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Author Topic: flats vs. clipless  (Read 1195 times)

Mahk

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flats vs. clipless
« on: August 11, 2017, 09:31:08 PM »
Any insights or opinions about the dis/advantages of riding flat-soled shoes vs. clipless?  I've read some articles, but just wondered what folks who ride in the mid-west think about them. 

Thanks
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Ed Strobel

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Re: flats vs. clipless
« Reply #1 on: August 12, 2017, 08:41:56 PM »
I used both interchangeably until my knee issues.  Not a huge difference once you get used to how they both work in situations beyond just casually pedaling along.
 
There is less technique involved to keep your feet on when clipped in going through rough trail sections or bunny hopping a log.  Unless you train to do it, you likely won't get the 25% more power from pulling up with your pedal stroke that gets mentioned, but there certainly is no power loss.


Flats would be good if you need/like to have your feet free, some old-school BMX'ers or some moto guys might like that more.  I feel that where I pulled through the pedal stroke clipped in that I still pulled the same with flats, but I never tried to develop the technique like a dedicated racer might.  You can ride in any shoe if you forget the bike shoes with better results than on clipless pedals.

Side notes:  Cleats can come loose if you never check them, and when worn won't let you either clip in or out depending on brand.  Most of the shoes are useless for any use other than riding, and look like they belong at a bowling alley. 
Flats will eat your shin or whatever body part they come into contact with, or anything they contact actually.  Most are available in cool colors that you can match (or clash with) your bike.  Good performing shoes can be worn around easily but are way more expensive than they should be, and also look like they belong at a bowling alley.

K_W

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Re: flats vs. clipless
« Reply #2 on: August 13, 2017, 07:43:22 PM »
I have never ridden clip-less, probably never will.  I just like being able to bail or drop a foot in an instant.

Fett

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Re: flats vs. clipless
« Reply #3 on: August 14, 2017, 11:34:56 AM »
Mahk, 

This has been debated on about every mountain biking forum in existence.  It really comes down to personal preference. If you are racing XC, there is little debate that riding clipped in is more efficient. You have to take the time to train yourself to have the correct pedaling technique to take advantage of the upstroke power advantages and also be comfortable getting out of your pedals in bail out situations. I cannot see myself ever riding flats on a ride of any length. I have grown very accustomed to being attached to the bike and feel at one with the bike by being clipped in. 

The only study that I have ever seen that says there is no efficiency loss is the BikeJames study. He is also selling his own brand of flat pedals, so take that for what it is worth. I have yet to see any high level XC or road race won by someone on flat pedals.

Now for the every day non-racer mountain biker, in my opinion, it comes down to this question: Does the confidence of having the ability to get my feet off the pedals more easily, make me enjoy the ride more and ride more aggressively and more often?   If the answer is yes, you should at least try both alternatives and see what works for you.
« Last Edit: August 14, 2017, 11:37:41 AM by Fett »
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JCampbell

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Re: flats vs. clipless
« Reply #4 on: August 14, 2017, 06:11:23 PM »
Put me solidly in the clip-less column.  I started road riding with toe clips and cleats long long ago and taught myself to use them by riding one-footed.  Any time I find my legs getting tired or need a bit more power, I focus on that technique and give my quads a rest.  I'm fairly new to mountain biking, but use clips for all of my riding.  I dab a lot in the technical sections and have no problems getting my foot free.  I only use flats when learning/practicing trials techniques.


If you do try clip-less (and I recommend it), use multi-directional release cleats at the lowest tension setting.  Then practice on easier terrain where you won't be tempted to dab.

Willyjaybob

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Re: flats vs. clipless
« Reply #5 on: August 14, 2017, 09:22:08 PM »
I use to ride cages in the day. Then, about 6 years ago I took the plunge and went clipless (SPD with XT trail pedals). After a few spectacular crashes (i.e. falling over in slow motion at various times because I couldn't unclip) I made the adjustment and after about 10 rides or so it was a done deal. I have been very happy with them in all kinds of riding conditions, except for when the late fall hits and the trails are sloppy with damp leaves at which time I usually swap over to Five-Tens and flats due to the unpredictability of that kind of riding.

One thing I do notice is that I feel like I used TOTALLY different muscle groups when I go between the two. With flats, I feel significantly more quad involvement, whereas with clips I feel more hamstring engagement. Also, as Fett metioned,  I really like feeling 'one' with the bike. When things get bumpy, I like the secure feeling that clipped in provides. When it comes to bailing, I can get out of my clipless 99% or the time with no problems.

At the end of the day, ride what you like and feel most comfortable with. Happy riding.
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JCampbell

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Re: flats vs. clipless
« Reply #6 on: August 15, 2017, 07:36:10 AM »
After a few spectacular crashes (i.e. falling over in slow motion at various times because I couldn't unclip)


I still remember pulling up to my garage door and forgetting to unstrap the toe clip cages first.  I managed a few second track stand before slowly toppling over.  My daughter, who was 4 or 5 and making a sidewalk chalk drawing was delighted and asked me to "do it again, Daddy".

