The Ultimate Guide To The Best Mountain Bike Flat Pedals

While rugged mountain bikers typically scoff at using flat pedals, riding in flats is still pretty much welcome among beginners and professionals alike. After all, flats are preferred in downhill rides, while casual bikers enjoy the style’s practicality and simplicity.

But how could you be sure if a pair of flats can provide you with safety? Which factors do count?

In this review and buying guide, I’m going to discuss the features that are essential to MTB flats and present you six of the best mountain bike flat pedals you could purchase from the market today.

Let’s begin the ride.

Product Review Table

Last update on 2020-07-02 at 08:13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

What To Consider Before Buying?

Flat mountain bike pedals are basically a platform for your feet. They work with regular shoes, plus they are double-sided, so they’re pretty flexible and simple to use.

It’s important, however, to get meticulous about choosing flat pedals. After all, you have to be in control of them, else, you could leave yourself and your bike to the rule of cycling physics and you could eventually get hurt.

So, before getting into our top MTB pedal choices, I’ll discuss to you first the factors you should be looking into when selecting your own pair.

Size & Weight Of The Pedal

Generally speaking, the broader your flat pedals are, the more contact points are there, the better the grip becomes, and the better the control you gain on your cycling.

Most modern-day flats are already big enough, thankfully. The typical width is around 100mm. Flats this wide can already accommodate enough pins that give you additional grip.

Almost needless to say, the pedal size must match the size of your foot. If you’re a bigger human, you obviously need to get a huge pair of flat pedals to accommodate a wider “footprint” and let your shoes have a fuller resting surface.

With all the other factors held constant, the weight of flat pedals comes directly proportional to their size. But pedal size is determined not only by the width. Platform thickness also matters.

Platform Thickness

Thinner MTB flats can provide you with greater ground clearance. Thus, you can avoid hitting rocks beneath you while cycling on. Also, thinner platform pedals have a lower center of gravity. They can provide you with increased efficiency, and give you more resistance to unwanted flipping.

Moreover, a thinner pedal profile usually equates to lesser weight, although the weight factor is also heavily dependent on the material used and the overall design of the pedals (that is, how open they are).

Luckily, the current trend of pedal design leans toward having very thin profiles to minimize pedal strikes and increase longevity.

Shape Of The Pedal

The pedal’s shape determines how comfortable you feel while letting your feet sit on the surface. A “concave” design allows your feet to rest well, while a large platform can give you more confidence while cruising.

The penthouse shape is the most common flat pedal design, as it provides balance, stability, and enough surface area for the pins.

There are, however, some custom designs that claim to have an anti-skid factor, such as those with bat shapes.

Pins OnThe Pedal

Pedal pins can “dig” into the sole of your shoes. Thus, they can significantly increase your grip on the pedals, preventing your feet from moving around while being on the platform.

With enough pins, you could still pretty much feel like you’re being clipped on (as with clip or “clipless” pedals) without having to worry about bailing off immediately when you have to.

In general, cheaper pedals have their nubs positioned right on the pedal interface, but this placement leaves them exposed to striking against roots or rocks. With pins that are inserted from the top of the pedal surface, the Allen head would more likely get damaged after several strikes.

The good thing about some pins is that they have their heads recessed, giving them more protection against impact. These would be called bottom-loading pins.

Meanwhile, there are pedal models that allow you to choose from a set of pins with varying height and thickness. Some even use washers so you could adjust the grip as desired. You can tune the concavity (that is, how cupped or grippy your pedals feel) by simply adjusting the pin height.

Material It Is Made Out Of

The durability and weight of your flat pedals also depend heavily on the material used. The material can even impact how comfortable the pedals feel. Of course, it also is a determining factor for the price.

Most flat pedals feature a hybrid or composite of materials in order to optimize weight, durability, and overall cost.

Plastic

Many stock pedals are just made of plastic since it’s generally cheap and easy to produce. Plastic pedals are also very lightweight, but they can only be good for light riding because they’re very fragile. I’d say plastic pedals are not really suitable for mountain bikes.

