Flats for long distance XC racing?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Flats for long distance XC racing?

    Hey guys Iíve been running flat pedals for about the past 6 months. I recently signed up for the pisgah 111k which is a technical 70 mile bike race in Pisgah Forest. Iím going to start training for it soon and am wondering if itís worth it to switch back to clipless for this big race. Clipless will be more efficient, but sketchier and less comfortable on hike a bike sections. Iím used to the flats and comfortable on them but am worried about the loss in climbing efficiently over the course of this race. What do you guys think? Have any of you guys done any 50+ mile races on flats, if so what are your thoughts?

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    I'm of the opinion that the advantage of clipless is greatly exaggerated. That's based on me being relatively new to mountain biking and constantly being told to switch to clipless yet constantly putting up equal or better race times or segments against my clipless seasoned riders. But thats just my two cents and hopefully you'll get better answers from guys with more experience.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JDHutch View Post
    I'm of the opinion that the advantage of clipless is greatly exaggerated.
    I tend to agree. Unless one is at the pinnacle of the racing pyramid where every fractional percentage point of power matters, the differences are easily made up in practice, grit, determination and luck. The cleat cultists will proselytize about clipless and how a person "just has to get on clipless". No you don't. If you are comfortable with clipless, great, if you are comfortable with flats, great. If you can switch out one for the other, great.

    I run flats on everything, including my gravel & road bike, where I run iSSi Flips so I can do either or.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by JDHutch View Post
    I'm of the opinion that the advantage of clipless is greatly exaggerated.


    I'd say yes and no. As far as speed or time gains for the average rider I think you're right, the benefits are probably less than most people would imagine. Pretty minimal.

    There are other advantages though, comfort, personal preference, etc. as well as the fact that there is a power advantage in certain situations that might be beneficial.

    If you're an xc rider looking for every advantage then clipless for sure, otherwise ride what you like best. For some that might be clipless, others flats.
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  5. #5
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    OP, Ride whatever requires the least amount of thought 5-7 hours into an event when you are tired and not thinking clearly. For me after 26+ years of riding them, clipping in and clipping out of my clipless pedals is an automatic reflex that doesn't take any thought or extra energy late in an endurance event when I am tired and not thinking clearly. For some riders flats may feel the same way, but I would have to think too hard about foot placement and foot retention in the rough stuff, so flats wouldn't be my choice.

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    Theres been research thats been cited here before that clipless (actually shouod really be called clip ins) are no more efficient that open pedals. Ive been on flats off road exclusively for last couple years. On road i do clipless. Individual fitness is the deciding factor, the guys i ride with (they ride clipless) usually spank me on climbs but ive been riding a lot and increasing fitness and last few weeks on our rides which include long road climb i kept up no problem. If i pushed i know i could have passed them.
    One thing ill conceed is if your a spinner and banging crazy cadence, like when im chasing cars downhill on road, being cliped in is nice as you know youre feet are staying put.
    Oh and i did Lord of the Squrrels this past septmeber which was 3500 ft of climbing and took us slo mofos 7+ hours of riding. Never felt the shoes and open pedals were holding me back. Just did a local ride here this past sunday which involved around 3000 ft of climbing and a couple miles shorter than LOTS with same crew. Took us a little more than 5 hours, i kept up with them easily tgis time and felt good when we were done.

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    I ride exclusively on flats for a number of reasons, including my opinion that a mid-foot pedalling position is superior for nearly all types of riding.

    I did multiple big events including a 13 hour ride on flats. Then again, I never had any problem doing them in clips either ...other than hike-a-bike section like you mentioned.

  8. #8
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    There's a million threads on this topic, but some good (recent) replies here:

    https://forums.mtbr.com/endurance-xc...t-1092232.html

    Particularly Timon's point:

    I've yet to see someone race on a competitive level in XC/Endurance with flat pedals. Maybe it's doable, but they're at a disadvantage.

