Clipless vs flat pedals on a MTB

dovski

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So I spent years riding with clipless pedals on my MTB and old Canondale Super-V 700. To be fair this bike did not see much trail time and ended gather dust in my garage for many years. About 5 years back I got my first modern mountain bike and started to re-discover my love of trail riding and ultimately switched to flats, OneUp components to be exact. While I love the feel of these pedals and how they grip my shoes I have had a couple cuts from these pedals over the years as their spikes are razor sharp. This week while riding outside Bend, I got a particular nasty slice from these pedals on lower shin - nothing that will slow me down, but also not the most fun. This has me thinking about going back to clipless specifically planning to try out a pair of Crankbrothers Mallet 11 DH pedals. These seemed like a happy compromise between my old school shimano clipless pedals and my OneUp Components.

Would love to hear folks thoughts on riding trails (cross country, single track and flow) on clipless vs flats. Also if anyone has the Crankbrothers Mallet 11 DH pedals I would love to hear your thoughts on them especially as they compare to flats. Anyhow sun is rising and time to hit the trails before it gets too warm.

 

crosscountry

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I've gone a slightly different route. So I can share my perspective.

I went straight from clipless to clip+platform like the Mallet (but not that particular pedal). Rode that for many years till flat pedal came on the scene and promptly jump on the wagon.

The cage/clip combo doesn't really feel like a middle ground between the two. It's just clips, albeit on a larger platform. I almost never ride unclip despite the "option" of not clipping in. Reason? Unlike the soft sole shoes typically used with platform pedals, clipless shoes typically have hard sole, which don't sit securely on the platform. The "not razor sharp" teeth on those cages don't really do much in holding the feet on the platform. The better outcome is my shoes slide into the clips and got clipped in. The worse outcome is my feet slip off the platform.

So, if you want to go back to clipless. The ones with a cage is a good candidate to try. You'll probably like it better than clips only pedals. But it's not at all like riding flat pedals.

I never ride flat pedals without shin guard. Annoying. But not as annoying as shredded shin.
 

Philpug

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I ran clipless for well over 20 years, VP and Shimano 747s were my pedals of choice. When I moved to Tahoe I started riding different terrain that had more no fall zones and I lost some confidence and wasn't always clipping in. I ran the pedals at the lightest retention setting which provided a good amount of float, easier to get in and out of but still the ablility to pedal efficiently. This was well before we went "e".

@Tricia switched to flats before I did and her reasonings (which she might expand on herself) mirrored a good amount of mine. Yes, there is a loss of Nth efficiency but IMHO, and on our case, there was more of a loss if you are riding atop of a clipless and not clipped in and even more if you have head games going on.

I find that I like the versatility of the flats in that I can put my foot in different positions on the pedals in different terrain. Once on eMTB's that Nth loss in efficiency is not missed at all. I am not sure I would go back to clipless again. This is very much a YMMV topic and everyone has their own views and all are 100% valid and there is no absolute that clipless or flats are better in every application.
 

Crank

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I have been riding the same pair of clipless Shimano downhill pedals for years. Like Phil, I keep them set very loose and I can twist out easily and super quickly if I need to. Unlike Phil, I liked/need to be clipped in for technical terrain. I mainly went with the bigger platforms so that I could spin around on my bike in a pair of regular shoes, my Tevas or even flip flops. On my road bike I have pedals that are platform on one side and clipless on the other. A bit of a PITA sometimes ,but worth it to have the option of riding in something other than cleats.

I would never get pedals that could only be ridden wearing shoes with cleats. I would never get flats either, unless I were to get another beach cruiser, and It's been 3 decades since I had one of those.
 
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dovski

dovski

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So my plan is to try the Mallet 11 DH pedals with a pair of FiveTen Hellcat Pros. I also have an older pair of Shimano MTB shoes, but feel like the Five Ten will be more versatile ... I also like the fit of Five Ten and have been wearing them for the last 5 years.

Have tried shin guards before but found them very uncomfortable, maybe I just need to find the right ones. Current slice was lower shin so they likely would not have made a difference. This is the second time I have cut myself on my flats in 5 years so not a regular occurrence, but clearly one I would like to avoid in the future.
 

Tom K.

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Just go with spds. No muss, no fuss. I did run CBs for years (Eggbeaters) but finally got tired of rebuilding them annually. Flats? No.

