Clipless Vs Flat Pedal Efficiency: Understanding The Real Deal

Are you seeking a solution to the never-ending clipless vs. flat pedal efficiency argument? Then, you’re in the right place.

When it comes to opting for pedals for your mountain bike, you got two choices: Clipless pedals or Flat pedals. Most cyclists began their journey by learning to ride a bike with flat pedals.

Some riders continue to use flat pedals, and many off-road riders prefer them, but many riders, particularly those on the road, have switched to clipless pedals.

The main difference between a clipless bicycle pedal and a flat bicycle pedal  is that a clipless bicycle paddle will hook your shoe into your bicycle pedal, whereas a flat pedal is the usual traditional flat bicycle pedal.

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When debating about the clipless vs. flat pedal efficiency, the first product that comes to my mind is none other than the Shimano PD-M530clipless pedal.

Individuals who are fans of Shimano Pedaling Dynamics (SPDs) with a cage may appreciate the Shimano PD-M530. The enclosure provides enough side support for most trail shoes.

Because of its basic cup and cone bearings, the Shimano PD-M530 is reasonably inexpensive and has an extensive life span. In addition, the device functions effectively with a reasonable, acceptable degree of buoyancy and a valuable range of tension adjustment.

Because it’s a structure that almost every shoe is built on, it’s no surprise that all of the shoes I have tried fit flawlessly.

Although with only one side sprung, entrance choices are slightly limited than for other rivals; the shaping mechanism implies that it doesn’t get too caught up on pebbles.

When not clipped in, the integrated cage improves stability and control while protecting the binding mechanism from collisions. The product also offers best-in-class mud and debris shedding.

With a platform size of 9.17 x 5.59 x 2.83 inches and an average weight of 455g, this off-road centric clipless pedal is among the lightest pedals available out there in the market today.

The product also comes equipped with Optional SM-PD60 Reflectors. The Low-maintenance sealed cartridge axle is an added advantage.



One can never miss out on Shimano’s PD-M8140 flat pedal while discussing clipless vs. flat pedal efficiency.

The Shimano PD-M8140 off-road series flat pedal is a concave platform with ten pins on each side. As a result, the pedals are excellent in shedding mud.

These excellent pedals are available in two sizes. Riders with a shoe size of 36-43 should choose the small-medium, while those with a shoe size of 43 and more should select the bigger. The smaller platform is 460g, while the larger one is 503g.

The M8040’s broad platform is quite handy, and there is a bit more room for your foot right on the sleeve because there is no bulge within. In addition, the tap has a lot of grip because of its concave form and high pins.

With a central measurement of 18mm and a leading and trailing edge of 20 mm, the M8040s are a little thick for a modern flat pedal. The platform size is 100mm x 105mm for S/M and 110mm x 115mm for M/L.



Difference between Shimano PD-M530 Clipless & Shimano XT PD-M8140 Flat Pedal

As I have mentioned above, the Shimano PD-M530 is a clipless pedal, while the Shimano PD-M8140 is a conventional flat pedal.

The Shimano PD-M530 is a cage-type pedal with Shimano Pedaling Dynamics (SRDs), while the Shimano XT PD-M8140 is a flat pedal with ten pins on both sides for added comfort and grip.

The PD-M530 weighs around 455g, while the XT PD-M8140 weighs from 460g to 503g.

The clipless pedal comes in a standard size, while the flat pedal is offered in two size variants, Small/Medium and Medium/Large, which fits riders with shoe sizes 36-43 and 43 above, respectively.

The platform size of Shimano PD-M530 is 9.17 x 5.59 x 2.83 inches, while the Shimano XT PD-M8140 is offered in two platform sizes, 100mm x 105mm for S/M and 110mm x 115mm for M/L.

The clipless pedal belongs to Shimano Deore M6000 Series, while the flat pedal belongs to Shimano Deore XT M8100 Series.

Similarities between Shimano PD-M530 Clipless & Shimano XT PD-M8140 Flat Pedal

Both the Shimano PD-M530 Clipless pedal & Shimano XT PD-M8140 Flat pedal are manufactured by the cycling component giants Shimano.

