Bikepacking Pedals: How to Choose + Picks For Every Style


By Alissa Bell: pedal-powered freedom seeker, 20k+ miles of bikepacking and touring on 6 continents

Updated:


Pedals might not be the first thing you think about when getting into bikepacking, but having the right pair for your bikepacking style can be surprisingly important. Sure, the basics are familiar from “normal” cycling: do you prefer clipless or flats, for example, and will you be riding smoother roads or rough trails?

But bikepackers have a few extra factors to consider, and they can be critical to daily life on the road. How much walking do you plan to do, and are you “traveling” or mostly “just biking”? Will there be sections of tricky rugged terrain? Could there be mud? What’s the chance of your pedal crapping out in the middle of nowhere, leaving you stranded (been there done that)?

The answer to “what are the best pedals for bikepacking?” is a bit like the best bike for bikepacking: the pedals that are already on your bike are a great place to start. Don’t overcomplicate it, just get out there and learn as you go. But if you’re in the market for a new pair of pedals and bikepacking is in the picture, this post explains what you need to consider.

In over 18,000 miles of bikepacking and touring I’ve progressed from flat pedals and running shoes to SPD mountain bike pedals, and I’m still fine-tuning my setup for new destinations and styles of riding. I’ve ridden thousands of miles on the “wrong pedals” and also on the “right pedals,” on pavement and dirt and everything in between. So without further ado, I’m here to help you choose your next pair of bikepacking pedals.

Shop Bikepacking Resources

digital help with planning, riding, and problem solving

When you buy through affiliate links in this post, I may earn a small commission. Thanks for your support! I always offer unbiased opinions based on real experience from the road and trail. Learn more.

Key Considerations for Bikepackers

Choosing pedals for bikepacking isn’t that different from choosing pedals for cycling in general. You want them to be comfortable, reliable, long-lasting, and a good match for your riding style and favorite terrain. Mountain bikers, for example, often choose flat pedals for the ability to put a foot down quickly in rough sections of trail, while road cyclists prefer clipless pedals for the consistent foot placement and efficient pedaling.

For beginners: The term “clipless pedal” confusingly refers to the type of pedal that you “clip into” or “click into” with a metal cleat on the bottom of your shoe, most commonly using the SPD standard. It’s an artifact of back when toe clips were the only foot retention mechanism available. When the more modern cleat system developed it was said to be “clipless” because it lacked toe clips. Now we’re stuck with the linguistic conundrum of clipping into clipless pedals.

As you think about the pedals listed below, here’s what you need to consider for bikepacking specifically.

Pedaling efficiency and feel: There’s a longstanding debate about whether attaching your feet to your pedals actually makes you a more powerful cyclist. For most bikepackers the question is more about comfort and efficiency than speed, and often a matter of personal preference. I switched to clipless pedals after a few thousand miles of bike touring with flats, and I’ve never gone back (except for technical MTB riding). I like the consistent foot placement and slightly smoother feel of the pedal revolution. I’m not sure if it makes me faster, but it seems to take less mental and physical effort and that’s important when riding day after day after day.

Varied terrain: Many long bikepacking routes include a wide range of terrain, from silky smooth pavement to rocky trails or rutted 4×4 roads. Many riders prefer the confidence of platforms on rougher terrain and the consistency of clipless on smooth roads. Even if you ride clipped in most of the time, you might want the ability to unclip on the occasional rough stretch. Fortunately there’s a best-of-both-worlds option (more on this below).

Grippiness and pins: Plan to ride a lot of technical trail or rough 4×4 roads? You probably want more aggressive traction pins that keep your shoes glued to the pedals, especially when riding flats. The downside: pins will wear out your shoes faster and can really mess up your shins. For more mellow touring many riders prefer fewer and/or shorter pins, or even none at all.

Shoe versatility: If you like clipless pedals, think about whether you’ll ever want or need to ride in non-clipless shoes. If these pedals will also see non-bikepacking use, do you want the ability to ride to the grocery store in regular shoes? Might you want to pedal in your camp sandals during a hot afternoon on a bikepacking trip? What if your cleat falls off or gets covered in mud, or your bike shoe gives you blisters, or it disappears from outside your tent in the middle of Mongolia?

