As former Pinkbike tech editor Richard Cunningham liked to say, “flat pedals are just flat metal,” and he's not wrong. Unless they're made of plastic, of course, but I'll get to that in a bit. The basic design of a flat pedal is quite simple – take an aluminum body with traction pins threaded in, a chromoly spindle, some combination of bearings and bushings to allow them to spin, and bingo, you've got a flat pedal...
Except that it's not actually that easy. The dimensions of that platform, the orientation of the pins, and the size and number of bearings all have a noticeable impact on the way a pedal feels underfoot. Personal preference also comes into play when trying to decide if one pedal is better than another; some riders want the maximum amount of grip, while others want the ability to re-position their foot without lifting it all the way off of the pedal.
The following 12 options are some of the best mountain bike flat pedals currently on the market in 2020. They're all relatively thin and grippy and suitable for hard riding, but there are design features that elevate a few to the top of the charts. If you already own any of the pedals included in this round-up, congratulations – all of these are worthy options that should be able to withstand numerous seasons of hard riding without any major issues.
Are there other high-quality options that aren't mentioned here? You bet. These 12 picks are only a partial selection of what's out there, a compilation of some of the standouts that I've been spending time on over the last 24 months.What about plastic pedals?
The focus of this article is on aluminum-bodied options, but I've mentioned if there is a comparable plastic version where applicable. Going with a plastic-bodied option is a great way to save money – plastic pedals are typically half the cost of their more expensive aluminum siblings, without that much of a performance difference.
Aluminum pedals do tend to hold up better to repeated rock smashing – they'll get scuffed and scraped, but typically don't get as battered as a more malleable plastic body. Some riders prefer the feel of a plastic pedal when it hits a rock, claiming that it glides over it rather than sticking, although I wouldn't say that's the best reason to choose one over another. Hit a rock with any pedal and you'll feel it – plastic doesn't really make that impact any less jarring.