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  1. #1
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    Flats vs Clipless

    Hey folks. I grew up riding xc with clips, but got into moto, and since returning to biking have been riding flats for the last 5 years. After some long hard thought, and noticing that the majority upper level riders, XC to DH, clip in; the gears began turning.

    Any of you guys mind letting me know what you ride, and why you feel it's better for your riding style, local trails, etc?

    I know there are some things I could gain by clipping in; and I've read a ton about it, but before investing $150+ in the setup to try it, just wanted to pick some local brains.

  2. #2
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    Good question, never been asked before.

    Well dmbass, I ride flats on my mountain bikes and clipless on my road bike.
    However I see people that ride flats, clipless and toe clips on all types of bikes.
    I hope that answers your question.
    Just stick it in granny and start grinding.

  3. #3
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    dmbass? Hope that was a typo

    Just looking for what advantages and disadvantages people feel they gain around here and why… I know, I know, there are tons of threads on the subject. Just figured someone out there wouldn't mind enlightening me

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by bmbass View Post
    dmbass? Hope that was a typo
    Oops.

    Maybe this will help

    Beginners: Pros and cons of flat vs clipless pedals for mountain biking | Total Women's Cycling

    And no, the womens cycling thing was not a jab. It was just an article that popped up on a google search.
    Just stick it in granny and start grinding.

  5. #5
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    https://www.bikejames.com/strength/t...h-flat-pedals/

    I've been on a clipless since '95. After a few years of family induced non-riding I got back on the saddle last spring, with persistent knee pain. Some searching yieldied the link above, so I gave flats a shot with a cheap set. After a year (and a much better set of flats), I've never thought "gee, I wish I was clipped in for this". never looked back is a good way to describe it. I have more fun on flats, and that's the name of the game for me, I'm not a racer. Most of my riding is Bent Creek.

    Borrow a set of shoes/clips or get a cheap set and ride them for a month, see what you think. Since you used to ride clipped in, the learning curve won't be as steep.

    and noticing that the majority upper level riders, XC to DH, clip in; the gears began turning.
    Are you in, or desire to be in, the upper echelon or are you a weekend warrior? Just because it works for them doesn't mean it's the right thing for you.

  6. #6
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    I have been riding clip less since the start on my AM bike, better power transfer and you don't have to worry about slipping a foot off for technical bits.

    After racing DH for two years, I made the switch to clip less for that too. I was tired of having my feet bounced off a pedal in rocky sections, hitting the larger flat pedals on things when taking tight lines, and the "search" for that "just right" foot position after you get bumped.

  7. #7
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    Flats vs Clipless

    I've gone back and forth. Started (in earnest) on clipless when most of my riding was XC, then progressed to flats as the travel of my bikes increased, feeling the need to have free feet as the technical challenges got more and more difficult. Now I'm on the cusp of a 6" 29er and will be going back to clipless, for no other reason than seeing almost the entire pro DH and Enduro scene on clipless as well. My balance on slow tech is much better these days and I could use the extra power at the top of the stroke from time to time. The points Idaho makes in his 2nd para are valid for me, too. We will see!
    '14 Lenz Lunchbox
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  8. #8
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    I rode flats forever, but just recently tried clips (clipless) again. I mainly decided to try clips again because I have the tendency to take my foot off of the pedals in turns when I really don't need to (moto style). I'm basically using clips to force myself to learn good technique in the turns. Yes there are situations where foot off is the best/only way through a corner. In my case I would have bad technique, say not putting enough weight on the front tire, which would cause it to slip and I would throw a foot out. If I had done it the proper way I would not have had a issue. So clips force this issue.
    Another big reason that the most of the DH guys use clips is to not have to worry about keeping pressure on the pedals through the chunky stuff. It is pretty damn close to cheating in those sections. Much easier to get light on those parts if you aren't needing to put pressure on your pedals to keep your feet on.
    I also like the control that clips give for jumping, pumping and bunny hopping. It is much easier to pick up/move around the rear end with clips.
    The Bike James article is really good and if you know how to pedal flats you really aren't gaining much, if any pedal power from clips.
    I still haven't tried it on the DH bike, but once I get some mallets I think I'll give it a go.

