Most off road riders tend to have a preference to clipless SPD or flat pedals. In this issue of the maintenance centre we’ll be explaining why embracing both the clip and the flat will make you a much better rider.
Firstly, we’ll explain the merits of both flat pedals and clipless starting with the latter.
Reduced Muscle Fatigue
Clipless and SPD pedals are very popular amongst cross-country riders because they allow you to ark round a larger curve of your pedal stroke. There’s a popular misconception surrounding clips and SPD’s are that they will exponentially increase your power output and suddenly make you a cross-country whippet. Unfortunately unless your new pedals come with a brand spanking new cardiovascular system this won’t be the case.
However, what clipless pedals will do is share the load more evenly over the different muscle groups in your legs.
Instead of being entirely dependent on your Glute, Quadriceps and calf muscles you can start to spread the load over the Hamstring & Hip Flexors and sharing the load means that you will feel less muscular fatigue.
Clipless pedals encourage a more rounded and efficient pedal stroke. Clips aren’t a magical solution that allow you to pull up on your pedal stroke and push down, Just to clarify that is a bad technique to adopt. What clips actually do is help with the transition period where your pedals are the top and bottom of their stroke. Increasing the power at these points means there’s less power drop off before the main down stroke of your rotation.
Thirdly and arguably the most important factor for mountain bikers is the stability that clipless pedals offer. No matter how many pins and what compound of rubber your shoes have. At some point your foot will shift and probably come off the pedal. At this point you’ll probably be wishing your pins weren’t as sharp and metallic unless you have a good pair of knee and shin guards.
The real benefit of clipless SPD pedals is also their biggest criticism. They keep your feet in place and they do a really good job at it. To the first time SPD rider clips will probably feel alien and then you’ll most likely forget about them inevitably resulting in a slow motion fall and an embarrassing red faced scramble out of the mud.
In conclusion, here are the merits of clipless pedals;
Reduced muscle fatigue
Using more/different muscle groups
Improving power delivery
Improving your pedal stroke
Increasing your foots stability on your pedal
Reducing bruised shins
In contrast to clipless pedals flats are great for learning new skills. And improving current skills.
Flat pedals make it’s very easy to put a foot down if you’re pushing yourself over aggressive terrain. Knowing that you can put a foot down to steady yourself can often give you much needed confidence to try new lines or tackle trail obstacles such as north shore skinnies.
Anybody who has ridden north shore whilst clipped in will tell you that the first time is completely and utterly terrifying.
Starting and stopping
I’ve already mentioned that clipless pedals are the best choice for of keeping your feet solidly in place. We’ve also mentioned that sometimes your foot can shift when using flat pedals. This ease of movement can be a good thing in certain situations. Imagine looking up at a steep technical climb and thinking to yourself “This will be a doddle clipped in.” Only to find that you can’t even get past the first few meters because you just can’t get your foot to connect.
Even worse now imagine that you’re a few meters from the top and the rider in front of you stops. You’re now on a steep incline and you can’t set off again because you can’t find your footing.
Riding well in Clipless SPD pedals comes with experience. The first time rider will always look directly down at their pedals with fumbling feet trying to find the connection so don’t expect to be a natural right away.
It is much better to learn skills such as bunny hopping and track stands on flat pedals. You get the confidence boost of being able to easily put your foot down. flat pedals also encourage better hopping technique preventing the rider from using the clip mechanism to pull the rear of the bike upwards.
In conclusion, here are the main benefits of the flat pedal.
Technical skill development
Encourages good bike handling technique
North Shore isn’t quite as terrifying.
In conclusion, being able to use both clipped pedals and flat pedals is a great skill. Flats give you the additional confidence to try new lines and ride new trail obstacles. In contrast Clipped SPD pedals help to refine your pedaling technique and reduce specific muscle group fatigue. Most riders tend to have a advocacy for one type of pedal but we often find that the best riders are often the most diverse.
After all is said and done at least we can all still agree that toe clips are for hybrids and fixies.