Sometimes an SPD shoe turns into a flat shoe. At times like this it’s nice to have a hybrid SPD pedal with a platform so you can still make forward progress.

Comfort: This comes down to personal preference, but many people feel a wider platform is comfier underfoot on long days compared to a minimalist SPD pedal. Wider platforms are also better suited to less stiff cycling shoes, which work better for walking off the bike (see below). Even within the realm of platform pedals some people find one model more comfortable than others. A pedal / shoe combo that isn’t right for your feet can cause pain and tingling, which is obviously bad news on a long trip.

Walkability: When choosing pedals for bikepacking, you’re also narrowing your shoe options. SPD pedals go with SPD shoes, which have metal cleats on the bottom and are stiffer than regular shoes. Bikepackers spend more time on foot than general cyclists: maybe we want to walk around town on a rest day, take a little hike as a side trip, or need to hike-a-bike our loaded rigs up a steep hill. Though this is all do-able with the right pair of SPD shoes, some riders choose flat pedals and shoes for the added comfort and convenience off the bike.

Many bikepacking routes include some quality time on foot, and your shoe choice and pedal choice are intimately connected.

Reliability and durability: On a long bikepacking trip you may find yourself far from any bike shops or transportation to civilization. As someone who has killed a few cheap pedals in inconvenient places while out bikepacking, I recommend spending a bit more for a durable model that won’t let you down in the middle of nowhere. Platforms should generally be metal, not plastic, especially for mountain biking where rock strikes are a factor.

Serviceability: If you know your pedals will see many thousands of miles, you’ll want to choose a quality set that’s serviceable and ideally offers a rebuild kit, so you can keep them running smoothly for a long time.

Installation tools: These days many pedals can be installed with a large allen wrench found on your multitool, which is handy if you need to remove your pedals for mid-ride servicing or pack your bike for a flight. Avoid pedals that require you to carry a pedal wrench.

Platform size: If using a platform-style pedal, consider the size and how well it supports your feet. Folks with small feet can save a bit of weight and shin strike potential by choosing smaller platforms, while larger-footed people usually find larger platforms more comfy.

Keep in mind that pedals are one of the easiest parts to swap, so it’s reasonable to rotate between a few different pairs for different types of trips. I often swap between flats, platform SPDs, and single-sided SPDs depending on how technical the riding will or won’t be.

Key questions to ask yourself as you choose bikepacking pedals: Do you want to optimize for time on the bike or off the bike, and do you plan to do long unstructured trips or shorter focused rides? On an overnight or long weekend trip, especially in a remote area, SPD bike shoes (and possibly lightweight camp sandals) may be all you need. On a multi-month international ramble you’ll probably want something more versatile and suitable for town days, side trips, gear mishaps, and all the other surprises such a trip can offer.

Types of Bike Pedals

To orient you, here’s a quick summary of the pedal styles I’ll discuss below.

Flat or platform pedals: These are simple, great for newer cyclists or rugged riding, and the most walking-friendly of all the options. They may feel inefficient or unsatisfying to more experienced cyclists. Jump to flat pedals for bikepacking.

SPD pedals (XC style, no platform): This is a common choice for experienced or performance-focused cyclists transitioning to bikepacking. They can work, but you’ll need stiffer shoes that are harder to walk in and aren’t very versatile, so they’re best for trips where pedaling is the main activity. Jump to SPD pedals for bikepacking.

Platform SPD pedals: This more comfortable and versatile version of SPD pedals still favors clipped in riding, but pairs better with more flexible walking-friendly shoes and allows for pedaling short distances in non-SPD shoes. Jump to platform SPD pedals for bikepacking.

Single-sided SPD pedals: This clever design is very popular with bikepackers for its best-of-both-worlds versatility. A 2-bolt SPD mechanism on one side promotes smooth pedaling while a grippy platform on the other side allows for unclipped riding or non-SPD shoes. Jump to single-sided SPD pedals for bikepacking.

This is a 2-bolt SPD cleat, which works in conjunction with an SPD pedal to keep your foot firmly in place while pedaling.

