When it comes to pedals are you an Old Git? That is an Old Guy in Toe clips.
If you are new to the mountain biking fold, you will find that most entry-level bikes are fitted with flat pedals and only some of the higher end bikes being supplied with clipless models. Although for the older rider flat pedals hark back to the rubber rotating memories of youthful Raleighs modern units can have unforgiving metal edges that punish the common slips and mistakes that everyone makes while trying to convert from tarmac to off road.
Unless the jump scene draws you immediately cross-country trails can include a lot of uphill riding and although the length up may be the same as the length down, the time spent on the ups far exceeds the downs. It is possible to remain with flat pedals however, if you are riding with others who are clipped in it seems that there is an advantage on long or steep hills and, on technical climbs, there is an always an extra pedal stroke available just when it is most needed.The main difficulty in being clipped in is being clipped in. Even with loose settings and soft practice ground in the garden there will be episodes where being attached to the bike will have you grasping at trees, lunging at gates and landing sideways in “frozen panic” mode. The popularity of budget pedals reflects the choice of many to change straight to a budget version of a racers lightweight pedal however this could be a poor choice for many. I found the good design of the budget shimano offering was spoiled by its deserved reputation for a tight fit and an unwillingness to release easily. A one sided pedal, such as the FPD offering, allows starting on a large flat side and then rotating it to the clipped side. This gives the rider of a choice depending upon the conditions faced, i.e. clipped for a hill and a flat for a technical section. Although it could be a solution in itself it is also a transit stage to a double clipped model after a reasonable level of competence had been achieved. An outer cage can help more in difficult conditions than either flat or mini clipped pedals because the weight penalty is a small price for instant pedalling action. Mud clearance is poor on many pedals and this problem leads to a more expensive solution irrespective of the pedal type. Higher margins for the manufacturers open the door to improved design and rarer materials like stainless steel, carbon fibre and magnesium. Crank Bros. and others have successfully moved away from the conventional design to a rotating system that offers great mud clearance in a variety of flat and open options. As others follow suit it is worthwhile to check all the options to find the best solution for yourself.For the cautious the ideal route should allow small changes without jeopardizing hard won gains. If moving from flat to one sided to caged, allow time to make small adjustments. Any one could be the ideal solution for some and unless you are very concerned with weight a larger platform makes life easier especially on the dark or in poor conditions . As for lifetimes pedals need servicing and rebuilt with spares or replacement every year at least but this depends upon usage. Prices range from a few pounds to hundreds for something in gold plate but that comes with the guarantee that on the trail you will be almost unique.