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Help a roadie on flat pedal technique

Old 05-24-20, 12:23 PM
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Caliper
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Help a roadie on flat pedal technique

I've mostly ridden road bikes since childhood and 99% of the time with clipless pedals. Currently I'm trying to improve my MTB skills and am caught in between clipless and flat pedals. So far I have mostly used clipless because I am more comfortable with them but want to get better at flats. On the one hand, flats allow me a quicker exit in technical situations, but on the other hand my feet lose the pedals on small drops and bumpy descents, which really scares me due to the speeds involved (as long as the descent is fairly straight, haha). I hear people say that this doesn't happen "with the proper technique", but am having a hard time finding tips on what these techniques are. Does anyone have some pointers or youtube links for this? I'll be upgrading my flats soon to something like a Chester and currently have the options of tennis shoes, lightweight hiking boots or MTB clipless shoes to ride in but still don't know what to do with my feet except push down on the pedals?
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Old 05-24-20, 01:04 PM
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You refer to pedals as flats but also to shoes as flats.
Get proper MTB shoes, and maybe good MTB pedals.
Or a combo of both:
https://www.universalcycles.com/shop...5&category=113
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Old 05-24-20, 03:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Caliper View Post
I've mostly ridden road bikes since childhood and 99% of the time with clipless pedals. Currently I'm trying to improve my MTB skills and am caught in between clipless and flat pedals. So far I have mostly used clipless because I am more comfortable with them but want to get better at flats. On the one hand, flats allow me a quicker exit in technical situations, but on the other hand my feet lose the pedals on small drops and bumpy descents, which really scares me due to the speeds involved (as long as the descent is fairly straight, haha). I hear people say that this doesn't happen "with the proper technique", but am having a hard time finding tips on what these techniques are. Does anyone have some pointers or youtube links for this? I'll be upgrading my flats soon to something like a Chester and currently have the options of tennis shoes, lightweight hiking boots or MTB clipless shoes to ride in but still don't know what to do with my feet except push down on the pedals?
Well first see how a set of good flats go. i donít know what you have been using but some flats are much better than others in terms of size and grip.

It is hard to say whether tennis shoes or hiking boots will be better. It really depends on which has a sole that gets along with the pins on tje pedals.

Proper mtb shoes for flats will make a big difference.
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Old 05-24-20, 04:07 PM
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I wear the same pair of jump boots for everything-hiking, jogging, MTbing, road riding, dirt biking, ATVing and even kicking some a.. on occasion. When I first started riding dirt bikes I used to get ribbed that I didn't have enough ankle protection-I was told I was an accident waiting to happen. It never happened-at least not to an ankle. They were working fine on my road bike except for the scuff on top of the boot from shifting. Then I really got into hiking, 20+ miles/day was nothing. Basically, I live in my boots. I do occasionally wear sandals when I wear shorts-not often though because it scares the little ones. I have found that pedals make all the difference when riding a pedal bike. I like big flats with grips on the road bike and super gripping aluminum pedals on my MTB. Nothing worse than having a foot slip off the pedal on either bike and I refuse to use clips. If I have to bail, I'm gonna bail and not worry about the bike being stuck to my foot. What I'm saying basically is wear what you feel comfortable in. Some people I know live in deck shoes. If I put a pair of deck shoes on I would probably fall off my bike. I have ankle support, toe protection, and comfort. What more do you need or want?
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Old 05-24-20, 07:11 PM
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Originally Posted by trailangel View Post
You refer to pedals as flats but also to shoes as flats.
Get proper MTB shoes, and maybe good MTB pedals.
Or a combo of both:
https://www.universalcycles.com/shop...5&category=113
I guess when I mentioned flats I always meant pedals and thought that flats as a shoe style were womens dress shoes... But point taken. Platform pedals it is.

I guess I hadn't considered the dual sided pedals. I've got a pair like these but with a less aggressive platform side that really wouldn't work for a trail. Will have to consider those.