Other clipless pedal standards: Though SPD enjoys the biggest market share in the clipless world, there are a couple competing styles such as the Crankbrothers “egg beater” pedals and Speedplay. These are usually favored by experienced cyclists who already know what they like, so I won’t discuss them further here.

Clipless road pedals: (3 bolt style) Traditional road cycling pedals and shoes use 3-bolt cleats that stick out from the bottom of the shoe, making it almost impossible to walk more than a short distance (and even then you’ll be hobbling awkwardly). For obvious reasons these don’t work well for bikepacking.

The term “SPD pedal” officially refers to pedals that work with 2-bolt recessed cleats. These are considered a mountain bike style, since the cleat is recessed into the bottom of the shoe to allow a more natural natural gait for walking through occasional spots of rough trail. Some people like them for road or gravel cycling too, as even your mid-ride restroom run or coffee break is more convenient with recessed cleats.

Here are two visual overviews of various bike pedal systems, one using gear from my own collection and a fancier one using product pictures:

Flat Pedals

Flat pedals, also called platform pedals, are a simple and classic option. The platform might be large with grippy traction pins for mountain biking, or a slimmer profile with some non-slip texture for smoother riding.

Don’t underestimate this style of pedal for bikepacking; it’s very popular especially on technical rides. Though most cheap pedals are platform style, not all platform pedals are cheap! There are many options in this category, and you can choose from a wide array to suit your budget and riding style.

Flat pedals work especially well for bikepacking on more technical terrain where you may want to put a foot down in a hurry. They’re also popular on long-haul bike trips with a lot of walking and side trips. If you’re used to SPD pedals they may feel less consistent and powerful, but they’re also a good way to practice efficient pedaling technique and body english.

Funn Funndamentals flat pedal on singletrack

Flat pedals are especially great for:

  • Riding with any shoes, especially ones that are good for walking
  • Technical trails
  • Routes with lots of hike-a-bike
  • Bikes used for commuting or errand running
  • Long-haul bikepacking or touring with lots of walking and time off the bike
  • New cyclists who don’t want to deal with having feet attached to the bike just yet

Pros of flat pedals for bikepacking:

  • Compatible with any shoe
  • Easy to put a foot down, whether on technical trails or in chaotic city traffic
  • Can still be used with mud or snow on your shoe bottom
  • Fewer mechanical parts that can fail
  • Can promote good riding technique if you put in the effort

Cons of flat pedals for bikepacking:

  • Foot placement takes more care and can shift around
  • Can’t “pull up” on the pedals or push them as powerfully around the entire circle
  • Feet can bounce off on rough ground
  • Large MTB pedals more prone to nasty rock and shin strikes
  • Won’t feel as smooth and efficient as SPD pedals, especially on smooth consistent terrain

Popular Flat Pedals for Bikepacking

Flat pedals are a popular choice for bikepacking and for mountain biking in general, so there are many options to choose from. Here’s a selection of popular and reliable favorites.


Funn Funndamental

Good value MTB pedal with huge aluminum platform, configurable pins, and Grease Renew System for easy maintenance. I currently use this pedal for bikepacking on my hardtail and find it very grippy and stable.

Best for: mountain biking, rugged bikepacking

Price: $95
Weight per pair: 415 g
Platform size: W105mm x L110mm x H17mm
Pins: 11 per side
Installation: 8mm allen
Rebuild kit available: yes


Race Face Atlas

A light and stylish premium aluminum MTB pedal with large platform and slim concave profile.

Best for: mountain biking, rugged bikepacking

Price: $180
Weight per pair: 376 g
Platform size: W108mm x L110mm x H12mm
Pins: 10 per side
Installation: 8mm allen
Rebuild kit available: yes


Crankbrothers Stamp 3 or 7

Stamp is a classic line of platform pedals at a variety of price points, weights, and sizes. From the most affordable composite Stamp 1 all the way up to the pricey Stamp 11 with its titanium spindle, every model comes in two platform sizes and is serviceable with a refresh kit. For bikepacking I think the Stamp 3 or 7 hit the sweet spot for value and quality, but those on a budget will appreciate the Stamp 2.

