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  1. #1
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    Flats or Clipless

    OK ladies...flats or clipless and why. Just got my new bike all dialed in and I put flats on it because I am a scaredy cat novice that would like to let the bike go down the cliff all by itself. I am a decent rider and my LBS trainer/adviser says, "Trust me (I hate it when it starts like that), if I put you on the trainer and you practice and then I take you to the park where it is soft (whaaaat?) you will only fall once. Then you will figure it out and you will be fine. You will have more power. If I don't put you on the trainer to practice, you will fall twice at the park () and then you will be fine. Clipless is just more efficient."

    So now you have it. What are your preferences??

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Don't worry, be happy!
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    uh oh - this one is where everyone has an opinion, and here's mine. Skip the clips, at least as a novice. You might like to try them later once you have confidence and a good skills base. It's one more thing to think about when you are trying to get plenty of other skills dialed in. As for the efficiency thing, it's proven to be BS if you look at the science of it, at least according to what I have read.
    I rode with clips for 15+ years and switched to flats last year. My very first ride was 9 miles up hill on singletrack, with flat pedals and sticky shoes (Teva Links fwiw)

    If you go to a mountain bike clinic, chances are very good that they will want you to not have clips, and there is a reason for that.

    This page links to an article that I found especially helpful for sorting out the BS that you hear about both kinds of pedals.
    https://www.bikejames.com/strength/t...h-flat-pedals/

    Whatever you choose, don't let someone else pressure you into doing something that you aren't comfortable with.

    Here are some prior threads in this forum
    More on clips to flats
    Shoe reviews (for flat pedals)

  3. #3
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    You know how a hybrid car is more efficient? So are clipless.
    You know how a 4WD is better when the going or the weather gets rough, and you are a-feared if you are driving a hybrid? So are flats.

    I rode clipless for years and only switched to flats for rehab a couple years ago after an ankle sprain. But they are just more fun, especially for trying harder stuff, whatever that may be to you.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtbxplorer View Post
    You know how a hybrid car is more efficient? So are clipless.
    You know how a 4WD is better when the going or the weather gets rough, and you are a-feared if you are driving a hybrid? So are flats.

    I rode clipless for years and only switched to flats for rehab a couple years ago after an ankle sprain. But they are just more fun, especially for trying harder stuff, whatever that may be to you.
    This.

    My knee doc told me he'd be pissed if I got in an accident because of the clipless and have to redo my ACL. Definitely a motivator.

    IMO, people (myself included) get into clipless well before they're ready and really want to (e.g. peer pressure, believing it will make you a better rider, etc).

    Another thing from personal experience:
    - clipless make you feel like a roadie
    - flats make you feel like a kid

    Personally, I'm more fond of the kid feeling personally. I like being able to move around my bike more than being attached to it. You also cannot "cheat" in flats. What I mean by cheat: pulling up when jumping, not weighting yourself properly on downhill (which is heavy feet/light hands). The biggest complaint I hear is that people can't jump all of a sudden or that technical downhills are scary now because their feet move around too much. Use 5.10 or other stick soled shoes then.

    My pedal (r)evolution:
    - Toe clips, 1991-1993
    - Clipless, 1993 - 2005
    - Mix of clipless and flats, 2005-2010
    - Flats only, 2010-current

    My best riding is right now, mostly because I'm not afraid of being attached to my bike and it gives me one less thing to think about while pedaling ("how am I going to get out of pedals when things go south?").

    The slow speed crashes were always kinda fun though. Definitely miss those.

    Kinda bummed no asked about toe clips. Those were the days

    YMMV, and good luck no matter what you do
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  5. #5
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    Thanks a bunch! I will be sticking to my flats for now. You are absolutely right, they do make you feel like a kid! Thanks.

  6. #6
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    Sunny - all great advice from above! I started off on flats, got pressured into clipless and honestly, was fairly miserable. I started having a lot of knee pain and tons of slow-speed crashes. I was less apt to try going over things for fear of falling (which happened rather frequently). Finally I said screw it, and went back to good flats with 5.10 shoes. Holy cow, what a difference! Everything everyone said above was totally true for me. I fall much less often, try more, and no longer have knee pain. I suck at climbing, so I don't really care how fast I do it, either (people were always telling me I would climb better - yeah, right). And they do make you feel like a kid again. Don't let anyone try to talk you into doing anything you are comfortable with, period. I actually got teased by a guy on the trail who said I couldn't climb with flats. I was like, that's funny, then how come I'm doing it now? Bottom line, I'm having MUCH more fun on my bike now.