Gotta agree. Also the soft brass CB cleats wear out in a ride or two.

Huge disservice by bike shops et. al. is not educating consumers about the existence of Shimano's brilliant SM-SH56 multi-release cleat. So easy when learning the SPD dance.

But all SPD pedals I know of come with the standard, more difficult to get out of, SM-SH51 cleats.
 

cantunamunch

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Interesting.

One-Ups are convex - axle, no?

Would you consider going concave-at-axle - and using shorter pins?
 

scott43

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Just go with spds. No muss, no fuss. I did run CBs for years (Eggbeaters) but finally got tired of rebuilding them annually. Flats? No.
I have SPD on both road and mtb's. It's a great system and easy to use. So many pedal systems come and go but SPD still hangs around.
 

nemesis256

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How about magnets?

I've always run flats, and recently changed to the Hustle REMtech Avery Pedals. They're flat petals with a big magnet, and the "cleat" is a metal plate. I've been liking them so far, better contact than flat petals but still easy to get out of. The one slightly annoying thing is getting your foot in the right spot. The metal plate can be attracted by the magnet even without being perfectly aligned, so sometimes I have to lift up my foot to try again or wiggle it around. They also have two different lengths of pins that allows you to adjust the float.

They can be hard to find in stock. They haven't had them on their website for a while, and as far as I know the only other place to buy them is MooseJaw. Looks like they currently have the gray in stock.

 

Erik Timmerman

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I've been running lipless since 737s so 1989 or 90. I've run Times and CB, but have come back to Shimano. I've run three versions of Shimano DH pedals most recently the Saints as well as the trail pedals. I went to Saints to have a bigger platform not for one unclipped, but so that I'd have more contact under my foot and make my feet not feel like they are folding over the pedal or trying to slip over the sides. I don't think that really made much difference and have gone back to the XTR race pedal. Definitely like the thin stack height of XTR vs. XT. I also always max out the spring tension and called Shimano to ask if there is any sort of a "green spring" option. There isn't. I did two race weekends with the CB Mallet DH (went whole hog and bought the Ti axle version). Never got one one with them I never felt like I could really tell if I was in or not. I think Shimano is best for that. I've been trying to get my hands on Hope pedals and I will eventually get some. I think they will give more shoe to pedal contact than anything else I've tried. Anyway, my personal ranking is Shimano -> Time -> Crank Bros.
 

cantunamunch

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How about magnets?

I've always run flats, and recently changed to the Hustle REMtech Avery Pedals. They're flat petals with a big magnet, and the "cleat" is a metal plate. I've been liking them so far, better contact than flat petals but still easy to get out of. The one slightly annoying thing is getting your foot in the right spot. The metal plate can be attracted by the magnet even without being perfectly aligned, so sometimes I have to lift up my foot to try again or wiggle it around. They also have two different lengths of pins that allows you to adjust the float.

They can be hard to find in stock. They haven't had them on their website for a while, and as far as I know the only other place to buy them is MooseJaw. Looks like they currently have the gray in stock.


OK, that just looks ... like I'd have to try it first. Especially in mud.
 

firebanex

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The only bike I exclusively ride spd's on is my road bike. My gravel bike has a set of Raceface Atlus flats on it 95% of the time, it sees most of it's use as a commuter bike and I'd much rather not deal with having to clip in. Plus flat shoes look more normal and are way easier to walk in when I got errands to do. Mountain bikes and winter fat bikes are exclusively flats, it's taken a few years but I feel just as stuck to my bikes as I do on my road bike but with the added ability to step off with no thought. The difficult part for me was figuring out which flats I liked, the amount of grip varies between different pedals. I started with Raceface Chesters and they are a great pedal but the platform is a bit small for my feet, it always felt like the outer edge of my foot was trying to curl around the outer edge of the pedal. The Raceface Atlus fit my foot better but for some reason they didn't feel as grippy, so they got put on my gravel/commuter where that doesn't matter as much. Tried a set of OneUp composite pedals on my fat bike and liked them enough to get a set of the metal ones for my summer mtb. Have had no desire to change them up since then.

The bulk of the trails I ride locally are around a blue level flow trail or rooted up singletrack that is actually hiking or walking trails. Something that my 150/130 Fuel Ex is honestly a bit overkill for, I used to ride it all (slower) on a full rigid fat bike.. I've never felt like there was a need for being clipped in on anything, even the winter XC style rides we do. It would help in the winter... but then I'd have to figure out a new set of boots and redo my layer plan.

