Flats and SPDs – a new angle?

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  • Flats and SPDs – a new angle?
  • This is not a troll or a rehash of the usual please.

    I’ve been switching between the two recently and noticed I’m more confident with flats despite really liking the power delivery of SPDs for ages now.

    It might be something to do with having the freedom to re-position my feet slightly for different moves, only noticed that I’m doing it subconciously. Downhill with SPDs the pressure stays on the balls (of my feet), on flats it’s spread around more and closer to the arches. Maybe this is more stable and less tiring?

    mikey74
    Member

    You have inadvertantly stumbled across the proper technique for riding flats: You ride with your foot further forward than with spds so that the pedal is in contact with the widest part of the foot.

    I totally agree by the way: Yes, spds give you better power up the climbs, but as I don’t race. I don’t care. I prefer the extra confidence flats give me, and I enjoy the riding alot more because of it.

    With flats I am bunnyhopping more, taking corners faster (at Chicksands the other day I leant over far enough to scrape my inside pedal on the ground which is a first for me), doing jumps, drops etc just feeling greater freedom on the bike.

    thepodge
    Member

    I have old school DX pedals, the red ones with spd and flats. makes no difference to me

    jonb
    Member

    I don’t notice a significant difference in power when I switch between the two. On my roadbike I find the spds actually stop me getting tired. You just clip in and pedal, no need to think about positioning. On the mountainbike I move my feet around (mostly subconciously) depending on whether I’m going up or down.

    Pieface
    Member

    Isn’t the forward part of the foot the widest?

    The foot is hourglass shaped, so putting the middle of the foot stops the pedal moving around as its got wider buts fore / aft to stop it moving about?

    RealMan
    Member

    If I’m doing something particularly stupid on the bike, like a nasty drop off or something, then I sometimes think I would be better off with flats. However, when riding dh, I find it hard to keep my feet from slipping off flat pedals sometimes – which may just be shoe/pedal combinations. Either way, I ride spds now whenever I ride.

    Inzane
    Member

    Buzz. Have you thought about moving your cleats back on your shoes??

    As you have noticed you are much more stable when standing on the pedal with the arch of your foot over the axle. Having your cleats too far forward will make it feel as if you are standing on tip toes (along with the balance and muscle tension that would go with standing on tip toes). If you put your cleats at the very back of the slots on your spd shoes you should find that you are getting much closer to the arch of foot on pedal feeling.

    There are people out there specifically manufacturing shoes with cleats under the arch of the foot, and saying it is better for your pedaling, and I have seen studies that show the same pedaling efficiency for cleats under arch, cleats 1/2 way between arch and ball and cleats under ball.

    have a read of this (from a roadie perspective) http://www2.trainingbible.com/joesblog/2007/01/cleat-position.html

    and this also from a roadie perspective http://www.cyclefitcentre.com/pdf%20final%20docs/question_of_leverage.pdf

    I am running my mtb shoes with the cleats right at the back of the slots, which puts the cleat somewhere between the arch and the ball, and am considering grabbing an old pair of shoes and drilling holes in them to try with the cleat under the arch.

    In my opinion once you train your muscles for the new position you should be able to get up the hills just as fast, but should have a whole lot more balance and control on the way down.

    Have you thought about moving your cleats back on your shoes

    Yes, this did occur to me, but I suspect that the cleats are “welded” to the shoes now.

    Joe friels thing is interesting, but I found the other one too technical.

    franki
    Member

    I’ve never got on with flat pedals.
    SPDs all the way here. The main reason is that I don’t feel safe unless I’m firmly attached to the bike. The power difference is less important to me.

    The only instance I would prefer to be on flatties is when riding skinny “shore” type obstacles and might have to bail, but I ride that sort of stuff so rarely it’s not worth considering.

    Inzane
    Member

    Buzz. Both those articles are aimed at road cycling and so are talking about efficiency and power etc… What they dont talk about is the benefit of moving the cleat back for mountain bikers once they are on technical terrain.

    From my own experience, having the cleat at the back of the slots on the shoes has given me:
    -more stability.
    -feet more relaxed = less tension, less cramping, better blood flow/warmer feet
    -power and efficiency that is as good as when my cleats were forward.
    -ability to keep weight on feet when going downhill rather than falling forward onto arms/hands… less arm pump etc on down hills.

    Different brands of shoes allow for cleats to go back different amounts. Have a play… and if it does not work you can always change them back.

    Premier Icon FOG
    Subscriber

    Like several contributors I find myself unconsciously moving my feet about on flats. Unfortunately I seem to instinctively put my feet in the wrong place whether going up or down hill! If you mess with cleats when you set up shoes and pedals at least you have your feet in the right place.

    tink81
    Member

    I use pedals that are flat one side and spd the other, gives me the option to clip in or not, which was great when I was first getting used to them!!

    tink

    JonEdwards
    Member

    The “pedal under the arch” idea might be more secure, but to me it feels *totally* wrong, whether on flats or clips. A lot of my suspension comes from ankle/calf movement,and I tend to flick the bike around (especially in clips) purely by ankle movemnet and if I put my foot further forward on the pedal I lose that – the bike feels completely dead and I’m unable to get near as much control or grip – all impacts just go straight up my legs and I’m far more likely to bounce off the pedal.

