Composite vs. Aluminum Flat Pedals: We Put 3 Brands Head to Head to Compare

All photos by Carolyn Baldwin

With so many flat pedals on the market these days it’s almost impossible to decide what to get. Do you go for color? Shape? Pin layout? Platform material? For those of you who think a pedal is a pedal, there’s more to it than looks alone. In this flat pedal roundup, we compare aluminum and composite pedal models from three separate brands.

Race Face ChesterRace Face AeffectOneUp CompositeOneUp Aluminume*thirteen Basee*thirteen Plus
MaterialCompositeAluminumCompositeAluminumCompositeAluminum
Price$49.99-59.99$119$59$129$54.95$149
Weight260g375g355g365g399g441g
Platform size110x101mm101x100mm115x105mm115×105100x110mm100x110mm
Platform height18.4mm16.9mm18.5mm12-8.3mm15.1-16.6mm14-16.5mm
Pins per side81010101111
ShapeConvexFlatConvexConvexConcaveConcave
AxleChromolyChromolyChromolyChromolySteel, rebuildableSteel, rebuildable
BearingsBearings and bushingsBearings and bushingsDU / cartridgeServiceable, sealed bearingBearing and bushingTriple bearing
AvailabilityCompare PricesCompare PricesCompare PricesCompare PricesCompare PricesCompare Prices

e*thirteen Flat Pedals

e*thirteen Base: Composite Pedal

Even the local bees thought these pedals were a pretty sweet deal.

The e*thirteen Base Pedal has a lot to offer riders at an unbeatable price. With a large concave platform and an abundance of pins, the Base Pedal gives your feet all sorts of space to get settled in for the ride. With sharp lines and clean shapes, e*thirteen put as much effort into making these pedals look good as they did into making a high-quality bike part at an affordable price. For only $54.95 these affordable composite flat pedals bring a lot of value to the table. 

The platform itself is robust and offers a lot of surface area to stand on. The body of the pedal itself is concave, meaning the axle is thinner than the leading and trailing edges, creating a bit of a cavity for your shoe to flex into for extra security. 

Totalling 22 removable 6mm steel pins, these Base Level composite pedals proved to be the prickliest of pedals in our line up. Included in the box was a pack of 22 4mm pins, giving you the option to carry spares or fine-tune the fit and feel of the pedals. I really like the distribution of the pins because you don’t have to be lined up perfectly to still get a whole lot of bite. 

At a glance, these pedals look perfect. Huge platform, plenty of pins for grip, and a cozy concave nook to nestle into. After my experiences riding the other two composite options I was ready to be dazzled and fall in love at first ride. Unfortunately, the chemistry wasn’t quite there and the e*thirteen Base Pedal and I decided to remain friends. 

By testing these second to last, I can’t help but wonder if I got spoiled by the lower profile of the other pedals in the lineup. Similar to the Race Face Aeffect pedals, the Base Pedal offers up a taller stack height, putting the bulk of your weight a few millimeters higher than the spindle when compared to the OneUp Composite or Aluminum and the Race Face Chester pedals. Despite having a large platform to stand on, I still felt like I wasn’t in a position to really leverage the bike with my feet. It felt as though I was riding on top of my bike, not riding in it. 

Say what you will about nitpicking small details, but bike fit is a game of millimeters. Subtle changes can make a huge difference in comfort and performance, and flat pedal performance is no exception. My original theory was that the platform of the pedals was simply too big for my feet and that someone with a larger footprint would benefit from these pedals, but when I compared the measurements of these with my preferred pedals (the OneUp Aluminum), I was surprised to see that they weren’t too far off from each other. 

In the end, I think the Base Pedals have a lot to offer. While I didn’t quite find myself enjoying them as much as I had hoped, I wouldn’t completely rule them out for other riders. If I were to keep riding these pedals, I would simply have to work a little extra to make sure my feet stay attached. 

e*thirteen Plus: Aluminum Pedal

Everyone dreams of having a little red sports car parked in the garage, ready to break out for a weekend cruising in the mountains, right? That’s the feeling I got when I unpacked these pedals for the first time. It’s hard to ignore the beautiful anodized red color of these machined beauties. e*thirteen has found a recipe for success in their pedal design, creating two distinct product tiers that don’t skimp on performance or looks. Just like their Base pedal, the e*thirteen Plus Pedals bring a generous platform, a plethora of pins, and a few upgraded details that help sweeten the deal. 

