The Flat Pedal Revolution Manifesto: How to Improve Your Riding With Flat Pedals

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.

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  1. Tony says:

    Coach…I am on-board with flat pedals. While my trail riding here in WV may not be world class its also no bed of roses. This time of year the trail offers up wet tree roots, patches of slick leaves and downhills that are rain run offs. These and many other trail issues require me to make some pretty quick body adjustments to stay upright…flats let it happen.

    Reply • December 12 at 12:14 pm
  2. Jim Feuerstein says:

    One week ago I switched out the pedals on the trainer to flats. It felt good. So I tried it out on the trail (before the snow came to WI and covered our trails). I was not shocked how comfortable it felt. You did say it works. It actually felt like I was able to carve corners faster than I was in the past. That night at our annual club party I told some team mates that I made the switch. One of them is a reader of your blog and may also give it a try. All I can say is “Don’t knock it until you try it”.

    Reply • December 12 at 1:11 pm
  3. Reza says:

    Finally one article that explains the benefits and the transitional techniques to flat pedals. After reading your posts this past summer I switched to flats and haven’t gone back. It took me about 2 months to feel comfortable on flats. (It took that long for me to correct bad habits and muscle memory from riding clipless.) The hill climbing postion was natural and felt like a no brainer. The tricker parts was figuring out feet and body positioning during descents and jumps. During descents on rough terrain, there were many shin and back of the calf pedal impacts that SUCK with spiked pedals; so wear shin and calf guards. During jumps, I found that my feet left the bike all together which is not good if that was not your intent. So learning how to drop your heel/s or dropping the heel of your lead foot and cupping your rear pedal takes some time. I’m not sure if my technique is correct but I’m still learning. I definitely agree that riding flats is more fun, I feel that I can push the bike harder.

    Thanks for the article James!

    Reply • December 12 at 2:26 pm
  4. Great story here, excellent and true, good work.

    Reply • December 12 at 11:19 pm
  5. Wacek says:

    You could make a PhD out of that :D

    I always feel a big relief when I put some thoughts down, but then they start to haunt me, this and this doesn’t seem right anymore, I found this and this said in a better way, and I feel I need to do a synthesis.

    Good stuff, it really feels complete!

    Reply • December 13 at 1:34 am
  6. Steve DeMont says:


    After riding with SPDs for 12 years, I switch to flats (Grip Kings) two years ago, and haven’t looked back. In fact, I sold my SPDs a few months ago at a garage sale we had. The last time I used them was during a century ride, and after almost falling off my bike because I couldn’t get out of the SPDs fast enough, along with knee fatigue, and numbness in my feet, I decided to switch-out when I got home.

    Using flat peddles on my commutes and longer rides, I no long have any issues with fatigue and numbness. And I ride just as fast, and have just as good control over my bike as when I used SPDs. To each their own. But I prefer flats.

    Reply • December 13 at 8:55 am
  7. Jason Murray says:

    I’m on board. I switched to flats around the same time you started making noise about it? Reason? Because I felt my form was getting sloppy and I was using clipless to cheat. I was right. Took me a season to adjust, and now I’m just as fast (or slow I suppose) as I was before. My use of flats for XC is a talking point at group rides; having chrome DMC V8s helps. And I tell people the trust about pedals, that they don’t have to worry so much about clipless.

    Reply • December 13 at 9:11 am
  8. RennyG says:

    Flats put the Grin back in Mountain Biking! After one more clipless related bad crash this past summer, I decided to try flats and am simply amazed at the leap in confidence gain. Riding is FUN again not nerve racking. I am riding obstacles I was very nervous about in the past. Flats make me want to stand and pedal because of the improvement in foot placement and platform. I wish I had been steered in this direction long ago! My friends are giving me the hairy eyeball stare but I hope with time some of the more timid riders might be convinced to give it a try – thanks James for encouraging us all to try and to ride flat pedals.

    Reply • December 13 at 4:33 pm
  9. Erik says:

    The images on that PDF suck! I really can’t see what the hell you are trying to show with those illustrations. They need to be bigger and much higher resolution. Also, please pick a better font for the PDF. Helvetica or Calibri or similar.

    Sorry to be a jerk but the message is lost if people can’t read the images and the font makes them not want to read it.

    Reply • December 13 at 7:26 pm
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      I had the pdf ready to go with the larger pics but the file size was so large it took 30 seconds to download on a super fast internet connection so I decided to lower the res to make it easier to download. I recently updated the manifesto to include links to the higher res pics, try the newest version to access them.

      As far as the font, not sure what to say there. I’m a strength coach, not an expert in fonts and it seems a bit nit picky, almost as if you were looking for anything you could to complain about since you couldn’t find anything in the manifesto itself to dispute…

      Reply • December 14 at 3:05 pm
  10. Philp Madeley says:

    Hi James,

    It is not really clear when and what the advantages of being clipped are. You mentioned high level racing. I love biking on flats and racing XC on flats and I am curious if I should ever consider clips as I improve my skills and speed in XC competitions or is it really personal preference. Would being on flats be a disadvantage at some point in XC racing? Can you expand on what you see as the benefits of clips in high level racing.

    Thank You

    Reply • December 13 at 11:16 pm
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      With clipless pedals you don’t have to worry about your feet coming off the pedals so you can ride and pedal with more reckless abandon and not worry about slipping a foot and the stiffer soles can slightly improve power transfer and, while those things should only add up to couple percentage points improvement to what you can do on flats, at the highest levels those percentage points mean the difference between making a podium and not.

