How to pedal with flats

Hi Lee,

I’ve been inspired by your comments about flat pedals and so just put some Eclat Surge alloy flatties on my singlespeed. I’ve ridden flats at dirt jumps & BMX tracks so I’m not coming to them cold, but riding them on trails brings a different set of questions! I’ve looked through your books and most of your comments on pedaling style are based around clipless pedals. So …

Do you have any suggestions on pedal stroke style for flat pedals? I’m mashing the pedals and spinning out on loose stuff more than with clipless, so I’m trying to wipe dog dirt from the sole of my shoe at the end of the stroke. Any other hints?

Hey Mike,

Since the babies came almost two years ago, I’ve been on the road and trainer a ton, and I’ve totally embraced pedaling as a skill. As a result, I’m climbing more comfortably — and I’m climbing 20 percent faster.

I’ve been riding flat pedals almost exclusively all year. Pump, jump, trail, even road.

The biggest pedaling tip I can give you — and this comes from my experience as well as the expert advice of Lester Pardoe at the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine — is:

Drop your heel as you reach the top of the stroke. This lets you engage the pedal sooner, and it helps you recruit your glutes.

Start pushing across the top as soon as you can. The sooner you start the power stroke, the longer it is.

This advice applies to all pedals, but especially flats.

In this sequence Lester Pardoe is spinning easy at 90 rpm. At lower rpm — and especially with flats — the heel drop will be sooner and more exaggerated.

Do not:

• Scrape mud (or dog dirt) off the bottom of your shoe. I know that goes against a lot of old advice, including mine, but the Center’s data shows you’ll gain more by dropping your heel and starting the power stroke sooner. The muscles that push across the top are way bigger and stronger than the ones that pull across the bottom.

• Pull your feet off the pedals. Think about this. If you pull your feet off the top or bottom of the stroke, you’re not directing force in the direction the pedal is moving. The first time I focused on this, I knocked 5% off the climb to my house. (If you pull off on the upstroke, you should be pushing a lot harder with the other leg.)

• Forget you’re riding flats. The first time you hit an uphill rock, you’ll pull your foot right off the pedal and your business will hit your stem. That’s what I do, over and over.

Settle in. Drop your heel. Push across the top.



Know more. Have more fun!

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