There is a saying in mountain bike gravity racing, that ‘flat pedals win medals’ and Australian Sam Hill has shown that the best MTB flat pedals can be competitive, managing to win three consecutive Enduro World Series titles on platform pedals.
While mountain bikers who like to put serious miles under their belts mostly prefer to clip-in to their pedals for better efficiency and power transfer during climbing, the best MTB flat pedals remain popular as an option for those who prefer undiluted trail feedback, combined with the ability to shift your feet while you ride.
If you wish to perfect your technical riding technique, without the risk of having to follow your bike into a crash sequence if things do go wrong, the best MTB flat pedals are the solution. Advances in design have delivered a new generation of larger platform flat pedals, with more intricate shapes and lower weight than ever before.
It is worth mentioning that even the best flat pedals work as part of a system and must be paired with MTB flat pedal shoes for the best results. Skateboarding shoes, sneakers or trail running shoes are not a great choice. Lacking in protection, grip and stiffness, they will feel terrible and will quickly get wrecked by your pedal pins.
For more on how to choose the best MTB flat pedals for you, scroll on down to the bottom of this page for lots of helpful buying advice. And if you're considering other pedal options as well as flats, maybe our best mountain bike pedals guide will be of use to you too. If you're on a tighter budget, our guide to the best cheap MTB pedals may be of interest.
The best MTB flat pedals
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Race Face have relaunched their Atlas pedal which improves on the original in every department. The new incarnation has a wider platform and a thinner body, an easier to service bearing and comes with a lifetime warranty.
While the original Atlas platform was deemed a touch small by some riders, the 2022 version is virtually the same size as DMR's massively popular Vault pedal. The only difference in platform is that the front and rear of the Atlas' cage are slightly shorter to accommodate it's far more rounded corners. The 10 pins on each pedal face are narrower (2mm) and longer (6mm) than you'll find on most rival pedals (the length can be shortened by adding the included washers), while the chamfered pedal bodies have the faintest whiff of concave.
We've been riding with these pedals for over six months now and are seriously impressed with the support they give and amount of grip on offer. On the flip-side, the narrow pins are razor sharp and my scarred calves are proof of their vicious nature. While our beautiful legs may have been disfigured, the iodized graphics (available in nine different colors) on the pedals still look great and there's no sign that the finish will wear away yet either.
For more, see our full Race Face Atlas pedal review.
The 105mm x 105mm platform of the V11 is the same as DMR's popular alloy Vault (see below) as well as the signature DMR concave profile to enhance platform grip. The only difference is pedal thickness, with the Nylon construction adding an extra 3mm of thickness to enhance the strength. The foot-centering shape is adorned with 11 replaceable/adjustable steel pins on each side, with a collection of longer ‘Moto’ pins front and rear for maximum grip.
The best thing we can say about the V11s is that most riders will be hard-pressed to tell apart from the metal rivals. The plastic platform is a little slippier in the wet, however, the flexible construction can improve connection and reduce foot tiredness on relentlessly battering runs. The pedals are also serviceable with DMR offering bearing kits and replaceable pin sets.
For a more in-depth guide, read our full review of the DMR V11 pedals.
Hope CNC machine the F20's pedal body from a single block of aluminum for an excellent strength-to-weight ratio before getting a hard-wearing anodized finish. The Cr-Mo axle is heat-treated and plated for durability and spins on a Norglide bush with three cartridge bearings in a sealed chamber.
The steel pins are replaceable and the pedal comes with 10 spare pins should some get damaged. Aluminum and titanium pins are available for aftermarket customization but for those looking for ultimate weight savings, titanium axles are available through third-party manufacturer Superstar Components.
If you are looking for an aggressive, hardwearing pedal that perfectly matches the color of your Hope hubs, these are a must.
For more info, check out our full Hope F20 review.
DMR has been in the flat pedal business for more than two decades and remains the choice for those who want to experience a surge of confidence when attempting a new section of technical singletrack riding.
The Vaults might not win on pin count, but the positioning of their pins is excellent and ensures great shoe contact, even if you are on the lean angle limit through a fast berm or bouncing through a challenging rock garden. Serviceability is great too, thanks to the cartridge bearings.
If you're after pedals to match any aspect of your bike, you can't go wrong with the Vaults as they come in a massive range of colors, as well as special edition models such as the Liquid Camo finish pictured here. A lighter version, the Vault Mag SL, is also available.
No current flat pedal has the racing credentials of these Nukeproofs. They have won Sam Hill numerous Enduro World Series races and it is the racing environment that has influenced their design.
The edges of these Nukeproofs are slightly angled, reducing the probability of terrain strikes when attempting to flow through a slow and treacherous rock garden.
Platform size is not the largest, but those few missing millimeters have been sacrificed in places where you’d ordinarily run the risk of rock strikes – though should you have one, the solid cages of the Sam Hills are seriously bombproof. If you're a committed gravity racer, either downhill or enduro, these are the pedals for you.
We've ridden various incarnations of Sam Hill Horizons since they were first released and they are one of the grippiest and most bombproof flat pedals around.