Steel

Steel pedals are quite heavy, but they’re usually preferred for durability. Steel can stand through repeated hard impacts, and it’s a comparatively affordable material in bike pedal components.

If everything is steel-made, however, it can add considerable weight to your bike, which can eventually slow you down.

Aluminum

Aluminum is much lighter but would break a little earlier than steel. It can keep up in terms of shock absorbance, but how it performs overall depends highly on how it’s been manufactured.

If you want something light to use with racing, you can go for aluminum-based pedals instead of plastic ones. They’re also less likely to rust compared to steel, which means they’re quite good for casual riders.

Titanium

Among the most used metals in flat pedals, titanium is quite preferable. It’s really hard and strong but at the same time lightweight. A high cost comes with the quality though, and mostly, only professionals look for and use titanium-based pedals.

If you’re very serious about mountain biking, however, titanium flat pedals would make a good investment. They can improve your bike riding experience and increase your overall comfort while on the ride.

Mud Dispersal

The ability of your flat pedals to disperse or shed off the mud depends much on the design. More open and aerodynamic designs often do not let mud get clogged up in the first place.

Choosing mud-shedding designs matters, because carrying mud along the trail means having to take the additional weight with you. If you’re racing through dirt, you could accumulate a lot of soil, clay, and grit with mud-clinging pedals.

Lastly, mud-shedding abilities can make a lot of difference when it comes to reducing your cleaning time.

Top 6 Mountain Bike Flat Pedals Reviewed

Finally, we’re ready to review six of the best mountain bike flat pedals out there — the highest-rated ones in today’s market.

1. SHIMANO PD-A530 SPD Dual Platform

Key Features

  • Alloy platform
  • Bolt pattern: 2-hole
  • Multipurpose SPD design on one side and platform/flat design on the other
  • Superior mud-shedding design with open binding
  • Weight: 380 grams

Alright, they aren’t strictly “platform-only” pedals, but the Shimano PD-A530s provide you with a platform side that’s mostly flat. This side includes a couple of ridges so that even your normal (non-biking) shoes are able to hold on to the surface.

The platform could feel a little small but they’d work with as long as your shoes aren’t too smooth. It’s slightly concave anyway, so your foot should pretty much stick to it despite damp conditions.

The other side is actually a clip-style pedal, but you don’t have to use it as the clip is only available on that side. Just rotate the pedals to the right, flat side and you should be fine to roll with the sturdy platform.

Well, it does feel like a cheat to have this model on the list since it’s not strictly flat-only, but it’s too good to leave out. Many adventurous riders prefer it, too, just because of the added flexibility.

The PD-A530 could also be a great option if you want to transition from “clipless” pedals to flats, as you can just jump from one type to the other with a simple pedal flip.

Pros

  • Works with “normal” shoes like sneakers
  • Great if you want to keep the option of using clip-on biking shoes (no need to swap pedals)
  • Offers flexibility
  • Suitable for any type of ride
  • Excellent for once-in-a-while leisure rides
  • Hits just the sweet spot among weight, price, and quality
  • The flat side doesn’t slip with nicely gripping regular shoes
  • Works for both beginners and experts

Cons

  • You could find it on the heavier side (subjectively speaking)
  • The platform might be too narrow for some riders
  • Flipping to the platform side can take time to get used to

Last update on 2020-07-02 at 08:13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

2. Shimano PD-MX80

Key Features

  • Concave platform design
  • Chromoly steel axle
  • Wide (90mm x 95mm) and low profile
  • Long replaceable pins, screwed from the back; pin washers supplied
  • Designed for downhill racing
  • Weight: 500 grams

The Shimano PD-MX80 Platform Pedals have an easily noticeable concave platform design. With this kind of shape, the pair can give you better control and efficiency while riding.

Unlike the PD-A530 above, the PD-MX80 are platform-only pedals. No clips, that is.

In fact, this model has been specifically created for downhill racing. It means more freedom for your feet while also giving you just the needed traction when you have to step on.

