Bike pedals can be confusing!
To make matters worse, there are some topics related to pedals that are hard to find clear answers for.
But don’t worry, I’ve got you covered, and in this article we’re going to run through an FAQ that will hopefully address the burning pedal questions that you have on your mind. Here’s what I’ll cover:
Are Bike Pedals Sold in Pairs?
Bicycle pedals are nearly always sold in pairs for a few reasons. First, pedals are threaded in opposite directions, which means that a left and right pedal are actually built differently. Most cyclists will also want their pedals to match for aesthetics, and to ensure shoe compatibility (if using clipless pedals).
For the most part, you’re not going to see single pedals anywhere.
Pedals are threaded in different directions on each side of your bike. You’ll see an “L” and an “R” on most pedals, and you need to match them to the corresponding side. Otherwise, you’re just going to spin them off while you’re riding the bike.
It’s almost impossible to find a pedal sold singly, you’ll have to buy the pair anytime just one of them breaks.
Do Bikes Come with Pedals?
Many bicycles come with pedals installed, but high-end bikes (especially road bikes) often don’t. High-end road bikes are usually used with clipless pedals that are matched to shoes that lock into them. This keeps the cyclist from having to replace the pedals if they’re not compatible with their cleats.
Roadies mostly use clipless pedals, and cleats aren’t 100% interchangeable between pedals. For that reason, it doesn’t make sense for a road bike to come with pedals installed since they may not be compatible with the rider’s footwear. In some rare cases, you may find road bikes that come with pedals installed, but this is not common.
Bicycle manufacturers also use this as an opportunity to cut costs, and reduce customer prices, by not including a component (pedals) that some riders will not need.
Now, when you think about mountain bikes (or other types of bikes), it is more common for them to come with pedals. However, even mountain bikes are often sold without pedals when you get into the premium models around $1,500 and above.
How Long Do Bike Pedals Last?
A good set of bike pedals will last for years, provided that you perform regular maintenance, and serviceable pedals will last even longer. On the other hand, a cheap set of bike pedals on a retail bike may only last a few months before breaking down.
It’s hard to pin down an exact number. For those who use clipless, serviceable pedals, and perform regular maintenance, a pair of pedals may last for decades. On the other hand, there’s nothing that will save you from a cheap pair of Wal-Mart flats breaking down within a couple hundred miles of riding.
Those with better platforms or non-serviceable clipless pedals can expect to get at least a few years of use. Just keep grease handy and apply it whenever the pedals start complaining to help prevent wear from making the pedals useless.
A lot of roadies find that they have to replace their cleats more often than their pedals.
Anytime that you find your pedals are making some extra noise you should take a look. Most often they’ll just need lubrication, but that creaking noise is the pedal slowly breaking down. It’s best to take care of it quickly.
Bike grease is the ideal lubricant, but that hasn’t stopped people from trying just about everything else. But, it’s probably best not to make any substitutions unless you really know what you’re doing.
Can You Use WD-40 on Bike Pedals?
You can use WD-40 on bike pedals, but it’s not the best lubricant. WD-40 is actually a solvent, and it loosens stuck parts by dissolving rust. If your pedals are STUCK then use WD-40 to break them loose, but it’s a bad choice for normal lubrication.
WD-40 does the trick temporarily. What’s actually happening is the dissolved compounds and displaced water are letting parts skate past each other. The truth is that most people use it wrong.
WD-40 is also hygroscopic. It will attract water to itself, and make things worse as parts rust in the increased moisture, and as it dries the dissolved rust can form a crust. Basically, it will make things better for a short period before making them worse later.
If your pedals are stuck and won’t rotate, then you can apply WD-40 to break them loose. You should still apply a normal lubricant after you’ve gotten the pedals unstuck, WD-40 is not a true lubrication solution.
Think of it as a cleaner rather than an oil and you’re moving in the right direction. Some people also wonder if you can use WD40 on a bike chain, so check out our article on that topic if you’re interested.
Can You Use Vaseline on Bike Pedals?
If you’re in a pinch, Vaseline can be used in place of grease on bike pedals, especially on the connecting threads. It may not work as well as purpose-specific compounds, but it seems to do the trick and can work as a long-term solution.
Vaseline is actually a light grease in and of itself. Its properties are close to ideal for use on the threads of your pedals, it just doesn’t seem to last as long.
Vaseline is also more sensitive to temperature than standard bicycle grease. It has a tendency to evaporate at high temperatures and may gum up in exceptionally low temperatures.
All-in-all, Vaseline or petroleum jelly is usable for your pedals, but it’s not up to par with actual bicycle grease. It’s better than nothing if you don’t have access to the good stuff when you’re putting on your pedals.
If you’re curious about also using Vaseline for your bike chain, you should read our article about alternative chain lubricants first.
Can You Paint Bike Pedals?
You can paint your bike pedals without negatively effecting performance, but it’s not going to last. Bicycle pedals are put under a lot of stress and wear over time, and most people lack the skillset to perform a proper paint job on them. Just get new pedals if the color bothers you.
A lot of folks have tried painting their pedals for whatever reason. The usual approach is just a cheap spray-paint job to change the color, but they rarely last due to lack of prep work. And, unfortunately, even a great paint job on your pedals is going to come off quickly.
A high-quality clear coat is essential if you want to keep the paint for more than a single ride, and the paint should also be high quality. This doesn’t guarantee your paint job will stick, chances are your pedals are going to look terrible in the near future.
If you absolutely need to change the color of your pedals, you should make sure to do the following:
- Remove pedals from the bike, and take apart as much of the hardware as you can.
- Refinish the surface of the pedals with sandpaper. If you don’t, the paint won’t be able to “grip.” 220 grit is good for plastic pedals, 600 is better for pedals with metallic construction.
- Wash the pedals in soapy water. Scrub thoroughly with a nylon brush for the best results. You need to remove all surface grease during this step.
- Rinse the pedals in plain water, doing your best to touch them as little as possible with your hands.
- Spray paint the pedals and allow them to dry. It’s best to apply clear coat if you’re going for a lasting finish, the thicker the better.
- Put the pedals back on the bike.
Step 7 is unofficial but bound to happen: watch the paint rapidly chip, flake, and otherwise remove itself and undo all your hard work after a few rides.
If you want to change the color of your pedals, you’re best off just buying a new pair. Composites can be found in every color, and if you ride platforms you may end up spending less than you would on quality paint and clear coat.