    How many professional riders in the tour de france use flat pedals? It's simply not as efficient. Maybe for downhill riding it's up for debate, but XC/endurance events are almost exclusively won/lost on the uphills.
    As does Ptor:

    I have used and will continue to use clipless pedals for racing until my peers who use flats start beating me. Without a doubt, the ability to power through fields of baby heads, rock gardens, or up a short incline by both pushing and pulling while either seated or standing is too valuable to give up for the very rare event of not being able to unclip in time to avoid a fall.
    Most of my racing is enduro but I do a few XC events every year and I've never once seen anyone anywhere near the top of the pack running flats, ever. I run flats on my bikes from time to time as well, but this thread is about endurance racing and the answer is pretty clear cut. If the OP is entering races just to have fun and try to finish, then sure - run whatever you'll have the most fun with. But from a competitive standpoint, clips are the way to go.
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by seventh-777 View Post
    there's a million threads on this topic, but some good (recent) replies here:

    https://forums.mtbr.com/endurance-xc...t-1092232.html

    particularly timon's point:



    As does ptor:



    Most of my racing is enduro but i do a few xc events every year and i've never once seen anyone anywhere near the top of the pack running flats, ever. I run flats on my bikes from time to time as well, but this thread is about endurance racing and the answer is pretty clear cut. If the op is entering races just to have fun and try to finish, then sure - run whatever you'll have the most fun with. But from a competitive standpoint, clips are the way to go.

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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Seventh-777 View Post
    There's a million threads on this topic, but some good (recent) replies here:

    https://forums.mtbr.com/endurance-xc...t-1092232.html

    Particularly Timon's point:



    As does Ptor:



    Most of my racing is enduro but I do a few XC events every year and I've never once seen anyone anywhere near the top of the pack running flats, ever. I run flats on my bikes from time to time as well, but this thread is about endurance racing and the answer is pretty clear cut. If the OP is entering races just to have fun and try to finish, then sure - run whatever you'll have the most fun with. But from a competitive standpoint, clips are the way to go.
    I'll second this.

    For me, the ability to bring in "extra power" without having to increase the effort on my quads makes clipless worthwhile. For example; when I notice my cadence dropping I can incorporate my hamstrings to add some power and get my cadence back up, after cresting a hill I can switch to my hamstrings to give my quads a quick breather, in tight sections of trail I can use my quads and hamstrings in unison to get the bike to "launch" out of tight corners. All of these situations add a lot of stress to you quads when you're riding flats, wearing you down quicker. In the same way that I try to keep my heartrate in a certain range, I use use the pull to keep from overexerting my quads during a long ride. Riding clipless isn't about a greater overall power output, or a consistently more efficient spin, it's about having that reserve power on tap to keep you moving.
    . . . . . . . .

  11. #11
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    "I tend to agree. Unless one is at the pinnacle of the racing pyramid where every fractional percentage point of power matters, the differences are easily made up in practice, grit, determination and luck."

    Not sure what luck has to do with it; but the same amount of practice, grit and determination will get you better results with clipless pedals. That is unless every single World Cup XC pro and all the TDF participants have been fooled by the hype into uselessly using clipless pedals.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ddoh View Post
    That is unless every single World Cup XC pro and all the TDF participants have been fooled by the hype into uselessly using clipless pedals.
    Nope. They are at the pinnacle of the racing pyramid. They need the additional efficiency clipless provides.

    The OP is doing his first endurance XC race and wondering about going clipless when he normally uses flats. The difference between whatever position he would place with flats (that he is comfortable with and enjoys) and whatever position he would place on clipless (which he may or may not enjoy) isn't going to be greater than the training, grit, determination and, yes, luck that will happen before and during the race. If the OP likes this type of racing and wants to really get into, then yes, he should think about clipless.

    As I predicted: "The cleat cultists will proselytize about clipless and how a person 'just has to get on clipless."

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by CycleKrieg View Post
    As I predicted: "The cleat cultists will proselytize about clipless and how a person 'just has to get on clipless."
    LOL
    Use the right tool for the job. OP asked and the response was rational and clear cut. Clips allow you to recruit different muscle groups, maintain a uniform foot position and usually weigh less as a system, saving energy. They are an advantage and are not hard to learn.

    Do Not put them on for the race without training on them.

    Just like learning flats, it takes time and you need to learn how to ride in them. They respond just a little bit differently.
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by CycleKrieg View Post
    Nope. They are at the pinnacle of the racing pyramid. They need the additional efficiency clipless provides.
    Right, because that efficiency answers the OP's question. He asked "I am wondering if itís worth it to switch back to clipless for this big race". The answer is "yes, it's worth it".

