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pedals guide

Pedal Guide

For power, comfort and practicality, the right pair of pedals is vital.

If you are buying a new bike, it's important to know that many bikes don't come with pedals. To make sure you can jump straight on and test you bike, we send out a pair of basic pedals to make sure you can get pedalling right away and make sure the bike is the right fit for you. Hybrid bikes, city bikes, kids' bikes and cheaper mountain bikes generally do come with a set of pedals - although you may want to upgrade to something suitable for your own riding straight away. It's definitely worth ordering a pair of pedals that suit your riding with your bike, giving you the perfect completion to your new ride. 

The term 'clipless pedals' often catches people out - confusingly, it refers to pedals that need you to clip-in to them, such as SPD or SPD-SL.

Platform / Flat pedals

Platform aka flat pedals, are standard pedals that you simply rest your foot on, which have good contact with the foot for extra support.

Flat pedals are most often used on mountain bikes but they can be good for hybrid bikes too. They can be made of plastic resin or metal for greater durability. Most platform pedals have small permanent or removable studs to help grip your shoe. These are particularly good for control when you're riding off-road on tricky terrain.

The main advantage of flat pedals is you aren't attached to your bike, so can get your foot down quickly. Many mountain bikers find they have more safety and versatility this way. Flat pedals work best with flat pedal MTB shoes.

The main disadvantage of flat pedals is you only power your bike on the downward pedal stroke as you are not attached to the pedal. This means you have to work harder and won't achieve the same speed and efficiency as will clipless pedals.

platform pedal

Cage pedals

Cage pedals are a type of pedal that has a metal cage around the central spindle.

Because cage pedals have less material than platform pedals, they tend to be lighter. They are often found on city or hybrid bikes as they don't offer as much grip for off-road riding as platform pedals, due to their smaller surface area.

Some caged pedals come with toe clips or straps to fasten around your foot for greater efficiency.

cage pedal

Clipless MTB Pedals

Pedals that use the two-bolt cleat system are commonly called SPD pedals, after Shimano SPD, the primary brand for this system.

Clipless MTB pedals let you connect your shoes to them, for greater power and control. Although they are traditionally off-road pedals, they are very popular for leisure and commuter riding, as they are easier to use and to walk in than road clipless pedals.

To use clipless MTB pedals, you will need a pair of shoes that take two-bolt cleats. You will also need to attach the right type of cleats for your pedals to the shoes, these are usually supplied with the pedals. 

Most clipless mtb pedals are Shimano SPD, or are compatible with them, such as Ritchey and Wellgo. However, there are several brands that make pedals and cleats that are only compatible within that brand, such as Crank Bros, MKS, Time Atac and Look Quartz.

clipless MTB pedal

Two-bolt cleat/pedal compatibility table 

Pedal →
Cleat ↓
Shimano SPD Ritchey Wellgo RSP/Raleigh One23 BBB Genetic Outland Crank Bros Time Atac MKS Mavic Look Quartz Speedplay Frog
Shimano SPD            
Crank Bros                          
Time Atac                      
Look Quartz                          





Clipless road pedals

Clipless road pedals attach to road bike shoes using the three-bolt cleat system.

Three bolt cleats have a much larger surface area than two-bolt mtb clipless pedals, which means there is better power transfer for efficiency and speed on the road. The drawback is that the way the cleats fit to the sole of the shoe makes it hard to walk anywhere in road-cleated shoes.

There are several brands of three-bolt road shoes and each will the right type of cleat fitted to your shoe. However, they all fit to three-bolt road shoes. See the table below for full pedal compatibility.

clipless road pedal

Three-bolt cleat/pedal compatibility table 

Pedal →
Cleat ↓
RSP Ritchey Look Keo BBB One23 Genetic Mavic Time Campagnolo Pro-Fit Shimano SPDSL Speedplay
Look Keo          
Campagnolo Pro-Fit                    





Frequently Asked Questions

What bike pedals do I need?

Those who wish to use a regular shoe will want a platform or flat pedal. For those that want to ride clipped in, will need a specific cycling shoe with an appropriate cleat for the type of clipless pedal.

Do all cycling shoes fit all pedals?

A road type SPD-SL pedal will need a shoe with a 3 bolt cleat attachment. An MTB SPD type pedal will need a shoe with a 2 bolt cleat attachment.

Which clipless pedals are easiest?

All clipless pedals will have a way of adjusting the strength of the mechanism to make it easier or harder to unclip. Perhaps the easiest to live with are 2-bolt SPD type as the shoe still allows you to walk around easily.

Do bike pedals make a difference?

Pedals can make a huge difference. A high-quality pedal will maintain contact and therefore increase power transfer and efficiency. The bearings in a high-quality pedal will ensure no energy wasted through friction.

Can you ride clipless pedals with normal shoes?

A clipless pedal will need a compatible clipless shoe. Using normal shoes is not safe.

Are clipless pedals dangerous?

Clipless pedals are perfectly safe. The strength needed to release can be adjusted. With some forethought about unclipping before stopping you will soon get used to to the new technique, unclipping becomes subconscious.

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