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Loppet 101: Mountain Bike Pedals

If you’re new to mountain biking, you may not have spent much time contemplating your pedals. And why should you, pedals are pedals, right? Well, sort of. Like so many things mountain biking, when it comes to pedals there are a variety of types.  

Regular Pedals

Regular pedals

Just the basics. These are great for riding around town.

Toe clips

In the before times, we used to attach these to our regular pedals and literally strap ourselves to our bikes in the name of efficiency, speed, and being a roadie. Believe it or not, toe clips also made their way on to some mountain bikes too. 

Toe Clip Pedals


These started on the road with Look pedals and allowed the same efficiency as pedals with toe clips without the pesky toe clips and straps to undo while coming to a stop. And so, the terms “clipping in” and “clipping out” were coined which is really confusing because aren’t we supposed to be clipless? 

Shimano was the first to figure out how to make clipless pedals work for mountain biking with their SPD system. Other manufacturers like Crank Brothers and Time, just to name a few, followed with their own version of the clipless mountain bike pedal.

Clipless Pedals

Clipless mountain bike pedals offer the same efficiency gains as their road counterpoints but with shoes that still allow for walking and with a little practice, are easy to clip out of. 

Flat pedals

Often just called “flats,” flat pedals are like regular pedals but bigger and better. In addition to providing a wider platform for your feet, they also have pins, which are actually tiny screws, that grip your shoes. Their level of grip in comparison to regular pedals is much higher and no mechanical connection to your bike mean no issues stepping out of your pedals when you need to. Because of that combination of grip and ease of release we highly recommend flat pedals for learning skills. 

Flat Pedals

If you’re ready to make the jump to flat pedals, it’s a worthwhile investment and the good news is there are a number of relatively inexpensive options, around $50, that make it easy to get started.

RaceFace Chester pedal 

OneUp composite pedal

Crankbrothers Stamp 1

These are just a few we brands like. Search for “composite pedals” to see all that are out there.

A final thought

The good news is you don’t need flat pedals to have fun mountain biking. Purchasing mountain bike gear is a slippery slope so if you’re not quite ready to begin your slide, no worries! In the end, any pedal will work. The most important thing is getting out on the trail and riding!

Some resources we like:

Get involved with MORC, the volunteer organization that keep our metro trails awesome! 

Get Trailbot for the latest MN trail conditions. 

Find a mountain bike trail anywhere in the U.S. with Trail Forks.

Download Team App to stay up-to-date on Loppet MTB rides and clinics. Search for LCW and request to join.

Loppet 101: We created the Loppet 101 series to provide helpful tips and information for people just joining our community of runners, skiers, mountain bikers and outdoor adventurers. If there is a topic you would like to see covered, we’d love to hear from you! Send us a note at