Flats vs clipless. It’s a choice as old as time for mountain bike riders. Everyone seems to have an opinion, but is there a “right” choice?
Not really. Whichever one you choose is up to your personal preference. However, there are some benefits to using flat pedals that you might not think about. Sometimes even a short time on flat pedals helps seasoned riders get back to the basics of riding and help their overall skill level.
Fundamental Skills – riding on flat pedals allows you to learn your fundamentals, like balance, braking, standing, and weight transfer. You have more control of your bike as a whole when you ‘ride through your feet’. You get a better feel for these items because you’re not connected to your bike, you just have a connection.
One Less Thing – until your muscle memory kicks in to seamlessly unclip without thinking about it, you could be in for a few more crashes with clipless pedals. When you get in a tight spot and want to hop off quickly, you might forget to unclip, thus leaving your escape route inoperable.
Comfort – while clipless shoes have come a long way in the comfort area, flat shoes are more like what you’re used to every day. This gives your feet more of the comfort they might be looking for. Also, flats are better if you need to walk/hike during your ride. You’ll have the grip you need for mud, rocks, and other inclement weather.
Cheating – when you’re clipped in, you can easily cheat when you learn how to hop and jump over things. After all, you’re connected to your bike, so it’s going with you whether it wants to or not. When you wear flats, you will have to learn the moves to hop and jump (pushing down first to generate upforce).
Confidence – flats typically let you be a more confident rider. Why? You have the knowledge that if you need to jump ship, you can quickly do so. This is in line with the “one less thing” you have to worry about listed above.
If you’ve never ridden flats or are new to mountain biking, don’t count them out! Flats pedals (and shoes!) could be your new favorite thing to gain confidence and feel more comfortable on the trails. If you have any questions, ask us! We’re happy to help.