How to Choose Bike Pedals (Buyer’s Guide)

Learn how to choose bike pedals with this comprehensive guide. Discover different types, factors to consider, and tips for making the right choice.

Do you know what’s just as important as choosing the right bike? Choosing the right pedals! Trust me, I learned this the hard way. When I first started cycling, I thought all pedals were created equal. I mean, they’re just a flat surface for your feet, right? Wrong. As I quickly discovered, using the wrong pedals can be a recipe for disaster. That’s why I’ve put together this comprehensive guide on how to choose bike pedals.

In this post, you’ll learn everything you need to know about bike pedals, from the different types available to the factors you need to consider when making your choice. Whether you’re just starting out or you’re a seasoned pro looking to upgrade your gear, keep reading to discover the ultimate guide on how to choose bike pedals.

What are bike pedals?

Bike pedals are the component of a bicycle that the rider uses to transfer power to the bike’s drivetrain. They are typically mounted on the bottom of the bike’s frame, near the front of the rear wheel. Pedals are usually made from a combination of metal and plastic and feature a flat or concave platform on which the rider places their foot.

Image of a cyclist on a bicycle wearing a clipless shoe. Source: pexels
Image of a cyclist on a bicycle wearing a clipless shoe. Source: pexels

Some pedals have clips or straps that attach to the rider’s shoe, while others feature a clipless design that allows the rider’s shoe to snap into the pedal using a cleat. Ultimately, selecting the right type of pedal can significantly impact a rider’s comfort, performance, and overall cycling experience.

My favorite bike (at the moment):

State Bicycle Co. Black Label 6061

Best overall fixed gear bike state bicycle co 6061 black label v2
My favorite bike (at the moment):

State Bicycle Co. Black Label 6061

This is my daily ride, my trusty Black Label It’s lightweight and beautifully crafted. It looks like a beast and rides like one too. I upgraded the saddle, but everything else is pretty much as it was out of the box. I highly recommend it.

What are the different types of bike pedals?

There are several types of bike pedals available for riders to choose from. Here are some of the most common types:

1. Clipless Pedals

These pedals feature a mechanism that attaches to the bottom of the rider’s cycling shoes, allowing for a more efficient pedaling motion and power transfer. They are also sometimes called “clipless” pedals because they don’t require the use of toe clips or straps like older styles of pedals did.

The term “clipless” can be confusing, as it seems to imply that the rider’s foot is not secured to the pedal, but in fact, the cleats on the bottom of the rider’s shoes clip into the pedal mechanism, creating a secure connection between the rider and the bike.

2. Flat/Platform Pedals

Flat pedals are a type of bike pedal that features a wide and flat surface for the rider’s foot to rest on. These pedals do not have any mechanism to attach the rider’s shoe to the pedal, allowing the rider to easily remove their foot from the pedal at any time. They offer several advantages over clipless pedals, such as easier entry and exit, no need for special shoes, and better lateral support.

They are often the choice of beginner cyclists but are also used by many experienced riders for various types of riding, including downhill, freeride, and BMX. Flat pedals come in different shapes, sizes, and materials, with some featuring thin platforms to reduce rock strikes and others made of durable materials like alloy.

3. Hybrid Pedals

Hybrid pedals offer a combination of platform and clipless pedal designs. They have a platform on one side that can be used with regular shoes and a clipless mechanism on the other side that is compatible with cycling shoes and cleats.

These are a good option for riders who want the efficiency of a clipless pedal system but also want the flexibility of using regular shoes when needed. Hybrid pedals are also suitable for both road and mountain bikers, with road cyclists preferring clipless pedals for power and efficiency and mountain bikers opting for platforms for better grip and stability.

They offer an affordable alternative to clipless pedals while still providing increased efficiency by allowing the rider to pull up on the pedal during the upstroke.

4. Toe Clip/Cage Pedals

Toe clip or cage pedals are a type of pedal that has a cagelike frame attached to the front of a flat pedal, which holds the rider’s foot in place on top of the pedal. They are suitable for beginners, commuters, and recreational riders, as they provide better grip and control over the bike compared to regular flat pedals.

They offer an affordable alternative to clipless pedals while still providing increased efficiency by allowing the rider to pull up on the pedal during the upstroke. However, toe clip pedals are less secure and less efficient than clipless pedals.

Other less common types of pedals include step-in pedals, power meter pedals, and magnetic pedals.

What factors should you consider when choosing bike pedals?

When choosing bike pedals, there are several factors to consider to find the right fit for your needs. Here are some of the main factors:

1. Type of cycling

The type of cycling you do can impact your choice of pedals. Here are pedals suitable for different types of cycling:

Road cycling

For road cycling, clipless road bike pedals are the most common choice. These pedals use a 3-bolt cleat system to securely attach your shoe to the pedal, providing a stable and efficient connection between the rider and the bike. Road cleats are typically larger, made of plastic, and protrude from the shoe’s sole.

Mountain biking

Mountain bikers can choose between clipless and flat MTB pedals. Clipless mountain bike pedals work similarly to clipless road bike pedals, but they use a smaller 2-bolt cleat system that is easier to walk in and sheds mud better.

Flat MTB pedals, on the other hand, have a wide platform with grip pins, allowing riders to move their feet freely on the pedal. This can be useful in technical terrain or for those who prefer a more casual feel.