Mahk

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Re: flats vs. clipless
« Reply #7 on: August 15, 2017, 08:58:01 PM »
Thanks for all the responses.  BikeJames was one of the sites I looked at, and he seemed to be the strongest proponent of flats.  On other sites riders stated their own preference, but then gave the pros and cons of both setups. 

The first year that I rode I used toe clips (cages).  The next 2 years I used clipless, I think SPD's (what are 'multi-directional release cleats'?).  It was just recently this year that I decided to try flats out on the trails.  I had started using flats last fall to do some practice features at home.   Then, about 2-3- weeks ago, I had a chance to ride for an afternoon out in Oregon.  I didn't have my own biking shoes, and the rental shop provided only flats, so that was my first taste of a long ride with flats.  I've since used them twice at BCSP. 

I really don't feel a difference in which muscle group gets fatigued, but I do feel a difference in technique, particularly when riding up techy stuff.  When riding clipless, it does feel good to have my feet clipped to the bike, but, with flats, its also cool to feel my weight shift down and back, and power walk through a technical bit.  I remember reading that clipless allows you to 'cheat' on technique and its better to learn on flats, then, once the proper pedal stroke learned, transition to clipless.  I probably need to focus on technique. 
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Ed Strobel

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Re: flats vs. clipless
« Reply #8 on: August 16, 2017, 06:26:42 AM »
I don't consider it cheating.  If you always use the clipless pedals, then your technique isn't a cheat just because you didn't learn it on flats.
Same sort of topic people used when they claimed starting on front be or full suspension wasn't the way to learn.  If you only ride with suspension, how much is not being able to pick the best line on a rigid bike going to ruin your fun?

Fett

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Re: flats vs. clipless
« Reply #9 on: August 16, 2017, 11:31:23 AM »
I don't consider it cheating.  If you always use the clipless pedals, then your technique isn't a cheat just because you didn't learn it on flats.
Same sort of topic people used when they claimed starting on front be or full suspension wasn't the way to learn.  If you only ride with suspension, how much is not being able to pick the best line on a rigid bike going to ruin your fun?

I agree. It isn't cheating, it is just a different technique between the two types of pedals.

I always laughed when people told me that riding rigid taught them to choose better lines.  It just taught them to ride the least bumpy line, which is not the better line when you have suspension available to you. Once again, just a different technique with different equipment.
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JCampbell

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Re: flats vs. clipless
« Reply #10 on: August 16, 2017, 02:46:21 PM »
what are 'multi-directional release cleats'?
Shimano SPDs are available in two styles: 1) traditionals which ONLY release by twisting your heel to the side and 2) multi-directionals that primarily release the same way as traditionals, but with enough force will release in any direction - good for when you need to unclip in a panic.  Multis do increase the risk of releasing when you don't want, so traditionals are better for folks doing a lot of jumping.

SPD pedals work with either cleat, the difference seems to be that the multis have more rounded or chamfered edges where they lock into the pedal.
« Last Edit: August 16, 2017, 02:53:48 PM by JCampbell »

Mahk

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Re: flats vs. clipless
« Reply #11 on: August 18, 2017, 08:12:12 PM »
... I only use flats when learning/practicing trials techniques....

What sorts of things do you do to practice those?
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JCampbell

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Re: flats vs. clipless
« Reply #12 on: August 19, 2017, 08:23:18 AM »
What sorts of things do you do to practice those?
After 30 yrs of enthusiast level road riding (with cleats), I got serious about dirt after retiring last year.  As an old man learning new tricks, I use "flats" in the yard with basic skills stuff where I'm still unstable and need to get a foot off quickly or want to unlearn cheating by lifting the bike with the cleats.  Stuff like track stands, super slow speed maneuvering, stationary front or rear hops to turn the bike, manuals, bunny hops.   

Mahk

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Re: flats vs. clipless
« Reply #13 on: August 21, 2017, 07:14:28 PM »
 
I agree. It isn't cheating, it is just a different technique between the two types of pedals.

What are some of the differences between the two techniques?  I can feel myself doing something different with the different pedal types, but I'm not sure what I should be trying to do. 

Whether riding flats or clipless, I never dab.  If I am in a technical bit, I tend to keep trying til the last nth of a second, when I have to just stop and put a foot down.  If I am clipped in my foot is sometimes in the wrong position and/or weighted incorrectly to twist it off of the pedal.  Not too bad if I tip to the uphill side, but the downhill side can be pretty far down.  Once, at the end of a ride, I took my helmet off and saw that there was mud on the top of it.  'Odd', I thought, 'I don't remember taking it off and setting it down anywhere.'  Then it dawned on me--I had missed the first go in one of the rooty sections on Walnut, couldn't unclip, and had rolled down the hill.   Maybe I just need to practice unclipping.....
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