Thursday, May 19, 2011

Pedal Talk....To Clip In, Or Not To Clip In?

From May 15, 2011
I get a lot of questions about my switch to flat pedals. I had been riding clipless pedals for 10 years. In that time I have continually progressed to longer and longer rides. http://www.moabcenturion.blogspot.com/

The most common question I get is "Were you struggling on technical terrain or downhills?" The answer is no. I was very good at using clipless pedals and never felt hampered in challenging terrain or on down hills. My switch came out of desperation from knee, back, hip, and foot pain. It also came from watching my friend Noah Sears http://www.westernslopestyle.blogspot.com/ progress while NOT being clipped in, and by the ear-bending I got from trainer James Wilson. http://www.declinemagazine.com/content.php?itemid=5101

I am now a year into a change that was so humbling I almost wanted to quit riding. For two months I cursed every pedal stroke. I couldn't climb ledges, I felt seriously down on power. A two hour ride felt long. But I'm stubborn and I stuck with it. Somewhere in month three I didn't feel slow anymore. I was cleaning big ledges again, and my knees, back, and especially my feet did not hurt any more. Another unforseen benefit was that my core became stronger - resulting in less fat around my stomach. Also, and this should have made perfect sense, I was really digging how I felt riding down hill. Thirty years riding moto should have clued me in that NOT being attatched to the bike would be a good thing for me. At that point all thoughts of going back went away. I have been bamboozled by a cycling tradition, but now I see the light.

From May 15, 2011

Will switching make sense for everyone? Probably not. Does a good rider feel stronger while being clipped in? Yes, there is no doubt that you can get more power to the pedals while pulling as well as pushing. However, you'll be surprised to know that research shows that MOST riders don't use their clipless pedals correctly. How many of you have a "bad knee", numb feet, or can't touch your toes? For how many of you are the health issues worth it? Do you race? No... then who cares what ultimate power you make? Are you scared crapless on technical terrain? Does your boy friend or "cycling expert" say you "have to clip in?" If you answer yes to any of these questions or are remotely on the fence, then save your self the humbling two months of frustration that I went through and get a nice, quality, grippy flat pedal to start with. You'll be a trend setter instead of a sheep following the herd. You'll also never be the guy at the trail head saying "Damn, I forgot my shoes!!!"

From May 15, 2011


From May 15, 2011

There are no clipless pedals in the world that are as sexy as these gems. Replaceable pins, fully rebuildable, and darn light considering the big fat platform to put my foot on. I hope ya'll have your shots, because my new pedals are SICK!!!

18 comments:

  1. Yup no knee, foot, or ankle issues here sense making the switch!

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  2. Never had a knee or foot issue i couldnt quickly fix with a pedal or seat adjusment clipped in our not. Both have their place as i feel youd admit but both are completely different.

    Crank bros mallet and some clipless shoes or some shoes of the more sticky variety

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  3. I always get a kick out of people asking for research into which is better. Mostly because there is none, either for or against. Ride them both, choose for yourself.

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  4. My $.02

    Folks often feel they HAVE TO ride clipless pedals, it's not even a question; flats are for cruisers, clipless for "real" bikes. There are a lot of people who also get hurt as a result of clipless pedals, not in the sense of knee pain or foot numbness, but injuries as a result of tipping over or being unable to unclip (broken collar bone, wrist, etc.). These folks would be better off learning the skills to avoid these injuries on flat pedals. Especially in our area where every 10 ft. or so we come across a daunting trail feature. Until you have the skill to trounce those features, why are you worried about efficiency? It's a lot more efficient to ride than walk. The non-committed nature of flats better allows riders to try new moves and build skills, all the while developing larger muscle groups and better balance.

    So there is no downside to flats, whereas there are to clipless. Learn to ride, then make the choice.

    -Noah (exclusively on flats since '07)

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  5. This study shows that the "magical" pedal stroke allowed by clipless pedals (spinning circles and/ or pulling through the top) are not only less powerful but less efficient than simply driving hard with the lead leg, something you can do on flats.

    Korff et al. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2007; 39:991-995

    This study showed that your pedaling force application should look the same on clipless and on flats.

    Mornieux et al. Int J Sports Med 2008; 29:817-822

    You should be at least 90-95% as fast on flats are you are on clipless or else you have a pedal stroke issue.

