The Best Flat Pedals for Mountain Biking of 2017
What are the best mountain bike flat pedals for your mountain bike? We evaluated 10 pairs, using riders of differing abilities, backgrounds, and riding styles on downhill, enduro bikes, and dirt jumpers. We tested each pair of pedals with shoes suitable for each given discipline of riding, while carving sandy desert hillsides in Nevada, ripping soggy berms in Oregon, and spending the summer and fall riding our favorite local trails and bike park features in South Lake Tahoe, CA. We evaluated each pair on grip, platform, pedal mobility, maintenance/service, and weight. Keep reading below to see what pedals we like best and how they compared head-to-head.
Read the full review below >
Test Results and Ratings
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Analysis and Award Winners
Best Overall Flat Pedal for Mountain Biking
Top Pick for Enduro Racing
Race Face Atlas
Best Bang for the Buck
VP Components VP-Vice
Criteria for Evaluation
This rating metric relates to the interface between the soles of our shoes and the pins and platforms of the pedals. Different type, number, and height of traction pins all combine to make each pedal feel unique. What felt good for dirt jumping could be terrifying on a rocky downhill trail. Some pedals like the Crankbrothers 5050 3 allowed the rider to adjust the height of the traction pins by screwing them in further or backing them out. Other pedals like the Shimano Saint MX80 and Blackspire Robusto used spacers to modify pin height.
Many had no adjustment like the RockBros Platform, Bonmixc 9/16" 4 pcs, and Funn Python. In general, we found grub screw traction pins like those found on the Deity Bladerunner and Crankbrothers 5050 3 to offer the best traction. It's not that simple though, as the mountain bike flat pedals with those types of pins were not necessarily the grippiest. Other factors like platform shape play a huge role in how a pedal feels. In fact, neither one of the pedals that scored highest in this category, the Race Face Atlas or Blackspire Robusto had grub screw pins.
The long and thin pins on the Blackspire Robusto dug deep into the soles of our shoes. The angled pins and concave platform of the Race Face Atlas combined for max grip factor, while the broad pins of the RockBros Platinum and Bonmixc 9/16" pedals offered comparably less grip, seemingly too wide to effectively hang on to our soles. Like many things in life, balance is important. Pedals like the Spank Spike and VP Components VP-Vice had a good grip on things, but not so strong as to be suffocating. Unlike that distant aunt that sees you once a year on Christmas and clutches you too long, these pedals let you move about freely before things get awkward.
Good pedals must be supportive but not overbearing. A large platform provides a solid foundation for riders to push against, weight the bike in turns, and pump terrain features without slipping off the edge of the pedal. There's a limit though. Go too large and clearance quickly becomes an issue, as does leaning the bike deep into turns. Rocks, roots, and stumps all seem bigger as you continually smash your pedals into them. A thinner pedal can alleviate some of the risk but not all of it by offering increased clearance.
We particularly liked the Spank Spike and thought it represented an impressive balance of surface area, thin profile, and impact avoiding (or minimizing) design features. The chamfered edges allowed the pedal to brush off impacts that sent the RockBros Platinum into the recycle bin. A thin 12 mm profile gave the Spank Spike the ability to swoop over, instead of straight into, rocks. The Race Face Atlas shared a very similar platform shape, but was a whopping 14 mm larger in width. With beveled edges, and a thin profile of 14.5 mm front and back, we experienced a slight uptick in pedal strikes; its extremely low weight (340 grams) and vice grip foot locking retention made it our preferred flat pedal for enduro racing and long technical rides.
The Deity Bladerunner and Funn Python had large square platform shapes. Shaving millimeters from the pedal profile was the preferred method for avoiding pedal strikes and it proved to be effective enough for us. Our Best Buy winning VP Components VP-Vice had a comparably small platform, but bigger is not always better. Our lead tester loved how the smaller platform never got in the way of his big feet when performing tricks like can-cans that required him to remove and then replace his feet onto the pedals.
What we mean by pedal mobility is the rate and quality by which the pedal spins around its axle. Just like when your shifting is perfectly adjusted and you've tightened and tensioned everything so that all you hear are the sounds of nature and your friends hooting and hollering with excitement behind you, a smooth spinning pedal lets you concentrate on having fun instead of having to worry. Don't be confused into thinking that pedals that spin the easiest are the best in this category. Many cheaper pedals that come stock on bikes feel very loose and spin at a very rapid rate. Cheap bearings and bushings and poorly machined materials that don't mate together perfectly will do little to increase your confidence while riding.
