Pedals have a difficult job. For starters, they’re one of the three contact points where your body and your bike meet, so have to provide a suitable interface as well as an element of control.
They’re also the means by which you transmit the power in your legs into the bike’s drivetrain to propel you along the trail, and are often subjected to the general rough and tumble of mountain biking.
As a result, pedals are a crucial part of any mountain bike, but they come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and styles. What’s right for you will depend on where you ride and how you ride, but the first decision you need to make is whether you want flats or clipless.
We’ve covered the basics below but have a separate guide to flat vs clipless pedals if you want to delve deeper into the pros and cons of each. Otherwise, our round-up of the best mountain bike pedals list should help you to decide exactly what to fit to your bike. Every set of pedals here has been tried and tested by the BikeRadar team.
If you’re upgrading from an old set, you can read our guide on how to change bike pedals, while we’ve also got a buyer’s guide to the best mountain bike shoes – once again with options for both clipless and flat MTB pedals.
Flat mountain bike pedals
Flat pedals are essentially just a platform for each foot. They’re double-sided, so it doesn’t matter which way up they are and there’s usually some extra grip provided by strategically placed pins.
The bigger the pedal’s face or platform, the greater the area you have to plant your foot and the greater the contact between you and your bike.
Flat pedals let you move your feet about as you please and, as a result, are preferred by some riders on technical terrain.
Clipless mountain bike pedals
Clipless or SPD pedals, on the other hand, are a bit of a misnomer since they clip onto special cleats mounted on the soles of your shoes.
The confusion with the name boils down to the fact that when this sort of pedal first appeared, its main selling point was how it enabled riders to discard the uncomfortable toe clips and straps they’d been using up until then.
Clipless mountain bike pedals are also double-sided, unlike single-sided road bike pedals, and since they rely on a mechanical attachment, rather than the surface area and pins to keep rider and bike connected, they’re typically a lot smaller than flats.
Some riders prefer cycling with cleats thanks to the feeling of improved pedalling efficiency and security of clipless pedals. Firstly, there’s the confidence gained from knowing your feet are going to stay exactly where you want them through rough terrain. Then there’s that connection to the bike, which makes hopping obstacles or going light over roots that bit easier.
If you are using clipless pedals, pay close attention to cleat position, to maximise comfort and control on the bike.
What about clipless pedals with a cage?
Don’t worry if you can’t decide one way or another because caged ‘trail’ pedals provide a halfway house between clipless and flat platform models. They marry a mechanical cleat-attachment device with a large pedal body for a ‘best of both worlds’ option.
Any time you’re not using rigid-soled XC or gravel bike shoes, we’d recommend using clipless pedals like these.
For downhill, enduro and aggressive trail riding where you want the feel of a softer shoe while still being clipped in, the cage ensures there’s still plenty of foot support and the bigger platform makes the mechanism easier to locate after a dab or foot-out turn.
The best mountain bike pedals in 2021
Best flat MTB pedals, as rated by our expert testers
- HT PA03A: £35 / $69
- Nukeproof Horizon Pro Sam Hill Enduro: £89.99
- Burgtec Penthouse Flat MK5: £110
- DMR Vault Brendog Ice: £110
- DMR V11 Nylon: £50
- Pembree R1V: £179
- Burgtec MK4 Composite: £40
- Deity TMAC: $168.99
- Gusset S2: £80
- HT Supreme ANS10: £79.99
- Pedaling Innovations Catalyst: £79.99
- Superstar Nano-x EVO: £49.99
- £35 / $69 as tested
- Large platform with plenty of grip
- Lightweight nylon bodies
- A very nice price
These curiously named flat pedals are some of the best we’ve ever tested. Contrary to the popular cycling quote, these are genuinely light, cheap and strong.
They’re only a little bit smaller than some of the largest flat pedal designs on the market yet weigh just 349g for a pair.
The unusually flat pedal bodies are made from nylon rather than alloy and feature enough cut-outs to shed the worst of mud. Ten aggressive pins per side mean that we had no grip issues regardless of shoe choice and conditions.
The only real bad thing we have to say about these is that they tend to look scruffy before other pedals do – but that’s being picky, as they still stand up to plenty of abuse for not a lot of cash.
