By Michelle Arthurs-Brennan published
As pedals are one of the few things that typically don't come with your new gravel bike, they're likely to be one of the first choices you'll need to make when getting ready to ride.
Choosing the best gravel pedals for you can actually be surprisingly personal, with different riders opting for a number of different styles and brands.
We know it sounds really obvious, but as one of your main contact points with the bike, pedals are, well, really important. The difference they make to the way you ride, your confidence and comfort in the saddle is huge.
Before you go out and purchase, you will need to consider what kind of riding you do and if you have a preference for clipping in to your pedals or not.
Your pedals must also be compatible with the type of shoes that you have. Check out our pick of the best gravel shoes here for a few of our favourites.
Our pick of the best gravel bike pedals
Below is our pick of the best gravel pedals, from budget clip-in or clipless pedals to flats. Read on for more tips on what to look for and consider when choosing your pedals for your gravel adventures.
Shimano PD-M520 pedals
Best gravel pedals for value and functionality
Probably the most popular choice among gravel riders based on their great value and functionality, Shimano's PD-M520 are the go-to clipless MTB pedal. The SPD design here stands for Shimano Pedaling Dynamics and is a 2-bolt cleat system for off-road use, not to be confused with SPD-SL which is the three-bolt road cycling system.
The pedals, like most in this guide, are dual-sided, which means, unlike some road cycling pedals, you can clip in on both sides, which is particularly handy for off-road use. The cleats provided are compatible with shoes that feature a 2-bolt fixing, although this is pretty universal for off-road clipless shoes. These will feature a recess in the tread where the metal cleat fits, so it's easy to walk around off the bike without a protruding cleat getting in the way.
These budget clipless pedals have sealed cartridge bearings to reduce dirt and water ingress, as well as adjustable cleat tension so you can make it easier to clip out which can be pretty useful for technical riding where you might need to dab or put a foot down in a hurry.
Upgrade to the XT PD-M8100 pedals (£99.99/$119.99) for a sleeker spindle, easier servicing, and to save 38g.
Crankbrothers Candy 1 pedals
Best gravel pedals for choice of colours
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
The Candy series of pedals are just one option from American brand Crankbrothers, offering a little more support than its lightweight and simple Eggbeater pedals. This entry-level Candy 1 pedal features a stamped steel support around the clip mechanism.
As you move your way up through the series (and price range), the materials employed for this support wing, the mechanism and spindle become more durable and lightweight, up to the premium titanium Candy 11 at an eye-watering £399.99/$450. For the real weight weenies, consider Crankbrothers' eggbeater pedals.
You'll need to use Crankbrothers' own cleats with their pedals, which come with the pedals. These are available in either easy or standard release angle (10° or 15° degrees), where the ease of unclipping is determined by the cleat choice rather than pedal adjustability. If you're into colour matching, Crankbrothers also makes some brilliantly bright and fun pedals.
Best gravel pedals for range of adjustment
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
The off-road X-Track Race pedals from the French brand Look are a good option for gravel riders seeking a clipless pedal with plenty of adjustability. These feature six degrees of float, and the cleat retention can be adjusted between 6 and 14 degrees.
The X-Track pedal range uses the same 2-bolt SPD cleat as Shimano, which are included with each set of pedals.
In our review, the only negatives we could find were that they were more prone to clogging with mud than more open clipless pedal designs. The black anodising finish could be more durable, too.
Ritchey Comp XC pedals
Best gravel pedals for shedding mud
Ritchey prides their XC Comp pedals for their mud-shedding characteristics, which should be very useful for mucky winter rides where you have to get on and off your bike to navigate tricky obstacles in the trail.
There's 4 degrees of float with these pedals, and SPD 2-bolt cleats are included (the same as Shimano). Cleat retention is adjustable on the pedal too.
These pedals are also a little lighter than similar pedals from other manufacturers, which could be appealing if saving every last gram is important to you.
Shimano PD-M530 pedals
Best gravel pedals for those new to 'clipping in'
The second cheapest in our selection of clipless pedals, Shimano's M530 are built a step beyond their basic M520 pedal. Around the dual-sided mechanism you'll find a supporting cage that increases the shoe to pedal contact area, making it easier to get pedaling without being clipped in - a great advantage for riders new to this pedal system. It also helps to reduce sole hotspots over long rides.
The pedals are supplied with the standard Shimano 2-bolt cleats. They do come with a 75g weight increase over the M520 model, but with confidence-boosting support and stability, for some riders that'll be more than worthwhile.
Best gravel pedals for racing in dry conditions
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
You might be wondering why on earth Speedplay pedals have made it onto this list, as they're predominantly seen as road cycling pedals. They can, however, make for an excellent choice for riders that prefer non-technical terrain like long, easy gravel roads, where speed is more of a priority than off-the-bike walkability.
Several riders on the US gravel racing circuit choose Speedplay pedals for their efficiency, running stiff-soled road cycling shoes rather than mountain bike shoes. If you don't need to dismount at all, then using this combination shouldn't be a problem, and enables you to maximise power transfer where marginal gains like these really count.