    The OP is doing his first endurance XC race and wondering about going clipless when he normally uses flats. The difference between whatever position he would place with flats (that he is comfortable with and enjoys) and whatever position he would place on clipless (which he may or may not enjoy)
    You should read his post again, because he says "wondering if itís worth it to switch back to clipless for this big race". That doesn't sound to me like he's going to try clipless for the very first time.

    If the OP likes this type of racing and wants to really get into, then yes, he should think about clipless.
    Which is exactly what we all said...

    As I predicted: "The cleat cultists will proselytize about clipless and how a person 'just has to get on clipless."
    You are here looking for an argument that nobody is making, and you invented a strawman argument that he's never ridden clipless before when his post obviously reads otherwise. If you wonder why these threads always turn into a pissing contest, this is why.

    I'm not a cleat cultist or a professional racer - I've been on an XC podium and an enduro podium (as well as my fair share of DFLs) and I don't give a shit what anyone else rides as long as they have fun. Show up on a friggin' pogo stick if that's how you want to roll.

    Having said that, if I am racing against someone in an endurance event I would be pretty stoked to see them show up running flats.
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  15. #15
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    Hereís the rub:

    The longer you are out on course, the more those little improvements matter. A CAT3 guy stands to benefit MORE than a WC XC pro.


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  16. #16
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    Power transfer aside. (Which is arguably equal)

    Ride what you are most comfortable with, but consider:

    Rear lift is easier in technical terrain on While on clipless.
    Clipless shoes have more structured sole and will protect feet and ankle muscles and tissue from fatigue and overuse pains.
    If itís wet, clipless could be an advantage to keep you on the pedals
    If itís insanely muddy, sure clipless could clog, but neither will be great.
    I wouldnít consider walking an issue in either shoe. My SPD shoes are better to hike in especially if itís muddy. My family on 2fo and 5 tens are sliding on slick steep hills.





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  17. #17
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    Simple answer: Ride what you are comfortable with. To answer your specific question, is it worth it to change to clipless ? The answer is no, it is not worth it. You will be more confident, ride better, and have more fun on the flat pedals you are used to.

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    Flats for sure IMO. Clipless is LESS efficient based on scientific studies (meaning you'll expend more energy for the same output.) However Clipless will help deliver more MAX power if sprinting for the finish is major concern for you (probably not for an endurance race - but definitely a consideration for roadies).

    Also consider comfort for an endurance race. How do you think your feet will feel after 8hrs in stiff soled shoes with a pressure point on your balls of feet, vs being in comfy flat shoes and supported platform that distributes weight more evenly across your foot?

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by smoothmoose View Post
    Flats for sure IMO. Clipless is LESS efficient based on scientific studies (meaning you'll expend more energy for the same output.) However Clipless will help deliver more MAX power if sprinting for the finish is major concern for you (probably not for an endurance race - but definitely a consideration for roadies).

    Also consider comfort for an endurance race. How do you think your feet will feel after 8hrs in stiff soled shoes with a pressure point on your balls of feet, vs being in comfy flat shoes and supported platform that distributes weight more evenly across your foot?


    Stiff soled shoes don't concentrate pressure on the ball of your foot ime, seems to me that one major benefit of stiff soles is to avoid that.

    Anyway, one of the main reasons I like clipless (and stiff soled shoes) is that they are comfortable, especially on long rides.

    I'd be interested to see that study that says flats are actually more efficient, that seems a little bizarre.
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  20. #20
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    don't feed the trolls
    Making shit harder than it needs to be isn't awesome, it's just...harder.

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    Quote Originally Posted by smoothmoose View Post
    Flats for sure IMO. Clipless is LESS efficient based on scientific studies (meaning you'll expend more energy for the same output.) However Clipless will help deliver more MAX power if sprinting for the finish is major concern for you (probably not for an endurance race - but definitely a consideration for roadies).

    Also consider comfort for an endurance race. How do you think your feet will feel after 8hrs in stiff soled shoes with a pressure point on your balls of feet, vs being in comfy flat shoes and supported platform that distributes weight more evenly across your foot?
    Yeah, you have everything slightly backwards. The OP should still race on what he is used to.

    If he chooses flats, I would get a stiffer pair (but break them in for 500 miles before racing in them!)
    2f0 are stiffer and offer insoles for various arches. Avoid foot pain.

    My wife races on Flats and I race clipless. They both will do. She is very fast and won Cat 1 NC on flats.




