Will flat pedals make me a better rider?

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  • Will flat pedals make me a better rider?
  • The Beard
    Member

    I have been riding on clipless pedals for years. I think 11 to be exact. I’ve sort of reached an impasse in my bike handling skills and I’m looking to improve. Do you think switching to flats would help me to improve technique? Or is it just something to get frustrated about and a waste of time?

    Wiredchops
    Member

    I’d say if you’re used to clipless stick with them, other than a greater feeling of confidence perhaps can’t see what flats would offer. Mind you I’ve ridden clipless for years too, riding on flats makes me brick it now, don’t feel secure at all.

    richc
    Member

    no, but riding more will.

    If you really want to improve a training course helps loads, as you will have loads of bad habits that are holding you back that a good instructor can help you overcome.

    scruff
    Member

    Stikkee rubber, stiffer soles and modern flat peggils are nothing like reeboks and power straps of old. With good shoes and pedals your feet really dont move at all. As for bunny hops etc you just need to point your toes down and have a practise.

    Premier Icon I_did_dab
    Subscriber

    A couple of rides on flats helped convince me to put more weight on my feet and keep my heels down. It helped me and it is relatively cheap to try out.

    Premier Icon wwaswas
    Subscriber

    stick with spd’s – your shins will thank you.

    jojoA1
    Member

    Surely if you’re happy riding clipless pedals in all circumstances then there’s nothing that flat’s would add other than being able to say “I can bunnyhop without ‘cheating'”.

    Personally I can’t understand people who ride SPDs who say that they clip out on techy stuff, that’s the place where I most want to be attached to my bike. I’ve never yet fallen off and remained attached to my bike when I haven’t wanted to.

    The Beard
    Member

    Power Straps? Were they those purple things Dave Hemming used to use? They were cool…

    I am considering a course somewhere, but the flats thing intrigued me. I do rely on being clipped in to bunny hop the bike and so forth and I’m pretty sure that has lead to poor technique.

    Premier Icon glenh
    Subscriber
    richc
    Member

    Dunno on balance stuff when you really need to be able to get off right *now* flats help. As by the time you have done the spazzy SPD twist you are already 99% of the way to the ground.

    Personally I moved back to flats, as I found that it was stopping me trying some stuff drops, jumps and bits of NS.

    Premier Icon wwaswas
    Subscriber

    “it was stopping me trying some stuff drops, jumps and bits of NS.”

    from my perspective, that’s a recommendation for sticking with SPD’s.

    The Beard
    Member

    Surely if you’re happy riding clipless pedals in all circumstances then there’s nothing that flat’s would add other than being able to say “I can bunnyhop without ‘cheating'”.

    I’d still stick with clips, but it’s my technique I want to improve.

    And I already have a decent gouge in my shin from early flat pedals back in the mid 90’s so pads would be used… Pads make you look cool don’t they?

    Premier Icon glenh
    Subscriber

    Just to add to my previous post, I have ridden spds for 13 years, but I periodically switch to flats to rejuvenate the bike handling skills. I find I pick up bad habits and loose the ability to maneuver the bike in the air if I don’t.

    Premier Icon ART
    Subscriber

    I’m with glenh.

    Like you I’d been riding clipless for ever, but decided to give it a go. You need to be patient and persevere with it, but it makes you realise how reliant you get on being ‘attached’ to the bike. I actually feel much more planted and in control on flats, having expected the opposite. It might not be for you, but there’s no harm in giving it a go really is there…

    3 things that massively increaced the level of my cycling,

    1, riding a road bike, gives an entirely different type of fitness to 3 hours on a trail

    2, riding a BMX, teaches you weight distribution and how to handle (bunnyhop, manual, jump etc, not the floaty technique you get from riding an on-one etc) a bike without suspension.

