The moment your wheels touch the ground, you grip the handlebars and foot hits pedal, your mind goes into the flow state ready to ride and respond on the fly for a fun and exciting trip. As such, making sure to not break that concentration is not only crucial to an enjoyable ride, but to keeping you and your bike in top shape.
This is where your mountain bike pedals come in as they handle the initial impact and traction of your feet as your drive yourself forward. These small pieces of metal are an indispensable tool connecting you, to your bike, to the ground. Being so important, there are multiple types of pedals to consider when building or upgrading your trail bike.
Quality of Life Features
When it comes to something as precise and fast paced as mountain biking, you don't want to leave anything up to chance and you'll want as little inconveniences as possible.
What is the pedal made of? Metal pedals will be stiffer and last longer, with more power being transferred per stroke. Composite pedals tend to be much cheaper and get the job done, but can be thicker and not as appealling.
Size and Shape
Matching your foot size and shape to your pedals is important in preserving as much energy with every stroke as possible. Too small of a pedal and you'll strain to get going and slip more often. Too large and you'll waste energy on top of not reaching every pedal spike for traction.
Upkeep and Maintenance
Adding another moving part to a bike can seem like a nightmare. Keep an eye out for pedals that have minimal empty space for debris to get into as well as areas opened up for snow and dirt to be pushed through when you put your foot on the pedal.
Both platform and clipless pedals can be customized. Platform pedals have spike pins on top to grip your shoes that can be resized or used for an aesthetic pop of color. Clipless pedals have "float" to them, which is the amount you can rotate your foot once clipped in as well as choosing how far you want to twist your foot to unlock from the clip mechanism.
Platform or Clipless?
When you first started mountain biking, or if you're about to, you've seen riders "snapping" their shoes into place. These are actually unique clipless pedals, with custom shoes to match that actually attach directly onto the pedals. Platform are the standard pedals, same quality and construction as platform pedals just without the need for specific shoes.
Traditional Platform Pedals
Platform pedals will be what most beginners flock to. It doesn't restrict your feet's movement while gaining confidence on a new bike. New trails are another popular reason to swap out for platform pedals on the first run or two.
A slippery or unknown terrain can require a lot of manual stops and adjustments both with the brakes and your feet and legs. If you enjoy riding slopes or getting air for tricks, you'll want the freedom of a platform pedal.
Snap-on Clipless Pedals
Everyday riders and those looking to get the most efficiency out of their bike will find themselves slipping on specific riding shoes before locking in another pass at the trail. This is thanks to the special cleat on riding shoes that clips onto the pedal to keep it attached at the base of your foot.
Adding this extra anchor point means you're able to distribute the effort for every pedal stroke through the upward and downward motions, rather than just downward. Slower, more technical trails and paths will benefit from the extra handling clipless pedals give. Repositioning one end of the bike or bunny-hopping are made almost second nature as you'll simply be using your body weight to move around as if the bike were a part of you, and it truly is when clipped in.
Not sure which style of pedal you want to use? Maybe you're moving or just got to a new area and aren't sure what the level of trail is around. In either case, starting out with a combination pedal can be an excellent jumping off point if you're willing to put in the time to learn both.
Combo pedals will have both the contact points of a traditional platform pedal with optional clips either on one or both sides, allowing you to change on demand. These are extremely popular with enthusiasts that frequently visit new and different trails. Riders appreciate being able to navigate a steep rockface with multiple steps while clipped in before seamlessly unclipping and getting back to a comfortable ride.
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