      However, what a lot of riders don’t realize is that there is a trade off and that the extra mental stress from being attached to your bike will probably make you slower in some situations so the gains aren’t as big as they think. I mainly add that in because I know that if I don’t then it gives people a “straw man” to hold up and attack instead of addressing the points I am bringing up. You may ride a bit faster with them but odds are it won’t be much and you won’t have as much fun until you get really good at using them.

      Reply • December 14 at 2:45 pm
      • Philp Madeley says:

        thank you, so far my feet seem to get more and more connected the longer I ride flats and it is rare for them to slip off the pedals, I will continue to oberve.

        Reply • December 15 at 1:33 pm
  11. Cam Scott says:

    Great tips, what about seat placement( forward- back ) in regardless to pedaling power and comfort, does the weighted string theory work here with flats with the ball of the foot slightly forward.

    Reply • December 14 at 1:02 pm
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      Seat placement matters little when you stand up and pedal more. Just put your seat where it is comfortable and stand up and pedal and all that other bike fit theory seems to take care of itself.

      Reply • December 14 at 2:38 pm
      • Dennis says:

        The saddle placement factors into the pedaling trajectory when you’re actually seated. Get a genuine analytic bike fit and find out what happens to the pedal trajectory when the saddle is out of place for the rider. In every case, the rider is being set up for repetitive motion injuries and being out of balance on the bike.

        I disagree with ” all that other bike fit theory seems to take care of itself”. I have my riding experience, injuries, $ spent and boxes full of enough spare bparts parts to build another ride that shows bike fit doesn’t take care of itself. I had the usual foot/shoe issues too until I learned I have a bio-mechanical ‘ism (and most of us do to some extent) that needed real measurement/analysis/correction I couldn’t do myself.

        I found that getting a real bike fit is worth the time and money. A bad/lousy bike fit followed by injury are likely to 2 most common reasons people stop riding in the first place IMO.

        I also have no opinion about someone choosing platform/clipless pedals as it’s a personal decision each rider makes.

        Reply • January 17 at 11:16 am
        • bikejames bikejames says:

          Thanks for the input but I think you may be missing my point, which is that when you have flat pedals and stand up more, preferably on all you hard efforts, you don’t have to worry about seat adjustments or other bike fit factors – standing up gets your body in a better postural position and the flat pedals allow your hips and legs to function better. Sitting down to pedal is a bad position to be in and not amount of bike fitting can change that.

          Now, for riders that do find themselves sitting down a lot – like roadies – a bike fit can have a lot of value. However, even then you have to make sure that you are don’t have some glaring movement issue that is the real cause of your problems and the bike fit is just trying to compensate for it. I did an interview with one of the top bike fit experts in the world and he said the same thing – fix how you move first, then worry about getting fit.

          However, for you average mountain biker who engages in 1-2 hour rides I seriously doubt the true value of a bike fit since you shouldn’t be sitting down all the time in the first place. Flat pedals and standing up more have helped a lot of riders decrease their aches and pains that bike fits couldn’t help so you may want to try it if you are still having some issues.

          Reply • January 18 at 11:22 am
  12. Matthew says:

    I’ve been looking through your site and I’ve seen a bunch of stuff on flats and pedaling with lots of helpful tips. I am sold on being able to pedal just as good with flats when compared to clips. But, where can I find tips on flats and bike control in technical situations. One instance is how to hop the bike up a big ledge using flats. There are other instances that require movement/placement of the rear wheel that have been easy for me in clips but I am having a hard time visualizing how to use flats effectively. Thanks for any assistance.

    Reply • December 18 at 9:59 am
  13. I ride with clips. Whats the deal? says:

    Hey. As a rider who rides with clipless, I don’t understand what it is you are trying to do. Are you trying to stop people riding clipless? Or just reassuring them that they don’t need to ride with clipless pedals? From the sounds of things, you are trying to get people to switch.

    The only time I ever used flats was for dirt jumping. You probably understand why. But I have never had a problem with confidence whilst riding with clips. When I have spills, my feet come out without me trying, but on demanding downhill trails they keep me planted and let me ride flat out without having to worry about my feet loosing their position.

    All in all, I think this is a petty thing, trying to make a change. I’m bored of all these arguments about pedals and wheel size, who has the biggest dick. You know… You make it seem like riding clipless is a bad thing, where all you had to do was reassure people that if they aren’t comfortable, don’t use clipless.

    Reply • December 21 at 5:05 pm
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      No, I am not trying to get riders who are proficient on both flats and clipless pedals to switch to flats. I am simply trying to…

      1) Dispel the myths surrounding clipless pedals and how they allow for a more efficient pedal stroke based on the ability to “spin circles” or “pull through the top” of the pedal stroke.

      2) Give riders tips and resources to help shorten the learning curve on flat pedals.

      3) Encourage riders who may not have ever spent much time on flats to use them to help improve their pedal stroke and technical skills. Clipless pedals can cover up bad pedaling and skill habits and flats force you to do things the most powerful and efficient way, which improves your pedal stroke and skills if you end up going back to clipless pedals.

      I am not sure why this is so hard to understand, I mentioned in the opening article of the Flat Pedal Revolution Manifesto that I am not against clipless pedals but I am against them being pushed onto new riders based on lies and half-truths and the advantages of flat pedals being dismissed. Both have their place and I am simply trying to help educate riders about the truth surrounding both systems so that can make better decisions about which is better for them.

      Reply • December 22 at 8:30 am
  14. Lawrence says:

    Dear James,

    I am a chartered physiotherapist who deals with patients with all sorts of orthopaedic problems including knee problems from cycling. Myself I am a keen recreational mountain biker (now aged 55) and former road racer/triathlete and time triallist. I have had menisectomies on both knees, but the most invasive operation was on my right knee so have less weight bearing surface on the tibia. Also have some wear on the back of my patella. All of this nothing too unusual for a cyclist and former runner/ triathlete who has put some miles in on his knees!!

