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  1. #1
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    Age old question: flats or clipless for trail riding

    My trail bike is a 6.5" rear and 6" front travel bike.

    Most of the trails I'll ride are on the North Shore of Vancouver (for those that are local, you know what kind of trails they are).

    I like riding the trail networks that have ups and downs and recently, I was thinking of switching to flats and use my Shimano DX flat shoes. I currently use Shimano clipless pedals, and while I have no issues, I was wondering what you guys use.

    I suppose I could always just try and see what happens.
    -2000 Giant DH Team
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  2. #2
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    Pedals are a personal choice.
    Some like flats, some like clipless.
    Asking will only let you know what other peoples personal choice is.
    Trying will allow you to find out what your personal choice is.

    For the record, I like flats.
    Just stick it in granny and start grinding.

  3. #3
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    I clip in on the road and run flats on the MTB.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by kjlued View Post
    Pedals are a personal choice.
    Some like flats, some like clipless.
    Asking will only let you know what other peoples personal choice is.
    Trying will allow you to find out what your personal choice is.

    For the record, I like flats.
    Best answer that a man could give to this question. +1!

    I like flats too

  5. #5
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    Just try and see what happens is probably your best bet.

  6. #6
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    Age old question: flats or clipless for trail riding

    Try flats, you'll never know unless you try. I like both and ride both. But I ride clipless more because they give another level of control IMO.
    Mountain biking saved my life

  7. #7
    Off the saddle
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    What about something like the Shimano XTR M985 trail pedals? It's clipless and a cage around it. Dare to call it a hybrid?
    Edited to add: I have no personal experience with the pedals or even know if they are good. Just throwing out a suggestion.

  8. #8
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    Re: Age old question: flats or clipless for trail riding

    Well I currently have shimano spd pedals with plastic platforms around them. They work great but yeah, I'll just try some flats on an easy local trail to get a feel for them.

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    -2000 Giant DH Team
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  9. #9
    Yes, that's fonetic
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    Age old answer, use the search function. This page must have at least 50 similar threads.

    I use both, clips for AM/XC bike, flats for FR/DH/DJ bikes.
    Last edited by whodaphuck; 04-28-2013 at 03:24 PM.

  10. #10
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    Age old question: flats or clipless for trail riding

    Quote Originally Posted by jizzim View Post
    What about something like the Shimano XTR M985 trail pedals? It's clipless and a cage around it. Dare to call it a hybrid?
    Edited to add: I have no personal experience with the pedals or even know if they are good. Just throwing out a suggestion.
    No, there really is no hybrid. You need to go all in on one system or another, or you guarantee that your experience will suck.

    Those offer more support and a bigger target for your feet, and let you stay on the pedal to a degree if you haven't gotten clipped in, but it's nothing like a flat pedal. Even something like a Mallet isn't a hybrid, because of the raised relief of the retention.

    OP: you already got the best answer you're going to get. It's personal preference, and you have to figure it out for yourself.
    "Back off, man. I'm a scientist." - Dr. Peter Venkman

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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by jizzim View Post
    What about something like the Shimano XTR M985 trail pedals? It's clipless and a cage around it. Dare to call it a hybrid?
    Edited to add: I have no personal experience with the pedals or even know if they are good. Just throwing out a suggestion.

    There are much better choices such as crank brother mallets.
    That being said, what most people say about hybrid type pedals is they do neither really well.
    Just stick it in granny and start grinding.

  12. #12
    Yes, that's fonetic
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    Quote Originally Posted by kjlued View Post
    There are much better choices such as crank brother mallets.
    That being said, what most people say about hybrid type pedals is they do neither really well.
    Another subjective answer confirming the need to try different versions and decide for yourself. I hated Crank Brother's pedal interface and have used SPDs for years.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by whodaphuck View Post
    Another subjective answer confirming the need to try different versions and decide for yourself. I hated Crank Brother's pedal interface and have used SPDs for years.
    Not saying crank brothers are better, I was just giving a better example as a combo pedal.
    Shimano also makes some better choices.

    Shimano M324 SPD Pedals

    or

    Shimano A530 SPD Single Sided Touring Pedals

    In fact I don't even think the ones that were listed by jizzim were really hybrids.
    Just stick it in granny and start grinding.

  14. #14
    bikerbert
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    Age old question: flats or clipless for trail riding

    I ride both and prefer flats. Seems my feet have more freedom to move and my knees and hips seem to like it better.

    I'm going with flats on Mtb and clipped in on the road. Give it a shot.

    Ride a stretch you know how long it takes getting from A to B. run both systems and see what the difference is. That way at least from a performance perspective you'll have some data.

    I did the same and there WS maybe 5-7 secs difference clipped in to flats.

  15. #15
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    I ride both, when Im alone I usually use clips (time XC6) because I go try to go fast and dont do anything too crazy. But, when I'm riding with buddies I get a lot crazier with jumps and drops so I will run my flats (e13 LG1). I feel more comfortable on my flats than clipless not because I can bail faster but because my flas allow me to change foot postion in mid air or reset my feet for downhills

  16. #16
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    As most have said, it's a personal preference.

    I started with Shimano M323 (now 324's I think) back in the 90's. Cage one side, clips the other. Great learner pedal and also great for the need to drop down to the shop in your jandals. Clips can give you better control or rough terrain - maybe less so in todays world of full suspension though. I have tryed Shim clipless with nylon cage around, they are crap as you can't ride comfortably in them when wearing non clipless shoes as the clipless system is higher then the platform.
    I run Crank Bros Candy clipless on the Trail/commuter bike, they are ok, but lack the tension adjustment of shimano pedals, at least they look flash! I wanted a low profile pedal as I'd scrape my Exustars while pedaling around some fast corners on my commute to work.

