Checking the pedals is probably your least priority when buying an indoor bike. However, the exercise bike pedal design still requires your attention to ensure it matches your workout style and preference.

A flat pedal, for example, suits newbie riders still learning the basics of indoor cycling. Toe cage pedals are ideal for intermediate riders who want to enhance their pedalling efficiency. On the other hand, clipless and dual-sided pedals are perfect for seasoned riders who are into intense workouts.

Let’s differentiate these pedal types and identify their pros and cons.

That way, you’ll know which exercise bike pedal to get for optimum cycling workouts.

What are the Different Types of Exercise Bike Pedals?

There are currently four exercise bike pedal designs available. These are flat, toe cage, clipless, and hybrid pedals. Each type has advantages and disadvantages.

1. Flat Pedals

Flat or platform pedals are the most basic type. Its design is similar to the first bike you used as a kid.

Flat pedals in exercise bikes are usual in air, upright, and recumbent bike types. These may come in metal or plastic with or without adjustable straps.

Flat pedals with straps are better as these keep your feet on the pedals, especially during hip flexion or upstroke motion.

Choose flat pedals if you are new to exercise bikes. This type lets you freely move and remove your feet, lessening the distraction that continuous foot-and-pedal attachment might cause.

More affordable than clipless pedalsFoot can slip off the pedalBeginners trying to boost their indoor cycling skill
Work with any shoeNot as efficient as clipless pedals 
Easy to use  

If you like exercise bikes with flat pedals, check out our reviews on Pro-Form 8.0 and Lifespan Fitness Exer-90H.

Toe Cage Pedal Design on Spin Bikes

2. Toe Cage Pedals

Toe cage or toe clip pedals are your upgraded flat pedals. These pedals have plastic or metal straps on top, forming a cage-shaped case.

You slide your foot into each cage, then tighten the straps for a secure fit. With toe cages, your feet stay in place during workouts, allowing you to perform more efficient upstrokes.

The best part about this exercise bike pedal design is that there is no physical connection between the pedals and your shoes.

That means you can balance free and secure foot movement while working out.

Choose toe cage pedals for faster cadences or cycling at higher resistance levels. These are also ideal when you want to sit and stand while pedalling.

More affordable than clipless pedalsNeed hand tightening for maximum benefitsIntermediate riders trying to improve their pedalling efficiency
Work with any shoeMay require retightening mid-workout 
Prevent the feet from slipping off the pedal  

For our recommended exercise bike with toe cage pedals, check out our Lifespan Fitness SP-310 review.

3. Clipless Pedals

Clipless pedals require you to lock or clip your cycling shoes into the pedal.

Most people are often confused by this exercise bike pedal design, wondering why a pedal that clips is called clipless.

The term clipless only means that this pedal has no clips, straps, or cages on the pedals. Instead, clipless pedals use the cleats on your cycling shoes to link the pedal and shoe together.

Compared with toe cages, clipless pedals provide a more secure feet-and-pedal connection for higher pedalling efficiency and maximum power (Burns and Kram, 2020).

Some think this pedal-shoe clipping system is dangerous. However, there is little to zero risk of falling off an exercise bike.

Moreover, clipless pedals have a quick disengaging feature, so you don’t need to worry about falling and getting stuck on your bike pedal.

Choose clipless pedals if you enjoy uphill cycling or riding on an incline. This exercise bike pedal design is also best for cycling at faster speed levels.

Provide the highest pedalling efficiencyClipping in and off need practiceSeasoned riders who prefer uphill cycling or biking at faster speeds
Allow optimum power transfer for faster cyclingMore expensive than flat and toe cage pedals 
Keep the feet and shin safe and free from injuryRequire matching or the right kind of shoes 

Note that cycling shoes and clipless pedals should have a matching bolt or hole system to work together.

The SPD (Shimano Pedaling Dynamics) is the most popular two-bolt system. Another is the Delta or three-bolt system, which is less common.

Some pedals and cleats also have a four-bolt design.

Indoor Cycling Shoes

4. Hybrid Pedals

Hybrid or dual-sided pedals have a toe cage on one side and a clipless pedal on the other.

This exercise bike pedal design is becoming more common, especially in mid-range and high-end models.

Among the pedal types described, this one is the most versatile. It gives riders the chance to practice clipping in and the option to switch to toe cages whenever they want to.

One thing I like about hybrid pedals is that they encourage exercise variety and target various cycling metrics like power and speed.

Choose hybrid pedals if you are sharing your exercise bike with multiple riders. These pedals are also perfect if you wish to gain the benefits of toe-cage and clipless cycling.

Versatile and ideal for families or multiple users sharing a bikeNot as efficient as dedicated flat and clipless pedalsExperienced riders who are into casual and intense cycling workouts
Work with regular and clip-in shoes  
Encourage indoor cycling progress  

Here are our recommended indoor exercise bikes with hybrid pedals, check out our reviews on NordicTrack Commercial S22i and BH Fitness SB3.

Which Exercise Bike Pedal Design Should You Choose?

Your choice of a bike pedal design should depend on your indoor cycling skills and fitness goals.

Each pedal design has features that match a particular user type. Some pedals support beginners, while others are best suited for experienced riders. Some pedal designs help with basic training, while others support more challenging stationary bike workouts.

More importantly, it should match your preference and comfort zone. If you do not feel comfortable with the pedals you are using, it could affect your performance and workout gains.

The exercise bike pedal design that matches your fitness level and workout needs is the best for you. Go for a flat pedal if you’re a beginner or a toe cage type for secure intermediate-level cycling. Then, shift to clipless or hybrid pedals once you start on more challenging stationary bike workouts.

The pedal type, however, is only one factor to consider when choosing an indoor exercise bike. Make sure not to disregard its other essential features.

And don’t worry if your ideal exercise bike does not have the pedal design you like.

You can always swap it with your preferred pair of pedals immediately or later as you progress.

Flat Pedal Design with Strap

1. Is it OK to move the spin bike pedal backward?

Reverse cycling or pedalling backwards is mechanically possible if your bike has a flywheel plus a tension band or magnetic resistance. With these two features, your stationary bike will operate even if you pedal in an anti-clockwise direction. You can find both conditions in spin, recumbent, and upright bike types. Researchers noted that reverse cycling has several benefits, like better caloric burn and muscle activation.

2. Why does my exercise bike make noises while I’m pedalling?

A noisy bike has several causes, such as loose pedals or dirty bearings. Make sure to identify the source of the noise. Alternatively, you can hire a professional machine technician to fix the problem and avoid damaging your exercise bike.

3. Can I use clipless pedals with non-cycling shoes?

You may wear regular sneakers or trainers while riding a stationary bike with clipless pedals. However, the ride will not be comfortable. Clipless pedals are small in size and have holes. These may not suit regular shoes with wide and soft soles.