Originally Posted by Kapusta View Post
Well first see how a set of good flats go. i donít know what you have been using but some flats are much better than others in terms of size and grip.

It is hard to say whether tennis shoes or hiking boots will be better. It really depends on which has a sole that gets along with the pins on tje pedals.

Proper mtb shoes for flats will make a big difference.
The best platforms I have are these, so they have molded in pins but aren't anything fancy: https://www.fyxation.com/collections...ts/gates-pedal

I ran them on my fatbike this past winter because of boots, slick conditions and fast bailouts. I find that the pegs do keep my feet from sliding around on the pedal, but winter riding also didn't have many bumps. When I ride them on dry singletrack and hit a bumpy rooty section I still wish for the positive retention of clipless even though I have my knees bent to take up movement. I will say that my boots probably fit in with the pegs better than the clipless shoes I was wearing in warm weather so that may be an aspect. I'll have to give the boots a try in the dry also and see how that changes things.
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Old 05-24-20, 09:00 PM
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Get better shoes with thicker and stickier soles like 510s. Also practice weighting the pedals. Easiest way to do this is to take your weight off the saddle. Use the dropper if you have one. And try to keep your pedals in the 3 o'clock and 9 o'clock position when not pedaling. Takes practice, when I get lazy and sit back, that's when I lose my pedals as well.
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Old 05-25-20, 05:36 PM
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Hi OP!

The best advice I have got when faced with a bumpy, technical descent where you're faced with your feet bouncing off the pedals is "heels down"

I am not a physicist but I think this presses your body weight "into" the pedal spindle and lines up your mass with the crap you're trying to roll over.

Extra bonus- when you but your heels down it kinda forces your head up which is another thing I had to get used to - not looking at the ground or my front tire but rather the trail ahead of me.

I talked to a guy recently who does private lessons, former XC and Enduro racer and he INSISTS on platforms during his training sessions. Once you get really good on platforms, your form will be better on clipless pedals and you can go back to them a better rider.

Oh - and +1 to platform-specififc shoes. FWIW Nashbar.com is running a 25% off sale on Shimano shoes right now....

Last edited by davei1980; 05-25-20 at 05:50 PM.
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Old 05-25-20, 06:15 PM
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There's a reason Five Tens and pedals with significant pins are the standard for flat pedal mountain biking. You simply can't go wrong with the classic Freerider--I have used them off and on and always come back to them. At $80 it's kind of a no-brainer IMHO. Personally, I use the classic Freeriders with VP Vice pedals. My feet don't move or come off the pedals unless it's intentional. And there are even more aggressive pedals out there too...

https://www.adidasoutdoor.com/five-t...shoes#start=24
VP Vice (VP-015) - VP Components
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Old 05-26-20, 10:23 AM
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Five Tens rock, I was slow to convert. I thought I was going to get away from special shoes by switching to flat pedals. You need to relax and flow more to keep from bouncing off. Think heavy feet and light hands. On the first ride on flats after riding clipless I always think I am trapped in the pedal at some point because I try to push my heel down and out coming to a stop and it won't move.
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Old 05-26-20, 10:38 AM
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I think there's enough to get you going here - just saw an internet ad for last year's 510s at a significant discount.

I think that's a really good idea but you cannot upgrade your way out of poor technique so consider that as well. I am still in my tennis shoes and I don't slip.
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Old 05-26-20, 04:13 PM
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Yep, there is a technique learning curve but it doesn't take long at all. I can ride in Vans now (with pins) and feel fine for mellower rides (otherwise it's Five Tens, every time). But one thing I'd say NEVER feels good is if I have something on like a trail running shoe or hiking shoe that has a lugged tread - that feels way sketchier. And the extra cushion of the sole doesn't give you the feedback you want. Fine for a casual or mellow ride, but not when things get rough. And even with Five Tens famous grip, if you want to shift your feet, you can in whatever teeny increments you want. Big lugs/tread make me feel "hung up" on the pins.
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Old 05-26-20, 04:30 PM
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Originally Posted by pbass View Post
Yep, there is a technique learning curve but it doesn't take long at all. I can ride in Vans now (with pins) and feel fine for mellower rides (otherwise it's Five Tens, every time). But one thing I'd say NEVER feels good is if I have something on like a trail running shoe or hiking shoe that has a lugged tread - that feels way sketchier. And the extra cushion of the sole doesn't give you the feedback you want. Fine for a casual or mellow ride, but not when things get rough. And even with Five Tens famous grip, if you want to shift your feet, you can in whatever teeny increments you want. Big lugs/tread make me feel "hung up" on the pins.
I have on my "to do" list to get some platform-specific shoes; also several of my nylon pins on pedals are sheered off so time to replace pedals with ones with replaceable pins.