    3, flat pedals, ok going up super steep hills is slower, but im 200-300% faster on properly technical terrain as i’m no longer held back by the thought of having to unclip. Stanage edge and the east side of jacobs ladder are now off the brakes blasts rather than trials slow. Even most Pro DH’ers admit theres sections theyd rather be on flats/spd’s so its not for a lack of skill/fitness either way.

    ciron
    Member

    Pads make you look cool don’t they?

    Around Epping Forest, possibly not, but you can go to the bar for the post ride drinks.

    STATO
    Member

    spazzy SPD twist you are already 99% of the way to the ground

    You mean the ‘flat pedal rider not used to spd’s – spazzy twist’. If youve riden spd’s a LOT you can unclip before you get anywhere near the ground (even during a crash)

    dasnut
    Member

    spds are stupid and they knacker your knees

    if you can’t ride with flats your a crap rider – FACT

    jfeb
    Member

    My riding has definitely got better since I moved to flats on one of my two bikes (although I am still pretty crap in the grand scheme of things). Using flats has forced me to learn to stay connected to the bike better and use “better” technique to bunny-hop etc. I do find it a bit odd for a few minutes when I get back on my other bike with SPDs as the foot position is quite different but that is the only downside and it takes only minutes to re-adjust.

    Premier Icon Mr Agreeable
    Subscriber

    You want to be on flats if you’re learning to jump or wheelie. And all this “I can unclip quicker than the speed of light” is rubbish – there’s an extra movement involved, so it’s always going to be slower.

    Premier Icon wwaswas
    Subscriber

    “spds are stupid and they knacker your knees”

    My experience with flats and proper flats shoes is that there’s no float at all. If you wantt o move your knees you have to lift your foot off and put it back down – you get far more ‘twist’ type movement of your foot over the course of a crank revolution with spd type pedals than flats.

    geetee1972
    Member

    Sorry if it’s already been mentioned (I scanned but couldn’t see the point being made) but there is one key skill that a lot of SPD riders cannot do because they ride clips, and that’s picking the bike up without using their feet.

    This is the key reason why I moved to flats about two years ago and have not looked back since – I am absolutely a better rider because I learned to ride flats. Learning and mastering a basic bunnyhop on flats, so that you’re lifting the bike initially with your arms and upper body and then bringing the rest up with your hips, arse and legs is one of the most basic and fundamental skills. For a long time, I relied completely on doing this with my feet as they were attached to the bike, but it’s the wrong technique and will get you into more trouble than it solves.

    If you can already pick the bike up at will wtihout using your feet, then there might be less to gain from switching to flats. But you might also find yourself more willing to commit to a corner at speed knowing you can always drop a foot quickly and so you may become a faster rider by doing this. Being locked in doesn’t stop the likes of the Athertons or Peaty from pinning corners full on, but most of us have a long way to go before we get to that level.

    there maybe no float in flats, but your foot changes position every time you set off so less likely to suffer from badly alligned cleats causing problems over time.

    GW
    Member

    wwaswas – WTF are you on about?
    proper flats shoes? what are they then? I really hope you don’t mean 5:10s – a super soft/sticky climbing sole that was first used in cycling by top DHers to help them keep their feet planted in the roughest rockgardens at the fastest speeds is not needed for your average mincer scared of hitting their shins with a flat pedal.

    with any ordinary soled skate shoe, even something like a soft Vans waffle all you have to do is unweight your foot slightly to change it’s position on a flat pedal. you won’t learn good technique for gripping a flat pedal with a stealth rubber sole. you’ll merely have taken a shortcut to another gadget to help you ‘blag’ your way through rather than learning some new skills.
    look at any decent BMXer or Dirtjumpers feet and pedals, many don’t even have prominant pedal pins never mind sticky soles. and the shit they pull blows MTB riding away.

    No – changing to flats won’t make you a better rider! more varied riding along with natural progression will, whether flat pedals are in the evolution of your riding is up to you.

