Flat Or Clipless Pedals For Mountain Biking Which Is Best And Why?


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If there’s one argument that has continued to rage on amongst cyclists, then it has been the decision of having to choose between flat pedals or clipless pedals.

Many of my buddies have lost wagers when it came to racing with pedals they aren’t familiar with because they had a point to prove – but I personally feel that a choice or preference of pedal has a lot to do with one’s biking background.

Why you may prefer your current choice of pedal

Research has it that cyclist that make a transition from trail roads to hiking tend to prefer clipless pedals, and the cyclist who just began cycling are most likely to prefer flat pedals especially if they aren’t used to hiking or rough terrains.

All in all, I feel one’s preference boils down to personal comfort – I for one prefer flat pedals due to the freedom it gives my feet while pedaling, and to say I am used to a rough terrain will be quite an understatement.

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Anyways, I will be discussing the pros and cons of each pedal (flat and clipless) so you can get the full assessment that both choices have to offer, but be certain that it’s no guarantee that the debate will end.

Pros of clipless pedals

  • Foot comfort and power transfer
  • Simple lifting and hopping
  • Stable feet
  • Pedaling efficiency

1. Foot comfort and power transfer

For rides that involve sustained pedaling, using a clipless pedal will be ideal because it means you will have to flex your foot less frequently than you would if you used a flat pedal – this also makes stiffer, which would allow you pedal with much power – this, in turn, means more speed and comfort at the same time.

2. Simple lifting and hopping

When it comes to doing simple techniques such as small jumps and hops, clipless pedals should be your go-to, without you having to worry about your leg slipping off.

However, other difficult techniques and skills might prove a challenge to pull off with clipless pedals.

3. Stable feet

Clipless pedals are known to keep the foot in place regardless of the roughness of the terrain.

This can also be a good thing for bikers who intend to go mountain hiking for the first time – your feet must stay glued to the pedal when you encounter bumps.

4. Pedaling efficiency

Some clipless fan die-hards have claimed that the bottom pedal stroke and push that the clipless pedal provides makes it perfect for distributing the power thereby increasing its efficiency – in other words, the clipless pedals keep your feet focused on the task at hand, thereby keeping you focused in the process.

Cons of clipless pedals

For every advantage, there will almost certainly be a disadvantage – and the clipless pedals are no different.

Let’s find out what these disadvantages are. 

  • Continuity can be difficult
  • Making a comical show of yourself
  • They can get stuck in harsh weather conditions

1. Continuity can be difficult

When climbing a steep that requires you to stop, continuing the same journey can be really exhausting – as it would require you to start pumping power into your legs afresh without you taking a breather, a fact that most clipless die-hards agree with.

2. Making a comical show of yourself

This is actually popular amongst newbies trying out clipless pedals for the first time, having been used to flat pedals.

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After cycling, they tend to forget that their feet are hooked to the pedals, and then they come to a halt, forgetting the fact that their feet are still hooked up to the pedal, and then down they fall, providing YouTube content for us in the process.    

3. They can get stuck in harsh weather conditions

Clipless pedals are designed with simple mechanisms that help you slip your feet in and out easily.

However, during harsh weather conditions such as snow, this mechanism can become clogged, and this makes it difficult for the mechanism to perform the function it was designed for.

Pros of flat pedals

Flat pedals are very common with road cyclists, but notwithstanding, there are certain pros and cons you should know about flat pedals that make them a must-have for certain individuals.

  • It helps you showcase your skills
  • It gives you control when falling
  • It provides room to stretch your feet

1. It helps you showcase your skills

There are boundless opportunities to showcase your biking skills using flat pedals – from front wheel lifts to track stands, you can freely express yourself using flat tires, and that on its own will boost your confidence.

2. It gives you control when falling

You tend to have total control when falling, as you can easily stick out a leg as a support – a feature the clipless pedal don not have.

Also, when making sharp turns, you can easily put a foot down for more balance and style.

3. It provides room to stretch your feet

Paddling on a long course can be quite exhausting compared to clipless pedals, but when you consider the comfort that comes with stretching your legs from time to time, thereby easing blood flow to other parts of the leg, the race begins to look more interesting.

Cons of flat pedals

So let’s find out why you shouldn’t be a fan of the flat pedal, shall we?

  • Your feet tend to come off often
  • Shin injuries

1. Your feet tend to come off often

This is one major disadvantage of flat pedals, especially when you ride on rough terrains.

It doesn’t offer your feet the sturdiness that clipless pedals offer – if you embark on a mountain trail, for instance, your feet are likely to live the pedal which can hurt you sometimes.

2. Shin injuries

99.9% of shin injuries that occur while cycling is mostly suffered by flat pedal users – and this injury tends to occur when the feet slip off the pedal on rough terrains.

Users of flat pedals have argued that such injuries can be avoided in the long run if one gets used to them, and I can easily agree, especially when you consider the falling hazard associated with the clipless pedal when you forget to take your feet off the hook before applying the brakes.

So which one do you prefer, and why do you prefer it?

kindly let me know your reply in the comment section.

Here are other FAQ’s should you might have regarding biking pedals.