I JUST got a dropper post, new brakes and a new saddle so my upgrade wish list is depleted for the time being - This wasn't as important in the beginning but as, you mention, as the trails I ride become more and more technical and the margin for error less and less....
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Old 05-27-20, 04:47 PM
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I have egg-beaters on mine and they aren't that difficult to get out of. Before I got confident in mountain biking I used flat pedals, but I felt that the egg-beaters made a huge difference.
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Old 05-28-20, 08:50 AM
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Originally Posted by tbiscuit360 View Post
I have egg-beaters on mine and they aren't that difficult to get out of. Before I got confident in mountain biking I used flat pedals, but I felt that the egg-beaters made a huge difference.
You may have just inspired me to throw my EBs on...
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Old 05-28-20, 08:20 PM
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Need to spend some money, chesters are OK, buy there are better. Real mt bike shoes, chrome, vans, 661 etc. Thick stiff soles, large steel pins pedals. Get some shin guards, g form work for me. Cheers.
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Old 05-29-20, 09:11 PM
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I agree with others who recommend getting good shoes. The first time I tried to go from SPDs to flats, I got decent pedals and tried a bunch of shoes that I already had, none of which worked very well at all. Quickly went back to SPDs. A year later I tried again with 5-10 Free Riders. Big difference. I'll never ride SPDs again.

Also, if you have big feet, I'd get something bigger than Chesters. I used some Crank Brother Stamps for awhile (big pedals), then got some Chesters for a commuter bike. No comparison, the Stamps give me way more confidence than Chesters (which are fine for many, especially if you have small-to medium sized feet).
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Old 06-06-20, 10:19 AM
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Well, I go and ask a question then promptly bang myself up clipping a tree and bruise my ribs... Back to riding more now. Got some Chesters (what the LBS had in stock), but still using my SPD style shoes on them since they have a nice stiff sole, upgrading the shoes are next.
The Chesters, plus keeping my heels down has made a huge benefit over the bumpy stuff so far. I still have my feet leave the pedals during drops though. I also find my feet coming off the pedals over small bumps when pedaling on flat sections or even dirt roads. I guess I have a subconscious habit of unweighting my feet on the upstroke since I've ridden clipped in most of my life.

So, what do people do over drops with flat pedals? I'm slightly out of the saddle with knees bent, so it is especially unnerving when both feet come off the pedals since that would make for a painful landing if they don't find the pedal again on the landing...
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Old 06-06-20, 12:42 PM
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Originally Posted by Caliper View Post
Well, I go and ask a question then promptly bang myself up clipping a tree and bruise my ribs... Back to riding more now. Got some Chesters (what the LBS had in stock), but still using my SPD style shoes on them since they have a nice stiff sole, upgrading the shoes are next.
The Chesters, plus keeping my heels down has made a huge benefit over the bumpy stuff so far. I still have my feet leave the pedals during drops though. I also find my feet coming off the pedals over small bumps when pedaling on flat sections or even dirt roads. I guess I have a subconscious habit of unweighting my feet on the upstroke since I've ridden clipped in most of my life.

So, what do people do over drops with flat pedals? I'm slightly out of the saddle with knees bent, so it is especially unnerving when both feet come off the pedals since that would make for a painful landing if they don't find the pedal again on the landing...
What you are describing is what I struggled with most when I started using flat pedals more often. And to be fair, I still do a little and am weirded out by the idea of being in the air for long with flats. However, I have found it is not as hard as I thought.

