By Stefan Abram
Although sometimes overlooked, a robust flat pedal can be the best choice in a range of circumstances.
Flat pedals or platform pedals make shorter rides in ordinary shoes far easier and more comfortable than trying to get by using sneakers on clipless pedals. For a causal town bike, commuter, or even a touring bike, the versatility of flat pedals presents a compelling draw.
Flat pedals are also a good option for anyone with a knee or ankle injury, which can make it difficult to perform the sideways twisting motion necessary to disengage from a set of clipless pedals. The wide platform of flat pedals can also offer more lateral support than a set of clipless pedals.
However, for the ultimate in efficiency, clipless pedals do rule the roost. So if performance is paramount, then flat pedals may not be the best choice for you.
Best flat pedals
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Now, let's take a look at a few of our favorites.
Shimano M8140 flat pedal
This pedal is a part of Shimano’s Deore XT range, roughly the mountain bike equivalent of Ultegra. As such, you can expect a high build quality that is set to last. The pedal axle is fully serviceable in the same way as other Shimano pedals, so it will be relatively easy to keep them spinning smoothly.
There are 10 pins per side, however bear in mind that they screw in from the top, as opposed to the bottom, meaning if they get worn down too far, it may require a set of pliers or vice grips to extract and replace.
The platform in the small/medium size is 100mm x 105mm, which is a reasonable area for town riding and commuting. In being slightly concave and 18mm thick at the thinnest point - they do nicely support your feet and weigh 461g.
HT PA03A flat pedal
Using a nylon body, rather than alloy, both the price and the weight can be kept low. This doesn't come at the cost of longevity the HT PA03A pedals — they are designed to stand up to the rigors of mountain biking after all. Over time, though, knocks and scrapes can leave the plastic body looking a little scruffier than an aluminum alternative would.
There are 10 replaceable pins on each side of the 105mm x 107mm platform and the weight comes in at 349g.
OneUp Components Aluminum Pedal
If you're looking to treat yourself, OneUp's Aluminum Pedals are about as fancy as flat pedals come. At 8mm thick, the pedals have a 115 x 150mm platform which is contoured to better support your foot, and each pedal has 10 height adjustable pins on either side.
OneUp opted to build the pedals with four double sealed cartridge bearings, which should spin smoothly for quite some time. When it does come time for a service, however, the Canadian outfit sells rebuild kits, and all you'll need is a cassette lockring tool and a few Allen keys as the bearing extractor is built into the axel.
DMR V12 Pedals
Having produced the V12s for over 20 years now, DMR’s reputation is well established. The one-piece forged alloy platform is 95mm wide and can survive rock strikes, big crashes and probably a nuclear blast.
There are 10 replaceable pins on each side and their height is fully adjustable. If the levels of grip offered are beyond your needs, they can be wound in to lessen the damage of the dreaded shinning.
The axle runs on two well-sealed cartridge bearings which are fully rebuildable, adding to the durability of this pedal. They weigh 422g, which is respectable for a metal body.
DMR V6 Plastic flat pedals
The V6 pedals are a more budget-oriented offering from DMR, sharing the same body shape as the V12, but made from nylon rather than aluminum. The pins are also made of nylon and are not replaceable, and the bearings cannot be serviced either — they also cost half as much as the V12 and tip the scales at an impressive 327g.
If you know that you are not one for stripping down a pedal, preferring to replace when worn, these represent better value for money.
Hope F-20 flat pedal
Engineered to the high standards we expect to see from the British brand Hope, these pedals use three cartridge bearings (albeit small ones) to spread the load across the axle. When the bearings are past their use-by date, Hope also sells a full rebuild kit.
The pins are installed and removed by an Allen key at the back of the pin, which makes them easier to replace as they wear out. With a thick 15mm body, the F-20 aluminum pedals weigh 360g.
Crank Brothers Stamp 1 flat pedal
Another option with a plastic composite body, the Crank Brothers Stamp 1 flat pedals are particularly light at 299g for the 100mm x 100mm size small platform; Crank Bros make a Large 111mm x 114mm version too. There are 9 height adjustable metal pins per side that mount from the back.
Crank Brothers pedals can be quite hard to tell the left from the right. The difference is marked only by a small groove around the left pedal axle, so be extra careful not to cross-thread during install. For those concerned about serviceability, the bearings are replaceable.
Shimano PD-M324 flat pedal
Perhaps a controversial choice, as only one side of these pedals is flat; but as a dependable pair of pedals for riders who want to switch easily between cleats and flats, there are none much better than the Shimano PD-M324 flat pedal.As you would expect from the likes of Shimano, the pedal axle is cup and cone, making it easily serviceable and long-lasting.
Curiously, there are no pins, meaning that the pedals have a little less grip. Also, there are no replacements once the notched edge of the pedal cage is worn down - but this will take a serious amount of riding. With quite a bit of hardware packed into a single pedal, the PD-M312 are a hefty 533g on the scale.
NS Bikes Nylon Apartment Pedals
If you're looking for a set of kick around pedals to slap on your commuter that work as advertised and don't cost an arm and a leg, the NS Bikes Nylon Apartment Pedals might just be the perfect fit.
With a large 110 x 105mm platform made from injection-molded nylon, the pedal body sees 10 pins on each side — though they aren't adjustable or replaceable. Measuring 19mm thick, the platform spins on loose ball bearings around an oversized CrMo steel axel. Even better is the news that they come in four colors.
Key features of flat pedals to look out for
Wider platforms will offer greater support, as well as being more grippy. However, too large and it can make a pedal cumbersome and awkward. Finding the right balance for you will ultimately be a personal choice depending on your needs.
Pedals with pins give a number of performance enhancements over models that have a crenulated or notched cage.
Pins make pedals more grippy, meaning you won’t slide off in the wet, but pose a risk to your shins if you slip a pedal.
Keep in mind that the pins on platform mountain bike pedals are designed to interface with the tread on mountain bike shoes designed for flat pedals — usually waffled pattern. If you're planning on riding in shoes that have a totally flat bottom, like the dress shoes you may wear to work, aggressive pins may damage the soles and not add all that much grip. Many models are offered with adjustable pin height, giving you the flexibility to choose the balance that best suits you.
Another benefit is that it is a lot cheaper to replace pins when they become worn down than having to buy a whole new pedal. It can be worth going for a model where the pins see the Allen head on the back because these will be easier to extract when worn.
Plastic composite pedals will be cheaper and are often lighter. For those young at heart, composite pedals also tend to have a greater range of colors. However, plastic-bodied pedals tend to look scruffy sooner and are not as hard-wearing as metal-bodied pedals.
The simple serviceability of Shimano pedals requires just a couple of spanners (and sometimes also the TL-PD40, an inexpensive plastic tool) which makes them easy to keep running for a long time. Many other brands opt instead for replaceable sealed cartridge bearings and bushings. With a bit of periodic maintenance, a set of pedals can be kept going for a surprising number of years.
However, if you know that you are not one to be delving into the guts of your pedals, then you might find more value in a set that does not have serviceable bearings, as these tend to be cheaper.
There are pedals that you can clip in to but can also be ridden as flat pedals without a problem. These pedals have a large cage around the clipless mechanism, which provides grip and support. Also, in being symmetrical, there is no need to flip the pedal over before you set off.
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