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Hey everyone, I am curious as to what proper pedaling technique is when using flats. I did a search on the forum but all I could find were debates as to whether clipless or flats were better for efficiency. Regardless of which is better I just want to learn efficiency for flats right now. I am killing myself on climbs with my horrible technique of just putting my weight into the pedals. On flat terrain I am good about being more fluid but I still don't think I am doing it right. I know with clipless pedals your supposed to use a circular push pull motion. Does this apply to flats as well? If so is the pulling motion accomplished by pulling up on the pedal with traction from the pegs and shoes? Or maybe I am way off. Please educate me. Thanks ahead of time.
 

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I wish I could help, but I really don't think about it. I tend to shift my feet around on my flats to whatever is comfortable. I'm sure sometimes that my technique is not 'proper,' but it works for me. I think in general, you should have the ball of your feet over the center of the pedal, but there are times when my foot is centered over the pedal because it just feels right there occasionally. I assume flats are less efficient than clipless because you get no pull up, but I prefer the ability to shift my feet around. I don't care about efficiency or speed.
 

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Just Ride
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I've read somewhere they say to push forward at the top and pull back at the bottom. Which is much more doable on flat terrain vs climbs. I was never able to pedal that way on climbs. It is much easier to pedal circles when clipped in though, even on the climbs. But with good flats and shoes, it shouldn't be to bad.
 

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This is what I was taught by some experts when I started MTBing and was hopeless at climbing
The first thing to learn for climbing is get your weight distribution correct, doesn't matter what pedals if you don't do that - that basicaly means get your ass forward even if it means sitting on the pointy end of the saddle - don't over do it i.e. all weight over the bars and out of the saddle. Your CG needs to be maintained directly over the crank. If you don't do this you are not going to be smooth at all; super inefficient regardless of pedals
2nd hands / arms in the right position
Third maintain speed into the climb
Forth don't even think about changing gear when on the climb, it is easier to get out of the seat and mash the pedals and hope you reach the top before cardiac arrest sets in then changing gear

I guesstimate from times that all else the same I am 5%ish quicker round a local XC course on spd's rather than flats.I've done this many times so it's a reasonable guess - and flats always feel like harder work on climbs than SPDs
If I am riding techy trail I am much faster on flats as I generally fall off if using SPD's
 

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Forth don't even think about changing gear when on the climb, it is easier to get out of the seat and mash the pedals and hope you reach the top before cardiac arrest sets in then changing gear
I don't understand this - what of you want to shift to an easier gear as the gradient increases?
 

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How much momentum do you lose by stopping pedaling and changing gear under a big load? gotta change down 2 or 3 just to make up for that - climbing wise the SS guys have it right, their Achilles heal is going down or on the flat.
 

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Fat-tired Roadie
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There's some misinformation out about how pedaling works. Especially people who claim that they pull up on the back pedal (using clipless) regularly. They might do it every now and then - I certainly do - but the power stroke is relatively limited, basically the forward quarter of the circle the pedals describe. Someone who pedals well is mostly just not fighting himself by weighting the back pedal heavily or trying to push his foot in a direction the pedal won't go near the top or bottom of the stroke. That's why a lot of the pedaling in circles exercises are important and helpful - to get a more fluid motion and waste less energy.

That long-ass introduction is to say that I don't think there's a difference in ideal technique.

In real life, I find that I can't maintain as high a cadence on flat pedals. I have a pretty light touch on my pedals in general, and I guess I unweight well. My feet move around on the back pedal a lot, which is irritating, and I have lifted my back foot off the pedal on particularly stiff climbs. I think if I practiced on flats more, I could address that, but since I prefer clipless...

Anyway, if you can pedal with good form when you're not climbing, the problem's not necessarily your technique.

Weight placement is discussed above. That's important.

Don't push too high a gear. That'll make your form go down the toilet.

What kind of climbs are giving you trouble? What happens?
 

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derp
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Well tbh my pedaling technique on climbs is pretty much the same when on flat or rocky sections, the only difference is that on rocky sections/rock gardens i point the tip of my feet up ( you don't want your feet to hit the rocks ) and shift my weight down ( so your feet don't bounce off ) and on climbs i get my arse of the saddle, shift my weight forward and point the tip of my feet down. Pretty much what i do on my SS bike.

BUT this is me who rides flats with a 1x10 setup and prefers mashing the pedals instead of using a lower gear. Mileage may vary.
 

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T.W.O.
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Well tbh my pedaling technique on climbs is pretty much the same when on flat or rocky sections, the only difference is that on rocky sections/rock gardens i point the tip of my feet up ( you don't want your feet to hit the rocks ) and shift my weight down ( so your feet don't bounce off ) and on climbs i get my arse of the saddle, shift my weight forward and point the tip of my feet down. Pretty much what i do on my SS bike.

BUT this is me who rides flats with a 1x10 setup and prefers mashing the pedals instead of using a lower gear. Mileage may vary.
I think Andrew just nailed the myth.:thumbsup: I'd repped you again but I can't, so you are on my rep list:D

Pretty much the fastest way to be less efficient is to pull up on the pedal with SPD unless you are in a huge gear like on SS then who cares.