OneUp Components makes a great aluminum flat pedal with ample platform size and pin distribution. Remolding it in nylon-composite dramatically drops the price without sacrificing any of the pedal's attributes. In fact, the Composite pedals are one of the lightest pedals on our list. The composite body isn't as stiff as some of its alloy rivals, which helps dull impacts on rough terrain.
A wide platform has a thin leading edge thickness, 18.5mm at the axle and reducing to 13.3mm, which gives you a terrifically stable platform from which to pedal. The 10 pins are well distributed across the platform and there are textured ridges to help with traction in the wet.
These Canadian flat pedals look intimidating, with their long pins. Designed to offer a large platform, with impressive axle balance thanks to a slim profile, the Daggas are engineered for extreme descending riders.
With a structure that allows the use of extra-long pins, you might risk painful shin strikes if your shoe does slip, but the theoretical grip profile is tremendous. If you are committed to riding with a heel-down technique, these large platform Chromags, with their threatening pins, will reward you with unequaled levels of metal-to-rubber grip.
Designed by American strength coach James Wilson, this is the largest flat pedal you can buy. The Catalyst operates on a power transfer concept which believes that the more force you can apply through the entire foot (or shoe), the better your stability will be in any athletic endeavor on the bike.
The result is a huge pedal, which is particularly well suited to riders wearing large shoes. With its massive structure, there is room for an unrivaled 18 contact pins.
Big size does mean an increase in weight, which makes these less rotationally efficient than other flat pedals. There isn’t quite the concave shaping refinement to the Catalyst’s overall structure, either.
Crankbrothers has been making high-quality platform pedals for a long time now and its current Stamp series of pedals caters to a range of riders and price points. The pro-level Stamp 7 is an excellent balance of price and performance with its Igus LL-glide bearings and svelt 11mm depth at its thinnest point.
Interestingly Crankbrothers offers two platform sizes based on your shoe size. For shoe sizes of 10-15 (US) the large pedal is recommended while riders with 5-10 (US) size feet should go for the smaller size.
Meet the testers
Graham is all about riding bikes off-road. Based in Edinburgh he has some of the best mountain biking and gravel riding in the UK right on his doorstep. With almost 20 years of riding experience, he has dabbled in downhill, enduro, and gravel racing.
Rich has been riding mountain bikes since the early nineties and testing bikes and kit for over a decade. While he does occasionally clip-in, his pedal of choice is definitely of the flat variety and he's tested every leading model over the years.
Best MTB flat pedals: everything you need to know
Do more pins equal more grip?
Pins are what give you the grip interface between a soft compound rubber mountain bike shoe and a flat pedal. The logic is that a greater number of pins gives you superior grip, and the longer they are, the more secure your shoe-to-pedal interface is.
Having more pins might be theoretically superior, but they don’t help if the distribution of pins isn't right. Pin placement is vital and this is where the pedal engineers really earn their money.
Should I go for metal or plastic flat pedals?
Most premium flat pedals are made from aluminum alloy as it's light, durable and it's much easier to change broken pins on a metal pedal body than a plastic one.
Plastic pedals have the advantage of being much cheaper though, and some brands offer versions that are exact size and shape replicas of their best aluminum pedals. However, you will have the disadvantage of problematic pin removal with the plastic incarnations.
Are bigger flat pedals better?
Bigger pedals are generally better as they give you a greater surface area on which to adjustment your feet. A larger contact area will also spread impact forces when riding drop-offs or landing jumps.
However, if your pedals are too large, they are likely to strike more rocks or stumps as you ride. While the pedals listed here are all suitable for average size feet, if your feet are particulraly small, try before you buy. If there's lots of the pedal platform protruding from the side of your shoe, go for a smaller model.
What do I need to know about pedal bodies?
As a general rule, the more material you remove from a flat pedal’s structure the better its self-cleaning properties are, enabling it to shed mud during a winter ride. A pedal structure with more metal removed also yields a lighter pedal, but you still need enough pedal surface to provide a sufficient distribution of pins.
Material and manufacturing improvements have enabled pedals that are larger, lighter and capable of accommodating more pins. Having pins around the edge of the pedal makes the most sense, because the axle body area, in the middle, isn’t where you source most grip when descending. The skills philosophy of ‘heel-down’ pedal technique applies force to the fore and aft, so this is where most of the rider input happens during technical riding.
Although we refer to them as flat pedals, most are in fact slightly concave. This rise at the front and rear of most flat pedals is a subtle design feature that isn’t as obvious as pin placement, but vital. This concave shaping gives you an intuition of where the limits of the pedal are when having to readjust shoe position during a descent.
Is flat pedal thickness important?
Pedal thickness is a factor that is often ignored when choosing a pedal. But it's an important one that can affect balance and confidence on technical trails.
The thinner a pedal is, and this difference is often in single-digit millimetres, the lower your center of gravity will be. When off-the-saddle descending with level cranks, thinner pedals mean you're less likely to get bucked around on rougher trails.