    I went back to flats around 5 years or so ago when my riding got a little more dangerous. The modern platforms with pins have great grip and are nice and large for my wide sasquatch feet. So generally I feel more confident with them. I can bail a bit easier without taking the bike with me.

    Clipless is great for using the up stroke of your pedal motion for extra power and speed. but here is an example of what clipless can mean -
    I was on an awesome technical local trail (since flattened for boring walkers/hikers - boo) which had a particular tricky section which I loved riding. I turned around to push my bike back up for another run at it and 4 riders came past and stopped to ask if it was ridable to which I said "yes". As it was - I guess it depends on your skill level. One guy went ahead and went to drop into the steep sharp right hander. He got caught up on a root, stopped and went splat onto his side as he didn't manage to clip out in time. I don't know how long he'd been riding clipless, but it just makles it that little bit harder to get off your pedals. I have had a few high speed crashes were my bike gets a bit tangled up with the legs as the feet stay attached to the pedals for a bit.

    All in all I prefer flats for most of the trails I ride, but not adverse to being clipped in for some tricky trails.

    For the record, my trail/commuter has clipless, my FR has flats as does my AM rig. My partners hardtail AM has flats.

  17. #17
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    Clipless on the road or for long flat XC.

    Flats for the trail.

    And don't waste time or money on "hybrids" -- worst of both words. They are bad performing flats, and clumsy for clipless use.
    '11 Specialized Enduro Expert for the trails
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  18. #18
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    Since making the transition to clipless from flats I have become a better rider, period. My level of balance is higher than before as its easier for me to move around on the bike before entering turns or tricky sections.

    Now that said, I still have hesitation occasionally when going to a new trail or revisiting one I've been off for a while that may have allot of drops, etc. I start overthinking it and worrying about having to bail quickly, etc. But I have not gone back to flats simply for the fact that I know that running clipless I am a better rider and I just need to grow bigger balls when I get freaked out about something.

    The biggest problem I have with clipless is also my biggest problem with mountain biking, and I honestly am not sure how to break myself from it. But when I start to lose it I REALLY lose it, I mean I go full off, bike and all, and once I start to go I can never get my feet out of the pedals quick enough.And its ALWAYS in slow techy stuff or really tight slow speed turns. Its something I'm going to work on this year. I had a wreck so bad during a slow speed turn where I couldn't get out of the pedals and fell on me knee and tore a collateral ligament and picked up a bone bruise that hurt for 3+ months.
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  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by madsedan View Post
    Since making the transition to clipless from flats I have become a better rider, period. My level of balance is higher than before as its easier for me to move around on the bike before entering turns or tricky sections.

    Now that said, I still have hesitation occasionally when going to a new trail or revisiting one I've been off for a while that may have allot of drops, etc. I start overthinking it and worrying about having to bail quickly, etc. But I have not gone back to flats simply for the fact that I know that running clipless I am a better rider and I just need to grow bigger balls when I get freaked out about something.

    The biggest problem I have with clipless is also my biggest problem with mountain biking, and I honestly am not sure how to break myself from it. But when I start to lose it I REALLY lose it, I mean I go full off, bike and all, and once I start to go I can never get my feet out of the pedals quick enough.And its ALWAYS in slow techy stuff or really tight slow speed turns. Its something I'm going to work on this year. I had a wreck so bad during a slow speed turn where I couldn't get out of the pedals and fell on me knee and tore a collateral ligament and picked up a bone bruise that hurt for 3+ months.
    There you have it, going clipless makes you dickless.

    j/k

    But seriously how does it make you a "better rider" if you are bailing on more stuff?
    It actually sounds like it is making you a worse rider.
    Just stick it in granny and start grinding.

  20. #20
    squish, squish in da fish
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    holy **** just buy a set of both and figure it out. why are there a 1000 ****ing posts on the same ****ing subject? flats cover all bases beeoch!

  21. #21
    squish, squish in da fish
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    should i wear boxers or briefs?

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by fishwrinkle View Post
    should i wear boxers or briefs?
    Stupid analogy because in this case, the hybrid is clearly the better choice.

    boxer briefs
    Just stick it in granny and start grinding.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tystevens View Post
    Clipless on the road or for long flat XC.

    Flats for the trail.
    thats my preference too.

    Quote Originally Posted by fishwrinkle View Post
    should i wear boxers or briefs?
    freeball

  24. #24
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    To each their own. That said a couple of quick points.

    If you run flats, run a good pedal and use a good shoe like the 5-10s so your foot is solid on the pedal. I can't recall the last time I lost my footing on the pedal on any type of terrain. For some that is an issue and why clipless is a consideration, not for me. As for balance I think I am better with flats as I can push further and not worry about bailing at the last minute and wondering if I can clip out of the pedal.

    Yes, perhaps you might be able to get a direct pull/lift with while being clipped in vs flats, but for me, I don't find it to be an issue, especially when considering the trade-off of knowing I won't be locked onto my bike in a fall.

    If I was going to ride mostly XC type trails, rather than the shore, I would likely run clipless as you do get a little more power and it is a little easier to move the bike around while being clipped in. I have nice set of XT Trail pedals that I want to try out, just need a new pair of shoes. That is another question. What shoes to wear that are comfortable and have enough grip for occasional hike a bike up a ridge.

    My old bike shoes have been relegated for use on my commuter as I doubt I could get the old cleats off if I tried.

  25. #25
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    The last time I had to remove old cleats I had to use a Dremel tool to cut a slot for a screwdriver into the ruined allen head screws.

    I've run SPDs on all of my bikes since SPDs came out. But on my FS trail bike I'm now running flats. I don't have any trouble going back and forth.

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