Michael Hanslip Coaching

If you want to go faster, you have to pedal harder

Flat Pedals

What makes a good flat pedal?
There are hundreds of flat pedals out there. Some brands offer many more than one option. How to pick? What to look for? What to avoid?
The more aggressive the bike and the riding that will be taking place, the more aggressive the pedal should also be. Harmony works. That means a DH bike requires a more aggressive pedal than the bike you want to ride on the neighbourhood singletrack with your kids.
Metal pedals are more difficult to damage than nylon ones, but cost more, weigh more and are still susceptible to ruin from a single rock. When mountain biking, most people don't get a chance to wear out their pedals. More likely, they are beaten into submission by continuous impact with rocks, roots and the ground.
I hit a pedal into the face of a jump when a prior incident meant I was one-footed. I didn't consider just how much the suspension compresses under the load of a jump face. I was ejected from the bike and the pedal was twisted into a new shape.
So nylon pedals can be a good choice. Loads of colours; and the colour runs through the entire pedal (so scratches don't show). A big impact will tear/fracture the nylon, but that same impact might just have bent the metal pedal out of shape anyway.
I don't like grub screw pins. Their traction isn't the best, regardless of length. They are easily damaged on the upper surface, and that makes them more difficult to remove. I'd also argue they aren't aesthetically pleasing, but that is a minor complaint.
Most bottom loading pins are a better option. The pointy end can break off or bend yet it still can be removed via the head under the pedal.
Some top loading pins are also OK. I have two pairs of old E*13 LG1+ pedals. They use top loading pins that are threaded in from the opposite side of the pedal - the Allen key runs fully through the pedal body to engage the pin. This permits a big shoulder supporting the pins against the pedal body while also making the remnants easy to remove because the threaded part is never damaged.
Pedal shape can be concave, convex or flat. And this can be further modified by the pins heights across the pedal. Long pins are more vulnerable than short pins so I'm not a fan of too-long pins. Making a flat pedal concave by long pins at the front and rear edges isn't as robust as properly concave pedal bodies.
Concave pedals make your foot feel attached to the pedal. Convex pedals force your shoe to wrap around the pedal body. Flat pedals fall in between.
Pedal size should vary with shoe size somewhat. Crank Brothers has it right with two sizes of flats to suit most adult feet. Some pedals are extra large or extra small - don't stray too far from the average without a reason.
Pedals can run on bearings, bushings or a combo of both. Bushings work pretty well, until they wear a little and then the pedal has loads of play in it. Bearings maintain their form longer than a bushing in terms of wear, but the bearing itself can wear faster than a bushing (depending on bushing type, and protection from contamination).
Bearings tend to be bigger in diameter than bushings. Many pedals have a large bearing up close to the crank arm that creates a bump on the inner edge of the pedal. This bump usually interferes with shoe placement. Beware the bump, but don't avoid completely (many great pedals have the bump).
Axles are usually steel, unless you pay a lot and get titanium. Ti can be accompanied by a magnesium pedal body. The combo is very light and very expensive - also quite fragile. Mg doesn't hold up as well as Al. Ti is 2/3 the weight of steel in the same dimensions, but not as strong. Ti axles usually have a weight limit.
The thinner the pedal body, the better it feels under foot. How thin they can be depends on the shape (convex/concave) and the bearing style (bushings tend to be smaller than ball bearings).
The Spank Oozy and Straitline AMP are very similar to each other and close to my ideal pedal. Thin with a good chamfered leading edge to not get hung up on rocks, slightly concave, enough meaty pins to make traction great while not succumbing to every rock and decent bushings without a massive lump on the inside. Straitline has given up (no more MTB products from them) while Spank has slightly redesigned the Oozy (haven't tried the new one) - but you get the idea.