Breaking 200

Thank goodness I haven’t weighed 200 pounds since I started riding bikes two decades ago.

We’re talking pedal cadence!

Building speed

A couple years ago I embraced pedaling as a skill. I quickly reached about 120 rpm with flat pedals. After some practice I could spin flats at 180. This is not world class, but it’s pretty good — especially if you can do it in real life.

I couple months ago I clipped back in. The power increase was dramatic, and more RPM started to come (Sprinting with clips, Climbing with clips). I hit 190 rpm right away, and I figured 200 was possible — once the nervous system got the idea.

Today is a typical in-season day:

• Wake up, hang with the Bugs, help Mamma get them together.

• Computer work. Email, design enterprise mortgage origination software, revolutionize the reptile shipping industry, revolutionize the online reptile community, send books, schedule clinics, whatever. More email.

• Hang with Mamma and The Bugs around lunchtime.

• More computer work.

• Private clinic with a pro DHer this afternoon. Stoked about that.

• Feeling antsy and needing some aerobic work, so …

… I hopped on the LeMond Revolution trainer (clipped into my original-issue Shimano DH pedals) and busted out The Hunted. This is a Sufferfest indoor climbing workout. Yes, it’s a perfect day outside, but this is the most efficient way to develop that specific energy system. (And I plan to hit the Valmont slalom later before my clinic.)

The Hunted focuses on sustained effort, which is my weakest point. It’s hard. But I snuck in a few little sprints.

Top RPM: 210! That’s a record for me, and I think there’s more in the neurological tank. (Technique tip: At this speed, trust all your pedaling drills and just freaking pin it!)

Max power: 1,285 watts. Not world class by any means, but I’m proud that I can grind out an hour-long workout and still have that snap at the end (my highest reading is about 1,500 watts). Whole Enchilada Enduro!

Now with real sweat and filth!

I believe …

… learning to ride flats is the best thing you can do for your kung fu. Flat pedals help teach your feet to move in the same direction as the bike.

… this is critical to smooth riding and — I believe — to efficient pedaling.

… learning to pedal with flats makes you a smarter, more efficient and ultimately more powerful pedaler.

… when you clip in you have the new flat-pedal mechanics PLUS the clipped-in connection.

… if you ride as if you’re on flats — but with subtly improved engagement — you can find new power.

That’s what I believe. More and more riders are believing this approach to technical descending. I’m telling you it can help your pedaling too. I have two elite XC racers working their flat-pedal-fu and reporting 8 percent more power with the same heart rate. That’s a big deal — especially for elites.

As for me, I’m having fun and still learning a ton.

225 rpm? 1,600 watts?



Know more. Have more fun!

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12 replies
  1. chance says:

    so after all your blogs about the power increase and what not and I decided heck I will toss the clips back on and rode with them last night.

    I made sure they were all set up right and adjusted and all that good stuff, I was rocking Crank Bros Candies I will also try my spd’s next but I didn’t have them with me.
    But I got this feeling that the pedals were not in the right spot but after looking at them and then puting my flat back on and standing on it I realized my foot was in exactly the same spot relative to the spindal placement on my foot, however I believe that feeling is caused by where you are feeling pressure, A clip pedal is a much smaller pressure point, even with the hard sole of a clip shoe.
    because of this I noticed I was using a lot more calf muscle riding the clips then I do with flats, so not sure on the efficience factor, might just have to give it some time to get those muscles use to it but I had some serious calf burn. could be a good cross train
    any thoughts on that?

    also I’m not sold on this “more control” idea everyone tries to sell me I would normally have a lot of control of my rear end by simply rotating my hips, knees and ankles while riding to corner and put the rear end where I want it but due to float this caused me to unclip.
    any thoughts on that ?

    I felt like i was attached for up and down action on the pedals/lifting the bike but i can do this easily with out clips. I will agree that through rough stuff your feet do stay planted but 90% so do mine on flats that comes down to riding technique, light hands heavy feet and staying weighted over the BB and i could feel a little difference climbing but I wasn’t able to do a climb that I wasnt able to do on flats, it might have been a bit easier but not that much. we don’t have super rocky climbs, so not sure about pedal strikes

    I did ride a bit more timid on the tech stuff but I will chalk that up to not being comfy in clips yet

    I will give them a couple more times to get use to them and then I will have a more clear opinion

    any pointers I should take note about either for my riding or teaching people to ride better in them?
    Thanks chance

  2. leelikesbikes says:

    Chance, that’s a lot of questions in a comment field. Basically, we should all ride what we like. If it feels good, rock it. If you want to learn true kung fu, learn to ride flats. When you clip in (if you clip in), try to position your feet and ride your bike as if you’re on flats — but try directing the pedals more forcefully.

  3. chance says:

    Sorry for all the questions, but thanks for the reply. I guess I’m down to experiment with whatever is going to help make me a fundimentally sound rider and can help increase my strength, power and endurance.

    Any pointers on the handling with clips, i feel conected but not really… not sure if that make scence, that sensation of my feet swinging back and forth makes me feel disconnected more then connected i guess

  4. leelikesbikes says:


    Interesting. I suppose clip-in pedals with float could feel less connected — at least laterally/rotationally — than a pair of sticky shoes with good pedals.

    I’ve only used Shimano SPDs, so I can’t speak to your Crank Bros. But I’ve seen rippers RIP on Crank Bros pedals. I suppose it’s a matter of riding style. I wonder how much you need to be twisting your feet.

  5. chance says:

    I actually unclipped unintentionally in a hard corner when I rotated my hips through the corner. I’m not sure if its just because i’m not use to wearing clips and I need to get use to it and it might be a bad habbit caused by riding 5.10’s and flats that i transfer that rotation all the way through from my hips to ankles, not sure… I have spd’s I will give them a try next week…

  6. Noah says:

    Well said.

    I’ve been a flat-pedal fanatic for five years, recently I decided to try SPDs again. Holy cow. It took a week or so to get used to it – which included forcing myself to ride SPDs on hard trails that were foreign to me – but now I love it! The biggest thing I notice is the seamless transition from coasting to putting power down. I can be cruising on a trail and start to “ghost” spin and as soon as I slow down enough for the pedaling effort to take effect – it does! With flats I feel you have to be putting conscious power down to accelerate, with clipless I’m able to keep speed better – I don’t need to coast and hammer, just cruise and hammer.

    I am still a big flat pedal proponent and credit them with a lot of my progress in regards to tech skill, technique, and brute strength. But, I’m having fun on SPDs again! I made the switch because I’m getting more serious about being competitive at super-d and enduro races, and I’ll take any advantage I can get. On one of my first SPD’d rides I took 40 seconds off my time on one of my go-to loops (from 16:40 > 16:00), and I did it without getting blown out. That got me stoked, and I continue to be super pleased with latest rides.

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