/ MTB riders: SPDs to flats?

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TobyA on 02 Oct 2017

For the UKC MTB massive, has anyone gone from riding clipless to riding on flats? I've ridden clipless on all my bikes for over 20 years (in Finland I used to powerstraps in winter but purely to wear warmer shoes, it's basically like using spds) but I'm wondering about trying out flats for trail riding here in the Peak. I'm finding that mud/grit builds up and then sometimes my spds don't release as easily as I expect, leading to those embarrassing topples over. Fortunately no damage beyond a bruise or two done, and although I'm not hardcore downhiller there are places where even a low speed topple like that could really hurt. Then there are times where it is technical enough for me to need to put a foot down quickly, both on climbs and descents. Yesterday I did the Kinder loop and finished by coming down Jacob's Ladder and this thought did occur to me at a few points! This was jolly exciting and I made it with no crashes (there were two rock steps into the gully sections that were too steep for me to ride down, so I did get off just for those couple of meters) but otherwise I rode it all, no dabs!

But having ridden clipless for so long, I probably rely on my spds to move the bike around, hop it etc. and I'm worried whether I would find myself getting shaken off flats. So I'm just interested if anyone else has gone that way, from mainly SPD usage to mainly flats? How did you find it? Any recommendation for good flats that aren't stupid expensive?

And just another thought, perhaps mainly to other Peak-based riders, do people wear pads? A mate is going to lend me some kneepads that he bought but don't fit him well, for me to try out. I've never worn anything before beyond a helmet (ok, so clothes, I'm not naked! but not armour) but see plenty of people trail riding who do have some pads on, and coming down Cut Gate or Jacobs Ladder, I can see the sense in them!
Post edited at 22:04
Dr.S at work - on 02 Oct 2017
In reply to TobyA:

Hi Toby - I had always used clips or SPD's, and had a rather thuggish approach to bike movement. However having got back into MTB a year or two ago have moved to flats - just bought some for 20 quid from evans for a try and found them really good.

lots of good online tutorials to make you think about foot position and how to hop etc.

Shoe choice is pretty important - I wear old approach shoes (Scarpa crux) and find the grip almost too good at times..

MonkeyPuzzle - on 02 Oct 2017
In reply to TobyA:

I've always ridden flats for MTB but they certainly make you work on your skills which will translate if you ever switch back to SPDs. I can recommend the older Shimano Saint pedals or DMR V12s, both about £40 but bombproof, especially the Shimanos.
ChrisJD on 02 Oct 2017
In reply to TobyA:
I went to flats after many years in spd. I'll never go back - even have flats on my x-bike. Its made me a better rider. Just keep the heels down!

Buy good ones and good shoes.

I always ride with knee & shin pads (and usually elbow pads).

Case in point: my mate had a horrific accident last night (wasn't with him) - he forgot to wear his knee pads and degloved his kneecap on a gritsone boulder.
Post edited at 22:38
duchessofmalfi - on 02 Oct 2017

I use egg beaters and have never had a problem with clag build up...
balmybaldwin - on 02 Oct 2017
In reply to TobyA:

I made the switch about 4 years ago, but recently put cleats back on... I'm now looking for a happy medium and will probably chop and change.

The reason I went across was I started to ride bigger things and more gravity based riding, and I was finding that moment of hesitation clipping in after scouting out a technical section on foot would mean I'd screw up the entry or need to go and get a run up all too often (and I was perfectly used to cleats) and as a result I wasn't as bold as I could have been.

It's important to get a pedal with a decent platform, but that doesn't mean mega bucks, and low profile is good as the extra width over spd spindles makes a difference in terms of grounding an inside pedal.

Shoes are also important. Skate style shoes seem to work well, 5.10 Mtb shoes are great for grip, but heavy when wet. - I and most of those I ride with use variations of these.

