For those new to mountain biking, there are two types of pedals: flats, where your foot sits flush on the pedal, and clipless (doesn’t make any sense to me either), where your foot clips in the pedal using a cleat and a locking mechanism.
Riders of flat pedals will tell you that you need to be on flats because it improves your skills and is far safer in a crash. On the other hand, people who ride clipped in will patiently point that the pro riders who don’t ride clipped in can be numbered on three fingers. But which is right for you?
Well, I’m here to tell you that clips are the way forward.
Why ride flats?
Here are the theories behind riding flat pedals:
One of the biggest arguments used by flatters is that, in the event of an impending crash, you’ll be safer because you can stick your foot out easier. However, if your shoes are set up well, it takes only a fraction of a second to unclip, so if you do crash, it’s unlikely to be because you didn’t unclip in time.
Also, take one look at a decent set of downhill pedals – those things have a contingent of spikes sticking out of them, each of them just waiting to tear your leg to shreds. I’ve seen far more damage done by feet slipping off pedals than I have from people failing to unclip.
Each one of those pins is just waiting for an opportunity to rip your leg to shreds.
Ride flats? Better get used to this.
They’re better for building skills
It’s true, no one will debate that clipless pedals promote poor bunny hopping and jumping technique. Because you’re clipped in, you have the ability to pull up from your pedals, which is a terrible idea. This movement shifts your center of gravity and can end up with you going OTB. But there is a simple solution: don’t pull up. Practice the right technique to avoid those issues.
So, why ride clips?
There must be a reason why every cross country racer in the world rides clipped in. Here are the theories supporting clips:
They’re more efficient
Being clipped into your pedals means that you can pull up on them, and theoretically this means you’ll get more out of each pedal stroke. Whether or not this actually results in any real world difference is still under contention, but why not take any possible advantage you can get?
You’re more secure
Whilst mostly an issue for new riders, having your feet slip off mid-ride can have some disastrous consequences. Whether you’re flying through a rock garden or the air, there’s a good chance you’ll end up slamming a sensitive area into your top tube. Never a good time.
Back when clipless technology was being developed, it was understandable that people would be wary about being clipped in, but recently clipless pedals have improved in leaps and bounds. With better locking mechanisms, more customisation and tonnes of grip, there’s no reason not to ride them. That said, it’s more important that you actually ride your bike, so get out there on whatever you feel comfortable with.