    Premier Icon glenh
    Subscriber

    I’m not sure about this uncliping speed thing – having been riding spds for ages i can manage to unclip to put a foot down even during unexpected front wheel washes etc. I never feel like I might not be able to get out.

    However as geetee says above, if you don’t learn bike skills on flats, you will never get them right (in fact, like I said above, I have to refresh them sometimes ‘cos riding spds erodes the skills, although it does make climbing a lot easier!).

    GNARGNAR
    Member

    IMO it’s all about the aggressive side of riding, at the ragged edge of traction, balance, confidence etc. These are the situations and scenarios where the average flat pedal rider will leave the average clipped rider in his dust.

    There are obviously exceptions – super talented guys who ride clipped but can muscle a bike through the roughest fastest terrain better than most. In my experience they are the exception rather than the rule.

    It’s easy and cheap to try, so why not. The loss in pedalling efficiency is marginal compared to the gains to be had in so many different aspects of your riding.

    As for all this ” I can clip out quicker than a quick thing ” arguement – it’s mostly bollox as far as I can see. I’ve seen enough elite dh riders crash in a crumpled mess of limbs and bike because they couldnt clip out fast enough to convince me it’s not easy to do at speed in all scenarios.

    Premier Icon lunge
    Subscriber

    If you do try flats then make sure you drop your saddle a few inches as well as you tend to move arund the bike more with flats.

    dasnut
    Member

    spds give you max 10% more pedalling efficiency and what else exactly?

    get 10% fitter and ride flats

    spds going the same way as quick releases – for road bikes only folks….

    Just posted up a thread comparing the following, thinking of trying these so can have the option of either, may be worth a try Beard and see how you get on, nothing to lose if you go for the bike hut option !!

    http://www.chainreactioncycles.com/Models.aspx?ModelID=19407

    http://www.halfords.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/product_catalogId_10151_storeId_10001_partNumber_535468_langId_-1#dtab

    JonEdwards
    Member

    I ride both. Both have benfits, both have drawbacks. It’s worth trying (and persevering) with flats because you can push things a lot harder. After 10+ years on SPDs I’m still a feet up rider, but the whole way you weight the bike changes on flats and you can corner MUCH harder (which once you have the confidence to drift both wheels, feet up, you can use that with SPDs too). Jumping/woodwork/drops are also much easier/safer on flats.

    That said, I hate technical climbing on flats – you just don’t get anywhere near as much peak power for difficult moves, and as soon as the back wheel slips, you’re off; and I’m still faster in a straight line through the rocks on SPDs because I can just point hang on and pedal without worrying about staying attatched to the bike. The opposite to this in fact!

    Stanage edge and the east side of jacobs ladder are now off the brakes blasts rather than trials slow.

    I’m getting better though. 5:10s and Kona WahWahs, for the first time vaguely have the same security as being clipped in. I’ll have to try some more trail rides on flats.

    I’ve seen enough elite dh riders crash in a crumpled mess of limbs and bike because they couldnt clip out fast enough to convince me it’s not easy to do at speed in all scenarios.

    The same applies to flats riders too though – see Sam Hill, 2008 World championships…!

    Premier Icon wwaswas
    Subscriber

    “wwaswas – WTF are you on about?”

    I was descrbing my experience with flat pedals over a 2 year period usign a pair of 661 Launch shoes.

    when I switched to eggbeaters I foudn that I had less problems as they allow your foor to rotate in/on the pedal durign the course of a single crank rotation without the need to unweight/lift your foot at all.

    For my type of ridign (jey) and my body spd’s work better than flats.

    I don’t care if I’m a ‘better’ or worse rider, really – I ride my bike to enjoy it and I get more enjoyment riding clipped in than on flats.

    does that explain it?

    its nearer 25-30%

    15% from the squidy sole
    5-10% from the lower power at TDC/BDC

    and 5.10’s werent a climbing shoe recently addapted by DH’ers.

    Intense had some skate shoes made up and soled in stealth rubber by 5.10, they then went out of production, leading to a lot of very worn out pairs being gaffataped up. Untill 5.10 started producing them again and all was well in the world.

