Are You Wasting Energy?
Clipless or flat pedals?
Clipless pedals are actually the opposite of what you would think. They are pedals that have cleats which are attached to your shoes and attach (clip) directly to the pedal. Some people think you have more control and actually become one with the bike. I agree that you become one with the bike, I mean, come on… you’re attached to the bicycle. To unclip you have to turn your foot about 15 degrees and the cleats unclip from the pedal. The term “clipless pedal” actually originated from flat pedals that had a leather strap that fit over your toes. They called these straps, clips. Once the manufactures came up with pedals where your feet were not attached to the peddal with the straps, “clips”, they called them “clipless”. I hope this clarifies the term.
Flat pedals are a bit more simple and a lot less intimidating. Flats are exactly what they sound like… pedals that are flat. You don’t need any special shoes, no special cleats and no intimidating tip-over fear.
Now, the question at hand, are you wasting energy?
The debate over clipless vs. flats yeilds an enromous amount of vaired responses. Everyone has their opinion on why one is better than the other and there is no way you’ll be able to change their mind. People say clipless allow you to apply power to the pedal during the whole stroke (circle) where flats only allow you to apply power on the down-stroke. My opinion (which might upset some of you) is that you can’t pedal in a circle. Really, try it and think about pulling up on the pedal at the same time you’re thinking about pushing down. Now, if you’re really thinking about this you’re probably doing one more than the other resulting in less power overall and less concentration… so you just crashed.
I’m not saying clipless pedals are bad. I use them and have for over 10 years on multiple bikes. I’ve raced against people who were using flats and you know what? They passed me. Obviously, I was outraged because I was a racer. Look at me, I have clipless pedals. I’m supposed to be fast. Wrong!
I’ve been considering going back to flat pedals. I get made fun of all the time when I do because it’s not the “normal” thing to do on the trail. People don’t consider you a cyclist without clipless pedals. My opinion is that you’ll probably become a better rider using flat pedals because you’ll have to become one with the bike, not just be attached to it. It’s really hard going from clipless to flats on a trail because you feel the bike move around beneath you where your feet bounce around and things just don’t seem stable. But, once you’ve been riding with flats a while, it’s magnificent how much control you can have and how much confidence you can build. It starts with the small things so if you’re new to riding or if you’ve been riding with clipless pedals, switch them out for a nice set of flats and see how much it changes your riding style. I won’t guarantee anything except that you’ll have fun. How can you not? You’re riding your bike.
Confidence. Starting out with the basics. These words all sound familiar. They are the reason why STRIDER bikes work. Kids start with the basics, balance, coordination and confidence. Once kids learn those foundational functions you will be amazed at what they can do just like you will.
So, what do you think? Flats or clipless? Why? Post to the comments.
If you’re new to riding flats on a mountain bike trail, it might be a good idea to wear long pants or get some shin gaurds. If your foot falls off the pedal and it hits you right in the shin… well, just remember to.