Everyone starts off their biking journey with flat pedals. They’re actually preferred by most off-road riders. But many people are switching to clipless. So what’s best
With Flat, It’s All About Grip
These are exactly as described – flat. Typically with replaceable pins that help the soles of your shoes grip the pedals. Some sets have a concave shape, which lets you press your foot into the pedals for maximum grip and stability. There are different materials, too. Composite is more lightweight. Metal is heavier, but it lasts longer and has more grip.
With flat pedals, it’s easier to gracefully dismount or put a foot down. It’s also easier to learn new tricks. If you have to make an emergency stop, no problem. There’s no incorrect position for your foot, either. You can find a natural and comfortable position that works for you. You can also adjust it as you ride. Plus, you can wear any kind of shoes, not just cleats.
Don’t Be Fooled by “Clipless”
You clip your shoes to the pedals so they’re locked to your feet. There’s single-sided – only one side of the pedal receiving the cleat. This is the lighter and most common design. Also double-sided – you can click in the pedal on either side. If you bike in regular street shoes, you’ll have a good amount of pedaling surface.
With clipless, it’s a lot easy to pedal over rough terrain. That’s because you don’t need to drop your heels to maintain traction between your shoes and the pedals. You have more control over your rear wheel, and you feel more attached to the bike. Just make sure you set them up correctly, otherwise you’ll get hurt.
What’s Right for Me?
Mountain Biking – Flat sets are great for local trails and bike parks. They have a large surface area for better contact between your shoes and the pedals. Most mountain bike pedals also have spikes that grip to your shoes. Clipless sets are good for bike races because they help with fast cornering and high-speed jumps.
Gravel Biking – This is more about endurance and technical skills, so clipless pedals are better.
Road Biking – The main goal is to keep the wheels turning, so clipless pedals are better.
Commuting – If you’re riding in a city with a lot of traffic lights and busy intersections, go with flat. If it’s a longer commute or you’re dealing with rough weather, go with clipless.