Flats – why so popular?

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  • Flats – why so popular?
  • easygroove
    Member

    on many of the pics of new bikes etc that get posted on here it seems that a higher proportion (than i expected) are sporting flat pedals – are spds and x country riding dying a slow death? I ride o/s in oz and flats on anything but a downhill bike are very rare

    _tom_
    Member

    They make you approximately 10x more rad.

    Personally I don’t really “get” spds even on my road bike. I don’t feel they add anything (my average speeds are the same on spuds or flats) and I like to move my feet around a bit. I’m only using them on the roadie because I paid for the shoes so I’m going to get my moneys worth.

    Premier Icon scaled
    Subscriber

    You really cant tell the difference on road?

    Sorry, but that has to be a case of you’re doing it wrong…

    daleftw
    Member

    Started using SPDs on my MTB, great for big miles on cycle paths, but I did not enjoy them on anything technical.

    Every trail round here is damp, muddy, rooty, slippy slidy, horrible awesomeness. The ability to get my foot down quickly when the front wheel slides out is more important to me over a very minimal increase in pedalling efficiency.

    cynic-al
    Member

    Definitely a marketing thing IMO.

    Flats must lose power on road, and comfort over longer distances, whether the former is significant I don’t know, proper road shoes and even spds feel night and day to flats.

    Premier Icon sefton
    Subscriber

    the best thing I ever bought for my mtb was spd’s!

    flats on the rd must be terrible

    I’m a xc guy though!

    easygroove
    Member

    flats on a road bike is plain wrong 😆

    Horses for courses.

    Me – SPds almost all the time. But I have ridden attached to the bike since I started. the stiff shoes is the main advantage I guess.

    Once used to them its easy enough to get your foot out to dab or when crashing

    On flats however you need better technique for jumping and so on so its probably better to learn jumps on flats

    Flats on my bike that I’m likely to use to get me into situations where being clipped in isn’t the best idea.

    Clips on my singlespeed XC bike.

    For me its not a fashion thing, its a sensible thing. Took my SPDs off 3 years ago after the first day in Verbier. Not put them back on… On my full suss I’m not out there racing, its built for enjoyment so I plod up the hills and ride back down them via th silliest routes possible. SPDs just aren’t practical (for me) for that stuff.

    _tom_
    Member

    You really cant tell the difference on road?

    Sorry, but that has to be a case of you’re doing it wrong…

    Maybe because I’m more of a pedal masher than a spinner. The only time I notice a difference is on uphill bits where I can pull up rather than just push down.

    titusrider
    Member

    I find it makes a large difference to what climbs i can get up and how much energy i expend doing it.
    esp noticable on the single speed as there are climbs i can do no problem with SPD that i cant get up on flats.

    I do however like to swap back to flats every so often for a bit of skills brush up and a bit of ‘foot out flatout’ cornering 🙂

    Whos_Daddy
    Member

    SPD’s on HT & Roadie but flats on my 575 as they are a “get me out of jail free card” when things get a little dodgy!! 😉

    Definitely a marketing thing IMO.

    Cheapest flats are 10 quid and can be used with existing trainers
    Cheapest SPDS are 20 quid and need special shoes (40-50 quid?)

    if its marketing, they’re not very good at it.

    kudos100
    Member

    Because they are more fun. You rarely see riders who like to jump, manual, drift and generally muck about on their bikes riding spd’s. The exception to this are riders who are masters at bike handling as they can ride just about anything clipped in.

    A lot of people assume that flats are easier to bail out from if it gets a bit iffy. It’s not really true but each to their own.

    geetee1972
    Member

    Oooh a flat pedal debate – lemme at em!

    Everyone has their own view on this and that’s really all that matters. But the modern prevalence of flat pedals, especially among the DH fraternity, was definitely started by Sam Hill in the mid noughties when he whupped ass at places like Schladming and then took the Worlds title in Rotorua.

    That’s not to say that people weren’t riding flats before Sam; obviously they were. But he added a lot to the ‘zeitgeist’.

    So, fashion kick started the flat pedal revolution but a lot of people find there are very real benefits.

    I personally think you have to be a really very good rider indeed to be able to ride pinned on SPDs; you’ve got very little margin of error with SPDs so you need to be very confident in bike handling to go full tilt into a corner and not have the immediacy of foot down correction should you need it.

    In some ways, it could be argued that flat pedals are a skills compensator.

    For me, the biggest difference is sensitivity and feel through the soles of my feet; I use my feet to judge what the bike is doing, how much grip there is, when the bike is starting to slide and how best to compensate.