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    Quote Originally Posted by J.B. Weld View Post
    I'd be interested to see that study that says flats are actually more efficient, that seems a little bizarre.
    https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/4d2...5102dddf96.pdf

    Post hoc analyses revealed that during the pulling condition, gross efficiency was significantly less than during all other pedaling conditions

  23. #23
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    Well the sentence you quoted doesn't suggest that clipless is less efficient.
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  24. #24
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    Flats for long distance XC racing?

    Quote Originally Posted by J.B. Weld View Post
    Stiff soled shoes don't concentrate pressure on the ball of your foot ime, seems to me that one major benefit of stiff soles is to avoid that.

    Anyway, one of the main reasons I like clipless (and stiff soled shoes) is that they are comfortable, especially on long rides.

    I'd be interested to see that study that says flats are actually more efficient, that seems a little bizarre.
    Hereís the thing:

    I donít give a shit about efficiency until itís a really, really long ride AND I have no access to food and water. I care about power, and the product of that, speed.

    Itís like comparing a Prius and a WRX STI around the Nurburgring. The Prius wins the gas mileage rating, and comes home several minutes behind the WRX.


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  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Le Duke View Post
    Hereís the thing:

    I donít give a shit about efficiency until itís a really, really long ride AND I have no access to food and water. I care about power, and the product of that, speed.

    Itís like comparing a Prius and a WRX STI around the Nurburgring. The Prius wins the gas mileage rating, and comes home several minutes behind the WRX.


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    I'd say efficiency and power go hand in hand. For me clipless is the best of both worlds.
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  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by Le Duke View Post
    Hereís the thing:

    I donít give a shit about efficiency until itís a really, really long ride AND I have no access to food and water. I care about power, and the product of that, speed.

    Itís like comparing a Prius and a WRX STI around the Nurburgring. The Prius wins the gas mileage rating, and comes home several minutes behind the WRX.


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    Well, when it comes to power you can put down more power when using multiple muscle groups than when only using one.

    Out of the saddle sprints are always going to be quads and calves, and you're going to be putting down the same power regardless of pedal system. However, when seated you can just about double your power output simply by pushing and pulling simultaneously. I ride with a power meter so I have a pretty good idea of just how effective this technique is. I'm usually able to take my output from about 240w to 380-400w just by bringing my hamstrings into play. Obviously this isn't a long term solution, but when you need that bit of extra power it's quite helpful. This could mean powering through some chunk on a climb, getting your cadence back up, or passing a rider who may only be somewhat slower than you. So really, I'd say it's more equivalent to comparing an AWD car to a two wheel drive car while trying to race around the Nurburgring in the rain.
    . . . . . . . .

  27. #27
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    I've experimented a lot with both. For me clipless has more of an advantage as your suspension travel decreases. On a full suspension bike I don't notice as many benefits with clipless. With a hardtail I notice more difference. On a rigid bike, it's night and day.

    Clipless Pros:

    - Can continue to pedal through rough sections of trail. Pick a rooty section of trail and try to keep putting power down with flats, then do the same thing with clipless, and you'll instantly feel the difference.

    - Can relax more on the downhills. Feet slipping off pedals is much less of an issue. If you forget to drop your heels, the consequences aren't as bad.

    - Can pedal at a higher cadence. Off road through rough trails, you have to maintain pressure on the pedals with flats, which is difficult if you're spinning fast.

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    "I'm usually able to take my output from about 240w to 380-400w just by bringing my hamstrings into play. Obviously this isn't a long term solution, but when you need that bit of extra power it's quite helpful."

    Why isn't it a long term solution?

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    Quote Originally Posted by t-ruh View Post
    Clipless will be more efficient, but sketchier and less comfortable on hike a bike sections.
    I've done races like ORAMM with clips and ridden (and hike-a-biked) lots in pisgah (in spd shoes). I say go with the flats. I recently switched to flats after 25 years on clips and I wouldn't hesitate to use them on a 70mi pisgah ride.

  30. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by ddoh View Post
    "I'm usually able to take my output from about 240w to 380-400w just by bringing my hamstrings into play. Obviously this isn't a long term solution, but when you need that bit of extra power it's quite helpful."

    Why isn't it a long term solution?
    By long term solution I simply meant that you can't ride like that indefinitely. For me, I usually can't keep my hamstrings in play at any appreciable level for more than a minute at a time.
    . . . . . . . .

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