  9. #9
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    It should be added that a good set of flats with good traction is a must. I think sometimes people start off on crappy pedal/shoe combinations and slip a lot. Then they determine that flats suck and go straight to clipless without every trying good flat pedals.

    Also I can see professional down hill riders going to clipless. I mean those guys are going all out and putting it on the line in every run. There is no reason they would ever need to pull their foot off the pedal and have the skill to do it. I personally could see myself trying a lot less if I was clipped in.

    Again though, it is all personal preference but just make sure your equipment is good either way.
    Just stick it in granny and start grinding.

  10. #10
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    I swap back and forth. Flats if I know there will be lots of hike a bike or tech stuff where I need to dab a lot. Clips for less technical, long climbs, etc.
    But I have to admit, the more time goes on the less I want the clips. I am used to flats and the shoes are more comfortable and better for walking, and I don't notice much loss of efficiency.

  11. #11
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    Flats vs Clipless

    I enjoy clipless pedals more. I've never owned super nice flats, and shoes for them though. I feel there's certainly less issue with feet coming off the pedals on super bumpy and rocky sections, especially if you're a light rider like myself. I use spd style ones and adjust them to unclip fairly easily for tech sections.

  12. #12
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    Flats vs Clipless

    Once you get used to clipless, they work great. You can get more power and speed by pulling up on the pedals. The off road pedals are double sided unlike the road pedals. My two bits? No need to spend big bucks on pedals. You can get the Performance Forte brand. They are cheap ($40) work great and light 250g. I have three sets of 'em. One on Cx bike, two on mtb's

  13. #13
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    Flats vs Clipless

    I go back and forth for variety every 3-4 months. When I'm in training mode, clipped in. Fun mode, flats.

    Clipped in is great if you've had a proper bike fit to make sure seat/cleat positions are right. It will do a number on you if not.

    Flats are awesome for working on pedal technique and getting how your body flows with the bike dialed in.

    There's a DH pro (Kevin Aiello) in the May issue of MBAction talking about how much he likes is HT KA01 flats.

    This is definitely a to each their own personal preference thing.

    Kind of like Android vs iOS. Now those interwebz "conversations" are hilarious!!!


    So back to which one is the better of the two? The one you'll have the most fun riding!




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  14. #14
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    Flats vs Clipless

    Tried flats once.. Foot slipped and the pins dug into shin and calf muscle. Yowza! Pain city. No way no how am I ever going to use Em again.

  15. #15
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    Both here. Flats on trail, clipped on road. I ride Pisgah and Charlotte area trail mostly. Flats are better on trail for me because i dont have to find the cleat to clip in on steep sections. Hike a bikes are much easier, Plus you can dab anytime-anywhere. I also like the confidence they give when jumping or riding really technical stuff. I don't think clips give a "power" advantage at all. I can show you a dozen riders who can climb anything and ride everything on flats. A good pedal/shoe combo is a must. Im on Diety Compoind pedals and Vans and im happy with that setup.

    On the road i ride clipless mostly because im not having to dismount or ride really technical stuff. I could easily ride flats on the road too and not feel disadvantaged. Its just more comfortable road riding with clips. IMO

    Theres no "ones better than the other". Ride what feels comfortable.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by SloRider1 View Post
    Tried flats once.. Foot slipped and the pins dug into shin and calf muscle. Yowza! Pain city. No way no how am I ever going to use Em again.
    I have a few shin scars from my SPD's. Just because one attempt failed doesn't mean they don't/won't work. There is a learning curve for flats just like the first time you tried clipless, but not as steep since most kids learn to ride a bike on flats.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by SloRider1 View Post
    Tried flats once.. Foot slipped and the pins dug into shin and calf muscle. Yowza! Pain city. No way no how am I ever going to use Em again.
    Fell over once in the middle town in front of all sorts of pedestrian traffic because I didn't get clipped out in time. Still ride clipless on my road bike even though I know that would have never happened with flats.