Both the PD-M530 and XT PD-M8140 are off-road-centric pedals. As a result, they are among the best value-for-money pedals available in the market.

The Shimano PD-M530 and Shimano XT PD-M8140 offer excellent collision clearance while tackling tricky and adventurous mountain trails.

Both the pedals offer sealed mechanisms with low-maintenance cartridge axles. In addition, the pedals come equipped with the option for the addition of a reflector for added safety and visibility.

Who Should Get Shimano PD-M530 Clipless Pedal

You’ve undoubtedly considered the advantages of utilizing clipless pedals over flat pedals, whether you’re new to mountain biking or a seasoned veteran.

There are various viewpoints on which is the most excellent option, but as with many component questions, the question isn’t which is best, but which is best for you.

Shimano Pedaling Dynamics (SPD) pedal technology was created to satisfy the needs of a wide range of mountain biking techniques. It was the first commonly used clipless mountain bike pedal.

When pedaling hard, many riders prefer clipless pedals because they give a more stable and robust feeling.

When climbing, you may use the pedal stroke to pull up and push down, generating greater power and making the most of your efforts. Cross-country racers do not use flat pedals for this reason.

Shimano’s PD-M530 SPD Pedals are an excellent choice if you want a Pedal with a straightforward entry and exit, broad, sturdy platforms, and an open, mud-shedding design.

External cages provide additional shoe support and leverage while allowing you to ride unclipped on rugged terrain and from stops. And, thanks to the PD-low-maintenance M530’s sealed bearings and adjustable cleat tension, you can get the right fit.

Who Should Get Shimano XT PD-M8140 Flat Pedal

Ask yourself what kind of rider you are and the terrain you usually ride while looking for pedals. Shimano offers a wide selection of flat pedals to satisfy the needs of various types of riders.

Shimano pedals set the standard in performance, whether you prefer a pedal with a broader platform and lengthy pins to keep your foot in place or a minimalistic design that sheds dirt fast.

Flat pedals, often known as platform pedals, provide a large, flat surface for your feet.
While these pedals may be used with regular shoes, many flat pedal users prefer mountain bike shoes with sticky rubber bottoms for better traction.

Shimano takes it a step further with flat pedal and shoe designs that function as a system, allowing for a more comprehensive interface between the pedal and the shoe while improving grip.

Many mountain bikers opt for flat pedals because there are occasions when you don’t want a mechanical connection to your bike. Flat pedals are preferred by dirt jumpers, bike park riders, and sure downhill racers.

Flat pedals are available in many different sizes, forms, and materials. Downhill racers and free-riders emphasize durability and security over overweight reductions.

Many trail and enduro riders prefer the Shimano Deore XT PD-M8140 flat pedals because of their versatility.

They’re available in two sizes: small-medium and medium-large, and they provide the best balance of weight and durability for all riding conditions.

Are Clipless Pedals More Efficient?

The clipless vs. flat pedal efficiency is still a debatable topic among most riders.

Flat pedals are less efficient than clipless pedals, especially if you are mountain riding or city bicycling.

Clipless pedals provide additional power by using force and energy on both the up and down strokes. They also retain your feet securely on the pedals while allowing for a fast foot release when you come to a halt.

The effectiveness of clipless pedals is a hot topic among serious mountain bikers and urban cyclists. Some argue that clipless pedals are no more energy-efficient than flat pedals, except that clipless pedals keep your feet in place.

However, most cyclists believe that clipless pedals are more efficient. Professional cyclists prefer them.

Clipless pedals’ primary advantage is the ability to apply force on the pedals during the upstroke. Your foot is not connected to the pedals if you do not have a clipless pedal system.

When your foot returns to the upstroke position following the downstroke, you’re just utilizing the force applied to the pedal by the downstroke. With your upstroke, you’re not generating any additional energy.

Clipless pedals will increase pedaling efficiency and allow a rider to transfer more power from the legs and feet to the bike’s motor train. The more power delivered, the quicker the vehicle will be.


Find out if clipless pedals are worth buying for mountain biking with our in-depth unbiased guide.

Why Do Mountain Bikers Use Flat Pedals?

