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The age old debate - to ride with flat bike pedals and shoes or clip bike pedals and shoes, really is a polarising issue among cyclists. There is a lot of information out there and it can be mind boggling for someone getting into cycling. So here we discuss the pros of each in an attempt to make your decision easier.


Confusingly, bike pedals that you clip into are so called as they replaced the need for the old fashioned bike toe clips. The main argument cited for choosing clipless pedals is that they are more efficient to pedal with, especially when climbing; approximatley 25% more efficient than without. The theory is that "clip" or "clipless" bike pedals provide an efficient, even pedal stroke with the ability to have more of an upstroke to the pedal cycle. Some argue that it is the upstroke, powered by the big powerful hamstring muscles, that results in less muscle fatigue as you are spreading the load over several large muscle groups.

Some people like the feeling of being attached to their bike. If you are new to mountain biking then this can quite rightly seem scary but for the more seasoned biker it provides a sense of security. Having your feet attached to your bike pedals means your feet are always in the right position. This can encourage you to retain the correct biking posture. You are not often removing feet for cornering so you are more likely to stay in a nice balanced position. You can approach technical sections with a sense of confidence as your feet aren't going to slip of the bike pedals, especially if you are pedalling through rough stuff at speed.

Mountain biker riding mtb with Specialized clip bike pedals


Now let's get one thing straight. When we say flats, we mean a good quality mountain bike specific set of cycling shoes and bike pedals. Get yourself sorted with these and most flat bike pedal riders would argue that your feet stick to the pedals like glue. Flat pedal cyclists can really feel the pedals under their feet.

Somewhat contradictory to above, some cyclists find more confidence in flats. If you lose traction or start drifting around a corner it is nice to be able to plant a foot and approach a technical section knowing you can easily take your feet off and get them back on again without faffing around. And if things do go pear shaped it is easier to bail from your bike with flats!

Flat bike pedals provide versatility in that you can ride them in any old shoes if you need to go to the dairy for ice cream. Not to mention the shoes are more comfortable and easier to walk in for long hike a bike sections that are common on New Zealand backcountry bike adventures.

Mountain biker riding mtb with flat bike pedals


Some cyclists might say that everyone should start out biking with flats bike pedals and shoes as it is an important step in development of your bike handling skills. There may be some truth to this but more importantly, the confidence of being able to separate from your bike when you need to is likely to make beginners feel more relaxed on their bike when they head for the trail. And feeling relaxed will defiantly help biking progression!

Riders using clips have won far more World DH titles of late which may have contributed to the existence of the phrase “clips for racing, flats for fun”. But great riders can ride with both and chose what to run based on trail, weather conditions and if they are racing or riding with their mates.

It may be a bit of a cop out to say that one is not really better than the other. But it is true. Riding with clips requires quite a different riding style compared to flats. They both have advantages in certain weather conditions and on certain types of trail. It really does come down to person choice and which style suits you and your riding best.

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