Benefits of Clipless Pedals on a Mountain Bike & How to Choose Them

When using a mountain bike, safety should be a top priority. So it is a good idea to take all precautions and put necessary measures in place to make sure that we are relatively safe while riding a mountain bike. These measures include making sure that we have maximum control when riding which can be enhanced by using clipless pedals. In this article, we discuss the benefits of clipless pedals on a mountain bike, including safety, and how to choose the best clipless pedals for your needs.

The benefits of using clipless pedals on a mountain bike are enhanced safety and control as well as increased pedaling efficiency. Using clipless pedals ensures that the rider’s feet don’t slip off the pedals when riding on rugged terrain. However, using clipless pedals lower net mechanical efficiency.

Although a beginner might start off with regular pedals, if you're a fan of trail cycling and riding on steep terrain, you might want to give clipless pedals a try. If you are a beginner rider or you have just taken up mountain biking as a hobby, why not check out our article that shares tips and tricks on what mountain bike you should buy

The name clipless pedals is actually a bit deceptive as the rider’s shoes actually do clip onto the pedal as shown in this video, but the pedals like these ones, have a metal casing that the cleats under mountain bike shoes fit into. This clipless system allows the rider to have complete control while pedaling without their feet slipping off the pedals, for optimal performance when riding up and down rugged terrain. If you are trying out different types of riding our article that compares carbon mountain bikes vs. aluminum bikes could be a useful resource to help you choose your next mountain bike.

Flat pedals like these are just flat without a clip-in system at all. Flat pedals may have a smooth surface that could make it difficult to keep your feet on the pedals in wet weather, causing injury. Some flat pedals like these have a rough surface that allows for shoes to have a better grip.

Toe clips that house the front part of your shoe were in use for a long time but are not as easy and convenient to use as clipless and flat pedals. Also, some riders don't like feeling that their feet are restrained which makes them feel that they aren’t able to quickly loosen their feet to balance themselves. 

What are Clipless Pedals?

Clipless pedals have a very clever design that allows the cleats attached to the soles of cycling shoes to clip into the pedal and then clip out with a slight twisting action. Clipless pedals allow for easier movement without having any straps over the feet.

Clipless pedals have a small metal structure or frame for cleats to clip into.

There are different kinds of clipless pedals. The most common type is SPD which is also known as Shimano Pedaling Dynamics. This design provides a double-sided pedal which makes things far easier. Another type is SPD-SL which is suitable for a  three-bolt attachment system that is mainly used on road bikes. Road cycling shoes are also stiff when compared to normal shoes so they allow for more stability when pedaling.

The clipless pedal system may seem tricky but it is actually very easy to attach and loosen your shoes once you get the hang of it.  When you need to mount or dismount from your clipless pedals, try these simple techniques from Time Outdoors or these tips and tricks from Bike Radar to do so. 

The benefits of using clipless pedals like this one include keeping your feet secured to the pedals and stops them from slipping off. 
A clipless pedal looks like a flat pedal but has a casing for the cleat under the cycling shoe, to clip into. Image Source: CyclingAbout

You may also find interest in our article explaining how to choose pedal straps with heel support for kids. If so, be sure to check it out.

The Benefits of Using Clipless Pedals

Clipless pedals could make a significant difference to your ride if you enjoy mountain bike riding in extreme conditions and on rugged terrain. Using clipless pedals can certainly have a positive impact on your riding ability and allow you to enjoy your rides so much more.

The benefits of using clipless pedals include keeping the rider’s feet secured to the pedals for more control and allowing the rider to mount and dismount a bicycle easily.

Benefit 1. Feet Stay Secured to the Pedals

One of the main benefits of using clipless pedals like these when riding is that your feet stay secured to the pedals when riding on steep surfaces. With the cleat of your shoes attached to the bike through the unique attachment system, you won't have any problems with injuries and accidents caused by your feet slipping off the pedals. You might feel a little unsure at first, and getting the hang of it may take some practice, but persevere as clipless pedals can only enhance your riding capability and safety. 

It is however, impossible to avoid accidents completely and you could have a little spill at some stage with consequences such as a grip coming off your handlebar. If you would like to know how to deal with a situation like this check out our article that explains how to fix a mountain bike grip that has fallen off.