Should I use clipless pedals for mountain biking?

If you are an avid mountain biker, odds are, you have tried different things with clipless pedals.

Most riders do, and when we glance around on our different ride groups, we see many riders appending their feet to their pedals.

Presently, we aren’t stating clipless pedals is the issue, however, we might want to bring up that at times they may be causing more damage than anything else. 

Clipless pedals are not actually new tech as some of us have come to believe.

Indeed, clipless pedals got well known back during the ’80s as a creative method to develop metal toe covers with calfskin straps, which were alluded to as toe cuts.

Clipless pedals before long turned into one of the greatest things that have happened in cycling, while flat pedals got related with BMX and freeride mountain bikers. 

The advantages of clipless pedals will in general be clear to numerous riders.

They give more capacity to climb up the slopes, and they keep your feet safely planted when coming down; be that as it may, clipless pedals cause numerous riders to become lazy, and that to me, is a turn off (you are free to have your own opinion on that).

Flat pedals, in its own right, power riders to utilize appropriate strategy and to create positive riding propensities that will improve their skills and abilities.

As a little something extra, present-day level pedals are lighter and more grounded and give more foothold than it was years ago.

So yes, you can use clipless pedals due to the protection they give your feet when going up a hill, but always know that it will have a knockback on your skills in the long run – grow your skills, or stay protected on a mountain ride?

The choice is yours to make.

Should you use cleats for mountain biking?

Cleats go hand in hand with clipless pedals, so if using clipless is okay for mountain biking, then the same came to be said about using cleats.

What pedals are best for mountain biking?

Just like I stated earlier on in the other segments of this article, choosing a pedal that works for you all boils down to preference.

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In terms of horning your skill, and developing yourself as a mountain biker, the choice would be flat pedals – while in terms of safety, using clipless pedals would be ideal, and as I stated earlier, the cyclist world is very much divided on this, so you might as well get a feel of the two and know the one that suits you most.

Do clipless pedals make a difference?  

To properly answer this question, there will be a need to delve into research materials that have been available to us.

A recent report from the International Journal of Sports Medicine presumed that the clipless pedal framework “didn’t have any effect on either the mechanical productivity, the accelerating mechanics or the solid action during submaximal cycling.” 

We should note that this 2008 examination was only for submaximal cycling.

This fundamentally implies that if the street is level and a normal steady pedal stroke is kept up, neither one of the pedal types has a favorable position – numerous previous tests and studies have actually shown this to be true.

Be that as it may, in reality, it’s difficult to maintain a strategic distance from slopes or times when you’re in a rush and looking for speed by any available means. 

A 2012 expert theory paper examined contrasts in pedal types and greatest power yield during 30-second hard and fast runs.

This research paper discovered the greatest force in the data collated with information from flat pedals, toe straps, and clipless pedals to be clipless pedals. 

Some early investigations noticed that clipless pedal frameworks gave expanded running force.

In any case, it was fleeting (20-30 seconds).

After the underlying 20-30 seconds, the expanded force brought about expanded strong weakness.

The previously mentioned master paper likewise noticed a similar finding, and the creator expressed that clipless pedal frameworks indicated a “quicker beginning of solid weariness.” 

The prepared and fit cyclists will have no issues recuperating from the expanded solid weakness and muscular stress from accelerating with more force, although if you intended going out on your day to day cycling, it is important to note this.

Finally, as I stated earlier in the course of writing this article, those that ride a single track while accelerating with clipless pedals appreciate the additional force that they give during steep climbing segments and the additional control during quick drops.

There is rarely an issue with your fit slipping off from the pedal at any given time.

Do you really need clipless pedals?

In all honesty, if you looked at the pros and cons of clipless pedals and flat pedals I outlined in the cause of writing this article, then you would agree with me that any pro athlete or anyone wanting to go pro should invest in clipless pedals. 

These pedals are very efficient in terms of keeping your feet in check, and also ensuring that you faster than you normally would under normal circumstances.

Clipless pedals are preferred by some professionals because they feel clipless pedals tend to draw more power from then than they would have been willing to give under normal circumstances. 

Why do they call it clipless pedals?

Well, it’s quite easy to tell when you look at it because basically, producers required an approach to separate toe-clasp and strap pedals from this new kind of pedal that didn’t have the toe-clasp, yet rather a cleat.

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The expression “clipless” truly alludes to the absence of toe-clasp, as opposed to the activity of interfacing your shoe with the pedal which is what clipless pedals offer.

Do downhill riders use clipless pedals?

Definitely… clipless pedals help to provide your feet with the adequate balance needed for downhill cycling.

A downhill biker cannot really afford to have slacked feet when descending at such speed, as the effect of such could be dangerous.

Keeping your feet in check is extremely important in downhill cycling, and clipless pedals provide exactly that.

Clipless or flat pedals for mountain biking – Conclusion

Regardless of where you stand in this long-standing debate, using a clipless pedal, or using a flat pedal should only matter if it affects your performance as a pro – other than that, I don’t see the point of banging on it any further.

Let’s simply enjoy the fun of biking, shall we?

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