    Over last two to three years I have been getting increasing knee pain on my right knee and I have always used clipless pedals for as long as I can remember – prior to that toe clips and straps. My discovery of how brilliant flat pedals can be was whilst at The Mountain Mayhem 24 hrs MTB race this year in the UK where the mud was literally shin deep! I happened past a Superstar bike stall prior to the race and thought it might be a good idea to whip the SPDs off and just pedal with the flat Superstar pedals and my walking shoes. So I bought a pair and put them on my MTB. Not only was I able to stay upright it was the first time in years that I had no pain whislt cycling or afterwards!

    Needless to say I have now converted all my bikes both MTB and road to flat pedals and use 5/10 impact shoes and I cannot believe how pain free I am and how much more power I can put in to the climbs as well as having amazing confidence on off road descents.

    Youe website is excellent and all that you say about flat pedals is so true and accurate. Flat pedals help your riding technique if you don’t have knee pain problems, and if you do have knee pain like I did, it not only eases your knee pain but equates to more power output too!

    What the flat pedal doubters are not realising is that whist SPDs allow lateral float this is about a fixed forward pivot point on the clip which is invariable and the rider can never adjust their foot position fore and aft, only side to side and I think that this is where a lot of the mecahnical problems come from with regards to patello femoral pain.

    So my advice to anyone with knee pain on SPDs that doesn’t go with change of seat post height, fore aft position of saddle and any other set up changes then switch to flats. Incidentally for a while I put pedal spacers on my SPD to alter the Q angle of the knee thinking that would help but it made no difference whatsoever until I just simply swapped the SPDs for flats.

    So there’s my experience of flat pedals and thanks for all your information on this website – it is a breath of fresh air!!


    Lawrence Baker MCSP SRP Dip MDT Chartered Physiotherapist

    Reply • December 27 at 10:01 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      Thanks a lot for sharing your experience and professional insight into this subject. I find that people that really know what is going on and not just what was drilled into their heads in school or at local trailheads tend to agree with my message. I’m glad to know that you came to this same conclusion and have seen similar results with riders you work with, it can literally save someone from quitting riding from pain.

      Reply • December 28 at 10:14 am
      • Justin says:

        I’m 42, and rode spd’s for 3 1/2 years just accepting knee pain as part of the price for having flat feet. In 2010 i switched to 5.10’s and flats, now it takes 4-5 hours of steady riding before the knee’s start complaining, and my confidence on steep/tech is up 110%. Full days at whistler, just fine!(no climbing)

        Reply • December 30 at 5:50 pm
  15. Dennis says:

    James, been riding Flats on my mtb with 5.10’s for almost two years now and love it, probably never go back to clipless.

    Recently got a road (flat bar) to ride when I cant make it to the dirt. Should I ride flats on it also, or clipless?

    Reply • January 3 at 8:39 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      I’d say to apply the same principles I talk about for mountain biking – use flats for most of your rides and use clipless to enhance your performance for competitions or important rides.

      Reply • January 3 at 9:41 am
  16. Joe Daddy says:

    Your manifesto should be required reading for every new biker whether they are buying a comfort bike or a FTB(Full Tilt Boogie) Road Bike. The 10 screws and 3 inch piece of stainless in my right ankle is testimony to your cause. Bike shops, friends and other riders typically put pressure on new riders to clip in. It is a rite of passage.

    I now ride with Bontrager mountain bike shoes with flat pedals on my Surly Touring Bike. To your point, I am finding my form is improving as I learn to keep my feet in the right positions. I rode for 1500 safe miles (Trek Navigator 3) with cages and thought incorrectly I was ready for the upgrade to Shimano M540’s. Three rides and 3 falls and I was done.

    Thanks again for your no-nonsense approach to bicycling.

    Reply • February 20 at 1:58 pm
  17. Billynair says:

    Finally someone who is not a trick oriented rider who still feels that flat pedals are “OK”! My friend’s daughter, Arielle Martin (the Olympic BMX rider) has used clipless for as long as I have known her and will not use anything else in her races. But, she will switch to regular pedals when she comes to the skatepark to ride. Knowing the pros and cons of all options is the only way to go. A Lamborghini is the “better” car vs a Jeep right? Unless you are rock crawling Moab… Know your gear and their restrictions and don’t be afraid to have fun in the face of people telling you how to ride!

    Reply • February 23 at 3:52 pm
  18. Ben says:

    I ran across your website today and found lots of great information. I
    ride flat pedals on my mountain bike. Currently I wear Merrel Moabs.
    While a comfortable shoe and seem to work fine for me (I haven’t tried
    anything else), they are not bike specific. Doing a search of your
    website for shoe options I found basically that 5.10’s are the only
    thing mentioned. The problem is that I need wide sizes and 5.10 does
    not offer wide sizes. I’ve tried shoes that “run wide” but they just
    don’t cut it (cause hot spots and pain). It would be great if those
    who advocate flat pedals would take a good look at a variety of shoe
    options. Even on the clipless side, Lake is the only shoe manufacturer
    that actually makes a wide size, so there isn’t exactly a wide (no pun
    intended) variety there either. Any recommendations on shoes for those
    of us who need wide size shoes, or just other options than 5.10’s?

    Reply • March 13 at 4:29 pm
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      Have you tried on 5-10’s before? I know the Impacts in particular run pretty wide. If you haven’t tried them before you can order a pair through and if you don’t like them for any reason in the first year you can return them.

