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4 Reasons Why I Ride Flats On My Mountain Bike

SRAM vs. Shimano, Fox vs. Rockshox, aluminum vs. carbon, these are all things we mountain bikers find to disagree about. One topic though that I hear come up maybe even more than all of these is clips vs. flats. I can’t tell you how many YouTube videos I’ve seen doing clips vs flats time trials, power tests and conversion stories. I’m not going to share anything scientific here. I’m not even going to try to convince you that flats are best. In this piece I simply want to share the advantages that I have found to riding flats over the years.

One word though before I get into things. When I am talking about riding with flats, I am not talking about tennis shoes and plastic demo pedals. I am talking about investing in a good pair of bike specific flats like the FiveTen Freerider. And also investing in a decent pair of flat pedals with metal, adjustable pins, such as the Imrider Polyamide Flat Pedal.

Bike Sharing

My wife and I are fortunate to be about the same size humans, so we can share bikes very easily. Flat pedals make this extra easy. There’s no adjusting tension or anything like that. Also whenever i share bikes with beginner bikers I don’t have to swap pedals for them.

Quick Rides

As a dad of 3, sometimes 30 minutes is all the time I have to sneak in a ride. Since I wear my FiveTens as everyday footwear, I can literally grab a bike and ride. The same is true for getting ready at the trailhead and leaving afterwards. No footwear changes needed.

Confidence

Now you can argue this point both ways. Some will say that being clipped in means you don’t need to worry about your feet bouncing off the pedals. In my opinion though I would much rather be able to stick a foot out quickly to save a fall.

Some would call me crazy and have raced a few xc races in flats. At the lower levels of xc racing I’ve been amazed to see at least one rider in each race simply tip over because they could not track-stand for a pile up on the trail or maneuver around an obstacle. I’ve always been left thinking they’d probably be better off on flats.

I also find that I am probably more willing to try new skills and tricks riding on flats. Again, being able to press the eject button and walk / stumble away from a crash is a big benefit.

Urban Riding

Living in a metro area means that sometimes my mountain bike rides will include a stop at a store, coffee shop, or even running a quick errand. Not clacking around in clipless pedals, along with having normal looking biking clothing, helps me “fit in” in those settings.

How about you? Why do you ride flats or clips? I’d love to hear your reasoning in the comments below.

3 Comments

  1. Eric L. Barnes says

    As a die hard clips rider I’ve been thinking more and more about trying a set of flats. The one thing that always concerned me was the stability, how well does your foot stay on and how painful is it when it slips off and that huge peddle hits your shin? 🙂

    • Ricky says

      Foot stays in pretty good even without the better shoes and flats. The shin will get it everyonce in a while but it’s like kicking bamboo. The shin gets tougher!

  2. Tammy says

    I’ve always worn flats on my mountain bikes. A good pair of mtb shoes and you can learn to use the shoe / pedal stroke angle to still pull up. And like Matt states, you can stick you foot out and try to save yourself when needed.

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