The type of riding you do and your experience will determine what pedals you need to ride with. As gravel biking as exploded there has been a lot of crossover between both the road cycling and mountain biking worlds. When working in the bike shop customers often ask if they should use road or mountain bike pedals on a gravel bike. The answer, like many things in cycling, is that it depends.
Can You Use Flat Pedals On Gravel Bikes?
The first step is to determine whether you will ride with clipless pedals or flats. I never recommend a new cyclists jump straight to clipless pedals. Once you build up your endurance you can make the switch from flats to clipless. Regardless of which side you land on in the clipless versus flats debate, you need to pick between road or mountain bike pedals.
The best pedals for gravel biking are the ones on your bike when you use it. Changing pedals frequently is not recommended because you may strip the threading on the pedal or in your crank arms. If you only have flat pedals available then ride your gravel bike with flat pedals.
I personally believe beginners ride flats while experienced cyclists ride with clipless pedals. Whether they are clipless road cycling pedals or mountain biking pedals is irrelevant. Road bikes are built for speed and racing. If you race your gravel bike I would put road pedals on. If not, any mountain bike pedal will be durable and last a long time if well maintained.
What Shoes Do You Wear On A Gravel Bike?
All serious cyclists should be riding with cycling shoes and clipless pedals. If you don’t own cycling shoes please read 4 Reasons To Never Ride Without Cycling Shoes then come back here to finish. If you don’t have time to read that article, in summary cycling shoes provide much better efficiency when pedaling, allowing you to ride faster and farther with less effort.
I come from the mountain biking world, so I ride with mountain bike shoes that clip into mountain bike pedals on my gravel bike. My wife on the other hand prefers road cycling shoes and pedals on her gravel bike. Either option is completely find as long as you are wearing cycling shoes. Gravel biking is about distance and seeing beautiful scenery. You can see more of it by riding faster and farther wearing cycling shoes.
Which Pedals Are Best For Gravel Bikes?
The question of where you should use road or mountain bike pedals on a gravel bike is not easy to answer. It all depends on how you use your bike. As I mentioned previously, if you are racing the best pedals are a strong and lightweight road cycling pedal. If you are racing you 100 percent need to be riding with clipless pedals.
When gravel biking for pleasure then any pedal will suffice. Mountain bike pedals are great because they are durable, and still allow you to clip-in for peak efficiency. Living in Colorado we have a lot of gravel trails with beautiful scenery. I know I can ride just as far and fast with my mountain bike pedals as my road bike pedals because they are both clipless. That won’t be the case if you prefer riding with flats.
A universal clipless pedal like the Shimano SPD M520 (Check Current Price on Amazon) will be perfect for most gravel biking enthusiests.