Best for: mountain biking, rugged bikepacking

Price: $140, $180 (Stamp 3, 7)
Weight per pair: 351g, 386g (Stamp 3 small, large); 345g, 375g (Stamp 7 small, large)
Platform size: 100 x 100mm (small), 114 x 111mm (large)
Pins: 10 per side
Installation: 8mm allen
Rebuild kit available: yes


MKS Lambda

The Lambda is a surprisingly well-liked platform pedal with a unique design free from aggressive traction pins. I searched long and hard for the best flat pedal to recommend for more mellow bikepacking rides where pins aren’t needed, and this one came out on top. Japanese company MKS makes a variety of interesting pedals, some with a tool-free quick release mechanism (“Ezy Superior”) specially designed for travel and hike-a-bike. If you’re looking for a pin-free platform pedal definitely check out their other offerings too. The MKS RMX is another popular option.

Best for: gravel bikepacking, paved bike touring

Price: $56
Weight per pair: 420 g
Platform size: W76 mm x L114 mm
Pins: none
Installation: allen or pedal wrench
Rebuild kit available: yes


What to Look For in Flat Pedals

In addition to all the general considerations above, pay special attention to these features when choosing flat pedals for bikepacking:

  • Pins: Do you want any? They help with traction but can do serious damage to your shins if your feet slip off or you hit a pedal while hike-a-biking. Most good MTB pedals have pins that are removable and sometimes adjustable in height, so you can configure them to suit your preferences.
  • Pins that screw in from the inside are ideal, so the tiny allen key fitting is protected from rock strikes. If the fitting is damaged your removable pins are no longer removable.
  • Platform size: people with bigger feet often prefer bigger platforms.

SPD Pedals (XC Style)

At the opposite end of the spectrum from flat pedals, we have XC-style or gravel-style SPD pedals. These consist of nothing but a foot retention mechanism on both sides, with no supportive platform, so you’ll need stiff shoes to ride them comfortably. I usually see this type of pedal used by folks who were into cycling at a fairly high recreational level before discovering bikepacking.

If these pedals look a little stark and minimalist, scroll down to the hybrid options below. It’s possible to get many of the benefits of SPD pedals without giving up platforms entirely.

Wish I had a better picture of this pedal type in action, but it’s the only style I don’t currently have on any of my bikes.

XC-Style SPD pedals are especially great for:

  • Gravel or pavement riding with focus on efficiency and speed
  • Weight-conscious and speed-focused bikepack racers

Pros of XC-Style SPD pedals for bikepacking:

  • Consistent foot placement
  • Smooth and powerful pedal stroke
  • Protection against feet bouncing off on rough ground
  • Lightest of all the options
  • Smaller size helps minimize rock and shin strikes

Cons of XC-Style SPD pedals for bikepacking:

  • Require stiff cycling shoes that aren’t great for walking
  • Learning curve; you might fall over once or twice while learning to unclip (but it’s not that hard, I promise)
  • Mud can clog cleats and pedal mechanism, making it very difficult to pedal
  • More mechanical parts that can fail (carry spare cleats and bolts while bikepacking)
  • Can lead to lazy technique

Popular XC-Style SPD Pedals for Bikepacking

Since this style of SPD pedal is just about the foot retention mechanism, there are fewer details (no platform, pins, etc) to consider. Your best bet is a reliable SPD pedal from a respected manufacturer. Shimano, the original creator of the SPD standard (“Shimano Pedaling Dynamics”) is the obvious choice here, so I’ll recommend two different price points and leave it at that.


Shimano PD-M8100 XT XC SPD

If you want reliable high-quality SPD pedals for bikepacking, you can’t go wrong with the Deore XT offering from Shimano. You’ll see these on a LOT of bikes and they get high marks for durability; this video review from bikepacking.com calls them “indestructible.” For a bit more money you can upgrade to the XTR M9100, which is a bit lighter with a 2mm smaller stack height and marginally better at shedding mud.

