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Discussion Starter #1
Hey all, I've been reading a few of the threads here regarding clipless vs. flats because I have been riding flats and am having a hard time keeping feet on the pedals. Here is a bit of history:

I rode bikes as a child, mix of road and BMX. Road bikes always had clips, BMX had flats. I would say I was a more proficient roadie than BMXer back in the day. I started riding MTB when they first started to get popular in the late '80's (I was in my late teens) and always rode clips. If I recall, most (at least higher-end) MTB's in those days came with clips and most of my riding buddies removed them immediately. I did a little XC racing, but preferred technical and flowy singletrack, which required climbing (usually in FS and logging roads) before descending the singletrack. I was known as a fast climber back then and as I look back, I can attribute a lot of that to being one of the few that rode clipped in. I remember that riding singletrack while being clipped in (old-school clips) was a bit scary at first, but I adapted and soon felt very secure, locked-in and very much "at one" with my bike while clipped in.

As happens to some of us when we marry and start families, I drifted away from MTB for 25 years. Fast-forward to 2020 and now that the nest is empty, I have started riding again. First, I pulled my 30-year-old Cannondale Red Shred (rigid 26er with cantilever rim brakes and old-school geo) out of the closet (only about 6 weeks ago) and started riding the neighborhood, then some gravel roads, which led me to all the wonderful trails in my backyard (Galbraith Mtn and Lookout Mtn). I know the Red Shred like the back of my hand, and felt locked in (albeit completely out of shape!) and one with the bike and the clips immediately. I am surrounded by very technical blue and mostly black trails (and is what I actually prefer to ride) and have felt fairly comfortable, but have no problem dismounting and walking some of the gnarly drops and janky sections because I have not fully regained my conditioning, am mostly riding these trails for the first time, am riding solo, and am not as young and resilient as I once was (I am now 52).

As I started riding, I naturally found these forums and have been reading and watching videos and found myself lusting after all the new tech goodness that is available now, soo.....I ordered up a carbon YT Jeffsy 29er!!! As everything is back-ordered, it is not scheduled to be delivered until mid July (although I suspect it will be delayed further out than that) so, being impatient and dreaming of a bad-ass, FS carbon bike with hydro brakes that can actually stop you, I picked up a 2011 Stumpjumper FSR 29er. WOW! makes the Red Shred feel like a model T!

Anyway, the Stumpy has flats and I picked up a pair of RC Livewire shoes and figured I would be good to go. Well, I am having a really hard time getting used to not being clipped in to the pedals. My feet bounce off through the janky stuff, I find it hard to place my feet properly after they bounce off or I dab, the soles are very sticky, so if I DO place my foot on the pedal wrong on a technical part of the trail, it is difficult to re-position properly without really slowing down or stopping which is not always possible if it is very steep or techy! I also find that when it gets techy and janky, that I pull a foot instead of committing, which always ends badly! I have even had my foot come off the pedal a couple of times just while upshifting when I am putting down a lot of torque. I also find that I don't feel like I can jump/bunny hop as well, or that I don't have as much control over the rear of the bike as I did with clips. I assume this is just due to habit and the fact that ALL of my previous MTB experience is with clips and that I need to re-learn those techniques as they apply to flats?

I've probably only logged a total of 50-60 miles on the flats vs. all of the years I rode clipped, but I am not seeing all of the virtues of flats that I have read about on the forums.

I'd like to pose a couple of questions to those that have endured my long post so far and that have spent a significant amount of time on both flats and clips/clipless:

- so far I see ZERO value in flats over clipless but I've read numerous times how die-hard proponents of flats emphatically say they are better, but they don't explain "better". Can someone cite specific examples of "better"? (For instance, I can kinda see how being able to move your feet forward or back on the pedals depending on terrain MIGHT be an advantage)
- I realize that I am adapting to a LOT of changes from my old rigid to a more modern bike (29 vs 26, FS vs rigid, modern-ish geo vs old-school, hydro brakes vs rim brakes), and that virtually ALL of my previous MTB experience is on clips, but how long is long enough to try and adapt to the flats? How long has it taken others to truly adapt and feel at home and in control with flats?

I'm about ready to pull the trigger on clipless pedals and clipless shoes, but I want to give flats an honest try. I know if I order a clipless setup, that I will probably ditch the flats immediately and never go back, so all of your feedback will be beneficial to me right now!

Thanks in advance for all of your insight!
 

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I gave flats a month. I like clipless pedals better. I'm totally good with it and don't feel like I'm missing anything.

It's so much nicer not having to worry about being kicked off the pedals in chunk.
 

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Flats do require a different technique. It will take some learning, but I’d wager it would be good to learn even if you eventually go back to clipless.

I rode clipless only for about 5 years(mostly commuting, but some trail riding as well), and moved to flats for mountain biking when I started mountain biking in earnest almost 2 years ago. So not the most experienced with either compared to some riders, but enough to be comfortable on both.

I mostly switched to make sure I was learning correct technique for things like bunnyhops. I found with clipless I was cheating a bit, and using the direct connection to just pull up.