Nukeproof Horizon Pro Sam Hill Enduro
- £90 as tested
- Excellent shape
- 10 pins per side offer great grip
These pedals and their earlier incarnations have won at the highest level under the feet of chief test pilot and multiple Enduro World Series champion Sam Hill.
The Horizons have a perfectly-sized body that strikes an inimitable balance between grip, support and size. With 10 pins per side and a concave shape, the pedals are a top performer. The pins can be adjusted from 5mm to 6mm by removing the supplied shims using a 2.5mm Allen key.
Two sealed bearings and two DU bushes keep the pedals spinning. Nukeproof sells all the spares you’ll need to rebuild them when the time comes.
Latest deals for the Nukeproof Horizon Pro Sam Hill
Burgtec Penthouse Flat Mk5
- £110 as tested
- Built to last
- Slim, concave platform
- Plenty of colour options
It’s now been 17 years since Burgtec’s original Penthouse Flat pedals emerged. Since then, the British-made parts have evolved with the sport itself.
This latest incarnation, the Mk5, is pretty close to being the perfect flat mountain bike pedal. The large platform isn’t big enough to become a real hazard through rock gardens, but there’s plenty of grip thanks to generous concavity and eight 4.5mm tall removable pins.
They’re available in lots of different colour options to match or contrast with your bike. A pair with steel axles weighs 382g, which is fairly light for alloy pedals.
DMR Vault Brendog Ice
- £110 as tested
- Offset platform makes pin removal easy
- Chamfered edges deflect ground strikes
- 11 perfectly-placed pins
The totally concave platform and 11 well-placed pins make the DMR Vault a BikeRadar staff favourite, and they do a fantastic job of keeping your foot in place.
The pins can be changed or removed from the underside of the pedal, so any damage won’t hamper removal, and the angled edges help to deflect the pedals over rocks and ruts.
The Brendog edition comes with sharper pins than the standard ones, dubbed Moto pins, but they weren’t as grippy as DMR’s standard offering.
Latest deals for the DMR Vault Brendog Ice
DMR V11 Nylon pedals
- £50 as tested
- Great grip and large platform
- More expensive than some composite pedals
The DMR V11 Nylon pedals use the same shape as the brand’s popular Vault pedals but opts for a glass-reinforced nylon rather than a metal body.
The result is a pedal that’s much more affordable than its metal sibling but still has a generous platform. It also has height-adjustable pins that are sharp too, keeping your feet in place.
These have proved to be bash-resistant throughout testing, making the V11s a good bet if you’re on a budget and looking for some top-performing flats.
Pembree R1V flat pedal
- £179 as tested
- Incredibly grippy
- Replaceable parts and reliable
The Pembree R1V pedals are built to last a long time, with replaceable traction plates, pins, and SKF ball and needle bearings.
The large concave surface is very stable and, with no central axle bulge, more pressure is directed onto the pins helping to improve grip. When spinning, the pedals remained silent in testing despite being ridden in some nasty conditions. The anodisation did begin to wear but there was no significant damage to the strength or performance of the pedal.
They might be heavier than some pedals at 621g a pair, and pricier too, but if performance and longevity are high on your priorities list, you can’t go far wrong with these flat pedals.
Burgtec MK4 Composite flat pedals
- £40 as tested
- Good platform shape
- Removable pins
Identical in shape to the Penthouse MK4 pedals, the nylon/fibreglass body of the MK4 Composite is concave and shares the same pin arrangement as their more expensive counterpart, though the pins aren’t quite as long.
At 375g, they’re a full 71g lighter than the metal versions and the composite body means they’re more likely to brush over obstacles if you strike the floor.
- $168.99 as tested
- Large pedal platform
- 14 pedal pins
- Robust construction
Freeride superstar Tyler McCaul’s signature pedals feature a large platform area, 14 pins located around the pedal’s peripheries and three bearings coupled with a DU bush to keep them spinning smoothly. The large platform means they’re fairly susceptible to strikes from rocks, but they’re robust enough to keep any damage at bay.
The pins are screwed in from the pedal’s platform, which means that if you’ve hit them and damaged the pins, you’ll need to find an alternative way of removing them from the pedal body.
At $168.99, these are some of the priciest pedals around at the moment, but if you value a large pedal platform and robust construction, that could be a price worth paying.