      Beyond that it is tough because no one else uses the sticky rubber that 5-10 does. If 5-10’s don’t work then it just comes down to finding a comfortable shoe with a flat sole and no lugs or deep grooves so you get max contact with the pedal. They don’t have the be “cycling specific”, they just need to meet that criteria.

      Reply • March 14 at 9:55 am
      • Penny says:

        I feel Ben’s pain even though I have the opposite probem. When I tried of the biking shoes by 5-10 it was like wearing clown shoes, even the women’s sizes. Thank goodness for all these web stores that allow free shipping and returns. I went through 7 pairs of shoes before I found something that fit my narrow, low volume foot.Teva makes the “Links” which is also a mtb specific sticky sole shoe. Teva Links in a kid size (even though I wear a ladies 7) is what worked for me, and they have a full range of men’s sizes. Adidas has one style, also. The 5-10 “Guide” which is actually an approach shoe has a very flat sole which might work, too. In short, there is more out there than just 5-10s but you really have to look for them.

        Reply • May 6 at 2:20 pm
  19. Justin says:

    I am also a former BMXer who never got the clipless thang. I tried it for a month and I found myself riding scared. In that month I fell more than I did in a year. When I got back to flats it was like heaven, I felt free again. I could see some benefits to clipless but not enougth to justify the downside. I tried egg beaters and was told I shoulda tried SPD’s because I could adjust them. I would consider a pedal that was flat on one side and clipless on the other. I would clip in only on uphills or flat sections. I have seen a few sets but none of them seem to be of a high enough quality. Since I’m one of a few to ride flats, my friends are impressed with the results I get. They say how much better could I be clipped in and I say not much.

    Reply • March 19 at 4:51 pm
  20. Luke Terry says:


    My buddy Jeff is in your program, and he sent me some links to your articles. As a student of biomechanics and physiology, I have been intrigued by your concepts, so I picked up a set of flat pedals to play with pedal stroke & foot position. I’m an old BMX rider too, so I thought it would be cool, after almost 20 years of riding SPDs, to get back on flats.

    It was OK. It turns out I can bunny hop just fine and do a lot of finesse work without the SPDs, but I do miss that “hooked in” feeling of the cleats & my form-fitting Sidis.

    However I did notice that I could engage my posterior chain in a much more efficient fashion. Those muscles were not used to sustaining strength endurance like my quads are! It was a wakeup call for sure. So I do want to train into that, and see if I can get my posterior chain to have as much strength endurance as my anterior chain. My glutes and hams are plenty strong, they just don’t sustain the power like my quads can–but that’s 20 years in the making!

    So I do want to have the advantages of a midfoot pedal axle position, but with the luxurious feeling of my Sidis and the great hooked in position of the SPD cleat/oedal.

    I’ve been doing some research, and I hit upon the idea of a “midfoot” cleat, and it looks pretty promising, based on some initial ideas. There’s a roadie guy, a very eclectic German dude, who is making midfood cleat position shoes. Here’s an article describing it, which squares a lot with what you’ve said about foot position and engaging the posterior chain:

    Also, here’s an old post from Joe Friel (!!) who talks about the benefits of a midfoot cleat.

    So I’ve got an old set of Duegi shoes that I kept as spares, I”m going to Frankenstein them into a midfoot cleat shoe. I will keep you posted on how it works out for MTB riding.

    Keep cranking & thanks for the great blog. I will be recommending it!

    Reply • April 22 at 10:02 pm
    • Sevver says:

      Hello Luke,

      I want to try the midfoot cleat position on MTB. Have you tried?
      What is your feedback?

      Thank you

      Reply • February 11 at 4:22 am
  21. Luke Terry says:

    Whoops, left out the Joe Friel link:

    Reply • April 22 at 10:03 pm
  22. BillJ says:

    Hi James,
    I’m an experienced xc now AM rider (clips for 25 years), tried flats for a season 5 years ago and about to swtich back again for a go (somewhat influenced by your manifesto – Thanks). I’m now on a Mojo HD (180/160) riding up and down, with the odd shuttle thrown in. Going to try the Freerider VXi (on order) or the Impact 2 (have pair nib) and trying to decide on a pedal to order(without being able to try first). I’d like to ask a couple questions please…
    1. Any follow up to the Oct 15 VXi review (i.e. still using them or a production version)?
    2. What are your thoughts on Canfield Crampons Ultimate vs something like the HT AE-o3? (i.e. specifically on the slight convex 5 – 10 – 5mm, vs flatish at 11 mm, and any comments on durability for AM riding – du/du vs du/bearing). Thanks – I enjoy your site and analytical objectiveness!

    Reply • April 24 at 10:51 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      Thanks for checking out the manifesto and the blog. I still like the VXI shoes although the pair I have wore out and so I rock the regular Freeriders most of the time now. I am not a fan of the convex pedal design, it is an attempt to solve a problem that doesn’t exist (the need to pull up on the pedal) and I’ve found it really makes my feet cramp, but that is just my experience and opinion.

      I ride the Deity Decoy pedals and like them, they are pretty thin and reasonably priced. Most mid- to high end pedals are pretty durable, you mostly run into trouble at the budget end of the spectrum.

      Hope this helps…

      Reply • April 24 at 11:34 am
  23. Great manifesto. I am going to refer to this when I’m fielding flat-pedal criticism in the future.

    Reply • April 25 at 12:34 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      Glad you liked it. Giving riders a reference was exactly why I created it – to give flat pedal riders the info they need to combat the myths and half-truths being pushed onto us by the clipless pedal mafia.