A proper set of riding shoes such as FiveTen or Ride Concepts along with learning the techniques for keeping yourself stuck to flats when the going gets rough or airborn. The first 80% of it is heels down when it gets rough and the "scooping" technique for when you go airborn. The last 20% is all the exceptions. Plenty of videos on youtube with advice on how to do it.
 

Tom K.

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Time products don't get enough love IMHO. I bought my brother a pair of Ti-Mag Time pedals 30 years ago. Man those things were magic..weighed about as much as a cheezie...

Time makes GREAT mtb pedals. Probably my favorite.

But the brass cleats are just too soft, and "go away" pretty quickly.

But not quite as quickly as Crank Bros.

I have a silly number of bikes, so changing pedal systems is a pretty crazy idea. If I were starting over today, two things:

1. Time pedals,

2. Shimano drivetrains.

Shimano was pretty late to the 12-speed party, but is now inarguably superior to SRAM, for reasons of shifting smoothness and gear ratio spreads.
 

Rod9301

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So I spent years riding with clipless pedals on my MTB and old Canondale Super-V 700. To be fair this bike did not see much trail time and ended gather dust in my garage for many years. About 5 years back I got my first modern mountain bike and started to re-discover my love of trail riding and ultimately switched to flats, OneUp components to be exact. While I love the feel of these pedals and how they grip my shoes I have had a couple cuts from these pedals over the years as their spikes are razor sharp. This week while riding outside Bend, I got a particular nasty slice from these pedals on lower shin - nothing that will slow me down, but also not the most fun. This has me thinking about going back to clipless specifically planning to try out a pair of Crankbrothers Mallet 11 DH pedals. These seemed like a happy compromise between my old school shimano clipless pedals and my OneUp Components.

Would love to hear folks thoughts on riding trails (cross country, single track and flow) on clipless vs flats. Also if anyone has the Crankbrothers Mallet 11 DH pedals I would love to hear your thoughts on them especially as they compare to flats. Anyhow sun is rising and time to hit the trails before it gets too warm.

Wear knee shin guards, and get the hard plastic, and not with sleeves, do you can adjust the tightness, and can put them on without taking your shoes off.
 

crosscountry

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Have tried shin guards before but found them very uncomfortable, maybe I just need to find the right ones. Current slice was lower shin so they likely would not have made a difference. This is the second time I have cut myself on my flats in 5 years so not a regular occurrence, but clearly one I would like to avoid in the future.

Wear knee shin guards, and get the hard plastic, and not with sleeves, do you can adjust the tightness, and can put them on without taking your shoes off.
That's a good point. Find shin guards that are comfortable for you and your environment.

I found guards enhance my enjoyment of my rides. I hang my shin/elbow guards on the bike that I use for technical riding (the only bike that sports flat pedals) so I don't ever take the bike out without the shin guards. I also wear elbow guard most of the time (since it's in the same bag as the shin guard, and it takes only 15 seconds to put them on). I sometimes feel a little self-conscious when I'm fully "guarded up" riding in smooth easy trails. But just about every other time decided "I don't need protections for the easy trails I'm going to ride", I ended up with a detour into something that made me wish I had my protection on.

Key is they need to be comfortable and unobstructive. Kind of like wearing helmets. I don't even notice they're there any more.
 
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Lauren

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From my experience, Shimano SPDs were the best for clicking in/out…I really liked the solid “click” to know you were in. I liked Crank Brothers Mallet E pedals for the actual riding though. The extra platform gave a more solid connection than the XT (no platform) pedals I used previously. Shimano DH Saint pedals might be the best of both worlds, and if I still rode clipped in I’d be tempted to try them.

I had always ridden flats on my downhill bike/lift service, and started using them trail riding this year…I still miss being clipped in on some climbs, but over all I think riding flats has improved my riding quite a bit.

It seems a bit counterintuitive, but the bigger the spikes on your flats, the less you’ll slip off and get a pedal to the shin. I’ve been using Canfield Crampons for awhile now and love them. I will say, their pins are a bit intimidating…

976C0DD7-5968-461B-AB18-4721DC22FE4F.jpeg

I’ve tried other flats, and just haven’t found anything even close to giving me the grip that these provide.
 
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