For some people, being physically linked to a bike generates confidence, whereas, for others, it instills anxiety. As a result, an increasing number of riders and racers are opting for flat pedals over clipped pedals.

Flat pedals give you a lot of confidence when you’re training, allowing you to try a lot of high-risk moves. In addition, they provide your input from the bike and will enable you to make adjustments as needed.

They provide you with a lot of control in an emergency, so you don’t have to worry about crashing. In addition, flat pedals prevent you from cheating when jumping, allowing you to exercise correctly.

Clipless pedals give greater power for storming up hills and keeping your feet firmly planted on the way down; nevertheless, many riders acquire poor habits due to using them.

On the other hand, flat pedals force riders to practice appropriate techniques and build good riding habits that will help them enhance their skills. Modern flat pedals are also lighter, stronger, and give better traction.


Want to ride Flat Pedals more efficiently? Check out our  guide on flat paddle riding to get the useful tips.

Can I Get My Foot Out In Time While Using Clipless Pedals?

First and foremost, don’t be concerned. It’s not as challenging as it appears, and you’ll be able to clip in and out without thinking about it at any time. With practice, you will be able to overcome your phobias.

Practice clipping in and out of your bike while resting against a wall. It doesn’t matter if you want to clip out your left or right foot; it’s up to you.

Remember that when you come to a halt, you only need to clip off one foot so you may place it on the ground. You can usually change the release tension of the pedals on most pedals.

To make engagement and release simpler, start with low tension.

It’s also worth noting that some manufacturers provide pedals that don’t have a tension setting and are labeled as “easy-release” or similar pedals, which are an excellent place to start for people new to clipless pedals.

Are Clipless Pedals Recommended For Novice Riders?

If you’re a total beginner, many individuals begin by utilizing a regular platform pedal, similar to those found on a standard bike and which can be used with a typical training shoe.

Get used to riding your bike before you worry about the complicated business of needing to clip in and out of a pedal.

After gaining enough expertise, many riders migrate to SPD pedals, which have a recessed cleat in the shoe, making it easier to walk without sliding or damaging the cleat.

SPD pedals are generally used on mountain bikes and have a recessed cleat in the shoe, making it easier to walk without slipping or damaging the cleat.

SPD pedals are frequently double-sided, which makes clipping a breeze. Other pedals provide the option of clipping in on one side or having a flat platform on the other, allowing you to use standard training shoes.

Are Cleats Universal For All Pedal Systems?

No! Cleats are not universal. Instead, different pedal systems require specifically supported cleats.

Some shoes with the 3-bolt system allow several cleats, and some even take both 3-bolt and 2-bolt cleats.

Whatever pedal and shoes you pick, ensure the cleats are suitable according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Moreover, cleats deteriorate with time and must be replaced. Various things, including your mileage, determine the frequency, the number of times you have to clip in and out, and the amount of walking you do on them.

It would help if you walked as little as possible in your cleats since they will rapidly wear out.

Some cleats include an extra rubberized coating to help them last longer and keep you safe while walking. Walking in cleats is a talent in and of itself, so proceed with caution.

Should Pedals Spin Freely?

The pedals should not be able to spin freely. It shouldn’t take much more than a light touch to get them to swing in the first place.

The pedal most likely has a ‘heavy end,’ which should rotate to the ‘down’ position, which should allow you to ‘clip in.’

If the pedals are difficult to rotate, the bearings are likely filthy and in need of repair, or they may need to be adjusted. They should be able to move freely but not spin erratically.

Single-sided clip-in pedals are weighted such that the front of the pedal tips up slightly to aid engagement; if they don’t return to this position on their own, they may require service.

Final Conclusion

A good pair of shoes and pedals are essential for a great bike ride. They are tough, long-lasting, and easily interchangeable from bike to bike. That, in my opinion, makes it far more beneficial to invest in, rather than in something like a new drivetrain.

Ride anything you want; either way, you’ll be one step closer to having a good time. We also have an in-depth checklist on mountain bike maintenance so, do check it out.  

Biking Know How aims to share our passion and experience about the outdoors and mountain biking with you. Ultimately we want to encourage you to hit the mountains on your excellent mountain bike.