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Pedals and flats

Hi, looking for other folk's experience in getting used to different pedal systems.

I've been riding road bikes for over 40 years, initially using the tortuous horrors that were toe clips and straps. As soon as I saw Look's clipless pedals I jumped ship and have used various brands and styles since, having become quite happy with both Time and Shimano.

I have fairly recently started mountain biking, mostly trail centre stuff, but really struggle with flat pedals and grippy shoes. The pedals are Nukeproof horizons and shoes are 5 tens. Things are grippy but I never quite feel I get my feet in the correct position on the platform. I've also had a few, let's say, scraped shins.

Obviously I could swap out for spd pedals but I'm not sure I'm comfortable enough in being able to get my foot out quick enough if I need to compared to a flat pedal. Possibly a common beginner's problem?

Are Candy bros clipless fast releasing and any different to spd or pretty much the same thing?



  • mully79mully79 Posts: 904
    I would say you have to actively learn to ride flats. It doesnt come naturally unless you come from BMX.
    Weighting the pedals by pumping in the right place, using heels down etc are all techniques to learn and practise until you no longer shred your shins.

    Clipless mtb pedals can mask bad technique but make good technique more efficient. I never had any problems crashing with clipless or taking my foot off.

    The worst situation was always on the steep/rocky descents where it is almost impossible to get clipped in once you have stopped/crashed/dabbed. Clipless shoes have no grip whatsoever when not clipped in. For me this is the reason why I ride flats.
  • wilberforcewilberforce Posts: 293
    I am with Mully on this one.
    I always used to shred my shins and calf’s with flats (DMR pedals and 5-10s, but with practice and the better technique, scrapes are now much less frequent
  • oxomanoxoman Posts: 11,735
    Hi Manky, I started with flats on a hybrid then plastic toe clips then went to a road bike and I fitted spd,s I fitted spd,s to my mtb after about a couple of years on flats. I ride trail centres on spd,s all the time now, the only times I've regretted using them is on the ardmoors enduro and doing some natural trails in the peak district. I use SPD,s for MTB, cyclocross and gravel riding, road and touring and also duathlons and TT,s. I'm not good enough to really warrant both types and plus I like to be able to walk normally. As mentioned above hone your skills first then consider clip in pedals. Just ride with them adjusted to minimum setting. Hope this helps you decide.
    Too many bikes according to Mrs O.
  • mankybianchimankybianchi Posts: 117
    Thanks for all the input.

    I understand the need for practice so I think I'll persevere for a while yet with flats. I'll see how I go.

    Funny how such a small thing in one sense can be so alien - clipping in puts you in the same position every time so I haven't really had to think about it for decades (except when replacing shoes) but suddenly having no definitive or automatic position for my feet, I'm sure they are close to the correct position but by being out slightly is enough to cause my brain to react to it.
  • steve_sordysteve_sordy Posts: 2,438
    You might have to change your shoes!

    I started mtb on SPDs and got on fine as a beginner. And then I went on a 3-day guided ride in the Yorkshire mountains (!) I discovered that I could not clip in fast enough on steep climbs, I couldn't unclip fast enough when my foot was at or near the top of the stroke. Once when I fell off and into a gulley with the bike on top of me, I couldn't unclip at all!

    So I switched to flat pedals and Shimano 510 shoes. They solved the previous problems but gave me new ones. Like @mankybianchi I could not seem to get my feet in the right place first time. The grip from the 510s was so high that when I tried to move my foot I could not shuffle it into place. Instead I had to lift my foot clean off the pedal and reposition it. Easy to do when stationary or moving on a smooth surface, but impossible at speed careering down a rocky slope, or pedalling uphill. When the winter came, I discovered that not only were my 510's not waterproof, but they soaked up water like a sponge. They weighed a ton and took ages to dry out!

    So I bought some Shimano AM42s. These were waterproof and did not soak up water, but more importantly and this was a huge and unexpected bonus for me, the sole had less grip than the 510s. While still providing all the grip I needed, the composition of the sole was slightly harder which enabled me to shuffle my foot into a better position if required. Perfect. My second pair are currently about worn out and about to be binned. Sadly, Shimano don't make the AM42 anymore, but they do make similar versions and with the same composition sole.

    As for using flats, keep your heels down and buy some combined knee & shin guards! Or use ordinary footballer's shin guards. They got me through the early learning period, otherwise my shins would be a mess of scar tissue by now.

    I kept those SPDs and shoes and until recently I used to use them on my hybrid bike for when tootling about the local villages.
  • mankybianchimankybianchi Posts: 117
    Ah, I have experienced the same effect of being unable to shuffle into a better position. I think that grip come across as the most important feature in many shoe reviews and thinking about it, it can't really be the case where 5-10s are top notch and nothing else comes close or is worthwhile even though I suspect their grip isn't really that far behind.

    I might consider a shoe swap actually. And I've just done a quick search for combined knee/shin guards - wow, they seem like overkill! Not sure I could get away with them. Funnily enough I had pondered footballer shin guards.
  • mully79mully79 Posts: 904
    Do you try to pedal between corners when riding downhill ?
  • steve_sordysteve_sordy Posts: 2,438
    edited May 2021
    Shimano are not stupid and I would like to believe that they deliberately opted for a slightly harder compound for their shoe soles. But I suspect that 510 have a patent.

    There are all sorts of knee&shin guards. There are those designed for hard core downhill where you might expect to meet pointy rocks at 40mph. There are those for less demanding routes where the most you might meet is brambles and nettles (nothing wrong with that at all!) and everything in-between. But they all protect against pedal strikes to various degrees. The key thing is to wear them when they will do most good. For heaven's sake do not be put off wearing them because you class yourself as a beginner. It is as a beginner that you most need them! I talked my self out of them early on when I should have been wearing them and I have the scars to demonstrate how foolish I was. Once I started wearing them I never stopped.

    I pedal between corners when riding downhill, if I'm not going fast enough. I'm not counting the half stroke to get the downward pedal on the outside.
  • webboowebboo Posts: 6,067
    5:10 shoes use Stealth rubber developed for rock climbing shoes.
  • mully79mully79 Posts: 904
    I should have asked do you always pedal between corners going downhill ?

    A lot of cyclists assume that the only way to go faster when mountainbiking is by pedaling and end up going slower, while getting beat up trying to keep their feet on the pedals.

    Try not pedaling once you get some speed up and just concentrate on line choice, weighting the pedals and flowing.

    Why outside pedal down ? Good in flat corners but you maybe giving away huge amounts of speed by losing the opportunity to pump through the corner.
  • steve_sordysteve_sordy Posts: 2,438
    mully79 said:


    Why outside pedal down ? Good in flat corners but you maybe giving away huge amounts of speed by losing the opportunity to pump through the corner.

    I was replying to the OP who is new to mtb. As far as corners go, downhill or not, I do what is appropriate at the time. That may mean rolling through with the outside pedal down, flat pedals, pedalling or pumping.
  • mully79mully79 Posts: 904
    Fair enough Steve. I just wanted to make sure that was clear.
  • mankybianchimankybianchi Posts: 117
    I think there's a lot of minor adjustments I need to make when going from road to MTB.

    I've been reading various posts on other forums and one poster pointed out similar problems to mine by simply noting that he needed to place his foot more mid position rather than his usual more forward position with road clipless. I tried this today and can note a slight difference in weight distribution.

    I'm comfortable moving around on my road bike, letting it move around under me over rough ground but my MTB is bigger, longer, heavier and feels quite different. So, much to learn.

    Thanks for the help.
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