At first, I had the most issues with “floating” my feet while pedaling hard. Ie, I was trying to pull up on the upstroke, while keeping my feet/ankle flat. And unlike with clipless... on flats that does nothing.

I also had a bit of the “feels sketchy like I’m about to slip off sensation at times (partly from old pedals with rounded pins, and bad shoes though).

Both of those are completely gone now, as I have the technique down. Basically, you’re not using your feet angle correctly/enough.

With my “hovering” problem, I had to adjust and “paw” more at my pedals more (more angle, toe dipped further).

For the rough bits, I found I was staying on too toe low/heel high. Aka, I was having my feet angled the same as, or even more “downhill” than the trail was. In other words, I was about to fall off.

Proper flat technique on the downs includes dropping your heels a lot, which takes thre most getting used to imo. But heels down makes the pedals angle towards you, making each bounce/bump make hem press harder and harder into your foot. I’ve not dropped a pedal in the rough stuff actually (knock on wood).

The reason I say that may be useful to learn either way, is the heels down approach helps lower your center or gravity, making you more stable no matter what pedaL you’re on.

Go watch some of the videos of Sam Hill that are floating around on the internet. He is the flat pedal master. Watch his feet/ankle movement and you’ll see what I’m taking about.

But, end of the day... if it’s not for you, it’s not for you. It’s pretty much proven that clipless is faster for almost everyone (other than Sam Hill, is who is apparently an outlier). But I’d also wager that most of the truly fast pros out there on clipless have pretty good technique for things like manuals/bunnyhops/etc, and don’t need the flats to help them learn it better (which was my reason for swapping).
 

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Screw the flats. Ride what you're comfortable with. Flats are fine for people who like them, and clips are great for those of us who prefer clips. If you've been around the bike world for a while, you will have endured a series of battles over equipment and stylistic choices that seem life or death at the time, but which mostly turn out to be matters of preference. Fixies. Sunglasses. Gloves vs no gloves. baggies vs lycra. 26 vs 29. Flats vs clips is one of these religious topics that will never be settled. Make your own personal choice and be at peace.
 

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It took me a couple of months to get really comfortable on flats

But

It improved my uphill tech climbing, and downhill, mainly because i was willing to wait a bit more before putting a foot down.

Sent from my Redmi Note 8 Pro using Tapatalk
 

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The reason flats are "better" is that they only work with good technique. You can get away with lots of poor technique when you are clipped to the pedal.

The pros have good technique with flats, then add some incremental gains by using clips. Some top-level coaches have suggested using clips in summer, and flats in winter so that you can bail off easier in tricky conditions, and practice good technique.

I use clips on the XC hardtail for efficiency on longer, gentler efforts, and flats on the trail and enduro bikes for confidence. I don't have any less control using either type of pedal. Each has their pros and cons.
 

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Tantrumcycles #1
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Another benefit of cleat pedals is theyare less prone to cause pedal strikes. Smaller in both width and length, and non or less studs to catch on rocks and roots
.
Also less risk of tearing up you legs. So on flats I preferre full length leg protectors. But with cleats I'm happy with just knee protectors or nothing if going for less then charging rides..

An interesting alternativ is the Mag Ped. Thers a few pretty fast rides around using them. Personally I prefer the fully locked in but "elastic" release feeling of my HT pedals. My girlfriend are on Magpeds to but struggled to adjust. I think the metal plates might be be a bit to long and should be shortened to center here shoes more on the pedals..

Sent fra min moto g(8) plus via Tapatalk
 

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Good stiff, grippy flat shoes and although it may seem counter intuitive, long grub screw type pins and you'll be right...

Like said earlier, pro's n cons with either.

If you come unclipped in janky terrain, there ain't a hope in hell of getting clipped back in.

At least w/ flats you'll get some rubber on metal.

I find clipless better when I'm really in oxygen debt. I don't have to think about foot position.

Dropping your heels on steep descents is easier on flats. As you're keeping centre of gravity lower, you'll have more control and grip.

I ride both.

I see the benefits of both.

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Tantrumcycles #1
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>>>>>>>

Dropping your heels on steep descents is easier on flats. As you're keeping centre of gravity lower, you'll have more control and grip.
Why is that you think? If adjusting the cleats to same exact position and (duck) feet angle as when riding flats it should not be much different if at all.

In fact for me it's the other way around since you never have to fight to stay in the pedals on cleats as on flats when you sometimes will slide off if not actively maintaining an even preassure against the pedals.
But I suppose that comes naturally if ridding flats only which I have not done very mych of for over 20years since I tend to get sore knees from using flats since feet can not twist and tilt a bit as on cleats. And that's the main reason I went from flats to cleats. No knee pain at all as long as having some float.
That's also why I went from SPD to HT pedals since they are a bit more floaty and elastic in the release

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After riding clipless for decades, I got flats for some lift served and to use sometimes when I ride with my pleasure unit. Anything that requires 2 or more of my synapses to connect, at my age, is a good thing. It did motivate me to slide the cleats aft to more closely simulate that "flats" position and that helped my biking. Flats are kinda fun, but I usually ride clipless.
 

