Manifesto (noun): a written statement declaring publicly the intentions, motives, or views of its issuer.

The Flat Pedal Revolution Manifesto is the result of a long and unintended journey. As a strength coach with a passion for mountain biking I never wanted to become a leader of the Flat Pedal Revolution, much less put together this manifesto for the cause. However, it is a cause that I have embraced and feel is worth fighting for.

Click here to download the Flat Pedal Revolution Manifesto

At the heart of this revolution is a fight to debunk the common myths about the value and drawbacks of both flat and clipless pedals, especially for new riders. Everyday mountain bike riders are told by people at bike shops and trail heads that you can’t pedal nearly as efficiently or effectively without clipless pedals. Plus, every magazine and website you read has countless ads and articles touting clipless pedals and shoes, reinforcing the message that they are essential to mountain biking bad assery.

I know this because I’ve experienced it firsthand. When I started riding mountain bikes I was told that I needed to get into clipless pedals ASAP – only beginners and downhillers used flat pedals. I saw the charts showing how I needed to be attached to my pedals to allow for the most efficient pedal stroke. Although I was having fun and making progress on every ride I also felt that I was somehow holding myself back by riding flat pedals.

Eventually I decided to take the plunge and try clipless pedals. I spent hours practicing getting in and out of them but I could never get my left foot to cooperate to the point I felt comfortable on the trail. After falling over at a stop sign because I couldn’t get unclipped I figured I would have died if that had happened on the trail and decided to go back to my flats – they were way more fun and less stressful.

I figured I would take flats as far as I could and switch to clipless pedals when I felt that my pedals – and not my fitness and skills – were holding me back. After more than 10 years of riding I’m still waiting for that day…

These myths also keep a lot of riders trapped using clipless pedals despite the fact that they don’t like the mental stress of using them. I get emails every week from riders thanking me for “giving them permission to try flats” (their words, not mine). They tell me how they have rediscovered their passion for the trail because of flats, otherwise they might have simply quit riding. Plus, they all report no decrease in speed on the trail, simply more fun and less stress.

Over the years I’ve not only seen how well you can perform with flat pedals – both with myself and with other amazing flat pedal riders I have met – but I’ve also come across a lot of information that explains why that is. This info debunks the common myths surrounding the pedal stroke and how clipless pedals supposedly enhance it, shedding new light on a subject that is still misunderstood by the vast majority of riders.

My hope is that this Flat Pedal Revolution Manifesto will serve as the jumping off point for a lot of thought and conversation about this subject. I created it as a resource for both myself and other riders to point other riders to quickly get them up to speed with core principles of the cause – flats can make you a better rider in some ways, just like clipless can make you better in others. Knowing the facts about each is the key to being the best rider possible.

As the only resource in the world that both debunks the common myths surrounding the pedal stroke and gives essential advice to help riders improve their performance on flat pedals I hope that those of you who are already part of the revolution will point your friends and riding buddies to it when they ask why you wear flat pedals.

If you are reading this because you are curious about flat pedals and haven’t tried them yet I hope that this info will give you the confidence and tools you need to take that plunge. Once you see that there is no magical pedal stroke only allowed by being attached to your pedals you’ll be shocked to find out just how fast you can be on flats.

So, in conclusion, remember that this is not about flat pedals being better than clipless pedals, it is about understanding the real value and application of both systems specifically for mountain bikers.

Being pro-flats isn’t the same as being anti-clipless and misapplying either pedal system in the name of blind ideology isn’t helping advance our sport as a whole.

Click here to download the Flat Pedal Revolution Manifesto

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

MTB Strength Training Systems

p.s. I need to ask your help get this information to the riders who need to hear it. Please post it on Facebook, Tweet it, post a link to it in the mountain biking forum you frequent – anything that will help spread the word about the Flat Pedal Revolution. Like any true revolution, the only way it can be won is to work together on a grassroots level. My voice is nothing compared to our collective voices and this is information a lot of riders around the world need and are looking for.

4 thoughts on “The Flat Pedal Revolution Manifesto: How to Improve Your Riding With Flat Pedals

  1. Joshua Thumim says:

    Hi – thanks for all that information – I have one question: if the optimal position of the foot on the pedal is not obtainable using clipless pedals, doesn’t that mean that actually flats are objectively better? Sorry if I missed something in your paper where you covered this.

    • bikejames says:

      The more I look into this and learn about the foot and how it best interacts with the pedal the more I think that flats are better than clipless pedals, especially when you use a pedal like the Catalyst Pedal that balances out the forces going into the pedal. Of course, people think I’m crazy for saying that but it is my conclusion based on the science and movement principles I have seen.

  2. Ted Goodwin says:

    I’ve written mountain bikes since the early ’80s through toe clips clipless and flats. I’ve recently started writing flats for one simple reason The ability to be able to put a foot down when needed many times on tight switchbacks where I thought I could make it being clipped in would result in a crash
    I ride two different bikes one with flats one with clipless and it found no decrease in my performance with the flat pedals. Flats have given me a new confidence in areas where being clipped in and a fall, even in slow motion, would have resulted in an injury. I have therefore found myself riding through things I wouldn’t have attempted being clipped in

  3. Dara Parsavand says:

    I enjoyed this article and your comments on the Absolute Black chainring (which I’m now thinking of getting). I wonder if you have considered another alternative to flat and clipless – one I have been riding since around 2000 after I had a fall that hurt my hip a bit when using Eggbeater pedals on my MTB: plastic mini toe clips. I can’t believe this idea isn’t more popular because I find that it:

    1) is extremely easy to get out of – I can put my foot down anytime I want.
    2) isn’t that hard to get into – I can usually get in on the first try and if I don’t and mash the clip on a rock and break it (yet to happen), they aren’t expensive to replace
    3) keeps your foot in an optimal fore/aft position – without them which I occasionally do when I borrow someone else’s bike, I find my foot slides too far forward and I don’t like that pedaling position.
    4) on bumpy downhills, the mini clips keep your foot on the pedals just enough to make it less likely your feet pop out (and leg scraping the chainring which happened to me once).

    I’ve used Mt. Zefal and some off brand clips – doesn’t matter who makes them – it doesn’t get any simpler for a bike component.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *