clipless vs flats

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  • clipless vs flats
  • Premier Icon mikewsmith
    Subscriber

    Red or Brown sauce? It’s that divisive…

    Premier Icon thomasgeorge
    Subscriber

    I’ve rode clips for years, and find them great, however, I did an enduro on Sunday, and think I might get a cheap pair of flats for any more I do. Wet slippy off camber roots and being clipped in is not a great combination.

    atlaz
    Member

    To quote a thread from the other day…

    JCL wrote:

    Pick a side and be a dick about it.

    I use both types. I’m quite fickle but the general rule of thumb is if I’m riding anything I think I may want to get off the bike quickly (bike parks etc), I’ll use flats. More XC style stuff, I’ll stick to clipless.

    Rorschach
    Member

    One of each

    atlaz
    Member

    That too. Big bouncy bikes are on flats by default, HT on clipless by default

    Oh I’m having this same dilemma at the moment. I’ve also ridden times for years now but considering going back to flats now I’m just putting the finishing touches to my new bike. My worry is I’ve gotten so used to being clipped in I’ll be utter rubbish going back to flats. My last crash was on wet roots and I couldn’t get unclimbed quick enough to stop it which ended up with a broken arm in 2 places and just over 5 months off the bike, loss of 60% strength and lots of physio 😥

    Premier Icon supercarp
    Subscriber

    I ride both, however not convinced it makes any real difference which pedal you use when crashing. Many seem to imply that been clipped in leads to more injuries and crashes, my last crash was 6 weeks ago low speed and flat pedals resulted in a fractured elbow!

    Just ride with what you feel comfortable

    Premier Icon Onzadog
    Subscriber

    Happy on either. Ridden off-road with spds since they were first released. However, last couple of years, I seem to favour flats. They seem to have improved my skills a bit but I’ll often put spds back in in bad weather as the shoes/boots are more weatherproof.

    Hob Nob
    Member

    I’m flirting between the two at the moment. I’m happy enough riding proper XC clipped in, but I’m finding the line isn’t quite there for racing DH and Enduro for me. It’s when it gets nasty and tech I’m finding it a struggle.

    I’m not sure it’s forcing me to commit to stuff harder, or more than I would with flats, but I do notice a difference in the way I ride sections..

    I’m going to persevere for now, and see how I feel. There are benefits to both sides.

    shamus
    Member

    Both.

    I wouldn’t dare ride some of the tech trails I normally ride on flats on my spicy whilst being clipped in. the leg waves and dabs that can save you falling somewhere you don’t want to fall at slow speed are invaluable. Whilst I understand that you can do this clipped if all goes to plan, the one time it catches you out could be the worst time to be attached to a bike and tipping towards an edge.

    Hardtail is on clips as it gets ‘tamer’ trails and more distance typically. getting used to it but definitely better on fast and rough then flats on a hardtail, I’m sold for the ‘XC’ bike (150mm forked BFe).

    Goldigger
    Member

    Curious as to how many people are using clipless/SPD vs flats?
    Why do you prefer them?

    Since I’ve swapped to time atacs I’m reluctant to put flats back on.. Just feel that I pedal more efficiently and feel in control of the bike more.

    All my spills have been at slow speeds.. Where I’ve been caught out wet roots for example. Last fall was in the biggest mud pool on the ride!

    avdave2
    Member

    I rode off road with toeclips for 5 years then SPD’s for 20 years. Then I thought I’d give flats a go 2 years ago and really prefer them. I’m just riding wheels on the ground xc so not typical riding for flats but I don’t notice any loss of efficiency and I’m planning to stick with them.

    Yetiman
    Member

    It’s probably due to my road racing background, but I’ve been clipped in since I got my first MTB in 1985. Back then I used wide toe clips with the straps left loose, and when SPD’s arrived a few years later I was straight onto them without a moments hesitation. The sound of my shoes clipping in is like a soft warm blankie to me, and I feel I can ride almost anything when clipped in. I do have an old pair of DMR Vaults in the garage though, but they only go on the hardtail when I’m out going out riding with my 4 year old daughter.

    Trimix
    Member

    I do all my techy jumpy style riding clipped in. If Im not clipped in Ive got less control.

    Premier Icon stevied
    Subscriber

    Clips all the way for me. Been on them for 20+ years and haven’t caused me any problems apart from the odd, slow speed, dismount. I’ve done Antur (Red and Blue) on clips and I just feel more in control. Did a day @ FoD recently and forgot my SPD shoes so had to borrow flats – not a pleasant experience. Was OK going down but really struggled climbing as I’m used to pulling up on the pedals as well as pushing down..

    Premier Icon Northwind
    Subscriber

    I’m on flats these days, used to use clips, not very happy on them now because of a trashed leg. TBH there’s not really that much in it, SPDs are probably “better” but not enough to override personal preference.

    Best option is to use both and be proficient in both, they’ve both got advantages and things to teach and you can’t make a good call between them til you’ve got good at both. (most folks “try” the other type for a couple of rides, never really get any good at them, then say they’re rubbish)

    <controversial> I think many if not most SPD riders could benefit from a few months on flats. Lots of people riding around very stiff and tall, it’s not so much that flats encourage good technique, it’s that they try and kill you if you do that 😉 This is the weakness and the gift of flats.

    wilko1999
    Member

    Have always ridden flats for both XC and DH. I just love riding whenever I can and I don’t feel that clipping in will improve my enjoyment at all.

    The way I see it is if I want to go faster uphill I need to improve my strength/fitness and if I want to ride scarier and bigger jumpier stuff I need to grow bigger balls.

    Premier Icon richmtb
    Subscriber

    Northwind has it.

    SPD’s let you cheat a bit. Body position (esp foot position) becomes less important on SPDs. I switched to flats about a year ago. First few rides I thought they were try to kill me, then I thought about what I was actually doing with my feet.

    I still use SPD’s on two bikes but for trail riding I’ve converted to flats

    Premier Icon vondally
    Subscriber

    Flats for me due to
    A) I n the day used toe clips……………..horrible moved to flats
    B) injury to knee make spds painful
    C) really not that much in it for power/efficiency with real everyday riders

    but use what you like and Northwind has got it right imho

    oh get good shoes with flats if you are riding trails and so on not those flimsy skate shoes great for wrapping your foot round the pedal and being at the jumps useless for pedalling anywhere too soft

    Premier Icon stilltortoise
    Subscriber

    90% clips for the simple reason that so much of my mountain biking involves road and/or very easy trail sections in between the fun stuff and there is no doubt in my mind that pedalling is smoother and more efficient with clips. I’d ride flats much more often if I lived somewhere with more proper off-road and less on-road.

    funkhouser
    Member

    ‘foot out, flat out’ as they say!

    swapped to flats about a year ago also, probably becasue it was cool. wasnt sure at first, feet flying up in the air over the first little jump. but in that time there have been a few critical situations where ive had to bail or dab a foot that would otherwise have been disastrous if clipped in! cant imagine ill ever go back to spds! not full time anyway.

    also my new DMR vaults are amazing!

    If I intended to race seriously then I’d learn to ride clips because they seem to give a marginal advantage in many situations. I’ve only ridden flats since I returned to MTBing in 2009 – most people I was riding with then were on clips but we’re mostly on flats now – and I do agree that they tend to reduce bad technique because your feet bounce off the pedals if you don’t ride them right.

    The technique thing also includes pedalling – if you can’t pedal smoothly on flats then you’re probably doing something wrong. If you’re pulling up on clips at any points other than when sudden bursts of extra low rev torque are required then you’re probably doing something wrong.

    Assuming your technique is decent though, I’d ride whichever makes you most confident unless you’re chasing fractions of a second for podium places.

    gonzy
    Member

    been using SPD’s for more than 15 years and have never had a problem with them…back then i had 4 bikes and at least 2 of them ran SPD’s. now i only have a FS bike and a commuter road bike…the commuter has SPD’s and the FS usually has the flats on but it depends on where i’m riding as to whether a go with flats or SPD’s.

    trickydisco
    Member

    Rode clips for years then went to the alps and used flats Now prefer flats on my HT (slackline) and clips on everything else: road, cyclocross

    I prefer flats for traction downhill (i can get my foot angle better on flats)

    Premier Icon GavinB
    Subscriber

    I rode nothing but SPD for years, apart from a few minor flirtations with flats, until getting into DH. I think the point about knowing both, in depth, is true, as both take some time to learn and appreciate.

    Learning core techniques, such as manuals, endos and especially bunnyhops on flats forces you to correctly use weight shift and feet position to control the bike. On SPD, it’s too easy to keep your weight back and just pull the back of the bike up underneath you.

    So, back to the OP, I’d say Clips and (rather than vs) Flats.

    Premier Icon jonathan
    Subscriber

    Have been riding clipped in (clips and straps and then SPDs, now Times) off road for 25 years. It’s second nature to me. I don’t think I’ve ever had an off where the outcome was worse because of them (ignoring that one on the first SPD outing when I toppled into some nettles). Clipping in and clipping out just happens without thinking about it.

    I’ve played about on flats quite a bit and I understand how they can force a rider to improve some techniques. But riding clipped in doesn’t preclude you having those techniques. I’m definitely more comfortable on tech stuff clipped in… gives me a sense of commitment 😉

    Controversial point: if you don’t notice an efficiency difference moving from clips to flats then you probably weren’t pedalling very efficiently in the first place. I’ve ridden with lots of good and fast riders on flats, but don’t lets kid ourselves that you can pedal as efficiently on flats if you’ve got a good pedalling technique when clipped in. Efficiently enough maybe, but it’s not the same.

    Premier Icon mikewsmith
    Subscriber

    ‘foot out, flat out’ as they say!

