Flat Pedals vs Clipless For Mountain Bike – Which Pedals Are Right For You?

What type of pedals would you choose for your mountain bike? Would you go for flat pedals or clipless pedals? Well, let us check the differences between these two types of pedals so that you can determine which one is right for you.

As compared to road cycling, mountain bikers move a lot on their bikes. This type of riding involves riding on rocks, obstacles, uphill, and downhill, among others. This means that riders stand up, sit down, and even get off and on depending on the type of terrain.

Mountain bike pedals allow you to do all these without affecting the contact point. Several things will determine if you will choose flat pedals or clipless. Let's find out more about these two types of pedals.

Flat Pedals vs Clipless For Mountain Bike

Pros Of Flat Pedals:

Flat pedals feature a flat area where your foot rests on. These pedals have the following benefits.

  • Easy to Use: When you get in a terrain which has trail features, then flats are easy to bail out. Additionally, on a fast corner, some of the riders like to get their foot out to maneuver the corner well, this is easy with flat pedals. 
  • Easy To Do Some Techniques: Riders who love to do some techniques such as lifting on the rear wheels and bunny hops will benefit a lot from flat pedals. Learning many advanced techniques such as track stands and lifting power-assisted front wheel are much easier with flat pedals. They offer the option of bailing out easily, which builds the rider's confidence. 
  • Comfort And Stability: When a rider comes on a steep climbing area, flat pedals allow you to get moving again much easier. When the rider is forced to get off the bike and push it, the flat pedal is much comfortable offering grip over the clip-less pedal. Flat pedals have some pins which are used as a grip when riding, making it more stable for the rider. Adjusting on the positioning of feet on flat pedals according to the challenges of the terrain encountered is much easy.

Cons Of Flat Pedals:

On rough and bumpy terrain, you can bounce off much easier as the pedal offers a very comfortable platform of pedaling. Flat pedals have some grippy pins on the lower side of the pedal. If your foot comes off the pedal and it rotates, it can make a painful bruise on your skin. When riding on wet area or season using a flat pedal, your feet are susceptible to getting off the pedal which can cause an accident. The risk of grazes and scrapes increase when riding using flat pedals.

Clip-less Pedals:

Despite the name, the pedals do have some clips that help the rider to have some grip while riding. They are names to differentiate them from other pedals.

Pros Of Clip-less Pedals:

  • Learn Pedaling Techniques: Clip-less pedal makes the rider to learn pedaling techniques. The pedal allows you to easily scrape from the bottom of the pedal and push over through to the top of the pedal. This powers delivery and improves your efficiency. However, the technique is not much significant as compared to flat pedal bike riders. 
  • Smooth Pedaling: Clipless pedals are attached to the foot of the rider and the bike which gives the rider a smooth peddling action. Moreover, this provides the rider with peddling comfort and improves the riding techniques. For challenging terrains, clipless pedal delivers an increased momentum to the mountain bike rider. 
  • Easy To Overcome Obstacles: While riding a mountain bike on clipless pedals, lifting wheels from obstacles on the road easy. You can overcome obstacles such as stones and fallen thorny tree branches without any difficulty. Lifting the pedal on clipless pedals is simple since the pedals are attached to your shoes. Therefore, the hazards of your foot slipping off the pedal is minimal as compared to flat pedals. The feet attachment to the pedal makes the ride solid while riding on a slippery or wetly area. 

Cons Of Clipless Pedals:

In case of an accident or trying to avoid an accident, removing your feet from the pedal is hard. This is because the feet are attached to the pedal. Freeing the feet when in a hurry is very hard. Moreover, this can lead to the occurrence of an avoidable accident. This is especially when taking a fast corner and you want to remove your feet so at to toggle the corner easily. The leg can get stuck, and you end up falling down. Riding on snow or ice can make the pedals clog as they are attached to the feet.

Clipping up a hill using clipless pedals is not easy. Riders' foot needs to switch on positing so as to apply more power and push your bike much higher. Since on clipless pedals your feet are attached to the pedals, it becomes hard to switch feet from one position to another as they are fixed in one position.

The foot stability is not always there as the movement is strict and pushing and applying more power on the bike is limited. However, you end up getting more tired on riding a mountain bike on a hilly area on clipless pedals as compared to flat pedals. Feet flexibility is important while riding a bike in a hilly area.


Flat pedals are the best choice when you want to master more techniques naturally without cheating. These pedals are more comfortable to ride on as compared to clipless pedal. When it comes to caution, then, the flat pedal is the best as they allow the rider to bail out and avoid accident easily. If you are riding on a rough and bumpy road, clipless pedals are the best as they do not slip off easily. When riding a mountain bike on a hilly area, flat pedals are the best to use as they allow flexibility of the foot, allowing the rider to apply more power on the pedal. So, depending on your preference, you can either choose flat pedals or clipless. You can even switch between the two pedals depending on the nature of the terrain you are riding.

References: British Cycling, Mbr

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