Design-wise, the two pedals are more or less fraternal twins, featuring a lot of similar design elements with subtle changes. At a glance, the most distinct difference is the bulge in the axle by the threads. This is housing one of two bearings, whereas the Base model has a slimmer profile with a bearing/bushing combo. I didn’t mind the extra bulge, but I did notice that it puts the pedaling platform slightly further away from your cranks. 

Much like the composite version, the Plus pedals feature 22 removable traction pins and a 100x110mm platform. This premium version does not include spare pins in the box, so make sure you order extras if you’re prone to pedal strikes. The pins are hexagonal and smooth at the tip, giving them a more precise bite than threaded screws. The grip performance of the Plus pedals is similar to the Base model, and there’s plenty of it but you have to work a little harder to hang on compared to other pedals in this review.

I really enjoyed riding these pedals, and found myself staring longingly at my bike when they were mounted up. The color and design are striking and stand out, and despite the minor grip shortcomings, I still wanted to get out and ride these more and more. If you’re going for the ultimate color coordination on your rig, e*thirteen also gives you the option of ordering matching tubeless valves through their website. Making your bike look good makes you ride better and have more fun, right?

As much as I love the look and style of these pedals, I was surprised to see that they were the most expensive ones in this lineup. Priced at $139, they are a whole $10 more expensive than my first choice, the OneUp Aluminum pedals. Given the choice between the e*thirteen Base and Plus pedals, I would stick to the Base model because it gives you a better bang for your buck. As much as I love the pretty, shiny red sports car appeal, I don’t think the premium price point is worth it. I recommend these pedals for anyone looking for a thicker platform with a clean style and a lot of bite who doesn’t mind spending a little extra.

OneUp Components Flat Pedals

OneUp Composite Pedal

There’s nothing particularly remarkable about the OneUp Composite pedals at first glance. From an aesthetic standpoint, they offer a rather rugged and utilitarian look combined with some technical features. No frills, no thrills, but these pedals certainly get the job done. 

Measuring 115mm by 105mm, the OneUp Composite pedals offer a massive amount of real estate to bring you along for the ride. The platform is wide enough to allow for a little bit of wiggle room when things get rowdy but the size is not so overwhelming that you fear clipping obstacles on the trail. 

With a lower stack height, it’s easier to feel like you’re riding on your bike rather than tromping around the woods in platform shoes. The leading edge of the pedal is thinner, promising to help deflect obstacles on the trail. I certainly appreciated the feeling of being less prone to pedal strikes.

With ten pins per side, there’s plenty of grip to be had. Placement is well distributed and does a good job of really biting into the sole of your shoe. OneUp highlights the subtle concave shape of the pedal, claiming it provides better grip by sitting in the natural arch of your foot. I will have to agree with them because whatever they’ve done with their pedal design is obviously working — the OneUp Composite pedals fit my shoe like a glove.

At only 355g, these were one of the lighter offerings in the lineup. I don’t feel as though the weight of a pedal has that big of an influence on its performance, but if you’re into counting grams on your bike build then these super grippy bad boys will save you a whopping 10g over the aluminum version. 

Same, but different.

Despite the gram savings of the nylon composite, I do have some concerns over their durability. I noticed some deep gouges on the body of the pedal, and I have to wonder how many impacts this plastic pedal can take before it finally snaps. I also managed to bend one of my pins thanks to a rock strike, but it’s still functional so I haven’t replaced it. Additional pins are available on OneUp’s website, along with axle rebuild kits. 

During testing I rode in relatively dry conditions, very rarely even finding puddles or creek crossings. The bearings are not sealed, so my next question is whether or not they’re prone to getting dirt in all the wrong places. If you do get to the point of your bearings feeling crunchy and you need to breathe some new life into your pedals, OneUp sells a rebuild kit and has instructions on their website. 

To say that I have fallen in love with these pedals might sound like overkill, but I can safely say I will be devastated if I ever destroy them. I wasn’t a huge fan of the look of the plastic material, but the grip and performance of the OneUp Composite pedals exceeded all of my expectations. The combination of pedal shape, pin layout, and stack height really hit all the marks for me in terms of ergonomics, providing me more confidence on the trail. I highly recommend these pedals to anyone looking for a reliable workhorse ready to slay some singletrack. 