It is somewhat instinctual, but I think what I do in the air is point my feet down (heels up) so that the bike is sort of wedged between the pedals and my grip on the bars. I push my feet slightly down and back into the pedals.
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Old 06-06-20, 02:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Caliper View Post
still using my SPD style shoes on them since they have a nice stiff sole, upgrading the shoes are next.
I know you know this but those shoes are doing you zero favors, you may be better off in street shoes - the shoes you're in are not designed to interface with the RF Chesters you bought (which are, BTW, on my short list for my next pedal in Magenta!)
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Old 06-07-20, 12:51 AM
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Originally Posted by Caliper View Post
[...] Got some Chesters (what the LBS had in stock), but still using my SPD style shoes on them since they have a nice stiff sole [...]
Originally Posted by davei1980 View Post
I know you know this but those shoes are doing you zero favors, you may be better off in street shoes - the shoes you're in are not designed to interface with the RF Chesters [...]
Yeah, I was surprised hearing of someone riding flat pedals with SPD shoes. Yikes. Asking how to handle drops with that combo is like asking how to get to Vegas on a skateboard (sorry, first analogy that came to mind). Correct answer: get ride of skateboard and replace with a motor vehicle designed for highway travel. Then address your situation.
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Old 06-07-20, 07:47 AM
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Caliper
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Originally Posted by davei1980 View Post
I know you know this but those shoes are doing you zero favors, you may be better off in street shoes - the shoes you're in are not designed to interface with the RF Chesters you bought (which are, BTW, on my short list for my next pedal in Magenta!)
Originally Posted by Ryder1 View Post
Yeah, I was surprised hearing of someone riding flat pedals with SPD shoes. Yikes. Asking how to handle drops with that combo is like asking how to get to Vegas on a skateboard (sorry, first analogy that came to mind). Correct answer: get ride of skateboard and replace with a motor vehicle designed for highway travel. Then address your situation.
Actually... I figured these would be the best due to their tread and stiff sole. It's not like I'm out there trying to do singletrack on Chesters with a Look cleat hanging out, lol. The SPD cleat is entirely recessed and isn't touching the Chesters, but the pegs are gripping the tread so I am able to pull back on the pedal at the bottom of the stroke when I want. My tennis shoes at this point have almost no tread left and a very soft sole. I've got a pair of lightweight boots that have decent tread and sole stiffness.

I guess since I have never held a set, how are the 510's? I thought they were a rigid sole for pedaling? I've gotta hunt a bit more for a shop that stocks them, or has them in stock that is...
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Old 06-07-20, 08:44 AM
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Originally Posted by Caliper View Post
Actually... I figured these would be the best due to their tread and stiff sole. It's not like I'm out there trying to do singletrack on Chesters with a Look cleat hanging out, lol. The SPD cleat is entirely recessed and isn't touching the Chesters, but the pegs are gripping the tread so I am able to pull back on the pedal at the bottom of the stroke when I want. My tennis shoes at this point have almost no tread left and a very soft sole. I've got a pair of lightweight boots that have decent tread and sole stiffness.

I guess since I have never held a set, how are the 510's? I thought they were a rigid sole for pedaling? I've gotta hunt a bit more for a shop that stocks them, or has them in stock that is...
Some spd shoes are better than others in non-clip-less mode. I had one set that were actually pretty decent. But they were not the greatest for clip-less mtb application.Decent, but not great. Jack of all trades master of none.

But in general, while clipless shoes do a great job of offering the sole stiffness you want for good power transfer, the soles are not the best for interfacing with flat pedals.