Think smooth pedaling. Whether you are on clipless or flat. Work on smooth transition between down stroke and toward the bottom scrape your foot to the back as the top foot begin the down stroke, do that over and over, there's no magic solution for better pedaling stroke just lots of hard work and practice. It promote optimum traction, mashing especially on the smaller gear promote wheel slipping.

It's harder on the flats because you have to focus on even pressure thru out the pedaling stroke while clipless takes care of that by keeping you connected, but that's how the bad habits begin to accumulate and it happens to the most of us. When I first switch from clipless to flats on the technical climbs my foot would come off because I was sloppy then I work on it.

Clipless pedals do not make you a smoother rider, smooth pedaling stroke does, it simply is another tool to get the job done.:thumbsup:
 

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Andrew and Mimi hit it on the head. I use clipless on my road and my SS bikes,(just for a training to get the smooth circular technique on my trail bike I use flats. but the key is a circular motion
 

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Call me Phred
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Ask any 3 year old to demo their pedaling technique on a tricycle. I'm sure they would be happy to show you.

You just do it the way it feels natural, comfortable, and effective. To hell with the techno-babble.
 

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Honestly, I find that clipins are the best for biking. That's just me, but going uphill became INFINITELY better with the clipins- no feet sliding around, no need to regain your foothold
 

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Fat-tired Roadie
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I think it helps that kids' bikes are geared pretty low. Adults do all sorts of stupid things when they get gearing that they can leave too high and a saddle they can put in the wrong place. With a fixed wheel with low gear inches, like a kid's big wheel or tricycle, the only way to go faster is to pedal faster. And the only way to pedal faster is clean form.

So you're right in thinking that adults are maybe overthinking things.

But, since the OP is (probably) an adult and wants to tidy up his form, he can certainly do it faster by doing some drills. It's not particularly arduous either - just some fast pedaling intervals emphasizing different parts of the stroke on the way to the real mountain biking. I rode just over a mile on a flat, boring piece of doubletrack before I hit the bottom of the trail I was going to. Plenty of time to do some drilling if it was something I'm working on, and no need to go on a separate, less fun ride to do it.
 

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T.W.O.
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Semantics, the point being to do what feels natural.

I think in your pomposity you were thinking of sitting like a recumbent and not a trike which sits more upright.
Unfortunately you didn't read the op again. He does what feels natural to him but it does not work that's why he's here asking for help. You then suggested that he asks a 3 year old. Good for you hundun.
 

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Hell Track
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I read an article about power pedaling for road biking that made sense to me. It basically said the pulling up motion with with clipless pedals affects your pedal stroke so little that its not something you should even concentrate on. Instead concentrate on pedaling early. start the force of your down stroke before hitting the 12 o'clock position. Seems to have helped me. This can be applied to flat pedals as well. It was an online article. I'll try to find it and post the link
 

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Call me Phred
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So you're right in thinking that adults are maybe overthinking things.
Andrew, you are a class act!

Yes! Exactly my point, over-thinking something that comes natural since most of us have been pedaling one thing or another since just after learning to walk. I don't recall ever having anyone ask "how can I more efficiently walk up a hill?" Though it could be argued that the hiking community might discuss such things.

But, since the OP is (probably) an adult and wants to tidy up his form, he can certainly do it faster by doing some drills...
Yes practice. Even mimi says it
... there's no magic solution for better pedaling stroke just lots of hard work and practice...
to do anything else would be
overthinking things.

Unfortunately you didn't read the op again. He does what feels natural to him but it does not work that's why he's here asking for help. You then suggested that he asks a 3 year old. Good for you hundun.
OK, for you, mimi, I reread the OP.

Such a simple subject is easily approached with zen mind(as uncluttered and unbiased as the mind of a child).


I know with clipless pedals your supposed to use a circular push pull motion. Does this apply to flats as well? If so is the pulling motion accomplished by pulling up on the pedal with traction from the pegs and shoes
Obviously, it's a combination of two things which brings the pedal up with flats, the down-force of the opposite pedal and momentum. So the answer is no - it does not apply to flats as well.


...I am killing myself on climbs with my horrible technique of just putting my weight into the pedals...
Since the issue of practice has already been addressed, let's discuss some obvious issues regarding a hill. Speed and momentum on approach is your friend. Then we are faced with a choice: Do I use a lower gear and spin pedals really fast, or do I use a slightly higher gear and use slower power strokes? Take a hill and try it between the two choices to get a feel for when one choice best trumps the other. Deciding factors will depend on gradient, distance, momentum, strength, and so on.

A zen mind will calculate, decide, and adjust without even thinking about it.

Enjoy the ride. Don't over analyze it.
 

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Ask any 3 year old to demo their pedaling technique on a tricycle. I'm sure they would be happy to show you.

You just do it the way it feels natural, comfortable, and effective. To hell with the techno-babble.
actually my 3 year pedals inefficiently (on a bicycle)...so, um...no....a 3 year old is not the right person to ask.

natural and comfortable is nice and all but there is technique/form involved.

to the OP - to start place the ball of your foot over your pedal spindle. Think large circles when you start pedaling (slower)...then work up to 'smaller' circles (faster)

when pushing down on the powerstroke try 'scraping mud' off the bottom of your opposite foot on the upstroke. It will feel exaggerated at first, and work your calves.

from there your feet will take on a natural placement, and the mud scraping will be less prominent. You'll adjust according to terrain.

my .02
 
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