    Barefoot running and training tells us that if you restrict foot movement you pay for it further up the kinetic chain. There may be no research backing it up but the proliferation of shoes like Vibram Five-Fingers and Nike Frees due to consumer demand would suggest lots of people are seeing the benefit to allowing natural foot movement. Cycling will make the connection some day as well.

    Just my opinion, ride what you want but lets stop telling new riders that they "need" clipless pedals. And if you have some chronic joint pain try them out and see if they help, what have you got to lose?

    Great post Landon, you're still one of my proudest "conversions" and I'm so glad that I could help you enjoy riding again pain-free.

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  6. I tried clipless for like a year about a decade ago (been riding since 92), and it's just not for me. I don't need research to tell me that I feel more connected to my bike with a good set of flats and some five-tens that I'll ever feel while being physically attached to my bike. Everything flows so much better with that freedom to tweak my stance in whichever way I want.

    Free the Feet!

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  7. If you wanna see a real world situation where flats are just as good, if not better than clipless, look at the first World Cup DH race in South Africa. Aaron Gwin rides flats and dominated that race. The announcers spent two hours talking about how guys on flats weren't going to win but the results speak for themselves.

    I am also one of those people that were almost seriously injured because I couldn't get out of the pedals in time. Since the switch to flats, I feel just as fast and more daring because I know I can disengage from the bike quickly.

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  8. Aaron Gwin rides SPD, but nice try. ;)

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  9. I'm all for having people ride what they're comfortable with.

    Just to balance things a bit about the research:

    http://bikeandbody.blogspot.com/

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  10. Flat pedals all the way! I've never ridden clipless. Also I really want to get the Canfield flat pedals, they are sweet.

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  11. I appreciate all the comments, especially James and John's. Both of these guys put a lot of thought into how the human attaches to the bicycle. Really everyone should try both for themselves and see what works best for them. My post was aimed at giving newer cyclists some relief from the "you have to clip in" pressure they get from friends, and to also awake crusty old schoolers to the fact that there are different way's of doing things. I gained relief from my pain by switching to flat pedals. That's true for me. But I also was able to fix some serious knee pain back in 07 by getting some help from John with my cleat alignment. So I guess more shoe/cleat alignment work might have gotten me through the pain I was currently dealing with. Maybe? It's a case by case basis, and those who haven't seriously tried flats AND clipless should not weigh in so heavily. But of course this is the internet...so no rules apply.....

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  12. I LOOOOOVE MY NEW FLAT PEDALS!!! Thank you for this post, Landon!

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  13. Converted last year to flats after 7 or so years riding clipped in. I also ride w/ 5.10 sticky rubber shoes made specifically for bike. This combo is no less efficient than being clipped in, with the benefits of bailing and wearing functional shoes on hike-a-bike or overlook scrambles. Will never even consider clipping in again unless pounding pavement on the roadster.

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  14. Here's something else to try-flats with toeclips and straps! Wellgo MG-1s are the easist and lightest to convert. It's great for foot support, technical uphill, and raised eyebrows from other cyclists. I've tried clipless 4-5 times offroad, with a variety of pedal types, this just works best for this middle-aged (more aged than middle) guy.

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  15. I rode cleats and cages/straps into the eigties, then went to clipless. Decades later, after putting many thousands of miles on road and mountain bikes with clipless I started a new sport: mountain unicycling. This is not a sport for those faint of hear, there's a lot of falling, and it takes a long time to master even the most basic bike trail. After four years I am now a solid muni rider, downhills, single track whathaveyou, I cn ride everything on a muni that I could ride on a bike. In the process I have had to become a "flats expert" as clipless really don't play a part in unicycling..that is until this past week when I set up my 36er with clipless platforms. You guys can talk and talk about the benefits of flats, But the bottom line is that you lose control when you move from clipless to platforms. Sure, some folks will never be good enough to ride in clips, sure there are situations where clips are unnecessary or downright dangerous, BUT clipless also work quite well for increasing power and control. Some of us like having power and control, esp on the up. Platforms are not magic, and comparing a motor powered cycle to a bicycle is silliness: one requires pedaling, the other requires standing; I also don't clip in standing in line at the grocery store ;)

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