Its not the tread pattern that matters as much as the softness and stickiness of the tread. In fact, deep treaded soles can be counterproductive as the pins of the pedal canít grip if they end up in a groove between tread lugs.
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Old 06-07-20, 03:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Caliper View Post
Actually... I figured these would be the best due to their tread and stiff sole. It's not like I'm out there trying to do singletrack on Chesters with a Look cleat hanging out, lol. The SPD cleat is entirely recessed and isn't touching the Chesters, but the pegs are gripping the tread so I am able to pull back on the pedal at the bottom of the stroke when I want. My tennis shoes at this point have almost no tread left and a very soft sole. I've got a pair of lightweight boots that have decent tread and sole stiffness..
Fair enough. I'd be a mess with my SPDs, lol.


Originally Posted by Caliper View Post
I guess since I have never held a set, how are the 510's? I thought they were a rigid sole for pedaling? I've gotta hunt a bit more for a shop that stocks them, or has them in stock that is...

Five Ten has a number of shoes such as Freerider. But there's even a bunch of different Freeriders, various treads, stiffness, etc. I bought the Freerider Canvas, good shoe, not stiff at all. Many people don't want a shoe that's stiff, preferring shoe to wrap around pedal a bit for better traction. Me, I do a lot of standing climbing so wanted a stiff sole, so later purchased the Freerider Pro. Definitely stiffer than regular Freerider (which now feels really floppy), still very comfortable to walk in.
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Old 06-07-20, 03:57 PM
  #24  
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I have a hardtail and use pinned pedals and no specific bike shoes, just a soft regular almost flat tread. Like others said, for down hill, lean back, reposition your foot and heels down and use your weight and knees as the shocks (even if you have rear suspension). Keep cranks at a position with one side to the rear and lower and the other higher and in the front and you can shift weight and force between your feet as the terrain requires and plant into it. If you could watch yourself decline on the rough, you'd see the cranks moving around forward and backward absorbing some of the upward shock as you are keeping yourself stable. If the cranks were even and your weight was even, you would just bounce up with no rotation. That in combination of the heals down and you leaning back position changes the angle of the upwards force. Less upward force and less lighter on the way back down. For me, I usually tend to always favor my right foot back and low more so when I start to wear out. I have to be mindful of right turns or swap temporarily.

Crappy video but skip to the end around 10:30 is a decline on rocks and roots hidden by leaves (a lot of not sure what's coming).

The only time my feet slip is in the saddle going on steep uphill on rough and bumpy terrain when I am not moving very fast, like barely above balancing speed and struggling with traction to keep my momentum.

On my gravel bike I have PD-T8000 dual sided SPD. They are great combo pedals but... I only use them with SPD shoes and only use the pinned side in the extremes when I don't feel comfortable being clipped. I tried using them on rides with non SPD shoes and it sucks, I hit the SPD side more often then not and always fiddling around to get the pinned side. If I really want to ride my gravel bike a day in flats, I'll swap pedals.

One other option if you want to use SPD with your MTB but paranoid, you can use Shimano 56 cleats, they are easier to get in and out of than the standard 51. I use them on my gravel bike and never accidentally slipped out of them. I'm not full blown sprinting either but I am a native flats user for decades so maybe my habits and form tends to still be as if I am not clipped in and I am not putting a lot of pressure on them.

Last edited by u235; 06-07-20 at 10:47 PM.
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Old 06-07-20, 06:58 PM
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I"m glad I came across this thread, I went mountain biking today for the first time in years... Actually, I went twice today, this morning with a buddy and then went back for round 2 myself later this afternoon. I've primarily had road bikes and was always fine clipping in there. More recently I went to a hybrid and have been using power grips. I really like them, I don't get into full roadie gear on my hybrid and can wear whatever sneakers I have on. I swapped them onto my MTB this morning and I have mixed feelings on them.. For the times I had to get out quickly, it was perfect, thats definitely the biggest benefit. The biggest drawback is flipping the pedal to get in quickly. Clipless definitely has the advantage there. There were a few times I just got frustrated and rode the pedal upside down but then when I wanted to grip it just wasn't there.

I may try platform pedals with pins - the VP's posted above seem good.. I guess its just the matter of learning how to use them properly to benefit from them.
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