I found I still gained a surprising amount of power on the back stroke with flats, but did miss the ability to pedal all the way round on the really technical climbs. I certainly found drops and technical downhill easier on flats always being able to dab if required. Jumping took a bit to get used to, and I can't hop as high on flats, but I do it all in a better, more balanced way, and now I've been using SPDs again I'm still feeling the benefit - it helps you make the bike do the work I guess
balmybaldwin - on 02 Oct 2017
In reply to ChrisJD:


> Case in point: my mate had a horrific accident last night (wasn't with him) - he forgot to wear his knee pads and degloved his kneecap on a gritsone boulder.

Yuk ! Jesus did you have to share?

Poor bugger.

I've still got a scar from when I made a spd pedal shape landing a big drop on my shin after my cleat popped out when i was 16

Yes Shin/knee pads are a good idea
TobyA on 04 Oct 2017
In reply to balmybaldwin:

Thanks to everyone for their thoughts. I suppose one thing I hadn't thought so much about is what shoes to wear if I get flats. For riding around the Peak in winter I had sorta thought that some waterproof fabric walking boots might be good for keeping dry and warm tootsies and when off the bike and pushing, but I wonder if they wouldn't grip so well on the bike as softer skate style shoes... hmmm...

Thanks all!
colinakmc - on 04 Oct 2017
In reply to TobyA:
I’ve been having a similar thought process, just with less skilll....just bought a pair of superstar nanos ( on offer at £35) thinking they’ll let me wear warmer approach shoes or even boots for adventure biking, and still be ok for trail centres. But I can see me stopping back and forward too.
John2 - on 04 Oct 2017
In reply to TobyA: I'm a big fan of the Time Atak pedals - they don't clog up like SPDs, and release more easily as well.

Wee Davie - on 04 Oct 2017
In reply to TobyA:

I never got on with SPDs on mtbs. After a few deck outs I went back to flats ages ago (maybe 1996!). I just felt insecure on anything techy being clipped in and have to say, on flats, being able to get off the bike in a hurry is reassuring. I've got a BMX freestyle background so bunnyhopping and jumping is second nature to me without needing to be attached to the bike.
Stuart en Écosse - on 04 Oct 2017
In reply to TobyA:

I know lots of people who ride flats and a few who have converted to flats after years of spd use. I've got flats for my 'approach' bike, but riding spds, or in my case Time atacs, is so hard wired into me I feel insecure on flats and miss the pedalling efficiency.

As far as shoes go, my old Camp4s were pretty solid on DMR pedals, walking boots and fell shoes less so. I won't be converting to flats anytime soon, though I'd be tempted to use them on a bikepack with lots of pushing.
martinturner - on 05 Oct 2017
In reply to TobyA:

I've got a bike with flat Saints on, a bike with flat v12's on and my main bike with m520 spd's on.

They all serve a purpose, but if you're using flats, you NEED to match some decent shoes with them.
Anything 5.10 wise, is usually decent.

If you're comfortable jumping without clipless, then it can only improve your riding imho.
summo on 05 Oct 2017
In reply to TobyA:

On my hard tail i have some dmr v twin. The studs you place yourself where you want them offer loads of grip with the right shoes (see above poster). Or you can clip in on the other side. My full sus. has purely clip in and I'm yet to be convinced.

The best solution I've found is using a toe cage, without any of the side straps etc.. it does need to be one of rigid plastic, but you have benefit of no foot creep or slippage and easy escapes.


ChrisJD on 05 Oct 2017
In reply to TobyA:

> For riding around the Peak in winter I had sorta thought that some waterproof fabric walking boots might be good for keeping dry and warm tootsies and when off the bike and pushing, but I wonder if they wouldn't grip so well on the bike as softer skate style shoes... hmmm...

I wear 5.10 all year round in the Peak: snow, water, mud, night-riding. the lot; never get cold feet!. Wear merino wools socks and sealskinz. The 5.10s are in a constant drying cycle ('cuse the pun) next to fire


ffati - on 05 Oct 2017
In reply to TobyA:

I swap and change winter I run flats coz a good dab makes me smile when it's all slick and muddy and I find myself getting lazy using spd's. As someone else said heels down is key but it translates when you get clipped back in.

And if you are worried about pedalling efficiency look at Sam Hill just won the enduro World Series on flats, look at videos of him riding as well foot dabs and lines are amazing.