OneUp Aluminum Pedal

OneUp Components has come up with a fantastic pedal design that does nothing but build confidence from the ground up. If you’re looking at the OneUp Aluminum pedal then chances are you’ve already considered its nylon composite cousin, and you find yourself wondering if it’s worth paying a premium for metal. Read on for a more in-depth look at the major differences between the two.

Just like its more budget-friendly composite counterpart, the OneUp Aluminum pedal boasts a large platform measuring 115x105mm. At its thickest point around the axle, the pedal measures just 12mm, while on the leading edge it tapers off to a svelte 8.3mm, making it noticeably thinner than its cousin. The familiar hexagonal shape makes for a wonderful surface to stand on, fitted with 10 traction pins on each side that complement the slightly convex aluminum body, resulting in a pedal that sticks to your shoes like velcro. The pins are long and not threaded the whole way through, giving them a cleaner, more elegant bite than the grub screws used on other pedals. 

Bearings mark one of the major differences between the aluminum and the composite version of this pedal. While the composite version uses smaller bearings hidden inside the spindle of the pedal, the aluminum version features a fully sealed bearing encased within the bulge right next to the threads. 

From an aesthetic standpoint, the bulge blends right in with the rest of the lines of the pedal and it didn’t feel too distracting while ogling or riding my bike – but not everyone will agree with that view. The unfortunate downside to this design is that the aluminum version is not compatible with SRAM carbon cranks or crank boots, so make sure you’re not investing in a pedal you can’t use (or maybe go ahead and buy a crankset that works with these pedals because they really are that good).

I rode these pedals for a couple of days and found myself loving every moment, that is until my bike developed a mysterious squeak. After running through an elaborate checklist of possible culprits ranging from a dry chain to a loose bottom bracket, it turned out to be my left pedal. I was a bit disappointed with how quickly these pedals required service. I barely had any miles on them! Fortunately, servicing the bearings is a straightforward process. OneUp has rebuild kits and instructions available on their website. One thing to note is that a cassette tool is required to service the aluminum pedals, so make sure you have one available before you start trying to take things apart. 

Fraternal twins, killer traction.

Another notable difference is the obvious fact that these pedals are made of metal and not plastic. From a performance and grip standpoint, I think both pedals perform exceptionally well, and platform material should not be a factor. But from a durability standpoint, that’s where I start to wonder which one will put up with more use and abuse. Modern plastic pedals can certainly take a beating, and they hide their scars well. Anodized metal tends to tell a more dramatic story as the top layer is scraped away by pedal strikes and unfriendly encounters with the ground. 

So the question remains: is the aluminum version worth the extra money over the composite? Ultimately, I think the choice will come down to aesthetics. OneUp sure knows how to make a pedal that packs a punch on the trails, regardless of platform material. I felt right at home on both versions of these pedals from the moment I saddled up and cruised through the parking lot. 

Smooth curves and lines fit in nicely with carbon frames.

I highly recommend the OneUp Aluminum pedals if you’re looking for excellent grip, clean design, and prefer the look of anodized aluminum over composite. I do not recommend this pedal if you have SRAM carbon cranks or use crank boots because they simply won’t work. 

Race Face Flat Pedals

Race Face Chester: Composite Pedal

The Race Face Chester pedals offer excellent grip on a wide, supportive platform and the pin layout makes for an excellent connection between shoe and pedal with minimal effort. Sixteen replaceable pins bite the rubber and leave plenty of room to adjust your foot position without concern. The Chesters ride smoothly and move freely without hindrance, letting me focus more on riding and not as much on footwork.

These gravity-oriented pedals did a great job of dancing with my feet as I floated down the trail. The lightweight composite body provides plenty of support underfoot without the burden of those extra grams that come with aluminum pedals. These are comfortable without any awkward pressure points thanks to a slightly convex platform, allowing shoes to virtually melt into place.

The composite body has a very unique shape, with accents and details interspersed with technical features that make these pedals one of my favorites from the lineup. Available in a whopping 15 different colors, there is bound to be something that works with your color scheme. 

