A good pair of pedals can transform your riding, whether you prefer minimalist clip-in race pedals, are prepared to sacrifice weight savings for stability with one of the latest trail pedals, or want to push your limits downhill on flat pedals combined with sticky-soled shoes. Here's our pick of the best mountain bike pedals we've tested since the start of 2011.
We rate the best by three categories: cross-country, trail and flat.
Best clip-in cross-country pedals
£35 / US$55
The M520 has become the benchmark by which all other pedals are judged. If what you’re spending doesn’t buy you more (like reduced weight, for example) than what’s on offer here then really, don’t bother. Just buy a pair of these, bung them on your bike and go.
Time ATAC XS Carbon
£137 / $200
Riders (often with dodgy knees) in pursuit of more ‘ﬂoat’ when riding tend to favour the Time system of lateral bars to clip into. With a relatively wide platform, the ATAC offers good support. Combined with its ability to remain unbothered by sticky conditions, this makes it ideal for day-long epics.
Crank Brothers Eggbeater 11 Ti
£340 / $425
This was the pedal that first gave riders a genuinely different and useful alternative to Shimano’s SPD. Entry and exit is very light, though well-defined and more consistent than Look – if not quite as positive as Shimano or Time. It’s something you learn to feel as well as hear.
Their easy mud shedding and low weight mean performance-orientated riders love them. There are downsides, such as slightly thin service intervals, and the cheaper ones need more care than the 3 and 11. That said, the service is a genuine five-minute job. Durability is otherwise high with breakages almost unheard of.
From: Crank Brothers
Ritchey Pro Paradigm
£94 / $150
Ritchey’s design detail and manufacturing quality makes many a heart beat faster and the Pro Paradigm won’t disappoint in either respect. SPD compatible, the axle and bearings have been designed to combine strength and durability with smooth running performance.
Xpedo M-Force 4 Ti
£N/A / $169
With its strength to weight ratio this pedal has been gathering a loyal race following, but we found it ﬁt for all occasions. You will need stiffer shoes to get the best out of the Mountain Force, but we think the practical, mud-beating ability and durable design mean you don’t need to save them for best or race days.
Best clip-in trail pedals
Shimano XT PD-M980
£120 / $269.99
The XT-level trail pedal fits the silky smooth and reliable SPD mechanism (shared across all of models) into this new alloy body. It’s not a massive platform to stand on if not clipped in, but an anti-roll platform, so if you stand on the pedal and don’t clip in, it can’t roll along the bottom of your shoe.
In this respect the trail pedals are ace. As a pedal to ride on without clipping in, obviously, it’s less clever. Nevertheless, they’re very popular with riders who don’t mind the extra grams and want to know that when they slam their foot nothing bad, at least, will happen.
Shimano Deore M530
£40 / $67
The M530 is for those who ride technical trails where light weight is less of an issue – the extra alloy in its ‘wings’ adds 39g per pedal compared to the M520. Weight aside, it's a real rider’s pedal. Entry to the cleat mechanism is a lot more reliable thanks to the elimination of roll.
Shimano Deore XT M785
£80 / $TBC
With a weight only grams heavier than the superb XTR M985s and a very appealing price, there can be few reasons to look beyond the XT M785s if you're looking for a new set of mid-range trail pedals.
Shimano XTR M985
£120 / $250
The cage itself doesn’t offer much support for your shoes but it does protects the pedal from bashing against rocks. It also offers the huge benefit of stopping the pedal rotating when you’re hastily stomping on it to relocate your feet. This design doesn’t hamper mud clearance.
CrankBrothers Candy II
£70 / $90
Riders who find the Eggbeater just rolls on the underside of their shoes like this platform – it stops that happening – and those who can feel the Eggbeater through their soles like the extra surface area.
It spreads the load and reduces hot spots – happy Eggbeater users tend to be racy types using stiffer soled shoes. They come with a five-year warranty and weigh just 320g.
CrankBrothers Mallet II
£75 / $140
Grip was so impressive that we wound the pins in most of the way. This gave us the float we’ve come to love from CrankBrothers pedals yet should you unclip, there’s still enough grip and platform to ride out a section before getting clipped back in.
£69.99 / $120
The M545 has the same positive in/out feel of all Shimano pedals and you can adjust the tension to suit. The platform sits at a slight angle, which makes it easy to engage your foot, then rotates slightly on the axle for support. Being double sided it works no matter which way up it falls.
Time X-ROC S
These pedals combine Time's proven ATAC retention mechanism with a large composite body for better unclipped use, in a package that’s quite light, given the size, at 445g. During four months of testing they've functioned exceptionally. However, they've also taken a beating.
Best flat pedals
Superstar Nano Thru Pin
£43 / $N/A
The bodies are concave and nice and thin, so your foot sits well on the pedal. The grip is spectacular too, considering the pins are nothing special.
£35 / $58
These pedals are made from a reinforced Nylon composite, which we found tough and sturdy. The grip is great and the replaceable pins even use replaceable captive nuts to hold them in. The bearings have taken some serious abuse and are still rolling smoothly. They’re great value for money too.
£99 / $147
DMR’s Vault is one of our favourites for trail use. The 115x115mm aluminium platform is wide enough for the chunkiest shoes, and the delicate concavity of the ribbed central bar lets your foot sink securely onto the 11 well-placed pins.
Shimano Saint PD-MX80
£59.99 / $89
Shimano’s DX pedal set the flat pedal standard for a long time, so the new Saint offering had a lot to live up to. Although the Saint pedals tip the scales at 499g, we think the weight penalty is a small price to pay for the quality on offer for such a reasonable price.
£155 / $N/A
Big but clever and beautifully constructed, the Penthouse Flats are a high-performance investment. At 22mm these are fairly thick, and the lack of horizontal cutouts probably accounts for much of their weight (556g) but few pedals are as tough.
If you value performance, strength and striking form and function, these will excite you.
£81 / $135
The grip on the Truvativ pedals is second to none, thanks to the super-sharp pins, which all screw through from behind. On the rare occasions when the pins do break off, they tend to snap at the base so removing – and replacing – them is easy. The bearings still feel good after a serious amount of use too.
£120 / $160
The grip of the Straitline pedals is awesome. The pins really grab your shoe, and their lip-and-large-thread design prevents them tearing out pretty well. The platform feels huge even if you have wide feet, giving a really secure feeling with no chance of rolling off.
Superstar Nano Tech
£43 / $67
Only the DMRs and the Burgtecs perform better, but they’re twice and three times the price, respectively. Tellingly, we only noticed the difference when we went from the Nanos to, say, the Vaults. But we never swapped back again and thought they weren’t as good. They offer fantastic grip and performance for the money.
- Bebop BBP-11 (£75 / $100)
- Look Quartz (£70 / $120)
- Wellgo W-01 (£36.99 / $49)
- Xpedo M-Force 8 Ti(£N/A / $259)
- CrankBrothers Mallet 1 (£49.99 / $60)
- Time Z Freeride (£57.99 / $99)
- CrankBrothers Candy 3 (£95 / $120)
- Outland CNC Slimline (£55 / $N/A)
- Gusset Nitro (£80 / $99)
- Point One Racing Podium (£150 / $242)
- Shimano MX30 DX (£70 / $85)
- Straitline AMP (£130 / $185)
This article is based on reviews originally published in What Mountain Bike (available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio), Mountain Biking UK (also available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio) and here on BikeRadar.