Gusset S2 flat pedals
- £80 as tested
- Concave profile
- Fantastic grip
- Removable 10mm pins
Developed with input from Red Bull athlete Matt Jones, the S2 is a top-performing flat pedal.
The large metal platform has tapered edges to help brush off rock strikes, while the concave shape and removable 10mm pins ensure plenty of grip. That said, the Allen heads can get filled with mud, so replacing the pins can be a pain.
The axles run on DU bushings and bearings so should stand the test of time.
HT Supreme ANS10
- £79.99 as tested
- Concave platform
- Removable and adjustable pins
- Very light at 376g a pair
The HT Supreme ANS10 pedals are designed with extremely angled edges and a noticeably concave shape. The hexagonal design helps to brush off rock and floor strikes with ease, while also keepin your foot planted in rough terrain. The sharp pins contribute to making these exceptionally grippy.
The pins’ length is adjustable by 1mm, from 5mm to 6mm, and the 12mm axle length puts your feet in a comfortably wide position. At 376g, these pedals are some of the lightest out there.
Latest deals for the HT Supreme ANS10
Pedaling Innovations Catalyst
- £79.99 as tested
- Biggest rectangular platform around
- Not refined, but good performance
The huge, rectangular 95 x 128mm platform can raise eyebrows, but Pedaling Innovations claims the Catalyst will support your whole foot, helping with control and pedalling power input.
The impressive levels of grip and stability of these pedals dispelled any doubts we had about the design and meant the pedals inspired confidence on the trail.
The pedal has enough space for 14 pins, which can be configured in a combination of long and short to suit your needs. Unfortunately, the pins can only be tightened from the platform side, which does mean that if they get damaged they’re hard to replace.
Superstar Nano-x EVO
- £49.99 as tested
- Well priced
- Pins are easy to replace
- Angled edges deflect rock strikes
The pedal’s surface provides good levels of grip and performed best with the smaller pins rather than the 7mm monsters.
Thanks to the offset design, the pins are easy to replace from underneath the pedal platform using a 3mm Allen key. The angled edges also deflect rocks well.
Best clipless MTB pedals, as rated by our expert testers
- Funn Ripper: £115
- Shimano PD-M520: £36.99 / $34.90
- Crankbrothers Mallet E LS: £149.99
- Funn Mamba S: £110 / $135
- Shimano PD-M530: £39.99 / $39.99
- Shimano XT M8020 Trail: £90 / $120 / AU$158.95
- Shimano XT M8120 Trail: £100
- Crankbrothers Mallet 2: £90 / $100 / €100
- DMR V-Twin: £129.99
- Nukeproof Horizon CS: £100
- Shimano Saint M821: £115
- Shimano Zee ME700: £53
- Time ATAC XC 6: £90
- £115 as tested
- Large platform
- Easy to clip in
- Smooth-running axles
With a wide platform and flat-pedal-like shape, these were an instant hit with our testers. The four pins positioned on each corner of the pedal mean you’ve got plenty of anti-twist grip, but they don’t bite in so hard that it’s difficult to clip out.
The concave platform means that they work well with downhill shoes. The tension-adjustable clip system is compatible with Shimano’s SPD system and the bush and bearing spun axles have proven to last the test of time.
- £36.99 / $34.90 as tested
- Excellent value for money
- Straightforward adjustability
- Reliable and simple to maintain
The Shimano PD-M520 is one of the most popular mountain bike pedals out there due to their simplicity and reliability. Double-sided entry makes them easy to use, and therefore also very popular with commuters and gravel riders, as well as mountain bikers.
The PD-M520 uses the same mechanism as the more expensive XT and XTR versions, but down-specced to reach the lower price point. However, if well maintained and well lubricated, they are hard to distinguish from either of the pricier versions on the trail.
Simple cup and cone bearings make maintenance easy and quick.
Latest deals for the Shimano PD-M520
Crankbrothers Mallet E LS
- £149.99 as tested
- Best suited to DH-style shoes
- Concave, low profile cage
- Tunable fit
If money’s no object and you’re looking for a high-performing trail, enduro or downhill pedal, the Crankbrothers Mallet is a great option, especially when used with DH-style shoes.
The low-profile cage is concave, giving solid engagement with your shoes and the six pins located on the pedal’s body. With changeable ‘traction pads’ and cleat shims, you can also fine-tune the fit to suit different types of shoe.
