If you're new to the world of bikes, you may never have imagined that you'd need to think about the types of pedals you need on your road bike or mountain bike. Aren't they basically all the same?
No, they are not. Pedals come in a wide variety of different forms and each are shaped and engineered to suit different riders and cycling activities. It's a big commercial world of clipless pedals, platform pedals, cleats, locks, and more in the United States. Today we'll help you navigate the world of choosing bike pedals.
What Types of Bike Pedals Are There?
There are too many different varieties to list, but almost all of them fall into two categories, clipless pedals, and flat pedals. Each has advantages or drawbacks depending on what kind of cycling you are doing:
These pedals work in a similar way to ski bindings. Despite the name, the rider's shoes can be fitted with cleats that then fasten into clips located on the face of the pedal. They come with either 3 holes for cleat locks or 2 holes, each of which is suitable for different cycling. The former creates a more secure lock and is used by road bikes. The latter is used by mountain bikers who need the flexibility to easily walk on and off the bike, but be secure on there when riding.
The name "clipless" may seem contradictory after that description. The name stems from a time decades ago when it was necessary to distinguish clipless from another pedal type known as "toe clips."
Also known as platform pedals, these will likely feel like the most familiar to you. They are most common on recreational bikes used for freeriding and BMX and downhill racing bikes. They are usually wider than clipless pedals and contain no extra parts accessories, and the rider can quickly and easily remove their feet as and when they need to.
Because there are no clips of holes for cleats, flat pedal users are likely to purchase mountain bike shoes with strong grips on the soles, which help add traction.
Which Cycling Pedals Are the Best?
To answer this question, you will have to ask yourself another question: what kind of biking do you do? Different bicycle pedals bring unique benefits to different kinds of biking.
Road cyclist - clipless pedals are best. When you bike for distance and endurance, a secure connection between your foot and the pedal is crucial. To be more specific, the larger 3-hole clipless design made from robust plastic is most popular with road cyclists. The bigger design allows the force from the cycling shoes to be spread over a greater area, boosting connective strength.
Mountain biker - clipless pedals are best. For the adventurous world of mountain biking, the 2-hold design is popular, as it allows more natural and comfortable walking when you get off the bike and the security you need while on it. Mountain bike pedals are made with two screws popping up that slot into the cleats, allowing still for the rider to move the foot enough to get a comfortable position.
Recreational or casual cyclist - platform pedals are best. For many, cycling is simply a mode of transport to get from A to B. You might cycle to the office, or the grocery store, for instance. All of this means you rely on your regular street shoes before and after you use the bike. Cleats, therefore, are not so welcome. You might use a 2-hole system if you're commuting some distance since those shoes are more comfortable than the 3-hole design.
Do Bike Pedals Fit All Bikes?
The short answer is no. Bicycle pedals, be they for mountain bikes, road bikes, BMX, or any other type, are not universal. That being said, we do not mean that they are; therefore, all unique. That would make even less sense. There is variety, but with common traits between certain types.
The most popular bike pedal size is the 9/16" model, which conforms to most modern bikes. The number refers to the size of the pedal's screw thread.
The other primary type is the 1/2" pedal, but it's still nowhere near as common as the 9/16" pedal. You'll find them on budget adult bikes, as well as a lot of kids' bikes.
There remain many other sizes and styles made by individual manufacturers for certain bikes. If you require these, you will likely have to rely on the manufacturer's own products. Third-party items tend to conform to one of the above standards.
How Much Does it Cost to Replace Bike Pedals?
Two main types mentioned previously --- clipless and flat pedals --- both feature a wide price range. Both budget and premium items can be purchased in each category, so riders worried about the cost needn't be too concerned.
Before shipping, clipless pedals price can range anywhere from around $50 at the budget level, up to $200 or more for a more premium pedal. Flat pedals come at a somewhat lower price, given their simpler construction. You can expect to pay anywhere from $20 to $150, depending on what you're after. Of course, this can all be augmented further if you need professional help to install them. If you get your pedals changed as part of an overall bike fitting, that process can cost you upwards of $200.
In the End: Do Bike Pedals Make a Difference?
Proper pedals provide the grip, power transfer, and flexibility needed to ride well. If you are a serious cyclist, you'll likely look to top brands like the Shimano PD or Shimano SPD varieties for performance and strength. If you're a casual cyclist, you need comfort and basic durability. Road pedals, mountain bike pedals, spd pedals --- the sub-categories are many. Start with what you broadly need and then find products to fit your budget.