  7. #7
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    Flats or Clipless

    I rode with flats for months and my most recent bike had toe clips or toe cages ( I've heard them called both). I like the toe cages, as I'm a beginner and I don't want to be attached to the bike because I don't have the skills to unclip before I crash, I'm thinking about 75 other things. I have also heard that learning skills on flats will really help to become a better rider and then you can always bump up to clipless. If I were a roadie I would use clipless but the idea of not being able to access my feet if something is going to crap, makes me real nervous. I'd say try toe cages and see if you like them, you don't need new shoes to use them. My fiancé hates them but he is much more advanced than me.

  8. #8
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    I went straight to clipless pedals as a rank beginner. Yeah, I fell a few times, had bruises on both hips, I survived. Aside from a season of DH racing with good pedals and 5-10's, I've always run clipless pedals, and am more scared when I'm not clipped in than when I am.

    YMMV, but unless I'm racing DH on a big bike or something, clipless has always been a good option for me.

    But, hubby and I (not saying it's for everyone or even recommending it) typically live in a trial by fire sort of environment

  9. #9
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    I started with clipless as an absolute beginner too and rode them for years. Then once I started racing DH, I switched to flats for a while (only for DH, still riding clipless for XC), and then tried racing DH in clipless for a while. And then I switched back to flats for DH and then finally tried flats for XC riding, and finally have stopped messing around with my pedals.

    Flats for everything! What I found personally is that it took me a while, but once I learned a nice smooth pedal stroke, I don't really lose any power or efficiency on flat pedals like it felt like I did when I was just starting. And once you're not losing power/efficiency in flat pedals, there's really no reason to clip in, even on trails that I'm very unlikely to put a foot down on. And on trails where you are likely to need to dab - and especially on trails where you may need to actually walk your bike, flats are a huge advantage. Walking in carbon soled clipless shoes with cleats sliding around on rocks like ice skates makes walking scarier than riding sometimes...

    So now the only time I use clipless pedals is on my road bike.

  10. #10
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    Wow, no love for clipless here? OK, I agree that for a novice they are not a good choice. I think I rode my first 2 years on flats with toeclips (and Stripes, sorry, but THOSE things are a PIA. Do not miss them at ALL). Then went to SPD clipless and have ridden them ever since. I rode around the park a few times when I first got them, practiced getting in and out of them, and then was good to go. Never had the "tip-over fall" that so many people report when first starting with clipless. Even today, I keep them very close to the loosest setting, and have never had to "think" about getting out them- it is second nature. I can actually do it as fast as I can take my foot off a flat pedal.

    As for bunny hopping with clips being "cheating"... yeah, whatever. I have no patience with the luddites that claim that anything that isn't old school somehow implies that you are less of a rider. I have no intention of getting a hardtail so I can "learn to pick lines better" and I have no intention of switching to flats so I can learn to "bunny hop properly". I hop, I go over the log or obstacle, and the ride goes on... good enough for me.

    I recently put flats on my Blur so I can work on learning to manual better (OK, so I really don't want to be clipped in if I go over backwards). A few times I have grabbed it to take an after-work ride, and I find the most annoying thing is that the larger pedals will strike rocks and other obstacles that I thought I had plenty of clearance around. I think the "better power when climbing" claim is exaggerated. But I defintely feel more secure when clipped in, and no one has ever told me I suck at mountain biking.

    And... I always feel like a kid when I get on a bike. No matter what pedals are on it.
    I drank the 29er koolaid- turns out it was POWERade

  11. #11
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    I'm clipped in for road cycling
    I'm on platforms for dh and trail/xc

    I was first introduced to mtb (xc) in 2007 and dh in 2009. I learned the basic fundamentals on platforms. Perhaps if I was 30 years younger and had a lifetime to learn I might have tried clips sooner (I still might try them) ...but currently I am riding just as hard and fast on platforms whether I'm pinning it at the bike park, playing on dj's or riding local xc trails... platforms don't hold me back from trying more difficult or advanced technical and I'm satisfied with my progress over a short period of time mtb.
    F*ck Cancer

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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by MtbRN View Post
    Wow, no love for clipless here? OK, I agree that for a novice they are not a good choice. I think I rode my first 2 years on flats with toeclips (and Stripes, sorry, but THOSE things are a PIA. Do not miss them at ALL). Then went to SPD clipless and have ridden them ever since. I rode around the park a few times when I first got them, practiced getting in and out of them, and then was good to go. Never had the "tip-over fall" that so many people report when first starting with clipless. Even today, I keep them very close to the loosest setting, and have never had to "think" about getting out them- it is second nature. I can actually do it as fast as I can take my foot off a flat pedal.

    As for bunny hopping with clips being "cheating"... yeah, whatever. I have no patience with the luddites that claim that anything that isn't old school somehow implies that you are less of a rider. I have no intention of getting a hardtail so I can "learn to pick lines better" and I have no intention of switching to flats so I can learn to "bunny hop properly". I hop, I go over the log or obstacle, and the ride goes on... good enough for me.

