Benefits of flat pedals

Question: Should I practice with flat pedals? Answer: Yes.

Hi Lee,

I bought your book and like it a lot. I’m going to pick some skills I’d like to learn and give them some practice.

My question is regarding pedals. Should I just put flats on my Coiler and do all my practice with them? I understand so much can be done with flats, but I’m very used to clipless and it seems scary to ride much less jump with flats.

Oh yeah, what kind of shoe is appropriate? Skate shoes?



It’s hard to rock this much body English and stay clipped in. Elliott at The Spring 2005 SuperFly DH Invitational Universe Championships.

Hey Ryan.

Glad you like the book.

If you can learn to ride with flats, it’ll definitely improve your riding. Here are a few ways:

Hopping and jumping

Clips let you cheat by pulling up. Not only does this limit your lift, it makes you suseptable to getting bucked. With flats you must generate upforce by first pushing down — and that’s the right way to do it. Also, in the air, flats force you to be lithe and let the bike flow its own path. Also good.

Overall smoothness

The key to staying on flat pedals is maintaining constant pressure on the pedals — and avoiding harsh hits. You basically have to keep your feet moving with your bike. This forces you to actively absorb round bumps and preload/unweight over square obstacles. If you’re doing these things, you will be riding smoothly.


In some situations — skinnies, jumps, national monuments — you’re more confident knowing you can drop a foot or abandon ship in an instant. In the book Brian suggests pushing the limits on flats, then racing in clips for ultimate pedaling speed and control. Curtis Keene has raced pro downhill with both flats and clips, and he now sticks with flats — he says he can push it harder in the corners. Clips vs. flats comes down to personal style, but ideally you can run either dependingon whether the party is formal or casual.

I ALWAYS ride trails and DH clipped in, but I made a big exception on the North Shore.

It’s the shoes

Skate shoes are the old standby. Once my buddy Jim and I were packing the face of a jump, and I said, “Check it out, this jump says Vans all over it.” Jim replied, “Yep, all the good ones do.”

Vans or Oakleys or Addidas all work fine. But let me tell you: The Five.Ten shoes with the climbing-rubber soles are amazing. They add so much control it’s almost like being clipped in. As a matter of fact, last year when I started running Specialized Lo Pro Mag pedals with Five.Ten Mountain Master shoes, my jumping abilities immediately went up two notches. I felt all the freedom of flats, with the control of clips. Amazing.

My shoes cost $85 at an outdoor store. Five.Ten makes another shoe, the Impact, specifically for bike riding. Man up and get sticky soles.

That’s it. Spend the winter on flat pedals, and by spring you’ll be a whole new rider.

— Lee (Go ahead: Ask me something

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