    Great Pinkbike article (I think it was there) about how foot out flat out works for flats but in clips you just commit harder and get it right. It’s 6 of 1 1/2 dozen of the other really. In clips not had the feeling I was trapped or locked in for years, not struggled to get out when I’ve needed to and never had an issue with a cheeky dab here or there.

    Hob Nob
    Member

    Great Pinkbike article (I think it was there) about how foot out flat out works for flats but in clips you just commit harder and get it right.

    I read that article, and tried to apply it to my riding, right now it doesn’t happen, but then I’ve probably been riding them for a month, so I’m hoping it just takes some time.

    I’m going to race with them over the next few months too, the proof will be in the pudding, so to speak.

    Premier Icon stilltortoise
    Subscriber

    I also wouldn’t read to much into the responses on here. I’m conscious that STW has everyone from capable downhillers to super-fit racers to weekend bimblers. Knowing how, where and on what terrain someone rides is important in understanding their pedal preference. Certainly if I had access to terrain with more jumps I’d ditch the clips for flats.

    xiphon
    Member

    …..even my BMX has SPDs on it…

    On the topic of “commitment” – I found that clipped in certainly did raise my commitment level. Whereas before I’d be cautious, and possibly dabbing, now I’m staying with my feet on the pedals.

    It took *years* for me to pluck up the courage to clip in on he DH bike.

    Van Halen
    Member

    i`m undecided. in the dry using clips is a no brainer. just more control. you dont have to worry too much about unexpected dabs and you pedal better and have better position on teh bike. it forces you to have your feet up which is a very very good thing.

    If i was riding really tech/shore then flats all teh way.

    in teh wet i`m not so sure. roots are a nightmare on clips as you need 100% conviction and serious skills.

    i ride both. when its gopping i like flats for the foot out safety and just general sideways fun.

    being a 100% flat rider for years i`ve definately learnt a new, and massively beneficial, skillset riding clips.

    a change is good and keeps you sharp i guess.

    xiphon
    Member

    being a 100% flat rider for years i`ve definately learnt a new, and massively beneficial, skillset riding clips.

    This. Times 100.

    Used SPDs for years. On coming back after a long break I fitted combi SPDs/flats (SPD on one side, flat on the other) just to get used to them again.

    Serious pain in the arse. They always seem to spin and land flat side up. Going to swap between SPDs and flats depending on ride, unless I can find a good combi pedal which can be flat and SPD on BOTH sides.

    Premier Icon stilltortoise
    Subscriber

    unless I can find a good combi pedal

    They don’t exist. Any combination pedal is a seriously flawed compromise as you’ve found. Invest in a good pedal spanner instead

    Controversial point: if you don’t notice an efficiency difference moving from clips to flats then you probably weren’t pedalling very efficiently in the first place. I’ve ridden with lots of good and fast riders on flats, but don’t lets kid ourselves that you can pedal as efficiently on flats if you’ve got a good pedalling technique when clipped in. Efficiently enough maybe, but it’s not the same.

    I would love to see a decent scientific article that shows the difference – I believe there is a difference but that it’s a small one, certainly nothing like is implied by the pro-clip fraternity.

    One point I see being raised is that clips let you use your hamstrings because of being able to pull up – I know I already use my hamstrings otherwise why do they ache on climbs and why are they bigger than they used to be? Push forwards and down on a pedal, driving from the hip and you use most of your leg, buttock and hip muscles – just as when running, jumping or lifting heavy things – all of which we evolved to do well (unlike pedalling!)

    I think clips make a much bigger difference for really high cadence sprinting where it becomes a difficult challenge for the nervous system to fire the muscles fast enough to keep even contact on flats – with clips you can just concentrate on pushing hard once per leg per rev and let the pedals pull your feet around in circles at 200rpm. I don’t/can’t spin that fast on a MTB though!

    Flats for me always. I have no fault with them as they are all I know and at this stage in life really can’t be aarsed with the learning curve of clipless.

    lardman
    Member

    Use both. They both have merits in the right places.

    When the going gets rocky and bumpy, then SPD’s for me. When its twisty but slow and technical, then flats. When it’s muddy then flats, when it’s dry and fast, SPD’s.

    Tea, or coffee?
    White or red?
    salt or sweet?

    The other benefit of SPDs which nobody has commented on yet, is that your shoes make a clippy sound when you walk.

    loddrik
    Member

    SPD’s on MTB. Far more control. I can get out of them pretty quick when need be.

    Flats on commuter. Don’t want to be clipped if in collision with a vehicle which would invariably give far less reaction time than a typical MTB crash.

    freeridenick
    Member

    clips for xc/ local riding in Surrey
    Flats for alps, lakes, DH uplift etc.

    both have their place. Gee won Cairns on some borrowed 5/10s…they worked because he was dabbing everywhere due to the ice rink conditions. would never have stayed upright in clips..like wise on other tracks clips would be vital..

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