    I find SPDs don’t give me the same feel – think of it like wearing a Durex Ultralite versus a Durex Extra Safe, but with the safety factor reversed :mrgreen:

    kudos100
    Member

    A lot of people assume that flats are easier to bail out from if it gets a bit iffy. It’s not really true but each to their own.

    que?

    yunki
    Member

    I have always ridden flats..
    coming from a bmx background rather than a road background, from my perspective spd’s were a fashion that you could choose to buy into..

    supertacky
    Member

    I use both on my XC bike dependant on conditions. Things are different on my DH bike though as I always wear flats nowadays. clips on the DH bike were plain dangerous. Couldnt stay clipped in over rough or during harsh landings which caused me to lose the pedal at extremely bad times. Back to flats and its no worries. I’ve given up experimenting now and I’m happy to use them on the XC bike as the advantages of better uphills and easy jumping make them a joy. They get binned in favour of flats when its super tech/muddy/snow/steep though.

    geetee1972
    Member

    Supertacky – interesting perspective. Do you ever struggle with adjusting your riding style between the two?

    jonba
    Member

    I tried both and decided that for general riding I prefered flats. Still have spds on the road and for racing. Any benefit in performance was outweighed by the fact I felt more confident in flats and so had more fun on the downs.

    The Q could equally be “spds, why so popular?”

    The answer to both is don’t worry about what is popular but try them and see what you like. They both have pros and cons.

    mrchrist
    Member

    My thoughts……..

    SPDs:
    – tech climbing (pull & push the pedals at the same time)
    – spinning
    – rocky descents – stability
    – cornering – great control

    FLATS:
    – jumping
    – drifting
    – bailing
    – north shore
    – hike a bike

    scud
    Member

    I have SPD’s on XC hardtail as that is my ride all day bike, but flats on big full sus for Alps etc, i found that it wasn’t a case of feeling safer not being clipped in, but because I found it more comfortable, if 85% of what you are riding is downhill, then you are standing up on the bike for long periods of time.

    In SPD disco slippers my feet were uncomfortable stood up for that long, with flats you can adjust postion on pedal more, there is a broader platform for your foot and my calves ached less.

    My Five Tens are 10x more comfy than SPD’s for the occasional time when you have to push or carry the bike and when hooning down Swiss fireroad at 35mph you could pivot round the foot when my brakes faded badly in the corners!

    But the modern prevalence of flat pedals, especially among the DH fraternity, was definitely started by Sam Hill in the mid noughties when he whupped ass at places like Schladming and then took the Worlds title in Rotorua.

    I pay no interest in racing and have been using flats since 1995/6 with most of my mates.

    If anything, I’d say that spd’s are the fashion thing, as a lot of people think that they ‘need’ to be clipped in in order to be a proper mountain biklist. Just with a lot of other aspects of the uniform – Fox helmets, 3/4 length shorts, sunglasses. If it makes them happy, who cares?

    I’m sure spd’s are more efficient in terms of ‘cadence’, whatever on Earth that may be, but for me, riding a bike is just about having fun. I can jump on the thing with my normal trainers with flats, go to work, the shops, without having to get dressed up.

    Like others have said, each to their own, what difference does it make to anyone else what pedals someone uses?

    cynic-al
    Member

    HoratioHufnagel – Member
    Cheapest flats are 10 quid and can be used with existing trainers
    Cheapest SPDS are 20 quid and need special shoes (40-50 quid?)

    if its marketing, they’re not very good at it.

    The OP is about “pics of new bikes etc” so it’s not the pedals that are being marketed, I meant that bikes look cooler with flats than spd (apart from xc jey boy racer bikes, which can’t look cool, ever 😉 )

    In any event marketing is not about getting exposure for more expensive products.

    Premier Icon flange
    Subscriber

    I’ve just gone back to SPDS (5/10 minaars on xtr trails) on my five and its pretty good. For trail centres its much easier, and I think I’m a bit faster on the downs, mainly because I’m not dabbing as much because its such a faff. I had 5/10’s on a set of flats with some big pins in and I found that they were so sticky I’d have my foot on the pedal in the wrong position and couldn’t move it easily. At least spds force you to have your foot in the right position.

    Dirt jumping and uplift days I’d always use flats, but for all day riding I think SPD’s have got the edge, especially with the new skate style SPD shoes, just makes walking about a bit more comfortable.

    Bagstard
    Member

    Nothing to do with fashion for me, I started riding with spd’s until I went to Chicksands for the first time and my pedals were getting full of sand and I struggled to clip in. Also a few muddy uplift days left me wanting to be able to bail when the need arose. Flats since 2004 and no plans to go back.

    chvck
    Member

    I use flats on my road bike! I ride flats because I just always have, I have some nice pedals and nice shoes and I like the set-up. I do want to try SPDs but it means buying pedals and shoes which is something I just never get round to doing! (The road bike has flats because I already had them kicking around)

    wrecker
    Member

    Everyone has their own view on this and that’s really all that matters.

    Hallelujah

    In some ways, it could be argued that flat pedals are a skills compensator.

    It’s the other way around I reckon. Lifting a bike by being connected through the feet does not require skill.

    Premier Icon FuzzyWuzzy
    Subscriber

    I prefer SPDs myself, mostly because I don’t have great technique (there’s a 50% chance my feet come off the pedals if I get air with flats :p ) and I like the lazier riding style whereby I don’t have to worry what my feet are doing. I’d say they do help with pedalling but it’s marginal. Only time I use flats is in the snow really.