      Reply • April 25 at 2:39 pm
  24. Jim S says:

    Perhaps a silly question, but I’m not a flat pedal rider (but seriously considering it)…I’ve noticed several comments about dangers to the shins. How? What scenarios? I’m just not able to envision that type of injury, not doubting just not clear how it’s happening (someone even mentioned stitches, yikes).

    Reply • April 30 at 3:28 pm
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      At some point you will slip a pedal and it slam you in the shin. The better you get at keeping your feet planted the less you will slip a pedal and there is an “art” to getting out of the way when you do slip a pedal so eventually you don’t need to worry about it but at first you should wear some light shin pads. Even if you do hit your shin it is rare that you need stitches but even then, I’d rather have stitches in my shin than a cast on my wrist or arm because I fell over when I couldn’t get unclipped.

      Reply • May 1 at 6:38 am
  25. Stan Priddis says:

    I have just stumbled across your very interesting blog. I am not a MTB rider, hope that will not bar me from getting a reply.I agree with all you say about flat pedals which I have always used on my road bikes and my upright trike.Because at my age (83) I decided to get a more comfortable seating arrangement and obtained a recumbent trike. The advice is to use clipless pedals to stop the feet from slipping off the pedals because of the high position of the pedals. My question is, would 5-10 shoes do the job equally well?
    Many thanks for all your writings.
    Stan Priddis (UK)

    Reply • June 21 at 8:47 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      I have to admit that I don’t know. I would think that they would help a lot compared to shoes with regular rubber but I’ve never ridden a recumbent so I can’t say for sure if they would totally solve the problem but it might be worth a shot. wish I had more helpful advice, if you do try it let me know how it goes so I have something to refer to if I get this question again.

      Reply • June 21 at 10:02 am
  26. Todd Chamberlain says:

    I have been riding my whole life and have never considered going clipless. I never liked the idea of being locked in like that. It is nice to see that my intuition has been confirmed. Thanks for a great article.

    Reply • June 21 at 11:19 am
  27. Gregory Landry says:


    I just started riding flat pedal on my own and happened to fall on
    your site. I’m using the cheap pedals that came with my Trek Mountain Bike, which I love, but the pedals are are not wide enough for my wide feet which fall outside the pedal and the pedals have poor gripping.

    I can’t seem to find a place on your site recommending a flat pedal with a wide platform. So, I made the plunge and bought the DMR Vault Pedals which were pricey.Hope I made the correct purchase.


    Reply • June 28 at 7:41 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      Most flat pedals that come with mountain bikes are pretty cheap pieces of crap. Any upgrade will be a good one. Make sure you get some flat pedal specific shoes like the 5.10 Freeriders or the Teva Links, good shoes will make an even bigger difference in how secure your feet are.

      Reply • June 28 at 9:00 am
  28. Rogriss says:

    Wow… Sometimes the internet surprises me with studies about stuff I did instinctively for years. Some of my friends still roll their eyes when thinking about going bike shoe shopping with me. “Nope, too rigid! No… Rubbers too hard!” ;)

    Reply • July 5 at 2:27 pm
  29. Gabriel says:

    Hi there,

    I just purchased a good pair of flat pedals (
    ) and my concern is what shoes to take?

    I had a look over 5.10 but i dont like them since i do alot of XC and
    those shoes doesnt fit with my competition jersey and pants.

    I just searched over and over and i think i found 2 models which are
    looking good and are a good quality:

    1. SIDI free time – im not sure if they are good for using on bike (

    2. Specialized Tahoe – im not sure if they are good enough for platform pedals

    Im waiting your opionion and thank you for your answer.

    Reply • July 6 at 2:45 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      I’d recommend getting a pair of flat pedal specific shoes and not worrying so much about the fashion aspect, you will perform so much better with real flat pedal shoes that it won’t matter how you look. Take a look at the Teva Links and the Nike 6.0 flat pedal riding shoes as well, you might find something a bit more to your liking but that will still perform like you want.

      Reply • July 7 at 9:59 am
  30. Staffan says:

    Im new to xc mtb riding but have bin riding trial bikes and the motorsport trial since I was 5 years. When I got my mtb I was told that spd/clipless was the only way to go and thats what I bought. But I feel that the foot position on the pedal don’t feel right to me. I was also told that seated peddling is the way to go( this sounded strange since Im used to trials and we don’t even have seats). After listening to your podcast I bought your no gym training program and I am thinking of switching to flats for a months and give it a try.

    I was out on my bike today still on clipless but when it was time for climbing I would stand up earlier then normal and I got over the climbs faster. Instead of trying to beat the climb sitting down all the way. This for me felt a lot better.

    I figure that maybe the % loss in efficiency won’t affect me that much since I’m not aiming for high level xc competition. And if I just train to get stronger on flats I will have more fun and less pain.

    I will order a set of five-tens and flats today. I will let you know my progress in a month!

    Reply • July 13 at 6:45 am
  31. Winston says:

    I agree with what many mentioned about using both types of pedal, but from my experience I have had more injuries than with flats clipless. I’ve used most of the time the flats and so I have stopped having accidents but injuries in my knees, ankles and hands have been less. The last time I gave a somersault and the less I worry was not to be caught on the bike. Unfortunately had some damage but no consideration.
    The flats I use are a pair of Wellgo B81 and Pirma SUV flat pedal riding shoes.

    Reply • August 2 at 11:09 pm
  32. Mark says:

    Tremendous amount of helpful info on this site. Last week I raced the Leadville 100 MTB on Wellgo mg-1 flat pedals and Teva Links shoes. I really did not focus on anyone else intentionally but I did not see another racer on flats. At the start and on the course I heard comments regarding my pedal choice – most were surprised but a few were digging it. I finished in 11:13 and I will say the pedal choice was not a hindrance at all.