Another benefit of the Speedplay system is that the pedals are dual-sided, which can make clipping in much easier, once you've got the hang of the different design. The large cleats on the shoes make walking tricky though and are prone to damage, so don't choose these if you think you might have to walk for any duration on your ride.
Nukeproof Neutron Evo flat pedals
Best gravel pedals for fans of 'flats'
While many experienced riders might turn their noses up at flat pedals, we believe that they have a valuable place in gravel riding. For riders seeking more technical terrain or embarking on multi-day bikepacking trips, flat pedals and shoes can be really useful.
As anyone who's pushed the limits of their gravel bike on rocky, rooty and muddy trails will be able to attest, being able to dab or put your foot down quickly is really important. This is made much easier with flat pedals, and negates the issues of not being able to clip back in or out when cleats and clipless pedals get filled with mud.
For multi-day bikepacking trips, having flat-soled shoes can make walking about off the bike even easier than recessed MTB-style cleats, and easily double up as casual shoes. If there's a lot of hike-a-bike involved, you can even opt for boots with more ankle support.
The Neutron EVO pedals from Chain Reaction Cycles' in-house brand Nukeproof represent great value, as well as an incredible array of colour options. They're pretty lightweight too, especially when you take into account that you won't need cleats.
Clips or flats for gravel?
Whether you choose to run clipless pedals (confusingly named as these are the ones that you actually clip into) or flat pedals on your gravel bike will largely be determined by the kind of riding that you've done previously.
Many riders coming from a road background will be used to clipless pedals, although may need to make the switch over to the 2-bolt MTB style pedals and shoes from the 3-bolt design of road cycling shoes and pedals. Many riders that come from a MTB background will stick with their two-bolt clipless pedals. If you're new to cycling or plan on bikepacking with a lot of adventures along the route, platform pedals will make life easier.
There are merits and drawbacks to clipless and platform pedals. Clipless pedals give better power transfer, as you can effectively pedal through the whole pedal stroke while you're clipped in. These can also offer a more secure platform for your feet over loose or technical terrain, and are preferred by many for climbing.
Clipless pedal systems do have potential drawbacks though, especially when the trails become really technical and you need to either unclip really quickly or dab a foot. In such cases, flat pedals are undoubtedly better. In really muddy conditions, they can become clogged, along with the shoe-mounted metal cleat, which can make engagement (and sometimes disengagement) more difficult or even impossible. Flat pedals allow you to tackle this technical MTB-style riding with more ease, where you can easily dab or ride through mucky patches without having to worry about clearing out your pedals for them to work.
Somewhere in the middle, you'll find clipless pedal designs with supportive cages like on the Crankbrothers Candy or Shimano MT530 pedals, which gives you a bigger, more stable pedal while still being able to clip in too.
Road or mountain pedals for gravel?
Riders coming from a road cycling background may be tempted to stick with their favorite road and shoe combo for gravel. After all, you're still riding on the road, but with a bit less pavement. There's are good reasons why only one road pedal made our list. Almost all road pedals are one-sided, which means it's much harder to get clipped in quickly if you need to unclip due to impassable mud or obstacles. Additionally, many gravel events can turn into muddy affairs—look no further than Grinduro Scotland or the red clay roads of Oklahoma's Mid South gravel race for scenes of roads turned into quagmires. Mountain bike pedals clear mud much better than road pedals. Likewise, mountain bike shoes are much easier to walk in that slick-soled road shoes.
What level of support do you need for gravel pedals?
You'll notice quite a range of pedal sizes across clipless and flat pedals, from tiny mechanism-only systems like the Crankbrothers Eggbeaters to designs with supportive platforms around the cleat mechanism, and then of course much larger flat pedals.
Larger pedals can give you more to contact with the pedals, which can be really useful if you're just learning to clip in and need a bit more support. These can also reduce the likelihood of experiencing hotspots on the soles of your feet, which are more common when you use a smaller pedal body with a shoe featuring a sole that isn't very stiff over a long duration in the saddle.
How much do you need to spend on gravel pedals?
How much you need to spend entirely depends on what level of performance and durability you're seeking. With many entry-level options listed here, you really don't need to spend a fortune on pedals.
If you choose to work your way up through the pedal series that these brands offer, expect to save a few grams thanks to the more lightweight materials employed.
Spending more money on these can also offer more robust designs that have easier servicing in mind too, which is something you'll need to pay attention to if you typically ride in pretty mucky conditions.
Cycling Weekly's Tech Editor Michelle Arthurs-Brennan is a traditional journalist by trade, having begun her career working for a local newspaper before spending a few years at Evans Cycles, then combining the two with a career in cycling journalism.
When not typing or testing, Michelle is a road racer who also enjoys track riding and the occasional time trial, though dabbles in off-road riding too (either on a mountain bike, or a 'gravel bike'). She is passionate about supporting grassroots women's racing and founded the women's road race team 1904rt.
Favourite bikes include a custom carbon Werking road bike as well as the Specialized Tarmac SL6.
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