The clipless pedal system is a metal casing on the pedal that the cleat under the riding shoe, fits into.
This is the cleat that fits into the metal frame on the clipless pedal. Image Source: Backroads

Benefit 2. Clipless Pedals Make it Easier to Mount and Dismount

Using clipless pedals like these make it very easy to mount and then dismount from your bike compared to a bike with flat pedals. Even in the case of an accident or something urgent happening, you can remove your feet from the pedals easily. The unique attachment system allows for you to easily push the cleat of your shoe into the casing on the pedal when mounting and to quickly twist your foot slightly to detach the cleat from the pedal when dismounting. Also, this system will be more comfortable and convenient than having to secure straps over your feet or tighten toe clips over the front part of your feet. 

Using clipless pedals allow for easy mounting  and dismounting on steep terrain.
If you enjoy riding on steep terrain then clipless pedals will be beneficial for you to use. Image Source: Saddle Skedaddle.

Clipless vs. Flat Pedal Efficiency

When you compare clipless vs. flat pedal efficiency, clipless pedals are more efficient for various reasons and can actually make a significant difference to your ride. According to an article entitled “Effects of Pedal Type and Pull-Up Action during Cycling” in the International Journal of Sports Medicine, it was found that using flat pedals vs. clipless pedals didn’t lead to any differences in pedaling effectiveness, net mechanical efficiency, or muscular activity if only used on the downstroke. However, with clipless pedals, pulling up on the upstroke led to up to 85% pedaling effectiveness and higher leg muscle activity. It also reduced net mechanical efficiency by up to 9%.

Clipless pedals increase pedaling efficiency by up to 85% on the upstroke however they reduce net mechanical efficiency by up to 9%.

Clipless pedals like these also provide more safety in terms of having your feet conveniently secured to the pedals whereas your feet can slip off these flat pedals. This means that you can perform jumps and other tricky maneouvers safely using clippless pedals. 

Clipless pedals make it easier to mount and dismount as you have control over your pedals. Using flat pedals means that you have less control over the pedals and mounting and dismount takes a little more effort. 

Riding with clipless pedals also means that you can pedal faster and harder without the risk of your feet slipping off in wet or extreme weather conditions as could happen with flat pedals because of your feet being secured safely to the pedals with the clipless locking system. We also cover other challenges that you may face in extreme weather such as keeping your hands comfortably warm by choosing heated handlebar grips. 

Flat pedals may not be as safe to use as clipless pedals but are still preferred by beginner riders.
Using flat pedals means that you can use any type of footwear when you are riding. Image Source: Amazon.

Choosing the Right Pedals for Your Needs

Choosing the right pedals for your bicycle won’t be too hard if you know exactly what you need and what’s available. Dedham-Bikes provide a very handy comparison of different pedals in this article. If you're new to riding a bike, you may like the classic flat pedal design since everyone has learned how to ride a bike with these. But if you require extra support you may prefer these toe clip pedals that strap on your feet for extra support. For mountain biking, many people tend to use either toe-clipped or clipless pedals as they've proven to be more efficient on steep and rocky terrain, whereas using flat pedals may prove to be dangerous. 

These two options can help to make your ride more comfortable in general but it would be wise to make sure that you apply other measures as well such as making sure that you ride with the correct posture. As a matter of interest we have an article that actually shows you where to hold mountain bike grips to maintain proper posture.

Using toe clips with flat pedals increases pedaling efficiency.
Using toe clips with flat pedals increases pedaling efficiency. Image Source: Back Roads.

Similarly, you may be interested in using pedal straps on your new pedals. For more information, make sure to take a look at our step-by-step guide on how to thread a pedal strap. You might also be interested in learning how to choose mountain bike pedals for grip maximization. If so, make sure to read our related article.

Here is a summary of different pedals and their benefits::

Reasons You’re Searching for New Pedals Best Pedal Type For Your Needs Example from Amazon
Less foot flexing Clipless pedals Shimano SM-PD22 Pedalaufsatz 
Increased power transfer and pedaling force Clipless pedals Wellgo WAM R-3 Road Clipless Pedals 
Less shock transfer Clipless pedals Shock Absorber Bicycle Pedal 
Securing feet with the option of a clipless pedal Toe Clips Shimano SPD Compatible 9/16'' Pedals with Toe Clips (SPD Cleats Included) - MTB/Spin/Indoor/Exercise/Peloton Bicycle Pedal
Peace of mind for a beginner rider  Flat Pedals Shimano Pd-gr500 Pedal MTB/BMX

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