    I tried the clipless thing for a while but did not like how my knees felt or the “locked in” aspect of it so I now ride exclusively on flats. I also do a lot of triathlons on flats as well and routinely place in my age group.

    I do occasionally get the feedback that I need to clip in so I can pedal circles and be more efficient. My response is that I feel more comfortable, and therefore more confident, which translates into a better riding/racing experience.

    Thank you James for having this site as a resource for me and others.

    Reply • August 15 at 11:21 pm
  33. Eric says:

    I really enjoy riding flats but I cannot seem to find a shoe for winter riding that is warm and water proof. I would hate to switch to clipless for this reason. Any suggestions?

    Reply • October 16 at 4:44 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      Not sure about any cold weather specific shoes but I usually use my 5.10 Impacts in cold weather with some warm socks.

      Reply • October 18 at 3:23 pm
  34. Dave P UK says:

    Hi James. This is a really interesting website. I am currently trying flats (albeit with spikes). My riding is commuting in towns and longer touring rides on roads. I’m assuming from a similar post earlier that the same principles apply in that you would suggest trying flats also for this type of cycling?

    Reply • November 13 at 9:30 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      Yeah, I think that clipless pedals are only for high performance purposes like racing and don’t belong on any other bike for any other reason. You can pedal just as well with flats and you’re knees and hips will thank you for it as well.

      Reply • November 14 at 10:32 am
  35. Pete says:

    Do you lump clipless flats like Five Ten Minnar or Maltese Falcon in with the stiff soled clipless XC shoes like Specialized S-Works Trail ? Seems like the clipless flats are for DH racers.
    I’m considering switching to flats to help reduce knee pain.

    Reply • November 22 at 9:47 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      While some clipless pedal shoes don’t have super stiff soles, even those shoes mention have the cleat placed too far forward and you end up with the axle of the pedal too far under the ball of the foot, which needs to be in front of the axle. Remember, through, that the point isn’t which is “better” but what is the best use for each and flats make better training pedals. Use clipless for competition purposes if you want but riding them 100% of the time is never a good idea.

      Reply • November 22 at 11:01 am
  36. I feel better able to apply english to the bike with clipless pedals. I also pull up pretty hard, particularly on a SS, sometimes pulling out of the SPD, even with the tension at max.

    Different strokes and all, but some riders say they feel that with the proper flat pedal and shoe combo they feel more connected than with clipless, that is great, but then we are just splitting hairs.I feel like some are saying that I am cheating using clipless.

    James thanks for presenting a balanced open minded view of this.


    Reply • December 21 at 11:45 pm
  37. Oh yeah, can we get the option to get notifications via email to follow posts or answers to our questions?

    Reply • December 21 at 11:47 pm
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      There should be an option to get notifications when you post a comment, to be honest with you I’m not sure how that stuff works and would have to refer to my web guy for that.

      Reply • December 22 at 3:40 pm
  38. Phil says:

    Hi James,
    Great info about flat pedals.
    In my 20s, I only used flat pedals on my road bike and cycled for miles and had no issues with knees etc. In fact, it made cycling up very steep hills in the glens very relaxing – you could tap down if needed and start off again ;-)
    Recently had clipless as seemed the norm, but moving back to flats again now.
    With regards the pedals to choose – thinking shimano saints mx80 as seems to use the same bearings as their touring pedals. For shoes, thinking i like the specialized shoes for comfort so thinking pair of RBX road shoes but keep the sole intact –
    My thinking was these pedals would be shimano quality, lower pins, and the shoes would be similar to what have with regards arch support and are quite stiff so wont feel the pins under my feet.
    Alternatively, could go for the 5-10 freerider shoes.
    whats your thoughts? any recommendations?

    Reply • February 6 at 9:20 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      You want a softer, more pliable sole with less arch support than what you get with clipless pedal shoes with flats. Your foot is able to move more naturally that way and reduces wear and tear on the joints. I’d recommend a pair of the 5.10 Freeriders, they are a great trail shoe to use with flats.

      Reply • February 6 at 1:32 pm
      • Phil says:

        Thanks James, Ill give them a go.
        Liking that they do Elements, might be useful given the rain we get in Scotland! hehe

        Reply • February 7 at 4:33 am
  39. Brian H.S. says:

    Hey James

    I have been wondering about something. As the only one in my group of riders, I ride flat pedals – and love it. I have never tried clipless and I do not plan on trying it. However, I do want to try the Absa Cape Epic at some point, and I have not seen anyone using flat pedals while riding the Cape Epic. Do you believe that it would be possible to finish the Absa Cape Epic in flat pedals?

    I have talked to many friends about this and they all say that I will lack the “pull”-effect that could really give me that extra bit. What is your thoughts? I just really need some evidence or some pro-meaning about flat-pedals and finishing the Cape Epic.

    Hope you can help me about.


    Reply • March 26 at 1:34 pm
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      The problem with their argument is that the “pulling” effect from clipless pedals is a myth. The charts in the Flat Pedal Revolution Manifesto clearly show that you can – and should – pedal the exact same way on clipless pedals as you do on flats.

      I know of several people who have ridden epic stage races on flats and did just fine. Just because no one else does it doesn’t mean it can’t be done, or that it isn’t even a better way to do it. You don’t need clipless pedals and certainly not for some mythical pedal stroke that doesn’t really exist.

      Hope this helps, I know it is hard to not fall for the constant pressure to switch to flats – which supposedly doesn’t exist according to the clipless pedal folk who cry foul every time I bring it up – but the truth is that you can ride just as well on flats and avoid a lot of overuse injuries and other issues.

