Contact Point No. 1: The best pedals for trail and enduro riders in comparison
Why are bikes always sold without pedals? The answer is simple: personal preferences. Some swear by the freedom of flat pedals, others prefer the fixed connection of a clipless mechanism. In both cases, the pedal is the most important point of contact with the rider and is crucial to how we feel on the bike.
There are only three points of contact between the complex bicycle and us riders: Saddle, grips, pedals. Downhill the saddle is dropped and mostly out of the way anyway, the grips aren’t too expensive and can be swapped out you don’t like them. Things get much more complicated when it comes to pedals because before you can think about concrete models, you first have to answer the question of all questions: clipless or flat pedals?
Both systems have their advantages, disadvantages and a lot of fans. With clipless pedals, your shoes are held in place by a spring-loaded mechanism on the pedal and a metal plate on the soles of the shoes, the cleat, and can only be released by turning your feet. Many beginners get confused with the name, they are called clipless because they replaced the toe clips that pedals used to have to hold the shoe on the pedal. With flat pedals in contrast, the rider stands on large flat pedals without a fixed binding, the grip is generated by a non-slip, flat sole and pins on the pedals. As both are widely used by trail and enduro riders, we reviewed the most exciting pedals in both categories.
This is how we reviewed them
In the last six months, we’ve reviewed 7 clipless and 8 flat pedals. Several pairs of each model were circulated to gather several test riders’ verdicts – from tech geeks to beginners. We’ve already gained extensive experience with most of the reviewed products before the pedal test, which we also included in our evaluation. Finally, all pedals were compared head-to-head on a defined test lap to make a direct comparison. If you have questions about mounting, we’ve got a guide how to mount pedals correctly.
Clipless vs flat: a matter of preference
The editorial team of ENDURO is a close-knit group, sharing a coffee machine and agreeing on many topics. In one case, however, there is a great divide: clipless or flat pedals? Since this topic is as personal as your taste in music, we won’t even try to find a consensus, preferring to let two editors speak on behalf of their preferred pedal type.
Moritz: Better a firm bond than a platonic relationship
For some years I swung both ways, mostly riding clipless on long rides and my home trails, and preferring flats in the bike park and on demanding trails. But with time the clipless pedals became bigger, the shoes flatter and I started shifting the cleat position further back. As time passed, my flats got less use because the advantages of clipless pedals also became more and more obvious on descents.
Meanwhile, it’s become clear to me: with clipless pedals I’m always positioned correctly on the pedals and don’t have to worry about the position of my feet. The firm binding makes you pedal more evenly, you can also pull instead of just pushing, and overall you’re simply more efficient. I’ve also come to prefer the firm binding on downhills, because in rough terrain my feet always stay safely on the pedals. With clipless pedals, I feel more connected to the bike and get better feedback from the ground.
Valentin: Fun instead of efficiency
I was four years old when I rode my first bike, ten on my first BMX, and now I spend days in the bike-park on my enduro bike – the one constant has been flat pedals. Maybe now it’s just habit and what I’m comfortable with. Maybe I’m afraid I won’t be able to clip out in time, and I probably just don’t care much about “efficiency”. For whatever reason, I prefer to ride flat pedals: all that matters to me is having fun on the bike. This is best done on pedals with a platform on which I can stand firmly, and with pins that offer maximum grip in any position – or, if the worst comes to the worst, scrape the marrow out of my tibia.
My riding style is playful, and anything but clean. Every root is a reason for me to jump. True to the motto “you’ve got a better view when going sideways!” I rarely hit corners from a normal angle. And last but not least there are all the parking lot tricks like crank flips or stoppie nac-nacs – for all these reasons I love my flat pedals!