Knee pads I tend to always wear some sort thinner for more pedally spins and hard capped for uplift/alps. Don't wear any other padding find it obstructive and my riding goes all to pot as if my brain thinks hold on are we doing something stupid why all this padding.

LastBoyScout on 05 Oct 2017
In reply to TobyA:

Timely thread - was thinking of starting one for recommendations on flat pedals to use with approach shoes for touring, rather than taking 2 pairs of shoes.

So, recomendations please

I normally use SPDs for mountain biking, mainly for the extra power going up hill. My sister used to use the double-sided SPD/flat ones, so she could be either clipped in or not - mostly not, in her case.

I almost always wear pads when thrashing around my local trail centre. Definitely elbow/forearm guards due to the number of tight bits through trees and the fact my elbows are already chipped from a bike crash years ago. After a couple of offs, I've also been wearing knee/shin pads, as a few areas, including with a lot of exposed tree roots, can be quite slippery. Means I can push myself in "relative" safety and also because, these days, there seems to be an increasing chance of being knocked off by some other idiot around there.

On the other hand, I wouldn't wear them on an all-day ride elsewhere, as too hot and bulky - I'd consider the elbow pads depending on where I'm riding, though. I've even seen a chap cycling in full body armour in rush hour - not sure if he's paranoid or just making a visible point to the other traffic, but I can't say I blame him.
MonkeyPuzzle - on 05 Oct 2017
In reply to LastBoyScout:

> Timely thread - was thinking of starting one for recommendations on flat pedals to use with approach shoes for touring, rather than taking 2 pairs of shoes.

I was eyeing up a pair of these: http://www.wiggle.co.uk/shimano-pd-t8000-xt-mtb-spd-trekking-pedals/ for the old steel hardtail I do my longer riding on. I use Shimano M324 dual-sided for my road bike, but the cage on them is pretty basic.



cousin nick on 05 Oct 2017
In reply to TobyA:

I'm a long-term SPD user, but when I switched from a hardtail that I'd owned for 20+ years to a new carbon full-susser, I also switched to flats. The main reason was that on the old skool hardtail I'd mostly been XC riding, where as with the new bike I was doing more trail centre riding and preferred the option to easily put a foot out/down now and again. Having ridden flats for over 12 months now, I don't think I'll be going back. Besides the advantage of being able to put a foot down easily, I also find it easier to get back on the power afterwards, vary foot position slightly (I have Achilles issues on long rides). As others have said, it also means you can wear differing footware - I've even worn walking boots during snowy conditions. I fitted cheapish Nukeproof flats from Evans.
Only disadvantage is that I have managed to rake my calf with the pedal studs now and again!

N
LastBoyScout on 05 Oct 2017
In reply to MonkeyPuzzle:
Nice - if you eye them up on Chain Reaction, they're cheaper.

I also have the M324 on one bike and the cage is terrible - I've caught it on the floor going round corners on the road! Bearings aren't great, either!
Post edited at 11:37
Matt Buchanan - on 05 Oct 2017
In reply to TobyA:
Flats are great. I converted after years on time atac clipless pedals. The best cheap flat pedals that I have used are Superstar Nanos.

https://www.superstarcomponents.com/en/nano-x-pedals.htm
Post edited at 11:38
MonkeyPuzzle - on 05 Oct 2017
In reply to LastBoyScout:
Yeah, I tend to coast round leaned corners with my outside foot down, as I'm used to MTBing.
Post edited at 11:45
Chris the Tall - on 05 Oct 2017
In reply to TobyA:

I'm very much an XC rider who occasionally does steeper stuff - I have done Jacob's Ladder (without dabbing), but that's about as hard as I want to ride. Been riding SPDs for as long as I can remember - wouldn't want to compromise my climbing by going to flats, although I know it might help on some descents

As to pads, i wear these http://preview.tinyurl.com/yb4tlxzs

Obviously it's a compromise between weight/movement and protection, but these suit me
LastBoyScout on 05 Oct 2017
In reply to MonkeyPuzzle:

I usually to do that, too, but a couple of times when I've needed to actually pedal around the corner, for whatever reason, I've leant the bike over too far - my road pedals would not have caught the floor.
LastBoyScout on 05 Oct 2017
In reply to MonkeyPuzzle:

> I was eyeing up a pair of these: http://www.wiggle.co.uk/shimano-pd-t8000-xt-mtb-spd-trekking-pedals/ for the old steel hardtail I do my longer riding on. I use Shimano M324 dual-sided for my road bike, but the cage on them is pretty basic.