      Reply • March 27 at 10:05 am
  40. Johnny H. says:


    Your latest podcast with AP has convinced me to go flat on my single speed. I am almost always standing and only on the very steepest of climbs do I use a very aggressive pedal style where I pull up as well as push down. But those sections are rare enough to let that go.

    First question – do you think SS is a good application for flats.

    If so, can you give me a few set up options like thrifty mans version, medium, and the ultimate. I will probably go medium then if it sticks graduate to ultimate.

    I live in the CO Front Range and ride a lot of the Jeff Co trails which are generally climb out and descend back to the start with some rolling around in between. I really like uphill technical challenges and am looking forward to testing myself all over again with flats.

    Thanks much, John

    Reply • April 13 at 7:11 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      Glad you like the podcast and it convinced you to give flats a try. They are good to use for all types of riding, including SS. As far as price on set-ups, I’d just suggest getting a pair of 5.10 Freeriders and descent pair of flats in the $75-$100 range. That will get you on flats for around $200 and while you can buy more expensive pedals I’m not sure that they make much difference. Make sure you read and watch the video in the Flat Pedal Revolution Manifesto about pedal and shoe selection.

      BTW, there is no where on the trail you should be pulling up on the pedals, it is a bad pedal stroke that you have learned because you were told it was “right”. Just focus on a powerful downstroke and you’ll tap into your authentic movement which is more powerful and efficient.

      Reply • April 14 at 8:52 am
      • Johnny H. says:


        Thanks for the response. I read the manifesto – nice work and set me in the right direction.

        The specific pulling up I am referring to is a SS specific situation. With SS, as I am sure you know, the most efficient way to ride getting top of the pedal and letting body weight provide force to the pedal. As it gets steeper gravity alone will not get the job done and I will have to employ upper body inputs to turn the pedals over.

        When it gets too steep, like I should be walking steep, then I have used a circular pedaling stroke where I push down and pull up while standing. Without this I will not have enough force from gravity and upper body inputs to bring the other pedal around past 12:00.

        Does that make sense?

        Reply • April 16 at 12:48 pm
        • bikejames bikejames says:

          I understand what you are talking about but it is just another myth about the pedal stroke – your hips bring your foot down through the bottom of the pedal stroke and past that 12 o’clock position. Check out this video to see why there is no “deadspot” in your pedal stroke and that your hip extensors are the best way to pedal all the way through and not your hip flexors.

          Reply • April 16 at 1:33 pm
          • Johnny H. says:

            Thanks much for the video.

            On last (hopefully) question – this might be stupid, but I have to ask > what kind of socks does one typically wear with five tens? I have a whole drawer of Pearl Izumi thin socks that I run in my Sidis.

            Thanks for entertaining my goofy question.

            • April 17 at 11:31 am
          • bikejames bikejames says:

            I wear regular riding socks like you would with any other riding shoe. And don’t worry about the questions, since the MTB industry does such a poor job of educating riders about flats there are no goof questions.

            • April 21 at 8:50 am
  41. Carol says:

    Hi James, I love that I stumbled on this site. I used to be an avid cyclist and I’ve always used flat pedals. I rode everywhere, to work, etc. I love riding. However in the last 2 years, I have gained some weight, and after one of my pedals fell of my bike and I took a tumble, I have had this silly fear of slipping on the pedals. I have lost my confidence on the bike and it’s driving me crazy. I miss riding but when I do, I feel like at any minute I’m going to slip off the pedal or when I’m standing, I feel like my leg is going to buckle and I’ll slip. I used to ride with no hands even, and I can’t do that. The bike wants to tip over. Can weight gain cause this? I’m 57 and very healthy and active. I don’t know where this came from. Any advice?

    Reply • April 17 at 8:13 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      Sorry to hear about your accident and the problems it has caused. I would recommend checking out the Manifesto and in you’ll find all sorts of tips including shoe, pedal and foot placement tips that will make you feel more stable.

      Reply • April 17 at 9:28 am
  42. Philip says:

    Went on a group ride on Thursday and this lady new to mountain biking was in clips and on first night ride… she fell off before we even got on the trail and then again on trail and banged knee and had to return… it is crazy that she was recommended to go clipless by the bike shop when getting her new bike!!! Thank you for your work…

    Reply • May 11 at 12:42 pm
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      Sad to hear that this crap is still going. Oh well, we’ll just work on one rider at a time…

      Reply • May 13 at 8:58 am
  43. Tim says:


    I have read your Flat Pedal Revolution Manifesto and agree that all Mtb’ers should learn to ride flats before switching to clipless. There are numerous basic trail skills such as bunny hopping & step-ups that are far more essential to trail riding enjoyment than pedalling efficiency (assuming a novice cyclist will not have correct pedalling technique).

    I also think people make the mistake of cranking up the tension on the mtb pedals when they do switch to clipless, which is probably the main factor in ‘anecdotal’ injuries and crashes caused by using clipless pedals.
    I have always ridden both pedal types (with equal number of crashes), and I have always set my clipless pedal tension (even on the road bike) so that I can pull my cleat out if i’m in any real trouble, and for this reason alone I do not like CrankBro’s pedals because in my experience you cannot just pull your cleat out without twisting.

    Anyway, I was wondering what your thoughts are on the placement of cleats (i.e. forefoot or midfoot) in terms of muscle recruitment during pedalling and practical application for trail riding or xc racing?


    Reply • May 14 at 4:58 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      Always mid-foot. The problem with putting the cleat under the forefoot is that pedaling uses a foot action more similar to a squat or deadlift and not running or jumping. Putting the axle of the pedal a little behind the ball of the foot allows for better hip recruitment and overall balance on the bike, which far outweigh any theoretical power you generate from being able to extend the ankle.

