Flat pedals on the big bike?

Hi Lee

I’m reluctant to give up the extra climbing power of clipless pedals for flats but it seems like all the freeriders use flat pedals so they can bail. What are you using on your freeride bike? I’m using crank brothers mallet pedals on my SX trail right now. If you ever get the time, I’m sure people would be interested in seeing how your bikes are speced out.

Thanks and happy new year

PS thanks to your book and advice I’ve slowly worked my up to 7 foot drops and improved my technique.

Curtis Keene rides flats. Chris Herndon clips in. They both do OK. The dynamic duo rails A-Line in Whistler, fall 2005.

Hey Kevin,

Flats vs. clip-ins. That’s a question of style. Lots of riders have strong preferences both ways.

I ride almost every day on flat pedals. It’s fun, it refines my technique, and it helps me demonstrate in clinics. But when I want to go fast/big/rough/long, I clip in. I always race clipped in. (But I started as a road/triathlon/XC weenie.)

Clip-in pedals give me much more power and control. I feel more connected to the bike, and I don’t use mental bandwidth wondering where my feet are. As long as my Shimanos aren’t stuffed with mud or ice, I can clip out whenever I need to.

If you like your Mallets I see no rush to change. That said, learning to ride with flats will make you a better rider.

Check out:

Benefits of flat pedals
Drops: Staying on flat pedals
Rocking the flats
Flat pedals for a beginner

Here’s my usual rundown of bikes and pedals:

P.3 – play Specialized Lo Pro Mag, race Shimano DH clip-in
SX – play Specialized Lo Pro Mag, race Shimano DH clip-in
Enduro SL – Shimano XC clip-in, Shimano DH clip-in for special-happy days
Demo 8 – Shimano DH clip-in
Allez Pro – Shimano road clip-in

The doctor prescribes:

Run flats over the winter and see where you end up.


— Lee

10 replies
  1. Tony says:

    I too run flats (lo pro mags btw) and am now “sticky” with my new five.ten hi impacts…thanks to santa and his elves!

    I can see why “clipless” could be considered better by some to be better now that I have these super sticky shoes that don’t want to let go of my pedals. But for now, I still enjoy the absolute peace of mind knowing I can bail when I have to.

    Lee, as always, thanks for the great advice.

    Ridin’ down in PTown, CA

  2. Bob says:

    Last year I had a similar dilemna. I had always rode clipless, but had signed up for a jump class with Chris Duncan, where flats where mandatory. I had a total a 3 days on flats before the class. My first day on them I was scared my feet were going to come off on jumps. I just pressed down real hard and things worked out OK. After the class I did come off one time because I got crooked in air. Landed hard on my heel and limped for about 6 weeks. But it didn’t hurt to ride. Spent a week on Northshore and Whistler riding flats exclusively w/o problems (except for my heel). But after coming back home I switched back to clipless because we do a fair amount of climbing on our rides. Sometimes up to 4500 feet of climbing. If you do a lot of climbing stay with clipless. Otherwise, give flats a try. The Five Ten Impact shoes are known for having sticky soles that will help with the stability on the pedals. And with flats you will look like belong while waiting in the lift line at the Whistler Bike Park.

  3. leelikesbikes says:

    Nice, gentlemen,

    Good shoes do make a huge difference. Five.Tens are almost like being clipped in (’til you decide to take your foot off).

  4. Lee says:

    Only putting my 2 pennies on the table here because I absolutely hated flat pedals at first. Hate is a kind word for how I felt about flats, but I got some 5.10 shoes and stuck with it. It didn’t take long at all before I started to love the feeling of riding on flats and my technique ramped up considerably. I still clip-in for XC and will clip in for some DH races next season but now consistently ride flats and love the freedom. 5.10 shoes made it happen. My first rides were with skate shoes and I would just float and skate around on top of the pedals. Horrifying. I can now use skate shoes and feel pretty connected but nothing compares to those 5.10 shoes. Give ’em a try!

  5. Kurt says:

    I have flats and use the 5.10s for my big bike (Bullit) (live in WA, and ride a lot in BC – whistler/silverstar/sunpeaks/theshore.
    On the Heckler, I go back and forth between mallet c’s and flats. I find my technique gets a little sloppy after riding the mallet c’s, but a few rides on the flats seems to solve any problems.

    The very best bike handler I know rides only flats (but he’s been riding for about 30 years on them, too…yes, I said 30 years). Oh yeah, and he hardly ever sits down, even on multi-hour rides. The guy’s amazing.

  6. Kevin says:

    Thanks for the advice guys. I ran flats this week off my backyard jumps and liked them. I understand what you mean about helping with technique. I’m starting to realize that I’m just letting myself fall off jumps wearing clipless which may be one reason why I’m not carrying a lot of distance. Time to read the book again. Looks like tomorrow may be the last ride before some snow hits here in CT later this week. I’m going clipless but after the ride I’ll put the flats back on and see if they stay.


  7. leelikesbikes says:

    The key to riding flats:

    Instead of just standing there, you need to keep your feet moving with the bike. Push down hard to pre-load, then let your feet float upward with the bike. It’s really dynamic. Once you learn to ride like this, being clipped in becomes a whole new world.

    Read the pump section of the book …

    (And join Pump Track Nation!)

    Yesterday I did a pinner decent and a loooong climb on a Demo 7 in flats, standing for over 30 minutes. The climb was fine, but luckily I was in no hurry!

  8. Walt says:

    I’ve tried both and I can say that having your feet come off you pedals in mid-air (with flats) is far worse than landing wrong in clipless pedals. (I now use mallots) I’ve always released right out of them anyway. But when you land with your feet already off the pedals, you don’t have a chance. Just be ready for massive trauma to your backside when it takes the full impact of the jump against your seat.

  9. Stefan says:

    I’ve tried both and I can say that having your feet come off you pedals in mid-air (with flats) is far better than landing stuck in clipless pedals and landing on the top tube with your shin. I came from a road background with the old toe clips (loved them). When I started mountain biking I used clippless pedals for over a year, I hated them, and I wasen’t progressing. I switched to flats an skate shoes, what a differance, I don’t think I will ride clipless again. I have even converted a few xc guys over when there are not raceing. I think most people (well me anyway) can’t learn proper bike control clipped in. After you master control then clippless will no doubt make you faster. Hay that’s just my opinion.

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