Best for: fast gravel bikepacking, paved bike touring, bikepack racing

Price: $125
Weight per pair: 342 g
Platform size: n/a
Pins: n/a
Installation: 8mm allen or pedal wrench


Shimano M520 SPD Pedals

For riders on a budget, this is the most affordable XC-style SPD pedal in Shimano’s lineup. It’s a bit heavier and clunkier but you still get the reliability and durability of Shimano pedals.

Best for: fast gravel bikepacking, paved bike touring, bikepack racing

Price: $50
Weight per pair: 380 g
Platform size: n/a
Pins: n/a
Installation: 8mm allen or pedal wrench


What to Look For in SPD Pedals

In addition to all the general considerations above, keep these in mind when choosing SPD pedals:

  • Adjustable tension: most SPD-style mechanisms are adjustable so you can dial in the amount of force needed to clip and unclip. Clipless beginners, folks with tweaky knees, smaller riders, and those who clip and unclip often will all appreciate a looser setting. When bikepacking it can also be helpful to adjust as cleats wear down.
  • Float and release angles: The combination of cleat and retention mechanism results in some amount of “float,” or how much your foot can rotate on the pedal. More float can be helpful for some knee issues. Minor differences in cleats allow for more or less float, variations in release angle, and whether you can release in either direction or just one.
  • Compatibility: SPD-style is definitely the most common, but a few pedal manufacturers use their own proprietary cleats. I suggest choosing a pedal that’s compatible with SPD cleats so you have a chance of finding replacements on the road if needed.

Platform SPD Pedals

This popular style of bikepacking pedal blends the best of both worlds with an SPD mechanism for foot retention and a platform for support and versatility. Sometimes these pedals are called trail-style SPD mountain bike pedals, hybrid SPD pedals, SPD platform pedals, or similar. The defining feature is a platform with SPD clips on both sides (I’ll cover single-sided in the next section).

The idea is that having a platform underfoot, even while clipped in, supports your foot for more comfortable long days. It also allows for riding in more flexible shoes — like my personal favorite the Pearl Izumi X-Alp Canyon — which are better for hike-a-bike and off-bike exploration. Though you can’t comfortably ride for long distances without clipping in (the retention mechanism gets in the way) you can pedal casually from campground to grocery store in your camp sandals, or push through a few clumsy pedal revolutions following a foot dab on a technical trail.

SPD shoe and clipped to pedal for bicycle touring
Platform SPD pedals are a comfortable and versatile choice for bikepacking.

Platform SPD pedals are especially great for:

  • Varied riding on a wide range of surfaces
  • Long-distance bike trips where comfort is more important than weight

Pros of platform SPD pedals for bikepacking:

  • Platform adds comfort, makes it possible to wear more flexible walking-friendly shoes
  • Still possible to pedal (albeit awkwardly) in regular shoes or without clicking in
  • Consistent foot placement
  • Smooth and powerful pedal stroke
  • Protection against feet bouncing off on rough ground

Cons of platform SPD pedals for bikepacking:

  • Learning curve; you might fall over once or twice while learning to unclip (but it’s not that hard, I promise)
  • More mechanical parts that can fail (carry spare cleats and bolts while bikepacking)
  • Clipping in all the time can lead to lazy technique
  • A bit heavier than XC-style SPD pedals (but not enough to matter to most bikepackers)

Popular Platform SPD Pedals for Bikepacking

As with platform pedals in general, SPD hybrid pedals should be chosen with your foot size, riding style, and target terrain in mind. Do you want a large grippy platform underfoot, or just a little bit of support extending around the SPD mechanism? Here are some popular options covering the full range.


Funn Mamba and Mamba S Double-Sided Pedals

These pedals combine an unusually robust and grippy platform with double-sided SPD clips for a versatile ride on rugged terrain. The large platforms mean you can wear a fairly flexible SPD shoe, like my personal favorite the Pearl Izumi X-Alp Canyon, and still enjoy the benefits of SPD pedals. They’re very durable — I’ve been using the single-sided version described below for thousands of miles — and easily serviceable.

For smaller-footed riders the more compact Mamba S saves weight and bulk. The four corner pins can be removed to spare your shins if you prefer. The grippy pins are arguably unnecessary given the SPD mechanism, but the traction on these pedals is unmatched in the hybrid category.