      Check out this podcast I did with a bike fit expert who shares a lot of my views on how movement applies to the bike, it has a lot of great info and he goes into why you want to always have your foot in the mid-foot position no matter what pedals you use or type of riding you do.

      Reply • May 14 at 9:19 am
  44. Tracy says:

    Me too! I also learned, painfully, to ride clipless because I was told it was the thing to do. James’ comments on flats made me curious. Spraining my ankle one day when my narrow, stiff shoe rolled over as I stepped off my bike (and having to ride out with a duct tape boot on it) got me to try them. It took a bit to learn how to use my feet to stick to the pedals (I found it scary not to be clipped in initially) but the clincher for me was when I had to send my 5-10s in for warranty and put the clipless pedals back on. I had a significant increase in pain and swelling in my knees(I’ve had an ACL repair) immediately with the clipless pedals. Thankfully, 5-10 took care if me and I had my shoes, and flats back in a week!

    Reply • June 6 at 12:57 pm
  45. Christine says:

    So i am debating putting flats on my new MTN bike. Purely to increase confidence with regards to falling often going downhill. I have been reading relentless debates on the topic. My specific question is related to hip pain. All i read as par as pain is eliminated knee pain here. When I read about technique with flats and sticky shoes people are saying you use way more hip muscle and need to stand to climb. Any information specifically to hip pain and stresses to the hip joints using flats? FWIW I have had hip replacement surgeries.

    Reply • July 7 at 2:33 pm
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      While every case in different, whenever you allow the foot and lower to move more naturally it places less stress on the hips. You don’t need to stand a lot to enjoy this benefit, you simply just need to use a flat pedal and shoe. Standing up more is something that helps this but the overall message is to not strap your feet in all the time since your feet were not meant to be in the same place every time they touch your pedals or stay in the exact same place the whole ride. Your foot and body need slight variations in the movement to keep the system healthy, including the hips.

      Reply • July 7 at 3:05 pm
  46. Christine says:

    Makes sense I just read a few posts with folks saying it took more hip strength to climb steep with flats. I understand your theory about movement and have had Speedplays on my roadie for years so I get max movement clipped in. I don’t have any friends using flats so I am going to break the trend if i make the change. Also this means no direct input/advise from someone who knows how i ride. Thanks for your reply. I am on the fence.

    Reply • July 7 at 3:34 pm
  47. Simon Bosman says:

    I’ve been riding mountain bikes for about 30 years or so.Starting with”basket”pedals to”power” straps and on to spd type pedals.Having raced at an elite level most of the time.About ten years ago I decided to put the time into learning to ride platforms.It took a few months to get the basics down and started to really enjoy them.Breaking the mindset of trying to pedal in circles was tough though.Pedaling in squares is a fair description of my pedal stroke now.Push across the top of the stroke with the heel down.Feet never bounce off the pedals.I am an all around better rider now, no question.When one’s feet come off the pedals it’s telling you that your weight isn’t on the pedals.

    Reply • July 16 at 8:48 am
  48. Scott says:

    What about seat height using flat pedals vs clipless. It seems to me you need to lower it. Is the heel on pedal method still works? or how much lower do you go. Otherwise I went to flats on mtn bike then lowered the seat almost 3/4 inch from road bike setup and wow got tons more power. Kind of like you dont walk on your tippy toes why should you bike on them

    Reply • July 31 at 7:27 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      Since flat pedals have you use a more mid-foot position than what you typically use with clipless pedals you will need to lower the seat some. But this is actually better because, as you’ll read in the Manifesto, you don’t want to be on the ball of your foot on your pedals anyways. Seat height gets over-hyped anyways since you should be trying to stand up more when you mountain bike, which makes the whole seat height thing a moot point. Find what is comfortable.

      Reply • July 31 at 1:22 pm
  49. Brad says:

    Ok Fine! I’ll put on some flats. But I’m only putting them on my backup bike. I am not subscribing to clipless snobbery theory. I just think you have to be insane to ride with flats. My god the broken shins and ankles. Honestly I can’t think of a single time I’ve crashed and wished I had been on flats. However, I see your point that perhaps clips made me lazy. The feeling I get while climbing and cornering that something just isn’t right, that I’m a bit “off” has been nagging me for a month or so. Actually, a search for cornering efficiency and technique led me to your site. So I’ll try flats. But I refuse to like it!

    Reply • August 7 at 8:05 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      Glad to see you decided to try them out. I promise it will make you s better rider on clipless pedals as well. If you like them your secret is safe with me.

      Reply • August 8 at 7:54 am
  50. Stephen Zetich says:

    I call bull shit on this flat pedal myth. I challenge ANYBODY in a race going up ANY HILL. You will lose!

    Reply • September 20 at 7:05 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      I’m afraid you’ve missed the point of the Manifesto, perhaps you would like to read it and answer the points made in it. And I beat plenty of riders uphill who are clipped in…in fact I often have to explain to them how I can climb so fast on flats. It isn’t about flats being better, it is about understanding the real value of each system for mountain biking.

      Reply • September 21 at 1:13 pm
  51. XRAYDELTA1 says:

    Wow, as usual…some people’s kids…cursing and making faces, getting all uptight….Oh well. Right on James, I see how you are hanging. Making sure people understand that they don’t HAVE to get into clipless to TRULY enjoy MTB; and vice versa….trying clipless is not a sin. Thanks for a mellow point of view, informing people that they have a choice to try either; and OH NO they also have the choice to change back…Down with those who trade freedom for rigid idiocy! Keep on trucking James.

    Reply • February 12 at 3:22 pm

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