Cornering: Range of motion with flat pedals

Sticky shoes and quality flat pedals can restrict your on-pedal movement more than clip-in shoes and pedals. If you’re used to a little float, you might feel confined in your 5.10s. Bruce in Vancouver is feeling the pinch.

Hi Lee, thanks for writing the best mtb skills book ever!

I ride freeride/DH, I’ve always ridden with clips, originally SPDs but in more recent years I’ve been running Crank Bro Mallets. Your book inspired me to give flats a chance. I bought 5.10 shoes and am running 5050s with the big black pins.

I expected I would have trouble with slipping off the pedals as I am used to being clipped in, that hasn’t been the case though, I have mega-grip with the sticky shoes and spiky pedals. The problem I’m having is that my feet stick to the pedals a bit too well. I like to rotate my hips quite a lot in the turns and this in turn causes my feet to rotate on the pedals, with the mallets my feet could rotate in the cleats but with the flats my feet are basically glued to the pedals and can’t rotate, is this normal?


Bruce, Vancouver, BC

Elliott Hoover has a very fluid and dynamic style. He can do anything he wants with his feet.

Hey Bruce,

Thanks re: the book. Brian and I are currently planning the second edition, which will be bigger and badder than ever.

Since you live in Vancouver, you have ride flats, right? Isn’t that a municipal ordinance?

Yeah, 5.10s are so sticky that if you want to rotate your foot on the pedal, you have to lift it (your foot). Your problems are normal.

I can think of two basic solutions:

Move your foot on the pedal
You can learn to move your foot on the pedal. It’ll be a complex and subtle movement where you tilt your foot on one edge and also possibly twist it on the pedal.

– This is a lot easier and more common with Vans than with 5.10s.

– Bike riding is already pretty complex and subtle. For most of us, I think it’s best to create a solid foundation and go from there.

– Next time you rock your clip-in pedals, you might be in for a heck of a surprise.

A few years ago, I practiced the Sea Otter slalom with flats. There was this triple roller, then a backside, then a turn. I was jumping the triple and setting up the turn in the air. Braaap! So sweet. I clipped in for qualifying, and that same move unclipped me in the air. I landed with my crotch on the rear tire, and I had a perfect 1.95 Moto Raptor tread pattern on the back of the dangly bits. Not so sweet — plus it cost me time.

Snow is not an impediment to quality practice. Me Drilling the basics.

Increase your range of motion
This is the hot tip, and it’s always a good idea.

The most efficient way to increase your ROM for cornering is to … drum roll please … corner. Spend some time working your figure eight drills. They, too, are always a good idea.

– Get low. The lower you get, the more range you have (but the more strength it takes).

– Keep your feet on the pedals and gradually — and gently — turn your hips farther into the turn. This will require a tricky blend of strength and suppleness.

Consider rocking some yoga. A basic class that includes warrior poses will increase your range, teach you about your body and put you in the company of women (a rarity for mountain bikers!).

To sum it up:

You are on track. Practice with intention, and your range — and braaap — will open right up.

— Lee

9 replies
  1. Lisa says:

    Hey, that brings up a good question. When I get back to riding after this whole ACL thing, I was thinking of trying out flat pedals, at least for a while. What do you suggest for me? I tried them and really struggled. I had a hard time with the proper foot positioning and staying on. And I’m just not good at handling the bike without being clipped in. I know, that’s a bad habit and I need to break that, among all the other bad habits! Hey, I’m still checking in on your site even though I’m not riding!

  2. leelikesbikes says:

    Coming back from an injury is a perfect time to learn new skills.

    – You can’t pin it. You feel really careful and deliberate.

    – Might as well focus on learning flat-fu.

    – Start spinning on the street or your trainer like your PT says. Play with bouncing on your bike. Work up to hops and pumping.

    If you do it right, an injury can actually help you come back better than ever.

  3. Joss Dewaele says:

    For Bruce: Try using the standard pins in your 50/50 pedals, as those pins in combo with your FiveTen’s will provide plenty of stick, but not completely lock you in. I use FiveTen’s with Easton Flat Boy pedals, and even though I keep losing pins in my pedals, my shoes provide plenty of stick. Of course, everything Lee said about training range of motion is right on.

  4. jimmy says:

    I rock 5.10s for DH because when you’re going that fast I don’t want separation from my bike.

    I prefer Vans style skateboard shoes for everything else. Forces me to be one with the bike so my technique improves.

    I prefer one placement on the pedal and flow with it. I had an interesting experience at may first time at the Whistler Air Dome this year. Your front tire is practically on the down slope on the huge drop-in. You basically need to step on the pedals and go. No making adjustments because you’re already screaming down the drop-in. After I came home I worked on my one step and go techinque. Hopefully my practicing will make me more comfortable on the drop-in next year.

  5. peeter says:

    I am wondering when leaning your bike and pivoting hips do you point your inside knee where you want to go or what?

  6. Doug says:

    If your 5.10’s are to sticky on your pins try shorter pins. I had way to much stick and put some stepdown’s on that came with short setscrews. still great grip but able to shuffle when needed.

  7. Jason says:

    Plain & Simple walk around in the 5.10’s to wear them out a little. (Try a week). I hated them @ first until a wore those puppies in good. Used them for Dh, DJ for 3 years finally had to be dumped because they smelled awful. I like 2 run a pedal with no or little pins so I can move my feet around with 5.10’s it’s possible (4 me) Hope that helps…

    Thanks Lee, The site has a bunch of great knowledge. Keep it motivated and moving forward 🙂


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