    I guess some people take pain better than others.
    Just stick it in granny and start grinding.

  18. #18
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    With flats it is like kjlued said, you need good pedals (check pins often) and shoes. I have the canfield pedals and 5.10 shoes for my flats setup. I don't really have any issues with feet slipping.
    Much easier to get injured on clips, which was the point of the bike james article. You get injured because you can't unclip and because you might become unclipped at the wrong time. I got a nasty bruise/cut on my calf from my eggbeaters because I came unclipped while trying to whip off a jump. Still landed it though. Moved the release point to the 20 degree setting after that and have no issues.
    One of my DH buddies rides clips and couldn't unclip before he hit a tree. The bike and his foot went on one side of the tree and he went on the other. Nice ankle tweaking there.
    Also clips are one more thing to check pre-ride to make sure the cleats are tight and haven't moved from your setting preference. If they move it can change your (dis)engagement point.

  19. #19
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    I ride flats and have never tried clipless. Think about trying it all the time, but in the end, when I see my buddy falling to the side when we are at a dead stop because he cant get unclipped, tells me I have made the right choice in sticking with flats.

    Maybe he isnt sufficient enough for them, none the less, its funny and I dont like to fall for no reason.

  20. #20
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    I ride both, but i think i prefer clipless. i like how being clipped in makes you feel like part of the bike. i could care less about any pedaling efficiency it gives over flats. for me its just not having to worry about slipping of when riding through rock gardens and roots

  21. #21
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    What is all this feet slipping off flat pedals that people talk about? Sure glad I don't experience that.
    Just stick it in granny and start grinding.

  22. #22
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    Yeah my five tens with the canfield crampons provide almost too much grip. If I place my foot down wrong and need to readjust, I have to pick my foot up a little to move it. I cannot side it at all. But with that being said, you still have to make sure you are applying pressure on the pedals through the gnar, but for most of us that is second nature by now. It becomes tricky when you want to get light over an rough section, yet still keep some pressure on the pedals. With clips it is straight cheating, no thought involved. Jumping is the other aspect. If you need to pop off of the jump you need to actively bunny hop the rear end up with flats, again if you have been jumping with flats for a while that is second nature. With clips, again nothing to it. What is tricky here is when riding clips for a while and then riding flats. I did this a few weeks ago and couldn't figure out why I was dropping like a stone off the end of a ramp. I was so use to the little effort I needed with clips to get crazy high, that I wasn't hopping the back. But after two or three jumps on flats I was almost to my clipped height.

    I just picked up a pair of mallet DHs for snowshoe this weekend. First time riding DH in clips, so we will see if I come back sans a foot or something.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by matty22c View Post
    Yeah my five tens with the canfield crampons provide almost too much grip.
    Same setup here Crampons and 510's.. I have used clipless in the past but now I just prefer flats. I can get the same type of power transfer as I did clipless. I went down some slick wet spots on Kitsuma and I had know problem keeping my feet on the gas and jumps. To each his own whatever works for you..

  24. #24
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    I switched to flats a while ago because of knee pain, last week I threw my SPD's back on, I still had the 10deg float cleats on my shoes, by the middle of the ride my knee was killing me so back to flats. ride this morning I had no issues and didn't miss the clipless

  25. #25
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    Flats vs Clipless

    On Thu riding Crampon Ultimates I broke a two year old pr I set while clipped in. It's only a little over two mins but it's got a decent climb a the end where a high cadence helps a ton.

    Funny thing is, as soon as I switched to flats, I picked up :15 right away. And I had a Retul fit clipped in so all the numbers were dialed in.

    I will be riding my flats for a lot longer!


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