    I recently put flats on my Blur so I can work on learning to manual better (OK, so I really don't want to be clipped in if I go over backwards). A few times I have grabbed it to take an after-work ride, and I find the most annoying thing is that the larger pedals will strike rocks and other obstacles that I thought I had plenty of clearance around. I think the "better power when climbing" claim is exaggerated. But I defintely feel more secure when clipped in, and no one has ever told me I suck at mountain biking.

    And... I always feel like a kid when I get on a bike. No matter what pedals are on it.
    Geez, taking things a bit personally aren't you? That comment about jumping in clipless wasn't directed at you. Chillax.

    My comments about toeclips were a joke, which is why they had a after them.

    Ride what you like, which is why I finished it with YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary).

    If you like riding with clipless, ejjoy 'em. If you like riding with flats, enjoy 'em too. No one's gonna hang you for your choices, it's what makes life good (nice to have choices).
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  13. #13
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    I think our point has been that you shouldn't feel bad riding one type of pedal or the other. Each of us has had different experiences and for some of us, it led us back to flat pedals. Bottom line is, we're all getting out there and riding, which is the most important thing, right?

  14. #14
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    And I'll just expand on that by saying don't let anyone tell you that you're wrong for riding one thing & that "you really should be riding xyz". That's bunk. Ride what you're comfortable with. I ride flats, but with the exception of one other person, everyone that I ride with rides clipless & are constantly telling me that I need to switch. Sorry, but that's wrong. I sure don't tell them that they really ought to be riding flats, even when I see the seasoned veterans make mistakes & do the "fall over".

    If you're happy with your bike setup, then that's all that matters.

  15. #15
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    Clips or platforms... doesn't matter, ride what works for you. What's important is not mixing pedal styles and shorts. Lyrica goes with clipless, baggies with platform and tight capri-like jeans should only be reserved only for those riding a fixie or a rigid single speed.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by kinsler View Post
    Lyrica goes with clipless, baggies with platform and tight capri-like jeans should only be reserved only for those riding a fixie or a rigid single speed.
    But Lycra gets me up the hills faster with platforms

  17. #17
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    flats with lycra

    Quote Originally Posted by kinsler View Post
    Clips or platforms... doesn't matter, ride what works for you. What's important is not mixing pedal styles and shorts. Lyrica goes with clipless, baggies with platform and tight capri-like jeans should only be reserved only for those riding a fixie or a rigid single speed.
    Thank god the lycra police wasn't out there today. I guess I could have pleaded ignorance in my lycra tighties. Decided to ditch the spds today, thanks to this inspiring thread. Also talked my riding friend to ditch hers too so we were even. I had always used spds on my XC bike, main benefit for me was being able to make techy uphills better on spds and had reserved flat pedals for dh days. I really enjoyed them today and I think I'm a convert. I may get a new set for my other bike, any suggestions? Had these wellgo mag-1 for years, looks like everyone likes the super thins ones now.

  18. #18
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    Both clipless and flats take getting used to. With clipless, the issues are obvious (emergency unclipping and clipping in fast enough when starting). With flats, you need decent technique to keep your feet on the pedals in rock gardens and to not roll a pedal and hurt your shins. A good pedal/shoe combo with flats helps. I also recommend shin gards when starting out on flats (I use thin multi-sport elbow pads and don't notice them). I'm used to both now (and still occasionally fail to unclip in time).

    I prefer flats when it's technical. If you have to put a foot down, the shoes stick to the rocks (shoes for clipless pedals sometimes slide). I do feel more like a kid on flats (especially since my shoes are the cool turquoise zebra 5.10's.) I had to change from flats to clipless 4 hours into a 24-hour race because I was getting 'hot spots' and felt like I could feel the pins on the pedals (time to get stiffer 5.10's).

    As for effiency, it's tough to tell. My lap times at our local races are a bit faster on my all-mountain bike with flats, compared to my hard-tail with clipless.

  19. #19
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    Clipless all the way. For me

    I started with clipless pedals two weeks after getting a mountain bike for the first time. So I went against everything and the whole "novices shouldn't do clipless," and rode clipless. I had one topple over the first night at a city park in the grass. I started initially with those hybrid half platform/half clipless pedals (that suck) and after about a week I wasn't using the platform side anymore (except when I went snow biking wearing snow boots, haha)

    I've never wrecked because I was clipped in. I keep my pedals set to release easily, and I don't even have to think about pulling my feet out when I need my foot free (and I'm a huge dabber at times). I have wrecked for other reasons, and ended up still clipped in with the bike on top of me, which ends up being more comical than anything. So that is one "myth" that irks me is that clipless will cause a person to constantly crash. If a person is constantly crashing, there's probably another issue besides pedal choice, IMO.