Best for: mountain biking and bikepacking on varied terrain with some rugged sections

Price: $120 (Mamba) or $115 (Mamba S)
Weight per pair: 500g (Mamba) or 465g (Mamba S)
Platform size: W101mm x L102mm x H13.4mm (Mamba) or W83mm x L98mm x H13.4mm (Mamba S)
Pins: 4 per side (removable)
Installation: 8mm allen
Rebuild kit available: yes


Look X-TRACK EN-RAGE Pedals

This sturdy platform SPD pedal is designed to stand up to aggressive trail riding, so it should be durable enough for burly bikepacking trips too. The platform offers an unusual amount of shoe-to-surface contact for good grip even on a smaller platform, while the retention mechanism has a wide range of adjustable tension and a unique engagement feel that testers seem to like.

Best for: mountain biking and bikepacking on varied terrain

Price: $90
Weight per pair: 470g
Platform size: 63mm wide
Pins: none
Installation: 8mm allen
Rebuild kit available: yes


Shimano PD-M8120 XT SPD Trail Pedals

The M8120 is Shimano’s platform hybrid cousin to the M8100 mentioned above. It’s designed to offer extra stability for trail riding, and it provides a nice amount of foot support on long days without being too bulky. Unlike the Mamba above it doesn’t have pins, which makes it more shin-friendly. As with all of Shimano’s pedals, it’s a quality build that should last a long time.

Best for: mountain biking and bikepacking on varied terrain

Price: $130
Weight per pair: 438g
Platform size: ? (on the small side)
Pins: none
Installation: 8mm allen


Shimano PD-ED500 Road Touring Pedals

I’ve had these affordable and durable Shimano pedals on my road touring bike for years. They’re not quite enough pedal for rough dirt, but I love them for relatively smooth riding on gravel and pavement. The SPD mechanism is “light action” for ease of clipping and unclipping, whether on a sketchy descent or navigating urban traffic on your resupply stop.

Best for: gravel bikepacking and road touring

Price: $60
Weight per pair: 442g
Platform size: ? (on the small side)
Pins: none
Installation: 8mm allen


Single-Sided SPD Pedals

For many bikepackers this style is the ultimate in long-haul pedal design: SPD on one side and flat platform on the other. Similarly to the double-sided platform SPD pedals above, the platform supports your foot and allows for some pedaling while not clipped in.

The main difference between this style and the double-sided SPD pedals above: the platform-only side works just as well as a regular platform pedal, so you could actually ride for days with a non-SPD shoe if needed or desired. The first time you lose a cleat bolt (always bring a spare!), get blisters from your cycling shoes, or find your shoes coated in an inch of peanut butter mud, you’ll understand why this matters.

The only real downside to these pedals, from a bikepacking perspective, is that you need to pay attention to which side is up. If you’re switching often between the SPD side and the platform side, you’ll grow adept at glancing down or even feeling with your foot to spin the desired side up. This is a minor annoyance, but it can add up. If a route is technical enough that I’m riding the platform side more than, say, 30% of the time, these days I just go with a simple platform pedal.

Riding the platform of a single-sided Funn Mamba in the snow while my cleats are caked in frozen mud.

Single-sided SPD pedals are especially great for:

  • Varied riding on a wide range of surfaces including technical sections
  • Long trips where anything can happen, including to your cycling shoes
  • Long-distance bike trips where comfort is more important than weight

Pros of single-sided SPD pedals for bikepacking:

  • Possible to pedal normally in regular shoes or without clicking in
  • Platform adds comfort, makes it possible to wear more flexible walking-friendly shoes
  • Consistent foot placement with SPD side
  • Smooth and powerful pedal stroke
  • Protection against feet bouncing off on rough ground

Cons of single-sided SPD pedals for bikepacking:

  • Pedal needs to be facing the right way before engaging
  • A bit heavier than XC-style SPD pedals (but not enough to matter to most bikepackers)

Popular Single-Sided SPD Pedals for Bikepacking

Single-sided SPD pedals should be chosen with your target terrain, shoe type, and foot size in mind. Do you plan on riding the platform side fairly often as you navigate technical sections of trail, especially in a flexible shoe? You’ll want something big, supportive, and grippy. Will you mostly be riding gravel roads while clipped in, using the platform side just for casual riding around town or in case of shoe problems? Consider a smaller and more streamlined platform.


