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Clipless vs flat pedals

Old 08-20-19, 09:19 AM
  #1  
NoWhammies
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Clipless vs flat pedals

So after years of road riding I am thinking of taking up cross country / mountain bike riding during the winters. I am starting to look at getting a bike and this has me thinking of pedals.

What's the thinking around pedals? Road riding, everyone pretty much has clipless pedals. But on the mountain bikes I see a good mix of flats vs clipless. On the one hand as I'm new to mountain biking, I can see the need to be able to touch the ground quickly if I am going to bite it. But on the other hand coming from a roadie background, I like the idea of clipless.

What are some of the thoughts/ideas/preferences?

Thank you.
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Old 08-20-19, 09:35 AM
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try them both see what fits for you, ive never ridden any bikes with clipless pedals flats just make more sense for me. I have ridden with clips on an older road bike and for me the feeling of being locked in makes me nervous offroad. I know several people who ride clipless and several on flats. its really a personal preference.
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Old 08-20-19, 06:02 PM
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Really personal preference and I’d try both.

One big advantage to flats when riding in winter is better choices in warm boots to keep your feet warm. Warm insulated boots for SPD are in the $200 range.
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Old 08-21-19, 06:09 AM
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It's all down to preference and what one is accustomed to. Years ago clipless was dominant, and might still be in cross country racing. Flats have seen a resurgence in recent years. I remember big, long arguments over which is better. Both types seem to be common enough now that people don't argue as much, which is a good thing. No harm in trying both, then just roll with whichever you happen to prefer for the terrain that you are riding.

If you are racing, choose based upon which type helps you to win races. If not racing, then just roll with what brings a smile.
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Old 08-21-19, 06:35 AM
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I ride both, after a bad crash, I lose my mojo and blame the SPDs or Eggbeaters, then go to flats. It's a never ending cycle. Start with flats, and after getting comfortable riding technical trails, give clipless a try. For clipless, I really like having them on seated climbs and bumpy downhill runs. Also get the right pedals and shoes for flats, 5010 sneaks with any pinned pedal like RF Chesters are really sticky.

Hmm, you're in BC? have you considered a fat bike or studded tires for your area? Many of our trails are not rideable after a good snow, that is till after snowmobiles, XC skiers or fatbikes get to them first. And then there's the freeze and thaw which often makes sections like ice rinks. And I'd ditch clipless if riding on ice.
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Old 08-21-19, 08:21 AM
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I think that's my m plan. Start with flats and get comfortable riding cross country. Then as I my experience and skill increases, think about switching over to clipless. Although by that point in time, I might be comfortable enough with flats to just stick with flats and call it a day.


@Gclabrat no interest in a fat bike at the moment but hey, you never know what the future may bring.

Last edited by NoWhammies; 08-21-19 at 11:31 AM.
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Old 08-21-19, 10:13 AM
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I would start with flats while you figure out how not to eat $#it all the time and get generally comfortable. Then give clipless a try.

It is really all personal preference. You see very experienced and skilled riders on both.

I personally feel more comfortable in very rough, technical and hairy situations (and in the air) on clipless, and that is what I stick with for my A-game riding. However, I do make a point to switch to flats now and again to keep it interesting, and flats help develop or maintain some good skills. In the winter I run flats because my feet get cold when using clipless, and when riding in the snow clipless can have issues.

There is some speed advantage to clipless if you are racing competitively, but it is minor for riding otherwise. It is not a factor I would give much weight to compared to what you simply feel the most comfortable with.

Also, there are a lot of different clipless systems out there and they can feel very different from each other. I think some people just try SPDs, struggle to get in/out and decide clipless sucks. I never cared for SPD, like the shimano style. I use Speedplay Frogs. Night and day difference (which some like and others do not).
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Old 08-21-19, 11:29 PM
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Road 100% clipless
MTB/Fatty 100% flats
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Old 08-22-19, 08:29 AM
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I think, seeing that you are just taking up mtb'ing, that you might prefer a pedal that lets you "bail" quickly (at least until you get used to off-road riding). I'm using "BMX style" pedals--flats with traction pins in them. I see riders on the trails, and it seems to be a mix of both-but I see more with flats than clipless.
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Old 08-22-19, 08:48 AM
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Yeah, I'm thinking the ability to bail quickly will be of importance to me. As I get more confidence, then maybe moving up to clipless will be the next step.
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Old 08-22-19, 09:33 AM
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XC MTB you will what to clip in some of the time.
https://www.rei.com/product/116154/s...iABEgJhe_D_BwE
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Old 08-22-19, 09:47 AM
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Originally Posted by trailangel View Post

XC MTB you will what to clip in some of the time.
https://www.rei.com/product/116154/s...iABEgJhe_D_BwE
I would never use flat/clipless combos for trail riding.