With pins that are long and even replaceable, these flats leave it out to you to define your preferred grip. You just have to remove the washers to make the pins longer. That’s just a plus if you want everything customized to your own preferences. The pins are also screwed from the back, so they stay protected from hits.

Overall, the PD-MX80 pedals can give you the safety benefits of clip pedals without actually clipping to anything. They’re excellent for commuter rides and DH races alike.

Pros

  • Gives a solid feel
  • Nicely engineered
  • Adjustable grip with removable washers and additional pins
  • Great for commuting
  • Works with modestly ribbed soles
  • Value for money
  • Can keep your feet planted on the pedals without much effort
  • Allows shuffle motion pedaling while climbing
  • Excellent for downhill rides

Cons

  • Could feel a bit heavier than most flats
  • May turn out squeaky or noisy when used too roughly (but can be replaced via warranty service if it’s just a manufacturing defect)

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3. RaceFace Atlas

Key Features

  • Thin platform and low profile
  • Double concave shape
  • Wide platform (114mm x 101mm)
  • Hex-head threaded pin design offers additional security
  • Fore and aft-angled bottom-loading pins
  • Includes washers to help with pin adjustment
  • Weight: 355 grams
  • Rebuildable (if bought with aftermarket kits)

The RaceFace Atlas pedals are super thin that they provide great ground clearance, reducing pedal strikes. Relative to their wide size, they also feel pretty lightweight.

Because of the angled portions that hold the bottom-loading pins, these Atlas pedals can feel extra grippy. The package actually includes washers so you can adjust the height of the pins.

These flat MTB pedals can work in all kinds of conditions, whether it’s muddy or wet. They also rotate very smoothly, so your ride can feel more comfortable.

One common complaint with these pedals is the price. They’re on the higher end of the budget, but they should be accounting for the quality they give.

In case the bearings or some other parts fail, you may purchase an additional aftermarket kit, which contains bearings, axles, seals, and spare pins.

Overall, the RaceFace Atlas Bike Pedals are versatile, sturdy, and reliable. They can handle downhill rides as well as various trails.

Pros

  • Well-made
  • Relatively light for its size
  • Great grip even with sneakers
  • Wide platform
  • Stylish look
  • Works with riding on pump tracks and strolling through mountainsides
  • Prevents slipping when aggressively going downhill
  • Spins smoothly
  • Can take a beating

Cons

  • A little expensive
  • The bearings may not be the most durable

Last update on 2020-07-02 at 08:13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

4. Crankbrothers Doubleshot Hybrid

Key Features

  • Hybrid (dual-purpose) pedals; one side is flat; the other works with cleats
  • Forged 435 Chromoly steel spindle
  • A380 aluminum body
  • 17-4PH stainless steel wing
  • 300 series stainless steel spring
  • Superior mud-shedding design
  • Weight: 395 grams
  • Warranty: 5 years

Now this one’s another dual-purpose pedal type. Like the Shimano PD-A530, the Crankbrothers Doubleshot Hybrid Bike Pedals feature a flat/platform side as well as a clip side.

As expected from hybrid styles, this model offers you great flexibility. As for the flat surface, it does come with adjustable pins to provide you with a better grip. So, they work great even if you’re wearing street shoes or flip flops.

The platform side of the pedal can even be used on technical terrain. It’s wide enough for many riders, although not as wide as purely flat pedals.

Overall, the Doubleshot Hybrid pedals from Crankbrothers could be a good option if you’re more of a commuter rider who prefers a taste of versatility.

Pros

  • Grips nicely with street shoes and flip flops
  • Offers flexibility
  • Easy to install
  • Flat side prevents sliding off through adjustable pins
  • Wide platform area
  • Looks good

Cons

  • Not as wide as purely flat pedals
  • Your feet might still slip from the platform side if used on really tough terrains
  • Flipping from one side to the other could be a bummer to beginners

Last update on 2020-07-02 at 08:13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

5. Funn Python

Key Features

  • CNC 6061 Aerospace-grade alloy
  • Low profile and ultra-thin design (11mm)
  • Wide platform profile (101mm x 101mm)
  • Chromoly axle with self-lubricating housing
  • Weight:  375 grams per pair
  • Fully serviceable (service kit can be purchased separately)
  • With replaceable pins (includes 12 pins on each side)

The Funn Python Flat Pedals feel sturdy despite their minimal weight, thanks to the aerospace-grade alloy material they’re made of. Plus, the Chromoly axle further brings down the weight.