On the trail, the pedal’s body offers flat pedal support with the added security of being clipped in, so you can focus on riding fast.
Latest deals for the Crankbrothers Mallet E LS
Funn Mamba S
- £110 / $135 as tested
- Good size and weight
- Easy entry and release
The Funn Samba S pedals bring together the best characteristics of Shimano, HT and Nukeproof clipless pedals. The hexagonal pedal bodies are a good size, providing enough support underfoot without feeling so big that they catch on rocks or roots.
The optional pins are 5mm high and, while they aren’t adjustable, they provide good grip. You can clip in either side and, while an 18-degree release angle requires more foot twist than some, it also means you run the spring tension lower without worrying about your shoes unclipping accidentally.
Finally, a grease port makes for easy maintenance.
- £39.99 / $39.99 as tested
- Popular for a very good reason
- Simple to maintain
- Rugged and durable construction
If you prefer your SPDs with a cage, then Shimano’s M530s are not to be ignored – in fact, we’d consider them a modern classic.
The cage doesn’t offer the same level of support as some competitors, but there’s still enough side support for most trail shoes. They’re also cheap and – thanks to their simple cup and cone bearings – will last you for years. When they do eventually get tired you’ll be able to easily service them at home.
If weight bothers you (these are 446g for a pair) then you may be better off with the XT version, but the M530 tends to keep most trail riders perfectly happy.
Latest deals for the Shimano PD-M530
Shimano XT M8020 Trail
- £90 / $120 / AU$158.95 as tested
- Great all-rounder
- Secure and familiar cleat and clip mechanism
- Slight increase in contact area for your foot
Designed for trail, all-mountain and enduro riders, Shimano’s XT Trail pedal encases the SPD mechanism within an alloy platform.
The M8020 is 3.3mm wider than its predecessor, resulting in a claimed 11.7 per cent increase in contact surface. Additionally, the pedal body is now 0.5mm shallower, getting you a hair closer to the axle.
The pedals weighed 402g on our scales (408g claimed) and Shimano’s traditional steel cleat and clip mechanism means engagement and disengagement retains its familiar consistency (spring tension is easily adjusted with a 3mm Allen key).
The additional pedal-to-shoe contact surface of the Trails is subtle, but the extra width does help to prevent foot roll when tilting the bike into corners.
Latest deals for the Shimano XT M8020 Trail
Shimano XT M8210 Trail
- £100 as tested
- Great stability
- Good mud clearance
- Some interference with bulky shoes
The Shimano XT M8120 pedals are true fit-and-forget performers, requiring little to no maintenance and offering great resistance against tough, muddy conditions thanks to a large platform and easy setup.
Cleat engagement was consistently snappy in testing and the cage provided plenty of support, only interfering with the bulkiest of XC shoes.
Crankbrothers Mallet 2
- £90 / $100 / €100 as tested
- Good size and support
- Shoe contact relies on cleat spacers
The Mallet 2 clipless pedals have the largest platform in the Crankbrothers range, measuring 83mm long and 37mm wide.
There are no grub-screw pins for extra grip but the pedal’s concavity allows plenty of shoe contact. If you do want to adjust how much shoe contact you have, you will have to use cleat spacers.
The egg beater clip system allowing you to clip in from any angle. The system also sheds mud easily.
Short axles place your feet close to the crank arms, but as long as this isn’t an issue, these are great pedals for riders wanting support and pedal feel.
- £129.99 as tested
- Flat-pedal-like support and lateral grip
- Super-grippy pins
- Easy to clip into
The DMR V-Twin comes supplied with a variety of pins so you can fine-tune the pedal’s feel. Wearing skate-style DH shoes in testing, the pedals provided plenty of grip and support when setup with all of the extra pins.
The SPD mechanism makes clipping in easy, but because of the high levels of grip on offer, getting unclipped can be more troublesome.
Latest deals for the DMR V-Twin
Nukeproof Horizon CS
- £100 as tested
- Four removable pins
- SPD-compatible mechanism
- Seriously grippy
With four removable pins per side, each extending up to 4mm above the wide platform, the Horizon is an incredibly grippy pedal.
The pins can be shortened if required, using washers, but the overall feel is akin to that given by a flat pedal.
