Learning to pedal on flat pedals


In one of your recent blogs, you stated that you switched to flats to learn to pedal. Could you please expand on that in a future article? I am a downhiller bitten by the enduro bug and am trying to turn mashing into spinning. I was under the impression the first step was to clip in. No? Thanks and rubber side down!

Hey Tobin,

Thanks for writing. I’ve been having a lot of fun switching between clips and flats.

NOTE: What follows are my opinions based on 20+ years of riding, 10 years of skills instruction and about two years focused on pedaling technique. I have used timers and power meters, and I have enlisted help from Lester Pardoe of the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine. This is not scientifically valid sample. Your results may vary.

OK, that’s done. Now:

I think clipping in can help you get more power out of whatever pedaling style you have.

If you have a terrible stroke, clips will help you stay attached to the pedals and possibly make more power (especially when you are tired).

However, clips will not necessarily make you a better pedaler.

When I think of pedaling skill, I think of:

• Learning to apply force in the direction the pedals are moving.

• Lengthening the power stroke.

• Becoming more engaged on the recovery stroke.

• Transitioning smoothly into and out of the power stroke.

• Kicking ass. (I’m always thinking about kicking ass.)

While you can learn to pedal well with clip-in pedals, I think flats might help you learn great habits more quickly. This is analogous to learning handling skills on flats; flat pedals teach you to move your feet with the pedals, rather than be statically fastened to them.

When I embraced pedaling as a skill, I switched to flat pedals. Over about a year, my top sprint power reached my clipped-in sprints, my sustained power got way better than with clips and my top cadence went from 120 to 180 rpm. When I clipped in a couple weeks ago, my sprinting and climbing power went up another big step. Pretty sweet.

When I’m climbing on clips, I can feel the tendency to go dead in my ankles and rely on the clips to keep my feet with the pedals. The stroke feels more clunky and less powerful. The more I pedal the clips like they’re flats (with the added bonus of attachment), the better it feels.

Bonus data: Chris, one of the elite XC/CX racers I work with, has been training on flats and focusing on the pedaling skills I showed him. When he does his intervals on his road bike (clipped in), he’s reporting an 8 percent power gain (at the same heart rate!).



Know more. Have more fun!

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