best mountain bike flat pedals under 50

Best Mountain Bike Flat Pedals Under 50

by Joseph Wells - Last Updated: November 23, 2020

Buying the best mountain bike flat pedals under 50 should be an easy choice. However, when you start researching, you will find hundreds of pedals of different designs which makes it confusing. Easily, my preference in an all-around mountain bike flat pedal is the Shimano PD-A530. I have a pair on my gravel bike and they are great.

What makes one pedal better than another? When choosing any cycling product, such as flat or platform pedals, understanding the features and intended usage is quite important. Pedals are often overlooked in their importance on a bike, such as in prevention of knee injuries. Even when limiting choices below $50, you will still find a variety of categories, materials used, and applications. We will break down some of this information so that you can choose the correct design, but also get the best pedal as well.

Best Mountain Bike Flat Pedals Under 50

Best Value: Shimano PD-A530 Clipless Pedal

Ok, first off what is clipless and why do you want it on a bike? Clipless works exactly the same as a ski binding. Using a spring-loaded hinged hook the pedal retains a cleat or binding.  To unclip, you simply rotate your foot sideways. But why? When you ride longer distances, you don’t just want to rely on pushing down only. Some of your energy is wasted just getting a circular motion to happen.

Being able to both push down and pull up helps transfer more of your human energy into forwarding movement, and gains you efficiency to ride longer distances. A byproduct during mountain biking is that your shoes are less apt to come off the pedals in rough situations.

At the top of the best mountain bike flat pedals under 50 range, we can find incredible flexibility and buying power with the Shimano PD-A530 clipless platform pedal.  Many riders love this pedal since it can be used in a wide number of circumstances. The model is effectively two pedals in one.  The center features the Shimano SPD clipless pedal system that is the industry standard.  Surrounding the SPD portion is a cast aluminum platform.

Beginner’s Choice: Crank Brothers

If you are a new MTB rider, starting with clipless pedals this is a perfect choice. As you master clipless offroad, you can get used to staying in motion over obstacles, but not worry about clipping in at all times.  As your skill level increases, you can remain clipped in. The additional quality of this model is that the wide platform increases the shoe to pedal contact improving power transfer.  The whole point of a clipless pedal is to improve the amount of power that can be applied to the pedals. Check out our article on Best Mountain Bikes to see performance off-road bikes that excel in the dirt, and can use clipless pedals.

Shimano pretty much owns this range as few other clipless brands can offer as much value in a proven product.  Equal quality in a competing brand will probably cost you more unless you found a Crank Brothers or similar pedal on sale.  There a number of reasonable alternates to be considered, but the PD-A530 and its predecessor A520 are excellent benchmarks in quality and price.

Top Choice of the Best Mountain Bike Flat Pedals Under 50: CNC Platform Pedals

CNC stands for Computer Numerical Control, but the reality is this pedal type is machined from a block of aluminum.  The body is quite stiff overall, and usually, the intent is to add a thread in spikes for the ultimate in rubber-soled shoe retention.  Additionally, sealed bearings are fairly normal as it is the easiest way to engineer the bearing into the pedal.

The cool thing with CNC aluminum is that it can be anodized providing a huge array of colors.  Some companies may offer a dozen color choices.  This is one of the main reasons this pedal type is so popular, consumers use them to customize the look of their bikes not to mention the functionality.

Since a computer is programmed to machine a block of aluminum, there are dozens of cool geometric designs employed.  There are spiderwebs, butterflies, or even simple shapes like round or oval.  It can be quite interesting in seeing the many designs and matching them to your desires and the style of your bike.

On the functional side, a solid performing choice in this category is the TXJ Platform pedal. Featuring a huge body for supporting the biggest of shoes, this pedal offers high quality, great durable bearings, and several colors to help match your bike. CNC platform pedals would go great on any Best Mountain Bike Under 600.

The only drawback with huge platform pedals is clearance.  The larger a pedal is, it also grows in width.  Wide pedals make it easier to hit the ground while turning.  On aggressive trails, they also have a tendency to hit exposed rocks easier.

Resin Meets Steel

So if clipless pedals intimidate you, the other option is a toe clip type pedal.  On this type, a plastic or metal clip is bolted to the pedal, and a nylon or leather strap is used to hold the foot in place.  Prior to 1986, this was the only choice. Now you will find something similar on a spin bike in the gym.

One of the most economical ways to go with clips and straps is the use of a resin and steel type pedal.  The center X section is injection-molded resin, with a steel cage bolted to the outside of the X.  The steel case works best for affixing the toe clip, and the strap threads through the pedal. Secondarily, steel cages normally have small teeth to prevent the shoe from slipping.

