Here's what it's like to ditch the clips for flat pedals

There’s no doubt that clipping in has many benefits for mountain bikers. After all, it works well for Rachel Atherton and Danny Hart, right?

But it’s all too easy to rely on being clipped in to give you a lift over obstacles, rather than employing good technique. As I’ve recently found out, switching to flat pedals can help, but it can also take some getting used to – and some expert tips from a coach won’t go amiss either. 

Feeling flat

I’ve spent the last 10 years mountain biking clipped in to my pedals. I love the sound of that heavy ‘clunk’ when I set off, and the security of knowing my feet won’t slip when I’m out the back of the saddle on a steep descent. But if I’m honest, I know I use my feet to leverage the bike up and over obstacles when there’s a better way. I know my skills have been limited by my laziness in ditching the SPDs and learning how to manual a bike properly. I know the theory.


Related: Flat out or clipped in?

Riding a 140mm / 5.5in travel enduro bike all summer expands the range of gnar I’m prepared to tackle. I’ve become a passenger on trails I never thought I’d even contemplate, but mostly it’s about hanging on and surviving.

The shoes

The clipped-in test run

Going flat out (or not)

Ally Campbell’s top transition tips

  1. Get the right kit. Make sure you have a good set of shoes and pedals. Don’t use trainers! The shoe must be comfortable and allow you to drive in to the pedal. Your pedal should be nice and thin, lowering your centre of gravity on the bike, which is especially important for 27.5 bikes with lower bottom brackets. The pedal should cover much most of your shoe. (Certainly the 2FOs are comfortable, grippy and solid. A good start!)
  2. Get your foot position right. Always try to place your dominant lead foot on the pedal first. You want to have the axle just behind the ball of your foot giving good movement to drop the heels and also allowing the foot to adopt a more natural position for the important power stroke.  
  3. Pump rather than lift. This is the big one but isn’t about flats or clips: you should be pumping in any footwear! Don’t lift the bike with your feet. It leaves you far too vulnerable (you create an over-rotation that is not a good thing). Rather, ‘push’ the bike with your hands and ‘pump’ rather than lift. This way you under-rotate the bike. You really can get lots of energy from the trail rather than trying to pedal all the time too! (This is where I’m particularly lazy, which losing the cleats has put in the spotlight).
  4. Drop your wrists and heels. As you roll into descents or are coasting along the trail, drop your heels and wrists a touch to move your centre of gravity back and down. This really helps in more technical situations or when things are starting to get a bit out of control! 
  5. Relax! I see lots of riders looking quite tense while they are riding, almost fighting the trail. Relax, breath and enjoy your riding.  

You can

Source: Bike Radar