Funn Mamba and Mamba S Single-Sided Pedals

This is the one-sided version of the platform SPD pedal mentioned above, and my favorite bikepacking pedal. Like the double-sided version it comes in two sizes, the beefy regular Mamba and the compact Mamba S. Pins are configurable and removable, grease can be renewed through an easy port, and the entire pedal spindle and bearings can be rebuilt if you actually manage to wear out the innards of this durable pedal.

These pedals stand out for a platform side that’s actually rideable on rough ground, thanks to the aggressive pins and large footprint. It makes a fantastic bikepacking pedal for mixed-terrain routes that include a bit of everything, from gravel to rough 4×4 roads to singletrack.

Best for: mountain biking and bikepacking on varied terrain with some rugged sections

Price: $115 (Mamba) or $110 (Mamba S)
Weight per pair: 455g (Mamba) or 402g (Mamba S)
Platform size: W101mm x L102mm x H13.4mm (Mamba) or W83mm x L98mm x H13.4mm (Mamba S)
Pins: 11 per side
Installation: 8mm allen
Rebuild kit available: yes


Shimano EH500 SPD Sport Road Pedals

Shimano calls these “road” pedals, but the platform side has 8 pins and should be suitable for gravel and a bit of light trail, especially if you’re mostly riding clipped in. The SPD side is Shimano’s “light action” mechanism for ease of clipping and unclipping, whether on a sketchy descent or navigating urban traffic on your resupply stop.

Best for: gravel bikepacking and road touring, and some light trail riding

Price: $80
Weight per pair: 383g
Platform size: ? (on the small side)
Pins: 8 on platform side
Installation: 6mm allen or pedal wrench


Rockbros MTB Single-Sided SPD Pedals

I have not tried these, nor are they an established quality option, but if you’re looking for a single-sided SPD pedal on a budget their price can’t be beat. Rockbros has done a decent job imitating other bikepacking gear at budget prices; my first bikepacking setup used several Rockbros bags. I would expect these pedals to get the job done for shorter trips while lacking in the finer points of design and eventually wearing out. Design-wise they are suitable for more rugged riding, similar to the Mamba but likely not as solid and grippy.

Best for: mountain biking and bikepacking on varied terrain, on a small budget

Price: $40
Weight per pair: 440g
Platform size: L101 x W92 x H17mm
Pins: 8 on platform side
Installation: allen


The Bikepacking Shoe Dilemma

Many bikepackers, especially those who like to ride with SPD pedals, agonize over whether their bike shoes should be their only shoes for a long trip. Generally the more aggressively a shoe is optimized for speed and efficiency on the bike, the less well it works for walking off the bike.

Though SPD cleats are recessed into the bottom of the sole, a shoe’s stiffness can still interfere with walking. A stiff and aggressive carbon shoe won’t be very comfy for strolling around town or taking a hike from the campground. More casual SPD shoes and flat MTB shoes are flexier, but if you plan to do a lot of walking or hiking on your bikepacking trip they still may feel limiting.

Here’s the range of solutions typically used, in order from most minimalist and pedaling-focused (prioritizing time on the bike) to least minimalist and walking-focused (prioritizing time off the bike):

  1. Bring only bike shoes; you’ll be riding most of the day anyway.
  2. Bring only bike shoes but choose ones you can walk a few miles in, especially if you remove the cleats.
  3. Bring bike shoes plus a pair of comfortable camp sandals, which you can also wear around town or for short hikes.
  4. Bring bike shoes for biking and carry a lightweight pair of running shoes. This might be necessary for a long trip where you want to mix in plenty of sightseeing or hiking, or if the weather is cold and sandals won’t cut it.
  5. Bring only running or hiking shoes and ride in them too. While I did this for a few thousand miles in my early days of touring, it’s a much less efficient way to pedal and I would definitely find it frustrating now.