This type of pedal normally costs less than $20.  There are many manufacturers on the market, with no true up or down between the models.  The main reason is that this pedal type is durable in the short term, but if used a lot, or perhaps off-road, the resin breaks down, the cage detaches and the pedal becomes useless.  Thus the low cost.

Break out the Plastic Body: Odyssey

In our rundown of different pedals plastic comes up next.  On the BMX side of things, plastic is an excellent choice, particularly for park riding, freestyle, and other aggressive riding types.  The reason is that the pedals on BMX bikes are destroyed rapidly.  Odyssey makes an excellent plastic platform model.

Knowing that damage will occur, many of the models offered for BMX by Odyssey come in below $50. They not only have spikes molded into place, they also have other textures as well.  Few other pedals bother.  This helps in aggressive situations where you may only get part of your foot on the pedal and you want it to hold.

The cool thing with plastic is that they come in a wide range of colors including clear.  With other materials, that is just not possible.  The low cost allows for worry-free replacement but still retains great performance.

Economical Resin Pedals: Sunlite Cruiser Pedal

What’s the difference, isn’t resin the same as plastic? Maybe, but not really.  When you hold an Odyssey plastic pedal and a resin pedal you will see why.  Resin pedals only come in black and are a softer material.  They flex a significant amount. Plastic does not flex as much.

Resin pedals are the lowest cost on the spectrum, with some basic models around $5-10.  Since they are so inexpensive, they are not as durable, have low-quality bearings, and move poorly.  Most inexpensive bikes at $100-200 use this type of pedal.  Many 1/2″ axle pedals are of this design as well.  It is beyond rare to see an expensive performance 1/2″ axle pedal, but almost every low-cost version offers a 1/2″ option.

Here is the redeeming cool point with resin pedals. You can redesign the pedal for other uses.  The Sunlite cruiser pedal allows use without shoes, which is perfect for the beach.  Some pedals like this come with integrated soft straps to put on exercise bikes. There are also designs that put a small rubber pad in the middle to make it softer on the feet.

Key Features To Consider When Buying The Best Mountain Bike Flat Pedals Under 50

Axle Size Matters

The most important question is – will they fit my bike?  There are thousands of beautiful, stylish, functional pedals on the market, but they normally come in two sizes: 1/2″ and 9/16″.  These two sizes dominate the market and will apply to nearly every bike made currently.  Generally, 9/16″ is the most common and preferred size on better quality bikes.  You will encounter 1/2″ pedals on inexpensive bikes, normally with one-piece cranksets.  This is not entirely a rule though, as there are some one-piece cranksets that accept 9/16″. It is best to know what size your bike requires prior to shopping.

Now that size is established, we can look at use.  Knowing how we intend to use a pedal helps us identify the features most useful in a given model.  If you are just pedaling around the neighborhood, the need for a CNC aluminum pedal with CrMo axles and sealed bearings is not all that necessary.  And vice-versa, buying a cheap plastic pedal is not the best application for hardcore off-road riding.

Proper Shoes

One aspect to keep in mind as we contemplate use is shoes. You can purchase the most perfect pedal for a given use, but if the wrong shoe is used, much of the effectiveness is given up.  Imagine you are mountain biking. You decide to use a cast aluminum pedal because it is tough, but you are wearing a hard sole clipless road shoe.  The shoe is not compatible with the pedal type and will easily slip off.  Likewise, if you had a clipless style pedal, and a BMX type tennis shoe, they are not that compatible either.

When considering overall construction, we will see nylon plastic, cast aluminum, steel, and CNC aluminum pedal types in various combinations of assembly.  For example, you could have a steel pedal cage with a nylon center.  Steel is not always the toughest, as it bends more than absorbs shock.  Aluminum absorbs shock much better and in some cases can be seen as more durable than other construction types.  Additionally, aluminum pedals will normally see sealed or similar high-quality bearings installed.

It is also rare at such a low price point to see advanced composite construction.  This type of pedal may involve carbon fiber or other specialty materials with the express concern of dropping weight.

Click here for our review of the 510 Mountain Bike Shoes

Conclusion – The Best Mountain Bike Flat Pedals Under 50

Overall, there are hundreds of designs available in the market today. Knowing first what will fit, and then the main intended use helps cut down the choices to a reasonable level.  From there choose a construction type that best suits how you will use the pedal.  Tough pedals in aggressive conditions, or a plastic platform for riding BMX.

The applications of flat platform pedals stretch well beyond mountain bikes and onto every bike made. Easily one of the best mountain bike flat pedals under 50 is the Shimano PD-A530. Being a combination platform and clipless pedal, it gives all riders excellent features and performance suitable for nearly any bike they own.  Beyond clipless, it is hard to go wrong with a CNC aluminum pedal. With so many designs and color choices, it is just a fun pedal that can improve the look of your bike so easily.

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