Flat Pedals - how to get the best from riding without clip-in pedals

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  • Post by  Gabe Sullens Feb 27, 2021

Everyone talks about the efficiency boost you get from riding with clip-in pedals, but not everyone is cut out for them.  It can be the risk averse rider, or someone recovering from an injury or surgery & it's not an option to have a crash; you don't need to clip in to get most of the benefits from clip-ins.

THE PROBLEM

If you ride flat pedals, you encounter a few challenges that don't stack up:

  1. Less Efficient - Most of the work is done by the glute muscles and quad muscles as you push down on the pedals, but you don't get the benefits from the other muscle groups that can aid the pedals stroke on the follow-through at the bottom and upstroke. This makes you work harder with fewer muscles so you fatigue faster. (see diagram below)
  2. Less Stable - When riding on bumpy terrain, or mountain biking, bumps in the trail can cause your foot to slide around on the pedal. To reposition the foot on the optimum part of the pedal one needs to sit down and unweight the foot, reposition, then load the foot and stand up again. This is a waste in energy as well as a sometimes dangerous move if in a long, bumpy trail section as you can get bucked off the saddle while attempting a reposition of the foot.
  3. Can't jump - Most setups don't allow the rider to jump or hop over obstacles because the foot leaves the pedal. This can cause the rider to ride slower and/or apprehensively and avoid more technical terrain that is otherwise completely safe to ride. A good knock in the shin or calf after a slip on the pedal is a good reminder to ride within your (and your equipment's) limits.

THE SOLUTION

A proper pair of pinned flat pedals and flat pedal-specific riding shoes makes ALL THE DIFFERENCE!

Pinned or spiked pedals seem like medieval torture devices at first, but man do they work.  When matched with a specific rubber outsole, they can stick like glue and prevent all the slippage and even help with jumping and bunny-hopping.

Most brand name flat pedal riding shoes have specific rubber compounds on the sole that are soft enough to absorb the spikes on the pedals, but "stick" to the pedal for a split second before releasing the spikes entirely. The rubber is formulated to slowly return to it's original shape, therefore gripping the pedal just long enough to allow you to do some bumpy maneuvering and then loading the pedal with weight again. They are also super durable, so you can ride on spiked pedals for years with little or no change in the condition of the sole. Jumping, bunny-hopping, riding through rough rock gardens, going off drops, and even rolling over big bumps and rollers are made much easier with the right setup. All while still being completely able to put a foot down when you want.

 

Photo: This is a proper combination: Giro Riddance flat shoes and Funn alloy flat pedals - which we stock in store.

WHY CAN'T I USE MY RUNNERS?

Wearing runners or Vans on spiked pedals is a no no. For one, those shoes are meant for walking so they have very flexible and walkable soles. Cycling-specific shoes are stiff and spread your weight across the whole sole. Your feet don't have a consistent, flat interface with the pedals with running shoes and may just grab the front and back edges of the pedal as your weight curls the shoe around the pedal under your weight - and your feet fatigue under so much bending around the pedal.  Safety is as much an issue here as performance and efficiency. Take note here, parents of teenage mountain bikers; your kids should be riding in proper shoes & pedals to avoid a lot of completely preventable accidents and knocks to the shins, never mind the fact they could advance their skills better with the proper setup.

It's common here in the shop for us to send someone out on a test ride on a new dual suspension bike in their casual shoes, and then send them out a second time with the proper shoe & pedal setup. "I see!", "Amazing!", "Wow, you're right!", "Like glue!" are the common utterances once they return.  Try it for yourself.

We have Flat shoes and pedals in stock, come in and test ride sometime.