Best gravel bike pedals 2023: 12 clipless and flat options to keep your feet locked in place


12 gravel bike pedals

(Image credit: Will Jones)

1. Dual sided
2. Dual-sided with a platform
3. Flat pedals
4. How to choose

Gravel bikes are a well-established subset of the market, and while we now have the best gravel bike shoes and the best gravel bike tyres to choose from, the best gravel bike pedals are still very much mountain bike pedals by any other name. The default, if such a thing exists, is Shimano's SPD system, though there are other systems available, as well as plenty of flat pedals if you don't want to clip in. Below I've rounded up my favourite options for mixed terrain riding.

Why are the best gravel bike pedals all mountain bike pedals? Well, for the most part it's because at some point you may need to put your feet down and walk, and mountain bike cleats (if you opt for clipless) are recessed and so much easier to walk with. Furthermore, road bike pedals are much more prone to clogging in the mud, something I can personally attest to after blowing the carbon spring clean out of a pair of Look Keo Blade pedals after a muddy excursion on my road bike. 

If you don't want to clip in then it does make sense to simply use MTB flat pedals, rather than commuter-focused options, as the added grip will keep your feet in the right place over bumpy terrain.

Dual Sided pedals

Dual sided platform

Flat pedals

How to choose

Still not sure what you want? Maybe the below FAQs will help you out. The first thing to do in any eventuality is to decide whether you want to clip into your pedals or not, and from there, it's finding the system that works best for your needs. As always it helps to be honest with the type of riding you'll be doing; There's no point fitting race pedals to a bike that's going to be used mostly as a commuter, and vice versa. 

What kind of pedals do you use on a gravel bike?

Essentially you can use any mountain bike pedal system of your choosing, either clipless or flat. You can technically use road pedals, but I wouldn't advise it as the cleats are much harder to walk in, easier to damage, and the pedals will clog up with muck far more readily. If you want clipless the 'standard' choice is a Shimano SPD system, and you can't go too far wrong whichever tier you opt for. Flat pedals come in various sizes and are more suited to bikepacking and MTB-lite gravel riding. Other clipless systems have other advantages, be that weight, adjustability, or mud clearance. 

Do I need clip in pedals for a gravel bike?

Not at all. If you're coming to gravel from the road then you'll likely be used to clipping in, and may well prefer it, in which case there are plenty of pedal options to choose from. However, if you're coming to gravel completely fresh, or from a mountain bike background where you're not used to clipping into your bike then there's no reason you can't use flat pedals. Some riders prefer to use flats for comfort, and the ability to wear normal shoes comes in handy if you have to get off and walk, or if you're using your gravel bike as a commuter and don't want to bring spare shoes with you.

Are gravel bike pedals OK on a road bike?

Yes, absolutely. Many riders, especially on their winter bikes thanks to the increased durability, prefer the dual-sided entry of MTB clipless systems. Anyone who says you can't use MTB pedals on a road bike is almost invariably being a snob; I've got a set on my around-town road bike so I can walk about more easily. Basically, there are a tonne of reasons to use gravelly options on a road bike, so don't let tradition get in your way.

Are flat pedals just as fast as clipless?

The received wisdom is that clipping into your pedals results in a 30% efficiency saving as you can apply power through more of the pedal stroke, and pull up on the pedals too. This isn't something that's been borne out by science, but there is definitely some performance advantage from clipping in, particularly at higher power outputs (think sprinting). If you're aiming to go fast then clipping in will help, but otherwise flat pedals won't hold you back in any real sense.

How much should I spend on gravel bike pedals?

Gravel bike pedals range from tens of pounds up to just shy of £500 for superlight versions of the eggbeaters (no, really!). Unless you're chasing very small performance gains then there's very little need to spend more than £50-70. XTR pedals, for example, are my favourite and are excellent, but they aren't a huge amount better than a mid-range option in the grand scheme of things considering the price difference.

How do we test gravel bike pedals?

Well, mostly by riding them all on gravel. Unlike my coworkers, I don't use a turbo trainer, and ride outside all year round. This means muck, slop, dust, grit, and a lot of hike-a-bike thanks to a bit of strategic underbiking. I get to know which pedals work and which don't, and the pedals in this guide are just a snapshot of all the options I've tried. 

Will Jones
Tech Writer

Will joined the Cyclingnews team as a reviews writer in 2022, having previously written for Cyclist, BikeRadar and Advntr. There are very few types of cycling he's not dabbled in, and he has a particular affection for older bikes and long lasting components. Road riding was his first love, before graduating to racing CX in Yorkshire. He's been touring on a vintage tandem all the way through to fixed gear gravel riding and MTB too. When he's not out riding one of his many bikes he can usually be found in the garage tinkering with another of them, or getting obsessive about tyres. Also, as he doesn't use Zwift, he's our go-to guy for bad weather testing... bless him.

Rides: Custom Zetland Audax, Bowman Palace:R, Peugeot Grand Tourisme Tandem, Falcon Explorer Tracklocross, Fairlight Secan & Strael