The pins, however, are threaded into the top rather than inserted from the bottom. So, although they could survive on impact, they may not endure multiple and repeated hits.

Speaking about the pins and the grip they provide, I could say they offer a rather less constricting feel. So you might not feel very confident when using these pedals for enduro racing or even for rugged downhill paths, but you could appreciate the room for wiggling your feet, moving around, and just being able to adjust your body while on the ride.

Just another great thing about these Python Flat Pedals is that they’re fully serviceable. You may avail of the axle service kits separately.

Pros

  • Feels sturdy
  • Looks great with silver accents
  • Holds shoes in place while allowing for more adjustments in foot placement
  • Wide platform provides great support
  • Pretty lightweight
  • Relatively moderate grip for light rides
  • Value for money
  • Suitable for free rides

Cons

  • Top-loading pins have less protection against strikes
  • May not be the most secure and suitable pedals for enduro or downhill rides

Last update on 2020-07-02 at 08:13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

6. RaceFace Chester Composite Platform Pedals

Key Features

  • Nylon composite body
  • Chromoly steel axle
  • Slim profile and wide platform (110mm x 101mm)
  • Removable and adjustable steel pins
  • Weight: 340 grams

The RaceFace Chester Composite Platform Pedals could feel totally lightweight, thanks to the nylon composite body. Well, nylon isn’t the toughest plastic out there, but it is strong and cheap enough.

The pins, though removable, adjustable, and steel, are actually M3 and weeny, so they’re not typical among pedals. They could bend pretty easily when hit.

Nonetheless, these steel pins can feel super grippy, almost like your feet are locked in. Meanwhile, the nylon bodies can absorb a lot of shocks, but they could get some scuffs.

With wide platforms, the Chesters can give your feet full-on support. The shape resembles a very shallow bowl, but surprisingly, it can feel like a more concaved one.

Handling mud was not a problem either, and that’s probably because of the surface properties of the nylon body.

So, while I may have warned you against using plastic pedals, RaceFace has done a great job at producing a nylon-based model among entry-level flats. And quite surprisingly, these Chesters could be the best plastic MTB pedals you could find (never mind replacing the weak pins as needed).

Pros

  • Well-made
  • Lightweight
  • Provides solid grip
  • Affordable
  • Sheds mud well
  • Wide platform for more secure support
  • Provides great balance
  • Can take hard hits without falling apart

Cons

  • The bearings may not be the sturdiest
  • You could hear clickings after some aggressive use
  • Weak M3 pins
  • You might find the pins a little sharp and they could hurt when you get a shin hit

Last update on 2020-07-02 at 08:13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Which Is The Best Of The Best?

Alright, so any of the above flats have their share of downsides, but that’s understandable considering how platform pedals have limitations. After careful consideration, however, I’ve found the Shimano Saint PD-MX80 worth my bet as the best in this list.

These purely flat pedals sport a comfortable platform design that invites my feet to rest firmly on. With long, adjustable, and bottom-loading pins, I can customize their grip intensity and trust that they could stay protected from ground strikes.

While optimized for downhill rides, the PD-MX80s can provide smooth commuter and casual rides, working efficiently with sneakers and other non-specialized footwear.

The pair can also handle mud-shedding quite well with their open design. So, you should still be able to find them reliable even when the weather or the situation demands a little more aggressively.

Finally, they do feel heavier compared to other flats, but the added weight is compensated with the stronger build and increased overall durability.

Last update on 2020-07-02 at 08:13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Perry
Perry
Hello, my names Perry and I've been a freelance writer for the past 5 years and a cycling enthusiastic since I can remember. I love the road, but my main passion is mountain biking.