Choosing the right mountain bike pedals can get very confusing for beginners as there are so many different types to choose from. This buyers guide will outline the key features to look for when buying a pair of clipless mountain bike pedals as well as our top three picks for beginners.
Benefits of Clipless Pedals
If you are still unsure of whether changing to clipless pedals is right for you, check out our article on flat pedals vs. clipless pedals.
Although the transition to clipless pedals can be daunting, you will be surprised at how fast it will become second nature to twist your foot to unclip. This is particularly true if you are starting to get comfortable on a bike with flat pedals.
The improved control, power transfer, pedaling technique, and comfort are well worth the learning curve. Once you get used to clipless pedals, you will find you become much more confident in your riding as your feet will be more secure on the pedal and not bouncing around over bumps.
Key Pedal Features for Beginners
There are a couple of key features to look for in a pedal for beginners, which will make your transition to clipless shoes much more manageable.
Tension Adjustable Pedals
Tension adjustable pedals are referring to the ability to change how easily your feet will clip in and out of the pedals. This is important for beginners as when you first start; you can have the pedals super easy to clip in and out of the pedals. This means that you can build your confidence with clipless pedals and gradually wind up the difficulty on the pedals as you progress.
Easier to unclip means that you are more likely to accidentally unclip when out on the trails, however when you are a beginner, this is usually not an issue and can be more confidence-inspiring knowing that you can easily unclip if you need to.
Harder to unclip means that you are less likely to accidentally unclip from your bike, which is confidence-inspiring for more advanced riders. This means that you can ride more aggressively and not worry about becoming unclipped.
Having adjustable pedals means that you can change the difficulty as your riding progresses. This gives the ultimate flexibility and is a must-have for beginners.
This is another important feature as having a platform to the pedal means that more of the shoe is in contact with the pedal, which increases stability when riding. It is extra important for beginners as if you come into a section of trail unclipped. It means there is still support for your foot to ride it out before you manage to clip back in again.
Larger platform shoes will be more confidence-inspiring and offer more benefits when not clipped in as there is still support for your foot.
Dual Sided Platform
Dual-sided pedals are pedals where one side has clipless pedal attachment, whereas the other side of the pedal is a flat regular flat pedal. It depends on your type of riding and how you use your bike as to whether dual-sided pedals are right for you.
Dual-sided pedals are better suited for riders who want to use their bike, both with clipless pedals and standard pedals. This can be a great option if you use the bike to commute or ride with the family, where you may want to use regular shoes. Then when it comes to going for a more intense ride out on the trails, you can use clipless pedals and not have to keep changing the pedals over.
One disadvantage to dual-sided pedals is that only one side has a cleat attachment, which means if you regularly unclip and clip in, then you have to use the right side of the pedal to clip back in. However, this is usually not a massive issue for most riders, as, for the majority of the time, you remain clipped in.
Therefore, deciding between dual-sided pedals and regular pedals depends on how you use your bike and whether having both options is necessary for your riding style.
Shimano PD-M530 Mountain Bike Pedals
The Shimano PD-M530 MTB pedals are a great beginner mountain bike pedal as they feature both adjustable tension and a platform to offer support when not clipped in. The platform is not huge as compared to the Funn Mamba, but most riders will find it adequate.
The design of the PD-M530s means that they are suitable for almost all riding, whether that be just cruising on roads, cross country MTB, and all-mountain riding.
The pedal's quality is exactly what you would expect from Shimano. It is durable, easy to install, and requires little in the way of maintenance thanks to its simple sealed cartridge bearing spindle. There are no fancy features that you will find on Shimanos XTR range, making it ideal for beginners.
The pedal weighs in at 455 g, which is not super light, but providing you are not racing or obsessed with reducing weight. This won't be an issue. The majority of riders will not notice that pedals are slightly heavier than the more expensive models, such as the XTR range.
The Shimano PD-M530 Mountain Bike Pedals are a great value pedal and have everything a beginner rider will need. If the dual-platform pedal suits your riding more, the Shimano PD-EH500 is the equivalent pedal.
Venzo Clipless MTB Pedals
If you are not worried about the brand, then the Venzo Cr-Mo clipless pedals are a great alternative to the Shimano PD-M530 reviewed above. They are SPD compatible and offer a tension adjustable clip. Also, if weight is of more of a concern to you, but you have a limited budget, then the Venzo pedals are worth checking out.
The Venzo Cr-Mo is in a similar price range to the Shimano PD-M530 pedals; however, they weigh in at 356 grams as compared to 455 grams for the Shimano pedals. This is a saving of 100 grams and is largely due to the CNC machined 6061 aluminum body.
The Shimano build quality is hard to match. However, the Venzo pedals come close with sealed bearings and a CNC machined aluminum alloy body. Venzo are confident in the build quality of their pedals and offer a generous warranty period.
If dual function pedals suit your style of riding more, then you'll be glad to know that Venzo have a dual platform model available, which is very reasonably priced and also relatively lightweight.
Therefore, the Venzo MTB Pedals will come close to the build quality of Shimano Pedals but are 100 grams lighter for a similar price range. This makes them a good choice if weight is important to you, and you are not afraid of straying away from Shimano.
Funn Mamba MTB Pedals
The Funn Mamba has a much larger platform than both the Shimano PD-M530 and the Venzo pedals. This is great for beginners as the larger platform is more confidence-inspiring on tricky terrain and offers more support for beginners when you are not clipped in. The larger size does mean they are slightly heavier, weighing in at 500 grams. This is only 45 grams heavier than the Shimano PD-M530s, which is reasonable considering their size.
The Funn Mamba Pedals are also packed full of features with the key ones being replaceable pins on both sides of the pedal, SPD cleat compatible, and they come with Funns grease renew system. The grease renew system allows you to top up with grease easily without getting your hands dirty and will result in your pedals lasting much longer.
The larger platform and extra features such as the removable pins and grease renew system does mean they are pricier than the other two options. However, they are great beginner pedals, and if you have a slightly higher budget, then the Funn Mambas are worth considering.
The Funn Mamba is also available in a dual-platform style. The large platform means that the Funn Mambas will make great flat pedals as well, which is perfect for riders who like the flexibility of using both clipless pedals and flat pedals.
The best clipless MTB pedals for beginners are the Shimano PD-M530, Venzo Trail SPD, and the Funn Mamba pedals. Choosing between these pedals depends on your riding style, and what kind of riding you will be doing. The Shimano and Venzo pedals are great all-round pedals and offer enough of a platform to provide extra support when not clipped in. The Funn Mamba are slightly more expensive but offer a more substantial platform which will further boost confidence on tricky terrain and be more comfortable to ride with non-clipless shoes.