I usually go with option #2 or #3 above. I’ve ridden several trips of a month or longer with Pearl Izumi X-Alp Canyon SPD shoes (relatively walkable) and a pair of sports sandals. This worked for me on the Great Divide, a tour in northern Africa, and a month on the Western Wildlands Route, to name the biggest ones.

Pro tip: If you’ll be doing a lot of walking in your SPD bike shoes, such as a few days of sightseeing on foot, consider removing the cleats. This eliminates that awful grinding sound on uneven ground and prevents extra wear and tear on your cleats.

Bikepacking can be hard on shoes! These are mine after a few thousand miles.

Other Pedal-Related Bikepacking Tips

A few odds and ends learned the hard way:

Pack a spare cleat and a few spare bolts in your bikepacking tools and spares kit. If you have problems with bolts coming loose, add a dab of blue Loctite.

Grease the threads when you install the pedals. It’ll make them much easier to take off, especially with your multi-tool at the airport as you’re attempting to pack your bike.

Remember “loose toward the caboose” when removing pedals. The left pedal is reverse-threaded, which means you need to rotate the tool handle clockwise to loosen it. With the tool handle pointing upward, above horizontal — the position it’s likely to be in while you’re standing next to your upright bike — you’ll be pulling the handle toward the back of the bike to loosen both pedals.

Service your pedals periodically to extend their life, especially if you have a good quality pair. When you start to feel a little bit of play in the spindle relative to the pedal body, or if they don’t spin as smoothly as they used to, it’s time. There are many different designs and some are easier than others to DIY, but your bike shop can help you figure out what’s needed.

As you can see, there’s no single perfect pedal for bikepacking. It all depends on what kind of riding you want to do and how you prioritize your time on the bike versus off. Fortunately pedals are easy to swap, so don’t stress too much about your choice. The only way to know for sure if you’ll like a particular pedal is to go ride on it.

More Bikepacking Resources

About the Author

Hi there, I’m Alissa, founder of Exploring Wild. I’ve traveled over 19,000 miles by bike and still can’t stop planning my next ride (and helping you plan yours). Pavement and panniers or singletrack and seat bag, I love it all. On my bike I feel free. Learn more about me here.

Shop Bikepacking Resources

digital help with planning, riding, and problem solving

Excited to try bikepacking but need help getting started? The Bikepacking Trip Planner Workbook can help you take the next step.

Bike resources in your inbox?

There’s more where this came from! Sign up here for occasional emails full of inspiration and information about bikepacking and bicycle touring.

Town Day Checklist!

Sign up to receive the free downloadable bikepacking town day checklist to help with your resupply stops:

    You’ll also receive occasional emails with other bikepacking and touring resources. I think you’ll like them, but you can unsubscribe at any time.

    Share the Adventure

    If you found this article helpful, please consider sharing so more people can benefit from it:

    2 thoughts on “Bikepacking Pedals: How to Choose + Picks For Every Style”

    1. Thank you for a well written, very informative article! As a large male with a size 14 shoe I’ve found myself up against the upper weight and size limit for some pedals (and some bikes!). Extra research is required to stay within recommended tolerances, which include the total load of all the gear. Clipless pedals, especially small ones like the egg beaters, don’t spread out the pressure enough for me. I found DMR Vault pedals an excellent fit, and really enjoy not having a specialized pair of shoes. I noticed you have Power Grips straps in the photo of your pedal collection, but you don’t mention it in the article. How did those work for you? I have a set on my grocery getter, but I’m looking for your experience with them on longer trips. Thank you again for sharing your wisdom!

      Reply
      • Hi Tommy, thanks for sharing that experience with a problem I, a small-footed individual, have no experience with. I toured with Power Grips for a few thousand miles before switching to clipless. At the time I liked them, but I wouldn’t go back to them now – too much fussing with foot placement and not as secure as SPD clips. Then again, it was always tough to get them adjusted right for my small feet, a problem you likely don’t have. 🙂

        Reply

    Leave a Comment

    Item added to cart.
    0 items - $0.00