Gravel riding

Gravel riding can use either road or MTB pedals, depending on the rider’s preference and the specific terrain. Road pedals with a 3-bolt system can provide a more secure connection for long rides, while MTB pedals with a 2-bolt system offer easier walking and mud shedding for mixed terrain and off-road sections.

Commuting and casual riding

For commuting and casual riding, flat or hybrid (flat + clipless) pedals are popular choices. Flat pedals are versatile, easy to use, and compatible with any type of shoe, making them suitable for riders who want a simple, hassle-free experience.

Hybrid pedals combine a flat platform on one side with a clipless mechanism on the other, providing the option to ride with regular shoes or switch to clipless for a more secure connection.

Image of black bicycle pedals. Source: unsplash
Image of black bicycle pedals. Source: unsplash

2. Material and durability

Pedals can be made from a variety of materials, including plastic, aluminum, titanium, and more. The type of material can impact the durability of the pedal and its resistance to wear and tear.

3. Traction

If you do a lot of off-road riding, you’ll want pedals that offer good traction and are easy to get in and out of. Some flat pedals may have pins for better grip, while clipless pedals may have cleats that provide better traction.

4. Shoe compatibility

Clipless pedals require specific shoes with cleats that can attach to the pedal, while other types of pedals can be used with any type of shoe. It’s important to consider the compatibility of your shoes with the pedals you choose.

Tips for choosing the right bike pedals

Here are some tips that may help you in choosing the right bike pedals for you:

1. Check the compatibility of the pedal you are looking at

Your footwear should be compatible with your pedals to ensure comfort and safety. SPD (Shimano Pedaling Dynamics) cleats are the most common type, and many pedals are compatible with them.

2. Look for pedals that fit your budget and needs

Flat pedals are typically more affordable and come in different materials, while clipless pedals are more expensive but provide better power transfer and efficiency.

3. Check the amount of float or the sideways rotational movement of the pedal cleat

When you step on a cleated bike pedal, the cleat locks into the pedal mechanism and is held firmly in place. Pedal float refers to the amount of angular rotation allowed to the foot on the pedal. Different types of cleats allow for different degrees of float; you can change the cleat to vary the float.

4. Try out different pedals on a test ride to get a feel for them

Some bike shops may offer demo pedals that you can try out before making a final decision. Additionally, some pedals, like hybrid pedals, allow you to switch between a flat and clipless option, providing you with more flexibility.

If you want even more tips and insights, watch this video called “Clipless Pedals Vs. Flat Pedals | To Clip In Or Not To Clip In” from the Global Cycling Network YouTube channel.

A video called “Clipless Pedals Vs. Flat Pedals | To Clip In Or Not To Clip In” from the Global Cycling Network YouTube channel.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Do you still have questions about choosing bike pedals? Below are some of the most commonly asked questions.

How can I find the right bike pedals for me?

When choosing bike pedals, it’s important to consider factors such as the type of cycling you’ll be doing, your experience level, and your budget. You should also make sure the pedals are compatible with your bike and shoes and consider any additional features that may be important to you.

Can I use any type of pedal on my bike?

No, not all pedals are compatible with all bikes. It’s important to check the compatibility of the pedals with your specific bike and shoes before making a purchase. This will help ensure a safe and comfortable cycling experience.

What should I look for in bike pedal reviews?

When reading bike pedal reviews, it’s important to look for information about the pedal’s durability, ease of use, and compatibility with different types of shoes and bikes. Pay attention to any comments about safety or comfort, and consider the reviewer’s level of experience and riding style.


And that, my friends, is how you choose bike pedals! (Have you picked out your perfect pair yet?) I hope this guide has been helpful in steering you in the right direction. We covered everything from the importance of choosing the right pedals to the factors to consider when making your choice. (Did I forget to mention anything?) Let me know in the comments section below – I read and reply to every comment.

Remember, choosing the right pedals is essential for a comfortable and safe cycling experience. (Don’t be a pedal pusher and settle for anything less!) Take the time to research and test out different options to find the perfect fit for you. And if you found this article helpful, don’t forget to share it with a friend. (Spread the pedal love!) Be sure to check out my full blog for more tips and tricks on all things cycling. Thanks for reading, and happy cycling!

Key takeaways

This article covered how to choose bike pedals. Here are some key takeaways:

  • Choosing the right bike pedals is crucial for a comfortable and safe cycling experience.
  • There are different types of bike pedals, including flat, clipless, and hybrid pedals.
  • Factors to consider when choosing bike pedals include the type of riding, experience level, and budget.
  • It’s important to ensure compatibility between the pedals, bike, and shoes.
  • Testing out different options before making a final decision can help you find the perfect fit.

Helpful resources

Bradley Knight Image
Written by Bradley Knight, Staff Writer

Hey there! My name is Bradley, and I've been riding fixed for years. I love all the joy and pain that comes with this unique style of cycling and the passionate community that drives it. If you love fixed-gear bikes, this is the place for you.

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Edited by Nick Eggert, Staff Editor

Nick is our staff editor and co-founder. He has a passion for writing, editing, and website development. His expertise lies in shaping content with precision and managing digital spaces with a keen eye for detail.

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