It’s the age old question isn’t it: flat pedals, or clip-in pedals?
It used to be pretty simple. If you were into downhill riding and dirt jumping, you rode flats. If you were into XC or any other kind of everyday trail riding, you rode clips. That may still be the case for many riders, but as with many aspects of mountain bikes these days, the lines are getting blurrier and blurrier.
So we’re interested to hear what you’re using for most of the time. Do you normally use flat pedals? Or do you prefer to clip-in? You can vote in the poll just below, and if you have a spare moment to comment, we’d love to hear what pedal and shoe setup you’re running!
First introduced to the off-road world in 1990 by Shimano, clip-in pedals (formerly and incorrectly labelled as ‘clipless’ pedals [Wil is willing to take this assertion to the pub – Ed]) promptly rose amongst the pro ranks in mountain bike racing. Offering more efficiency and better power transfer by way of stiffer clip-specific shoe soles, for many competitive types there is no other choice.
Fast forward a couple of decades, and there’s now a load of World Cup downhill racers using clip-in pedals, and (aside from a one Mr Sam Hill) most of the EWS field chooses to clip into their pedals too. That said, there are many different varieties of clip-in pedals these days in addition to the XC racing ‘lollypop’ SPD pedals. For those who prefer baggy shorts and big travel over Lycra and lockouts, there’s a growing crop of platform-style pedals that emulate the larger size of a flat – pins and all – but with a clip mechanism at the centre of the pedal.
For the upcoming issue of Singletrack Magazine, we’ve been testing eight of these new-school platform clip-in pedals, including options from Crank Brothers, HT Components, DMR and Shimano. Each one uses a clip mechanism that locks onto a cleat that bolts onto your shoe – the idea being that when you’re clipped in, your foot is located in the same position every time, so you can optimise your saddle height to provide the most efficient position possible. And for riding rough terrain, the clip helps you to stay stuck to the bike.
Compared to the smaller racing pedals though, the big platforms on these pedals are designed to provide more support when used with more flexible footwear. And with the addition of textured bodies and adjustable pins, the platform is supposed to increase traction between shoe and pedal.
Despite the general trend for racer types to use clip-in pedals, we’re noticing that more and more everyday trail riders are trying out flat pedals – perhaps after years of using the clip-in variety. Flat pedal users cite the added flexibility as the main advantage of using flats, plus you can easily pop a foot off in the turns if you’ve pushed your talent too far. In theory, flats should also teach better technique – you can’t bunnyhop just by tugging your feet on the pedals to lift the whole bike upwards.
Last year, David Hayward put together a brilliant introductory piece to flat pedals for those interested in those benefits. He also tested no fewer than 17 flat pedals to find out which were the grippiest, the toughest and the best value.
So, what pedals do you use most of the time? Are you a flat pedaller? Or are you a clipper-innerer?
Or maybe you run one setup on one bike, and a different setup on another bike? We’d love to hear your thoughts, so tell us what you’re rolling with in the comments section below!
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