Had a look at them and decided I couldn't really justify the price at the moment, but will definitely keep an eye out for them in sales as an upgrade for the M324s.

Have ordered a pair of the Shimano Saint flat pedals from Wiggle for now, as will only be using them with approach shoes anyway, so no need for SPD.
LastBoyScout on 05 Oct 2017
In reply to :

For anyone not sure about SPDs, for whatever reason, the Shimano MT50 Click'R pedals might be a good compromise - reportedly 60% less effort than normal SPDs to unclip:

http://www.chainreactioncycles.com/shimano-mt50-click-r-clipless-mtb-pedals/rp-prod108787
Murderous_Crow - on 05 Oct 2017

In reply to TobyA:

If you're thinking of flats, the shoes are a critical choice. DCs, Vans and other skate shoes give decent grip, but FWIW I'd seriously recommend 5:10 bike shoes / approach shoes, or similar with a climbing-type rubber sole. The grip available from good modern flats in conjunction with Guide Tennies has to be felt to be believed When I started MTB years ago I rapidly made the transition to SPDs. This improved my power, but was rubbish for everything else. Modern flats are miles ahead of where they were. They pedal well, thanks to the grip you can pull in the upstroke as well as push; you can easily dab; and of course you can hike with no problem. I'm now firmly converted.

Some key issues in construction are:

- height of the pedal - the thinner the better really, prevents that annoying 'rolling over'
- redundant width, critical for people with feet like a shire horse, but also important for getting your foot back on 'just enough' in technical sections
- concave design, this makes a massive difference to grip and feel
- rounded edges particularly on the outside of the pedal, helps them glance off rocks / trees / legs
- serviceability i.e. bearings
- adjustable pin height
- replaceable pins

Flats I've used which I rate highly include:

- nukeproof horizons / neutrons, cheap cheerful and grippy
- shimano saint, amazing value
- hope F20, beautifully designed and engineered, sublime grip

Not any sort of definitive list, there's lots of good flats available now.

> But having ridden clipless for so long, I probably rely on my spds to move the bike around, hop it etc. and I'm worried whether I would find myself getting shaken off flats.

This was me. Keep your heels low, you won't get shaken off. And take the time to learn good technique, it will pay off evn if you go back to SPDs as you'll have much better rhythm and power for drops and jumps.

Post edited at 13:45
jethro kiernan - on 05 Oct 2017
In reply to TobyA:

Recently Got some of these

https://www.superstarcomponents.com/en/nano-x-pedals.htm
Excellent value flats

As others have said a good pair of five 10's will make a huge difference

Some good advice on GMBN on you tube about pedals and advice on how to shift your body weight around on them
Ian Patterson on 05 Oct 2017
In reply to Chris the Tall:

> I'm very much an XC rider who occasionally does steeper stuff - I have done Jacob's Ladder (without dabbing), but that's about as hard as I want to ride. Been riding SPDs for as long as I can remember - wouldn't want to compromise my climbing by going to flats, although I know it might help on some descents

Similarly have ridden on SPDs forever - I've done a mix of stuff on and off including some downhill light and this has included stuff like Jacobs Ladder, downhill at Forest of Dean, Stile Cop, Macc Forest etc and a couple of trips to Morzine including red and some easier black downhill courses. I've never really felt that being clipped in holds me back - in fact given my 'technique' is very based on being clipped in I imagine I would be at a significant disadvantage initially if I went to flats!

Though if I was younger and had more time to be on the bike then learning to ride 'properly' on flats might be a good idea.


ChrisJD on 05 Oct 2017
In reply to Ian Patterson:
> Though if I was younger and had more time to be on the bike then learning to ride 'properly' on flats might be a good idea.

lol, I converted to flats in my 40s!

