Clips vs. Flat pedals, what seems to be an eternal debate really comes down to like many things regarding gear – personal preference. Unless you want to become a better rider! In that case, flat pedals will help while you’re working on improving your skills and techniques, here’s why.
1- Flat pedals will let you know when you’re doing it wrong, or right
If you feel that your feet are bouncing off the pedals in technical sections or while trying to get some air time – this isn’t a problem with your pedals! With proper technique, you and bike should feel like one unit. Applying pressure to the pedals at the right time, making sure your foot and heel positions are correct, using the stomp technique for jumping and learning as many skills as possible on flat pedals will give you the confidence and knowledge that you’re doing it right. If the reason you’re getting clipped in is that your feet are losing your pedals, you will simply be masking your mistakes, not fixing them. If you feel connected to the bike without the mechanical connection of being clipped in, you’re doing it right!
2- More confidence to try new things
Flat pedals make it easy to get a foot down to the ground quickly or even bail out if needed. Practicing some techniques requires a minimal level of confidence on those first few tries, and with flat pedals, you will worry less, and try more! This especially applies to various wheel lifts, dismounts, and the track stand, and recommended for just about anything you try for the first time.
3- Fewer distractions
When you’re out training and working on your techniques, the ability to focus on the specific move you want to perfect is key. Getting clipped in and out on time can sometimes simply become a distraction. With flat pedals you have one thing less to do – so you can get more focused on what’s really important.
As we go for our practice sessions, its likely that we will get on and off the bike often – this is quicker and easier to do with flat pedals.
5- Feeling the balance
Staying balanced on your feet is really what builds the core of riding mountain bikes, that’s why we put an emphasis on balance right from our fundamentals section. With flat pedals, we get a much better feel for our balance and everything that’s going on through our feet. You can get perfectly balanced while clipped in, of course – but it will be harder for you to really get a feel for it.
6- Experimenting with foot position
Being clipped in leaves us with no room to experiment with our foot position on the pedals “on the fly”. Some riders prefer a more comfort-oriented centered foot position while others prefer a more forward to the ball of the foot position for better performance and agility. Flat pedals allow you to experiment easily and find your sweet spot for different situations on the bike.
7- Flat skills transfer to clips
All the subtle moves and nuances that you will learn on flat pedals are easily transferable to getting clipped in, it doesn’t work the other way around. Get the skills first, and the gear later!
To sum up, if your focus is on improving skills and techniques, we strongly recommend moving to flat pedals, at least for a while. If you’re used to being clipped in, it might feel frustrating for a few rides and we also advise to wear some shin protectors ( trust us on this one…) but your body language, range of motion, balance, and sensitivity on the bike will all benefit for the long run.