    For me, I do not feel secure if I'm not clipped in. I would never ride half the technical terrain we have without being clipped in. Just my comfort level. I also have some good shoes that are still grippy for hike-a-bikes and what not (Specialized Motodivas), definitely not into the super stiff carbon soled shoes quite yet.

    The best part is when I'm riding with a group of people, and I'm the only one with clipless and all the boys are like "you're so brave riding clipped in!" LOL!

  20. #20
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    Some riders choose clipless because they don't feel secure on flats. Probably a high percentage. Like most things there is some technique and a short learning curve involved in sticking to flats. The 'low heels' technique is shown in this vid. With it, trailrunners and stubby or short pin pedals you will not be bounced off your pedals.
    Straight Lines with Fabien Barel - YouTube

  21. #21
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    i've ridden both. but the ONLY way i'll ride clipped is with loose SPDs. i've tried other pedals, and they were hard to get out of at awkward angles (imagine an awkward rock garden scenerio where you cant just kick your foot directly to the side). i've also seen people bungle up their feet and ankles in crashes where their foot didnt come out of the pedal during a fall. If the tension mechanism was ever discontinued with SPDs (they wont) then i'd be back to flats forever.

    also, that dude telling you you'll "only fall once" is kind of pretentious. everybody learns different. you might fall once...or 50 times. we all learn at different rates.

    i'll tell you this though, being mentally uncomfortable when you're SUPPOSED to be having fun, pretty much defeats the purpose of mountain biking. Never do anything you're uncomfy with. this applies to pedals.
    fap

  22. #22
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    I use flats, ridden clipless on a hybrid/road bike before but theres no chance I'm going to be trying it on my mtb. I can testify that at 30mph when you suddenly see an obstruction the only thing you'll have time to think is 'this will hurt' not unclip this and that so I wouldnt like to think what else I'd of broken or hurt if the bike was attached to me even if for a few seconds longer!

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by sooshee View Post
    I started with clipless pedals two weeks after getting a mountain bike for the first time. So I went against everything and the whole "novices shouldn't do clipless," and rode clipless. I had one topple over the first night at a city park in the grass. I started initially with those hybrid half platform/half clipless pedals (that suck) and after about a week I wasn't using the platform side anymore (except when I went snow biking wearing snow boots, haha)
    That's basically how I started. Toe clips tried to kill me, "meat tenderizer" pedals looked scarier than clipping in (loss of flesh-wise anyway). I've had no problems clipping out when needing to bail, the only times I've fallen when clipped in were slow-motion when I just forgot to clip out and ended up tipping over. Duh. I have ATAC style pedals.

    My newest bike (grocery getter/cruiser) has bmx style flats w/ pins. I figured it would be easier to run into a store w/ regular shoes. I have a pair of old Vans and a new pair of Tevas, both are pretty grippy as I have to actually lift my foot to adjust position instead of scooting it. No problems with my feet bouncing around when I'm on roads filled with pot-holes or lumpy gravel back roads. Being used to riding clipless, I still "click out" before picking my foot up and placing it on the ground. Old habits are hard to break!
    Some days you're the dog, some days you're the hydrant.

  24. #24
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    It is pretentious to assume you'll only fall once. I started riding clip less over 15 years ago shortly after I put a rock shock reba on my purple roadmaster "mountain bike" that I got for X-mas my freshman year in college. I fell at the beginning... a lot. My thighs looked like someone took a baseball bat to my thighs. Fortunately being a soccer goalkeeper no one questioned my battered legs. It got easier, especially as my technical riding skills got better. I can't remember when it became second natured, but now unclipping is just reflexive. I couldn't tell you the last time I crashed because I couldn't unclip, although I almost crashed a few days ago when I ripped my crankarm off!

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by kinsler View Post
    Clips or platforms... doesn't matter, ride what works for you. What's important is not mixing pedal styles and shorts. Lyrica goes with clipless, baggies with platform and tight capri-like jeans should only be reserved only for those riding a fixie or a rigid single speed.
    FWIW, a lot of people race DH in clipless and you aren't likely to see them in lycra doing that. I just did a women's road bike event with a timed 5 mile hill climb and a friend of mine who wears clipless for everything and baggy shorts for everything insists on road biking in baggy shorts. She was 2nd in our age group and 7th overall of 244 women. And was probably the only woman road biking in baggy MTB shorts, but with the way she kicks butt on any sort of bike, I guess she can set her own trends. Not that that even has anything to do with it. Wear what you're comfortable with. Yes, your friends are going to probably make fun of you if you road bike in MTB clothes or DH in lycra, but do what you want and own it. As long as it makes sense to you, who cares.

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