    Pedaling with my arch, again, just feels so wrong – no power, stiff legged and dead. I have to faff about moving my feet to the right place (ball of foot over axle) before I can concentrate on anything else.

    I’ve never had a problem with foot position putting too much weight on my hands.

    I love riding flats – I can corner MUCH harder on them and jumping, drops etc are much more secure, but the problem I find is that whilst my feet still move on the pedals when I don’t wnat them to, it’s also really difficult to move them back again when I do want to!

    (Oh and hard, steep, technical, climbs SUCK)

    cynic-al
    Member

    with good spd shoes you won’t feel the pressure from the pedal

    coffeeking
    Member

    You have inadvertantly stumbled across the proper technique for riding flats: You ride with your foot further forward than with spds so that the pedal is in contact with the widest part of the foot.

    The wides part of the foot is the ball of the foot, right where SPD cleats are positioned.

    However I agree part of the reason I prefer flats on technical stuff Is because I can shift my feet about a bit. The other reason is that I cant trust my cleats to remain clipped in as certain movements (jumps, some sideways hops to get out of ruts etc) cause my legs to rotate and clip out of cleats – very annoying.

    I corner harder and drop better with flats simply because I know where I stand with them – I know where they’ll let go of me and I know I can jump off as and when I need without resistance or momentary hang-ups. And yes, I’ve been riding SPDs for 10 years almost exclusively.

    I never feel pressure from the cleat in my SPDs, possibly because I use a downhilly type boot for all riding:

    I’ve never had a problem with foot position putting too much weight on my hands

    This is a good point. I do find myself clutching and leaning on the bars and had wondered if this related to foot position too. I was reading the Lopes/Mcormack book where they discuss the importance of weighting your feet and being light on the bars.

    It might simply be the case that moving the cleats back a bit will help loads, but as I said, they are probably welded on now!

    And I agree with the flats being more challenging on XC techy climbs, the SPDs seem to result in more commitment, better pedal clearance, better clutching and surging of power. It’s why I’m reluctant to go fully flats since XC makes up 80% of my riding.

    It’s an interesting angle on the flats vs SPDs discussion that I hadn’t picked up on before.

    Cheers

    Sketch
    Member

    I’ve been switching back and forth from clipped to flat for years- just indecisive! Probably will stick (literally) to flats though, since I got a pair of Five Ten Impacts. Believe the hype, they really are confidence inspiring once you’ve scuffed a bit of the newness off the soles. I ride mainly XC but like to rough it up a bit now and again and find them good in all situations.

    By the way, I read somewhere ages ago that for extra power when climbing and general motoring along, imagine you are rolling a log forwards with your foot at the top of the pedal stroke, then backwards at the bottom of the stroke. It works for me.

    Inzane
    Member

    JonEdwards

    The “pedal under the arch” idea might be more secure, but to me it feels *totally* wrong, whether on flats or clips. A lot of my suspension comes from ankle/calf movement,and I tend to flick the bike around (especially in clips) purely by ankle movemnet and if I put my foot further forward on the pedal I lose that – the bike feels completely dead and I’m unable to get near as much control or grip – all impacts just go straight up my legs and I’m far more likely to bounce off the pedal.

    Do you ride with your legs dead straight and knees locked Jon? I agree that you can use your ankles a lot, and even with the cleats back as far as they go in the slots I still use my ankles a lot. The difference in travel you can get with your ankle might be slightly reduced, but I find the stability more than makes up for this.

    More than this, with the cleat right forward you are relying on the smaller muscles of the shin and calf to control the bike and the body weight. Once you move the cleat further back you start engaging the glutes and the quads which are way more powerful muscles, giving you more control and less fatigue…

    Pedaling with my arch, again, just feels so wrong – no power, stiff legged and dead. I have to faff about moving my feet to the right place (ball of foot over axle) before I can concentrate on anything else.

    If you are used to using a specific set of muscles to pedal, and these muscles are the ones you utilise when the ball of your foot is over the pedal then trying to pedal with muscle groups you are unused to will feel a bit dead and less powerful. When I changed my cleats from right forward to right back it took about a month for my legs to feel as strong, but now I am just as fast and strong up the hill, and I have more control and am going faster down the hill.

    You have to do what works for you… There are a lot of people out there who will tell you what is right and wrong, but there are not often a lot of them basing what they tell you on actual evidence. This cleats back thing works well for me, and for other people I know… but everyone has to make up their own minds.

Viewing 18 posts - 1 through 18 (of 18 total)

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