Going to flats was a revelation for me, after being on SPDs since the early 1990s.
Post edited at 18:07
DanielJ - on 05 Oct 2017
In reply to TobyA:
Best from two worlds? Friends ride with them, going there myself from 10 years of XT-pedals.
( Not cheap though)

http://www.chainreactioncycles.com/mobile/se/en/crank-brothers-mallet-e-pedals/rp-prod145541
garycrocker - on 05 Oct 2017
In reply to TobyA: I've ridden clipped in ever since the first SPDs were launched and now ride Crank Bros mallets on my full sums and dmr V8s on my hardtail (because I mostly ride that to work now). I never worry about dabbing or bailing with the mallets and the extra float they have is great for my knees. Also not had any problems with mud clogging and I off-road a lot in all weathers.

garycrocker - on 05 Oct 2017
In reply to DanielJ:
Yes. Awesome and a doddle to service.
Post edited at 23:13
neuromancer - on 06 Oct 2017
In reply to TobyA:

Basically, it will improve you as a rider but you will be slower.

You need some form of shin pad.
ChrisJD on 06 Oct 2017
In reply to neuromancer:

> Basically, it will improve you as a rider but you will be slower.

I kinda disagree with that. When you are in the fun stuff, flats will give you more confidence to push it. And if you do do dab, you are straight back on, no momentary faff clipping in or getting balance right. So overall, in the fun stuff, you can (will, lol) be quicker.

If you want to grind, buy a road bike :0)

garycrocker - on 06 Oct 2017
In reply to ChrisJD:
I don't find that at all with Crank Bros mallets. I can clip out virtually instantly and the platform pedal means I'm back on it straight away, barely think about clipping in and never hold back because of it.
neuromancer - on 07 Oct 2017
In reply to ChrisJD:

Confidence is subjective. Some people find not worrying about losing a foot through a steep rock garden more inspiring than being able to put a foot down marginally more easily on a slippy corner.

I've never not unclipped as fast as I want in about 6 years of riding and many crashes.

Clipless for the majority of people is faster. But it hides shit technique which is why I'm retraining flats.
Martin Brierley - on 07 Oct 2017
In reply to TobyA:

Another vote for Time Atac pedals. Mud has never been an issue and they just keep on releasing right until they get so worn out that you should have been replaced several years beforehand.
I have heard similar things about egg beaters.
You can remain attached to the bike if you wish!
joe.91 - on 07 Oct 2017
In reply to TobyA:
Why has no one used the term, flat pedals win medals yet?

Use both, flats for racing in the mud when a silly fall costs time, clips the rest. Clips much better for technical riding my feet fall over the place on flats, get a decent set of clips which aren't shimano. There's a reason why the most used pedal on the EWS circuit is the Crankbrothers Mallet...
Post edited at 10:15
colinakmc - on 08 Oct 2017
In reply to TobyA:

Just a wee update having had a couple of tries on my new Superstar Nano flatties. I’m liking them a lot! Means you can dab ultra easily, which improves (my) confidence going down anything sketchy, also easier to restart on steep hills ( at my age I find I’m doing that more...). I’m sure spd’s are better for lungeing about on the bike and going faster than the opposition but I’m never going to outrun my max heart rate.
So I reckon they’ll be staying on.
TobyA on 09 Oct 2017
In reply to colinakmc:

I bought some Nukeproof neutrons today. Haven't had chance to fit them yet, but will give them a go shortly. Will be interesting! Thinking about it, before I had SPDs I had toe clips, so it is sometime back in the 80s on my BMX when I last had just platform pedals.
ChrisJD on 09 Oct 2017
In reply to joe.91:

> There's a reason why the most used pedal on the EWS circuit is the Crankbrothers Mallet...


.... Yet who won the EWS 2017 series ...
jonnie3430 - on 09 Oct 2017
In reply to TobyA:

I've got dmr v12's and SPD's for mine and switch as required, I go SPD's for about 80 per cent of riding, but some, like Uber sketchy aggressive downhill, riding in for climbing routes, or mucking about in parks is best on flatties.

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