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OP, I had the same experience you did. I also “cheat” with clipless pedals... which is about the only niggle in the back of my mind about giving flats another shot. That thought comes and goes though - the memory of cheese grating my shin quickly puts to rest the desire to try flats again.
 

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It took me a couple of years to adapt to flats after 20+ years of clipless. It's much easier to go the other way.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Screw the flats. Ride what you're comfortable with. Flats are fine for people who like them, and clips are great for those of us who prefer clips. If you've been around the bike world for a while, you will have endured a series of battles over equipment and stylistic choices that seem life or death at the time, but which mostly turn out to be matters of preference. Fixies. Sunglasses. Gloves vs no gloves. baggies vs lycra. 26 vs 29. Flats vs clips is one of these religious topics that will never be settled. Make your own personal choice and be at peace.
I wasn't really asking which one is better like most of the other threads I have read, I explained that most of my experience is on clipless and I read that there is some value to flats, but I have not heard enough specifics to convince me.

Most of what I was looking for was, 1) others' experience of how long it took them before they learned flats after riding clipless and, 2) specific BENEFITS of flats over clipless.

So far, I haven't really seen any specific benefits of flats over clipless.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Good stiff, grippy flat shoes and although it may seem counter intuitive, long grub screw type pins and you'll be right.
I have Ride Concepts shoes. Are they not stiff/grippy enough?

targnik said:
If you come unclipped in janky terrain, there ain't a hope in hell of getting clipped back in.

At least w/ flats you'll get some rubber on metal.
So I guess I should clarify. Most of my time on MTB was using old-school toe clips, I've never really used a true clipless setup, but the clipless pedals like the Shimano XT M8120 that I was looking at, do have a bit of a platform and many of the SPD MTB shoes look to be relatively flat on the bottom, with the cleats recessed, so it kinda looked like there WOULD be a chance of getting some rubber back on the pedal in the jank, especially since (with flats) I have not really been able to get my foot properly placed on the pedal when it comes off in the jank, either! Please don't misunderstand me, I don't want to come off as ignoring or discounting your advice, I really am at what I consider a bit of a turning point with my MTB'ing. I am willing to learn to adapt to flats right now if there is a compelling reason(s) to do so (such as it allowing me to get rid of "lazy" or "bad" habits learned years ago), but not willing to retrain this old dog if there are no compelling reasons. In other words, if adapting to flats allows me to learn better technique that will benefit my cornering, jumping, braking, etc., than it will be for a worthy cause.

targnik said:
I don't have to think about foot position.
That is one thing I noticed about flats right away. I don't EVER get them back in the same spot on the pedals, and it is hard to move them to where I like with the aggressive pins and grippy soles and all...

targnik said:
Dropping your heels on steep descents is easier on flats.
I'm not understanding how it is easier to drop your heels with flats vs. clipless? Am I missing something? Can you please explain?
 

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Discussion Starter #16
It took me a couple of months to get really comfortable on flats

But

It improved my uphill tech climbing, and downhill, mainly because i was willing to wait a bit more before putting a foot down.
Again, I am not understanding this.....

HOW did flats improve your uphill tech climbing? and WHY were you willing to wait a bit more before putting a foot down?

Sounds like this is less of a difference between flats and clips, and more of a mental/learning/trust thing?
 

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The reason flats are "better" is that they only work with good technique. You can get away with lots of poor technique when you are clipped to the pedal.
Translation: advantage step-in pedals.
=sParty

P.S. Notice I called them “step-in” pedals rather than the inappropriate but universally misapplied “clipless.” Step-in pedals aren’t clipless — they absolutely have clips (perhaps more accurately, cleats.) It’s flat pedals that don’t have clips. The word “clips” comes from bygone days when off-road cyclists actually used toe clips and straps (like roadies employed pre-1980ish), before step-in pedals were introduced. The phrase “clipless” is arcane and should be eradicated. It differentiates nothing between platform pedals and step-in pedals as neither employ toe clips so they’re both “clipless” — platform* pedals being slightly more clipless than step-in pedals due to the step-in’s cleat. As for kicking the term “clipless” to the curb, I seem to be on a one-man mission to accomplish this monumental task. I’m not so naive as to believe it’ll ever come to fruition; regardless I continue my quest.

*As long as we’re on the subject of naming pedals, “platform” is preferred over “flat.” A flat is something we get with tubed tires.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
After riding clipless for decades, I got flats for some lift served and to use sometimes when I ride with my pleasure unit.
I have read others say flats for lift served and bike parks, but WHY? It looks to me like the new SPD-compatible shoes are quite hike-a-bike and walk around, have a burger and beer after the ride friendly, so what makes the flats better in these situations?

Again, I'm not trying to be obstinate, I just really want to wrap my head around this issue for me and make a decision one way or the other.

I really do appreciate all of the feedback!

Regards
 

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Discussion Starter #20
What flats? Good, large, metal pinned ones, or small, cheapo, all plastic, throwaway ones?
Well, good is somewhat subjective, especially considering there are literally HUNDREDS of flats to choose from these days!!

The pedals on the SJ are what I would consider at least decent; they are metal, large, and they have metal pins. With that said, There are certainly larger pedals with larger pins out there....
 
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