Climbing with clips

A couple days ago I sprinted with clip-in pedals rather than flat pedals, and the power increase was dramatic.

Today I climbed with clips. More drama.

Quick version

Was climbing the hill to my house faster with clips than with flats? Yes.

Was it a lot faster? Yep.

Was it harder? No, not really.

Would I do it again? Yes.

Do clips suck? No.

Should people ride flats or clips? I think they should learn to ride flats, then pick the best pedal for their rides and riding style.


S-Works Tricross with Sun-Ringle Accelerator 29er wheels and a Shimano Ultegra SL build. “Road compact” gearing with a 34×28 low.

The red, battered and trusty Shimano 636 DH pedals. Dang, these pedals are 15 years old and survived my early DH years. Shimano XC race shoes.

Standard stressed out, tired, sore and achy body.

Climb up Linden Dr. to my house. The climb is about two miles with 1,000 feet vertical. Big headwind today.

A couple years ago, I was running 29 minutes and feeling crappy. I switched to flat pedals, learned how to pedal and started building aerobic base.

My current times average 23 to 24 minutes, and my best is 20:30. That’s a huge improvement — and I feel good doing it.


Clipped in.

Rode the bike for errands and met The Bugs and The Wife at African dance. I always wondered what non-bike people do; this is one of the cooler things.

Dragged my ass toward the hill. I felt tired, achy and sore. The bike felt gross. My feet were in the wrong place, my seat was too high, my seat was too low, my knees were hurting, my hips, my back, yuck. Mostly, I missed the freedom of the flats, and I just didn’t like the way the bike felt.

As the climb began and the pedal pressure increased, I gradually lined everything up and felt better. I focused on smooth power and about 8/10 effort at 60-70 rpm. I pedaled pretty much the same way I would with flats, but I did feel more engaged all the way around the circle. I did pull up when I stood. I did pull back on the steepest section. It felt solid, connected. Round.

And the time …


My previous best was 20:20. That’s an improvement of 1:45 or 9 percent.


Yeah yeah, this isn’t scientifically valid. I’ve been rocking the mobility, strength, pump track and Sufferfest pretty hard, and maybe I’m fitter now. (But 9 percent fitter than last week?)

What this means

Testing will continue, but I can confidently say:

• Clips don’t suck. Neither do flats.

• If you can pedal well, clips might help you pedal even better.

• I’ve been having a lot of fun on flat pedals, and for most situations I climb fast enough. But: If I need all the power I can muster, I just might clip in.



Know more. Have more fun!

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