Be warned, however, that the nylon composite material may not be as aesthetically pleasing up close. With a slight texture and an opaque and dull finish, the Race Face Chesters may not win any beauty contests, but they will do a great job of keeping your feet glued to your pedals. The nylon composite was hard to keep clean and I very quickly gave up on spot cleaning after messy rides. One benefit of being made from a softer compound is that they are more malleable and reportedly slide over rocks more easily than their aluminum counterparts, but how much of a beating can this material really take? Short term testing proved that they are durable, but only time will tell.

Overall, I was very impressed with the Race Face Chesters. I’ve seen this particular pedal recommended across the board, but I never paid much mind because I couldn’t get past the look of the composite body. Nonetheless, I was blown away by how confidence-inspiring the grip is. For now, the Chesters have found a home on my hardtail, and I have no intentions of replacing them any time soon. If you’re on the fence about trying flats, these are a perfect pair of pedals to try out due to their excellent performance and lower price point. 

  • MSRP: $49.99 – $59.99
  • Colors: black, blue, green, orange, purple, red, turquoise, yellow, forest green, mustard, magenta, mint, burnt orange, battleship grey, and electric blue
  • Available at Amazon and other online retailers

Race Face Aeffect: Aluminum Pedal

The Race Face Aeffect Pedals are an aesthetically pleasing pair of flats offered by the Vancouver, BC-based components company. The lines on the pedal are clean and sleek and they are sure to bring a touch of style to any bike build. There are twenty replaceable hex traction pins ready to grab whatever rubber comes their way, and feature a fully rebuildable axle. The simple and elegant design of these pedals is available in three colors: black, red, and blue.

According to Race Face, the Aeffect Pedal caters more to cross country, trail, and e-bike riding, although it’s not clear to me what criteria separate the categories. I found myself really having to fight to stay on this platform while riding my usual routes. My first thought was that maybe the pin layout wasn’t optimal, but with 10 pins per side, surely there’s plenty of traction to be had. It turns out that is only one part of the equation.

The body of the pedal measures 101mm x 100mm, which isn’t too far off from their cheaper composite cousin, the Chesters. However, I never found myself feeling confident on the Aeffect pedals. The gravity/all-mountain Chester pedals have a larger platform and seem to provide much more grip and support. While testing the Aeffects I felt like I was being forced to ride on my tippy toes a lot because there wasn’t room for my whole forefoot to rest on the pedal. 

Oddly enough the smaller platform is one of Race Face’s marketing points with the Aeffect Pedals. I went into this test thinking I was really going to like these pedals because they have a similar layout to the Chesters, but the diminutive size of the platform really distracted from the ride feel. I don’t have an exceptionally large foot by any means (I wear a women’s 8.5, or Euro 40.5), but without any real wiggle room for positioning, I found myself having less fun because I had to focus so much on foot placement.

I won’t claim that one genre of mountain biking is more or less difficult than any other, but if you want a good looking pedal to accompany you on mellower, flowier rides, or you have a smaller foot, then the Race Face Aeffect Pedals might be a good fit for you. 

So is aluminum better than composite for flat pedals?

Obviously there are a number of factors to consider when choosing a flat pedal for mountain biking. Everything from the body and pin materials to the bearings, shape, size, and layout can make a difference. And of course the price is important.  

In the end, there isn’t a single factor that determines which pedal is the best; it’s a combination of all of the above. You can have a pedal made from the highest quality materials, but if it doesn’t do a good job of keeping you on your bike, you’re not going to enjoy riding it. Of the six options I tried, only three of them helped make my riding feel effortless, and two of those were arguably entry level and very budget friendly. I will admit that I was ready to dismiss the composite options because they fell short on the bling factor, but I was blown away by how well they performed and how much I enjoyed riding them. From a durability standpoint, only time will tell if I made a good choice.

For those of you in the market for a new pedal to spice things up on your bike, take into consideration how you’re going to feel when you’re dropping into your favorite trail. We’re into mountain biking for the thrill of the ride, not so much for the terrifying sensation of losing your footing due to poor pedal traction. So even if you find yourself reaching for that less than perfect looking flat pedal that checks all the performance boxes, don’t fret so much if it’s not the best match for your look. After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and nothing is more beautiful than knowing you’re fully in sync with your bike.