The pedals have an SPD-compatible mechanism and are supplied with 4-degree float cleats (a bigger 8-degree float cleat is available). If you want a bigger platform, Nukeproof’s CL version could be for you.
Latest deals for the Nukeproof Horizon CS
Shimano Saint M821
- £115 as tested
- Tapered platform
- Reliable clipping mechanism
Designed to take a beating, the Shimano Saint M821s are the brand’s top gravity pedals. Accordingly, these pedals are chunkier and weightier than others, but there’s no denying they are robust.
The pedals have a tapered platform, helping you to avoid catching obstacles. However, despite the wide middle section, this tapering does mean the pedals provide little foot support, so you’re mostly resting your feet on the cleat.
The clipping action is slick and in testing the pedals were still spinning smoothly after a winter of wet rides, making them a good option if you value low-fuss, reliable pedals.
Shimano Zee ME700
- £53 as tested
- Great quality for the price
- Near identical shape to Shimano’s more expensive pedals
The gravity-orientated Shimano ME700 pedals look and feel a lot like the brand’s XT M8120 pedals, but are roughly half the price.
Shimano’s characteristic tapered platform design might not be preferable if you wear softer-soled downhill shoes. Having said that, they do offer lots of ground clearance so there’s less chance of a pedal strike.
The SPD system delivers solid and reliable engagement, with a distinctive snap that assures you the cleat is in place.
Overall, these are a solid set of pedals ideal for all-around trail riding and bridge the gap between XC-style pedals and full-on downhill pedals.
Time ATAC XC 6
- £90 as tested
- Plenty of float
- Easy entry
- Can be tricky to clip in
Thanks to Time’s cleat design, the ATAC XC 6 pedals have plenty of float, which can help reduce knee pain. If you’re more used to Shimano’s SPD system, the amount of movement can be unnerving at first, though.
They stand up to abuse in bad weather and we’ve never had problems clipping in or out when they are covered in mud, snow or even ice. If you’re not careful, though, when you’re clipping in the pedal can roll forward, caused by their cageless design.
In our experience, the ATACs have shown themselves to offer impressive reliability, brushing off knocks and continued use through bad weather.
Buyer’s guide to mountain bike pedals | Six things to consider
How big you want your pedals depends on your riding style and what shoes you’re wearing. Cross-country riders with stiff shoes won’t need the support and weight of a platform, and will likely prefer a compact SPD pedal as a result, but in the context of gravity or aggressive trail riding, a platform provides foot support for softer shoes that have more pedal feel.
You can find plenty of clipless pedals with a cage, providing that extra support alongside the security of being attached to the bike, while flat (non-clipless) pedals will always offer a large platform.
As far as caged clipless pedals are concerned, the bigger the platform, the easier it is to locate and stamp back onto when you unclip. However, platform size is a trade-off with weight and vulnerability to pedal strikes, and this is the reason most have tapered leading edges and chamfered corners.
Most flat pedals and many caged clipless pedals have removable pins that add grip. With clipless pedals, these pins are reduce the floating movement of the cleat. These pins can help things feel less sketchy when you’re riding on technical terrain or unclipped, but pins that are too tall can interfere with the sole of your shoe.
Calculated in degrees, float is the amount your foot can twist from side to side while clipped in (using clipless pedals). As well as being kinder to your knees, float allows freedom of movement in your ankles and hips that can make it easier to manoeuvre the bike. It’s personal preference, as too much float can feel wobbly and vague. Some manufacturers, such as HT and Crankbrothers, offer cleats with different degrees of float.
This is how far, in degrees, you need to rotate your ankles in order to unclip from clipless pedals. Some pedals let you change this by adjusting the spring tension of the clip mechanism. Others require you to swap cleats. As a rule of thumb, beginners should start light and crank things up over time. For more experienced riders, a foot popping out unexpectedly is nearly as scary as it getting stuck in.
Pedals get abused – kicked, hit on the ground, caked in mud, and immersed in puddles – so they need to be durable, with good seals and bearings. If you’re using clipless pedals, the cleat mechanism must also last and be designed in a way that sheds mud so it’s still easy to clip in and out in filthy conditions.
Q-factor is the measurement from the outside of the crank arm to the centre of the pedal body. It’s added to the crank Q-factor (the distance between the outsides of the crank arms) to give the pedal stance width. A wider stance gives more stability and crank/frame clearance.