Further, if you're performing freestyle tricks that involve taking your feet off the pedals, it's very difficult to reengage your feet onto pedals that spin freely when not weighted. Coming down on a pedal that is oriented vertically can be extremely dangerous. In essence, we preferred pedals that have smooth motion and spin at a moderate rate; ones where simply unweighting the pedal doesn't send them into a frenzy. Knowing that your pedals are properly oriented when your foot wants to find its home on the platform is reassuring and much safer. Alas, the smoothest pedal from a mechanical quality standpoint in the test was easily the Blackspire Robusto. The sealed bearings and proprietary KY bushings made the pedal feel frictionless as it spun around the nickel plated chromoly axle.
However, the Blackspire Robusto is a pedal that packs a lot of mass behind it with big toothy traction pins. While our feet felt glued to the pedals during use and we were very unlikely to slip off the platform, we felt the effortless spin of these pedals made them very likely to dig into the back of our calves and shins or snag on our clothing when sitting on the bike or moving it around like when putting it onto our car's bike rack. It wasn't a huge problem, but when this pedal gets spinning, it looks like some sort of medieval weapon.
On the stiffer side of things was the RockBros Platform. You won't get a full rotation out of these pedals with a hard hand spin and our tester didn't feel comfortable taking these pedals through the jump line after a single lap. When the pedal got oriented vertically while kicking a foot off, it remained in that position throughout his flight. When he went to replace his foot, the firm nature of the pedal resisted and caused him come back to Earth with his foot on the leading edge of the pedal facing upwards. Not wanting to snap an ankle, he swapped pedals for the next in line.
Most other pedals in the test had similar rotation speeds, falling under the desirable "not too fast or not too slow" description. In terms of smoothness, second to the Blackspire Robusto was the very high quality Race Face Atlas. Much like with the Robusto, we rarely had problems with slipping off this pedal, as it was very grippy and the platform was massive. We also didn't find it to be a exceptional bike park or freestyle oriented pedal, so mobility wasn't as much of a factor for these. The rest of the lot spun at a nice rate, but a slight degree of resistance, graininess, or ratcheting could be felt. These qualities did not transmit from the pedals all the way through our shoes and could not be felt under normal riding conditions.
For the most part, mountain bike flat pedals are one of the few pieces of bicycle componentry that you shouldn't have to mess with too much. The Spank Spike was the only pedal in our test that actually required attention as it started to make an annoying noise after only a couple rides. Upon taking it apart, we found the axle to be completely devoid of grease, or so we thought. Spank uses a new Finsh Line Teflon grease that appears invisible.
Either way, our pedals needed attention very early on in the game and although you'll need to service your pedals eventually, two rides into their lifespan was far too soon. We found the half plastic, half aluminum platform of the Crankbrothers 5050 3 to require an annoying extra step in order to access the axle nut and disassemble the pedal. Two long T25 torx bolts hold the halves together and must be removed. We weren't crazy about the material choice in the first place and the additional step to service the pedals didn't help to win us over.
The hidden grease port feature on the Top Pick Race Face Atlas performed well, although it did require a long-hosed grease gun which you may have to go hunt down at a hardware store — rebuild kits are available to remove the large inboard bearing. Our Best Buy Award-winning VP Components VP-Vice pedals get top honors for this rating metric. VP went out of their way to make sure consumers can service their pedals without any bike specific tools. Even removing bearings can be done by tapping them out with a long allen key instead of some specialized punch.
A lot of the guys crushing enduro races are coming from a more downhill oriented background. Forced to pedal uphill now, they are looking for ways to shave grams. The Blackspire Robustos were the heaviest pedals in this test at 505 grams.
For downhill use, the Blackspire Robustos are awesome. Add the Shimano Saint mX80 to that list at 490 grams. They're another bombproof pedal, but one you might not want to spin for hours on end. We found the Top Pick Race Face Atlas to offer the same superb grip as the Blackspire Robusto at a fraction of the weight. At 340 grams, the Race Face Atlas is an excellent choice for the enduro racer looking for a big platform and unshakeable grip in the lightest possible package. The Editors' Choice Award-winning Deity Bladerunner was a bit less grippy, but more versatile than the Race Face Atlas.
The Deity Bladerunner was still only 380 grams per pair and had a very thin 12 mm profile, making it great choice as an enduro or freeride pedal.
All too often many flat pedal riders give little regard to their pedal selection when in fact it should be a component worthy of much more consideration. As one of three contact areas with the bike, handling can be greatly diminished or improved depending on your pedal choice. For further advice, take another look over our buying advice, for additional tips and tricks on purchasing a pair of flat pedals. Equally important is your shoe selection and we highly recommend checking out our flat mountain bike shoe review.
— Sean Cronin
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