I usually ride clipless, but this morning I borrowed a bike with flats. It was horrible. I rode awful. I wanted to blame the pedals. I had to blame me. It’s a totally different experience. I’m used to being connected to my bike. This morning my feet were on their own – free to do what they please – which was to slip and slide all over. When I asked a fellow rider, who prefers flats, for some advice she said that first off, it’s important to get “good pedals”. When I pushed for a bit more info she said that the “little grippers” on the flats can really make a difference. When I pushed a little more info she said “if the little grippers on the pedals hit you in the leg by accident, it should look like a cougar attacked you. That’s how you know it’s a good pedal.” And since she is a scientist, I consider this information to be scientific. But I digress.
Decision-making. We do it a million times a day. What to wear? Who to invite? Where to go? What to eat? How long for this? How much for that? Person to marry? Kids to have? And…then you’re dead.
It’s amazing we get anything else done in life besides decide, decide, decide. That’s why I’m here to help with at least one of those decisions –
flats vs. clipless pedals?
It’s a mountain biking decision as old as the hills themselves. From cavemen riding stone-wheeled steeds, and now, perhaps, to you.
To start, let’s make sure we’ve all got the basics. Flat pedals are flat. Usually with little grippers on them that keep your foot from slipping all over the place.
You can wear whatever shoes you want with these pedals, but there are shoes made especially for flat pedals (stiffer, grippier etc.)Clipless pedals are different. First of all, their name is a lot more confusing than flats. You actually do clip into these pedals – the name comes from them not having a toe cage – or toe ‘clip’.
(Clip & Strap should be a hipster S&M bar.)
With clipless pedals, you wear special shoes with cleats on the bottom. These tiny chunks of metal actually click into the pedal so you’re attached to the bike – until you twist your heel outward and disconnect them. Click!
So maybe you’ve done your research, read other blogs, pored over gear reviews, talked to your friends…and now, you’ve arrived here, exhausted and grateful that someone is finally going to just tell you what to freakin’ do!…Well then, you’ve come to the wrong place.
I don’t know what you were thinking. If you wanted someone to tell you what to ride there are two-zillion-gabillion blogs/websites/opinions out there telling you what to do. They’re likely written by folks with a lot more experience, and time to research, than I have. And I can guarantee you that whatever you decide, you will absolutely be able to find whatever reassurance you need to support your decision.
But hey, I did say I was going to help you make this critical decision, so here’s my advice – just get out and ride. If you’re on flats now, spend a week on clipless. If you’re riding clipless, throw on some flats. Borrow a bike, borrow some pedals, whatever. Then you can add your 2 cents to the interweb of opinions and decide for yourself. Now, stop wasting your time reading this blog and go hit the trails!