them not only for your rides but also for casual occasions.

What makes clipless pedals nice?


On the other hand, there comes clipless pedals. There’s a reason why professional cyclists and racers use these, and that’s because they are very stable.

This means that your foot won’t easily slide off the pedals when you’re using it, even if you ride in the roughest of trails. This is because your foot is attached and connected directly to the pedals via the cleats present on your clipless mountain bike shoes.


These make it easier to balance on your bike because you don’t have to worry about maintaining the right positioning of your feet on the pedals.

This is because the shoe cleats and the pedals do it automatically for you. This then allows you to focus more on maintaining your body’s balance and learning how to effectively shift your weight around your bike.

Pedaling efficiency

Pedaling efficiency is the best reason why you should choose clipless pedals over flats.

The best mountain bike pedals will provide you with the right pedaling efficiency because your feet stay in a neutral position on your entire ride. This means that they won’t slide or move to a different area on the pedal body while you are riding.

Which pedal is better for cross-country rides?

Clipless bike pedals are ideal for cross-country riding because pedaling efficiency should be your priority here knowing that you are going to travel long distances for hours in the end.

Cross-country biking also doesn’t have many technical sections so there’s no need to always dab your foot out of the pedals regularly.

Can you ride downhills with flat pedals?

Can you ride downhills with flat pedals

Yes, of course. Based on our own experience, riding downhill is better if you have flat pedals because you can easily dab and adjust your position.

Just make sure that you wear proper flat pedal mountain bike shoes so that your foot won’t slip off.

Also, make sure that you know how to shift your body weight properly as well as control your foot position. You should maintain a slight foot incline angle to have better security.


There are two main types of pedals for mountain bikers. These are flat platform pedals and clipless pedals. If you want freedom of movement, versatility, and safety, then flat pedals are for you.

But if you’re more of the competitive kind and you want to focus more on performance, then the best mountain bike pedals with clipless structures are what you need.

It is all a matter of weighing out the pros and cons so that you can make the most out of your mountain biking experience.

Just weigh things out, gauge your skillset, and know the kind of riding you want so you can choose the right type of pedal for your mountain bike.