    Try cycling in climbing shoes, its flipin impossible! Even aproach shoes are nothing on skate shoes/5.10’s.

    GNARGNAR
    Member

    JonEdwards –

    The same applies to flats riders too though – see Sam Hill, 2008 World championships…!

    To elaborate – I’ve seen incidences where riders who are clipped in crash and are unable to get away from the bike leading to some very nasty looking crashes.

    Sam Hills crash at the worls is a good example of the opposite – he’s thrown off the bike and slides clear of it. It’d also be fair to say, had he been riding clipped he wouldnt have even been able to take the first part of the corner the way he did, never mind attempt to take that line.

    Funnily enough, in that section of the race you can (just about) hear Warner’s co commentator drone on about how pointless it was to think about running clipped for DH.

    Premier Icon molgrips
    Subscriber

    I’ve got flats and I sometimes ride them on my big bike. There are drops and things I feel less confident on in SPDs despite having cultivated the instant unclip reaction over the years. No matter how fast you can unclip it’s still slower than just moving your foot – as I have found out with experience. However for normal riding SPDs are far better, allowing you to handle bumpy stuff better (up and down) and importantly allowing you to pedal circles better. Plus, skate shoes have thin soft soles which are rubbish for power transfer.

    spds give you max 10% more pedalling efficiency and what else exactly?

    get 10% fitter and ride flats

    What a stupid thing to say. Get 10% fitter ride 10% faster would be much more appealing to most. Who wants to get 10% fitter and end up riding the same speed?

    Premier Icon Mr Agreeable
    Subscriber

    Wwwas, I’ve had Launches and they are designed primarily to be used with SPDs and are rubbish for flats – not grippy at all and the curved sole puts your feet in a weird position. Maybe that’s why you hated them?

    TINAS, in the immortal words of Vic Reeves, 88.2% of statistics are made up on the spot.

    DM52
    Member

    Go for it! You might pick up different trail skills which can translate back to SPD territory but it will be fun finding out. I run SPD’s for the hardtail and flats for the full suss, I have never come across anything that got me thinking “hmm if only I was riding flats / spds today.”

    The most amusing thing I find when using SPD’s after a few rides on flats is when the traction does give out in a corner I am consistently amazed that the tyres hook up again without me putting a foot down. On the flats I would have been tempted to dab. If I had been riding solely on SPD’s I don’t think I would have attacked the same corner with the same amount of enthusiasm.

    GNARGNAR
    Member

    molgrips – However for normal riding SPDs are far better, allowing you to handle bumpy stuff better (up and down) and importantly allowing you to pedal circles better. Plus, skate shoes have thin soft soles which are rubbish for power transfer.

    Ah but 5 10s have heavily re-infoced soles alowing for very good power transfer.

    Also, define “normal riding” ?. For me it’s riding about and sessioning short fast techical descents with mid sized features, having some fun, riding aggresively, trying to go faster than before/my mates etc…..it involves lots of “bumpy” stuff which is where I usually leave the clipped riders for dead. They can climb better then me though. Not that I’m too bothered about that.

    DM52
    Member

    TINAS, in the immortal words of Vic Reeves, 88.2% of statistics are made up on the spot.

    only 43.7% of the general population know that though 😀

    JonEdwards
    Member

    I’ve sort of reached an impasse in my bike handling skills and I’m looking to improve. Do you think switching to flats would help me to improve technique?

    Actually thinking about it – Why have you reached an impasse? If you *want* to improve, you’ll go out looking for new challenges, you’ll know what your weaknesses are and what you want to change. Just riding the same old trails in the same old way, but using flats rather than SPDs will make jack all difference.

    It’s *you* that drives improvemnets, not the kit you’re using.

    dasnut
    Member

    can someone point to to some scientific evidence of the improved efficiency of clipless pedals please. thanks

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