DO FLAT PEDALS WIN MEDALS?
Awhile back on the Women’s MTB Experience Facebook page, a question about flat pedals was brought up. More importantly, the question was about fear and being clipped in. This did start quite the debate. Yes, there is a crap load of controversy and debate out on the internet and in the cycling community regarding this very question. So….let’s talk about it. Should I be clipped in? Do “flat pedals win medals”? Why do people start clipping in, in the first place? Personally, I think people start clipping in for a few reasons. But really, when it comes right down to it, there are actually very few reasons most people SHOULD be clipping in. Often, it’s the “cool” or “pro” thing to do. Or someone has said,” Oh, you’ve been riding and advancing, this is really the ONLY way to improve.” “You’ll be faster.” “Climbing is easier.” “You can’t jump if you’re not clipped in.” The list goes on and on. I KNOW you’ve heard these or felt the peer pressure thing.
I’m gonna own this…..one of MY biggest weaknesses on the bike is riding flats. Yep, I ride better clipped in than I do on flats. BUT! I absolutely encourage people to ride flats for a longer period of time. And more importantly, I still ride in flats on a regular basis.
One reason I push so hard to keep people riding flats longer, or getting die hard clip-ins to go flat is I want them to truly find where they belong on the bike. I never took that time and today I regret it. It’s my baggage. I say often it isn’t fair for riders to unload THEIR baggage on other riders. I truly believe we dump our baggage on each other…. “Oh, that rocky section! It’s gnarly, you better walk it.” “If you don’t do ______ you’re gonna mess yourself up.” “I crashed really hard because I wasn’t clipped in”, “You can’t jump on flats.” If you’re riding with others, encouraging others, bringing others to the sport, DON’T give someone else your fears or baggage! But, in this case? Well…I’m going to contradict myself….I’m gonna give you my baggage…
Clipping in CAN make certain things easier. But, more importantly, they also make other things harder! It is hard for new riders to truly find balance and pressure in their feet when they clip in too soon. You really don’t learn how to stay connected to your bike properly so being in the air can be unsafe. Your cornering will probably suffer because, well….yeah…cornering is a game of balance and counterbalance. If you’re using your bars as your platform you’ll have a hard time leaning the bike and good, grippy cornering will be difficult. You’re probably gonna have a hard time getting your front wheel over obstacles because learning to load your bike is going to be almost impossible while you’re leaning on those bars or standing in your toes. If you haven’t found good balance on the platform the pedals create, steep descending will be really hard and probably scary. We haven’t even talked about the fun stuff like jumping! Blunt and to the point, that’s me….remember? If you’re scared riding clipped in, it’s probably time to slow down and go back to the fundamentals and work on those skills. One way to look at this could be, that once you’ve truly gained the skill and balance riding flats, you’ll probably be unstoppable in ANY pedal set up you choose.