I can see them having their place for a commuter, utility, or even a road bike. But not for riding single track
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Old 08-22-19, 09:54 AM
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OP mentioned XC riding. Not trail or single track.
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Old 08-22-19, 10:18 AM
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Originally Posted by trailangel View Post
OP mentioned XC riding. Not trail or single track.
XC mountain biking IS trails and singletrack.
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Old 08-22-19, 10:36 AM
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Originally Posted by Dr.Lou View Post
Road 100% clipless
MTB/Fatty 100% flats
Myself as well!
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Old 08-22-19, 11:24 AM
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Yes. Ya git your flat pedals and Five Ten shoes........ that's the kind. Dude, that's just awesum
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Old 08-27-19, 07:43 PM
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Riding flats while learning fundamental techniques like the bunny-hop is very recommended. Using clipless while learning these can teach you to simply pull up on your feet rather than move your body on the bike, which can put you in a dangerous position if your front wheel were to get stuck. As you get into mountain biking though, it's mostly personal preference. I like flats for downhill and techy trails while I ride clipless for XC races. Going over a lot of roots when it gets rainy can throw your feet off flat pedals which is why I tend to race in them. Flat pedals will let you get off the bike quickly if you're about to take a tumble.
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Old 08-28-19, 07:56 AM
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I went with Chester Race Face pedals on my mountain bike and have been happy. They're pretty solid quality and didn't cost an arm and a leg.
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Old 08-28-19, 08:54 AM
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Thanks for the info folks. @mikewhiskey I was walking home from work the other day and a fellow on a mountain bike bunny hopped up on the low-rise wall beside me. I glanced down at his pedals and he was riding flats. I am continually impressed how people are able to move as one with their bikes. I would like to get that comfortable on a bike, but I worry my fear of biting it (and of being older meaning it takes me longer to recover) will hold me back.
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Old 08-30-19, 08:26 AM
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fear is good. helps keep us safe & healthy. courage is not the absence of fear. luck is not random, it's when preparation meets opportunity
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Old 09-01-19, 09:59 PM
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I used to ride my mtbs with clip-ins but over time I've converted all my mtbs to BMX style platforms. I love wearing sandals while riding in summer. I've also quit wearing lycra shorts. Having to prepare for a ride by changing clothes and shoes is such a pain in the ass and detracts from the experience. Also platforms are better for steep climbs with loose gravel because it helps mitigate anxiety. If you go with platforms look for low profile pedals and consider getting them slightly on the small side because reduced measurements help prevent pedal strikes. Platforms are typically so huge. Also get ones with smooth pegs instead of nasty sharp-threaded pegs that chew up your ankles.

Sometimes it's fun to ride clip-ins with lycra shorts though especially if you have full-suspension and can do bunny hops. I kinda prefer rigid bikes and am usually too fatigued for those fancy bike-handling skills. It's all I can do to sit and spin!

Last edited by Clem von Jones; 09-01-19 at 10:10 PM.
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Old 09-07-19, 08:58 AM
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Originally Posted by Kapusta View Post
XC mountain biking IS trails and singletrack.
LOL! Right?
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Old 09-12-19, 02:27 PM
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I have gone to pinned platforms on anything on dirt. I still use my "clip in" pedals on pavement. (Clipless seems non-sensical) Once you get used to the feel of platforms you can pull up or at least get a sense that you are.

I do have a few nice scars from the pins.
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Old 09-12-19, 02:28 PM
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Originally Posted by NoWhammies View Post
Thanks for the info folks. @mikewhiskey I was walking home from work the other day and a fellow on a mountain bike bunny hopped up on the low-rise wall beside me. I glanced down at his pedals and he was riding flats. I am continually impressed how people are able to move as one with their bikes. I would like to get that comfortable on a bike, but I worry my fear of biting it (and of being older meaning it takes me longer to recover) will hold me back.
A few of us 60+ riders have made agreements about speed and defying gravity solely because, "it takes so dang long to recover!"
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I can't even find my bike when I'm on drugs. -Willie N.
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Old 09-12-19, 02:31 PM
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Originally Posted by rumrunn6 View Post
fear is good. helps keep us safe & healthy. courage is not the absence of fear. luck is not random, it's when preparation meets opportunity
The kid who taught me about mountain biking took me to the top of a ridge, told me that fear would paralyze me or energize me, I had to decide which. Then he dropped off the ridge and left me.
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