“Should I clip in or run flat pedals?” We are asked this question a lot. So let’s get into it.
Flats: Most of us start mountain biking on flat pedals. But that doesn’t mean flats are just for beginners. Flat pedals make it easier to ditch the bike in the event of a wipe out, or dab a foot momentarily for stability. With flat pedals it’s also easier to put a foot out moto-cross style cornering. Bottom line here is that it’s easier to get your foot on and off the pedals on flats than on clip pedals.
Clips: Being clipped in provides a more positive connection with the bike. It may make it easier to control the bike while performing maneuvers on a trail. You can use them to help lift the rear wheel over obstacles more easily than on flats for example. They can also help give you that extra push, or pull, you might need in a technical climb. Clip shoes also offer a stiffer sole which can reduce foot fatigue on long rides. Some would argue that clipping will make your pedal stroke more efficient; but they also let you get away with poor pedal technique. One of the best features of clip pedals is that you very rarely slip off the pedal and your foot is in the perfect position on the pedal all the time. One possible down side of being clipped in can be that the bike might still be attached to your feet in a crash. There is also a learning curve to riding with clip pedals. You can expect to tip over at low speed when you first try clip pedals.
No real winner. Pedal choice is a personal decision. What we do recommend is picking a good shoe and pairing it with a good pedal. This rule applies to both flats and clips. Good flats or clip pedals start at around $60.00
A good flat pedal will have a large platform for your foot, good pins and shape for traction and stability. Shoe choice is very important when running flat pedals. You want to have a shoe with a flat sole so that there is as much contact with the pedal as possible. A cycling specific flat soled shoe is the best choice, though a skate shoe will get you out there.
There are a few options for the brand of clip pedal to choose. Different brands will have varying amounts of float and feel. Float is measured in degrees and is the amount of rotational movement your foot has before unclipping. If you choose to run clips, make sure you have your cleats set up properly. Improper cleat setup can ruin your ride, and even cause injury.
Bottom line. Get a good pedal/shoe combo whether it’s flats or clips. Choose what makes you happy. Pick a set up that will give you the most fun on the trail.