    I’ve been riding with spuds for 17 odd years (yikes! time flies) Except when I was a beginner I’ve only ridden flats when I’ve rented DH bikes (which took some adjustment and were ok)

    I still don’t understand why people use flats (except to adjust foot position on big drops). My spuds (I use trail types with a cage) are comfortable, allow me to move the bike through my feet, keep them planted on descents and give me extra power on climbs.

    Do people wear flats because they are worried about being able to clip out?

    Everyone has their own view on this and that’s really all that matters.

    Hallelujah

    In some ways, it could be argued that flat pedals are a skills compensator.

    It’s the other way around I reckon. Lifting a bike by being connected through the feet does not require skill.

    What he said ^^^

    I remember first having a go on my brother’s 1993 Cindercone with spd’s and ended up riding down the street like Skippy the Bush Kangaroo. It did help that it weighed about 22 pounds as well as the spd’s though. 😆

    Do people wear flats because they are worried about being able to clip out?

    No.

    I personally think you have to be a really very good rider indeed to be able to ride pinned on SPDs; you’ve got very little margin of error with SPDs so you need to be very confident in bike handling to go full tilt into a corner and not have the immediacy of foot down correction should you need it.

    Once you are used to them its no issue at all to get your foot out when needed.

    nickf
    Member

    I’ve tried several types of flats and shoes on my DH bike, and have never been comfortable with them. They’re either not grippy enough, or so grippy that there’s no float whatsoever. And losing your footing on landing has to be the most confidence-sapping thing you can experience.

    So I put some M545 back on the bike, and my feet stay in just the right position. That said, I’m not a dabber or a foot slider (in the main), but I’ve never had a problem getting my foot out or clipping back in. I’m perfectly happy with my choice.

    TandemJeremy – Member
    Horses for courses.
    ***********
    Once used to them its easy enough to get your foot out to dab or when crashing
    ***********
    On flats however you need better technique for jumping and so on so its probably better to learn jumps on flats

    I agree on point 1, I run CB candy’s on my Swift and Look copies on my road bike, but flats on the Pitch. I know plenty of people who just don’t like flats even on DH bikes, they’re not bad riders (a long way from it, they’re far faster than me) they just learn’t a different set of skills and are stickign with them, I actualy quite like jumping in SPD’s when I’m out on an XC ride.

    Point 2 I disagree on, it’s easy enough if you have time, but if a crash is big enough to do an injusry it probably hapens fast enough that you don’t get time to bail out. Dabs from SPD yes (if marginaly slower or more planning required), but uncliping in a crash is down to luck.

    Point 3, there’s nothig fundementaly wrong with jumping with SPD’s as long as you dont pull up the rear wheel too high, it’s the inability to unclip and ditch the bike mid air that worries me if you’re about to nose dive horribly and want out!

    I personally think you have to be a really very good rider indeed to be able to ride pinned on SPDs; you’ve got very little margin of error with SPDs so you need to be very confident in bike handling to go full tilt into a corner and not have the immediacy of foot down correction should you need it.

    I ride at the same speed in either, just instead of physicaly lifting my foot off the pedal on flats I automaticaly twist my foot so the cleat is released (but still in the pedal) so I can lift it off just as quick. The downside isn’t the speed of unclipping, it’s the gettign clipped back in that can be a problem, miss the cleat/pedal and you’ve got no controll going into the next section.

    alpin
    Member

    i originally bought my first spds and shoes when i set off across europe.

    a big, fat chunky set of Time pedals that i kinda wish i could find.

    ended up gettin a pair of Shimano MT90 (the leather/suede Goretex boot)

    for local riding (essex) they were fine. moved to bavaria and again they were fine, but found that in winter they’d get jammed full of ice so bought a set of Wellgo Mags. that was about four years ago.

    only used spds once after that and that was on my first transalp with a mate (three years ago). i found that after a day or two my feet were really sore due to the constant pressure on one point.

    since then i’ve not used them since.

    my riding has improved. i’m quicker now on the bike without them. my “trick” repertoire increased.

    in summer i guide across the alps and never find myself wanting spds. i can walk up the steep bits without worrying about the cleat slipping on a rock. the sole of my shoe has never fallen off and left itself attached to the pedal (seen this three times now… one pair of Lake and two NorthWave). my cleats don’t fall off or the screws don’t come loose.

    i can jump on my bike and ride to the shops without faffing with another pair of shoes.

    and i’m not sure that i lose that much power. with a good pedal (i.e. grippy), decent shoes and a good technique you can still pull ~ 1/3 of the way.

    plus TINAS’s second post. see so many guests fluffing a section because they are not prepared for what it coming up due to the last tricky section.

    oh, and my feet don’t ache after a week of riding both up and down….

    Mrs Toast
    Member

    I use flats because I have exceedingly gammy knees, with particular issues with twisting movements. I think SPDs would kill me. 🙁

    Plus walking in SPD shoes makes you look like a penguin.

    Edric 64
    Member

    Thank god for Spds as before them I always used toeclips and straps and that was a pfaff

    xiphon
    Member

    road / XC / trail bike = SPDs

    DH / BMX (when used on a track) = flats

    I don’t feel confident enough on SPDs when ‘the going gets tough’ to release quickly.

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