6 Tips for Making the Switch to Flat Pedals

When discussing flat pedals with riders I get a lot of questions about how to make the switch. Clipless pedals let you develop a pedal stroke and technical skills that rely on the attachment point and once you take that away you have to figure out another way to move. Here are some things to keep in mind when making the switch to flat pedals:

1) The number one thing that you have to keep in mind is that there is a learning curve with flat pedals. Although it is short (most people report feeling fine within the first 2-5 rides), you will spend some time learning to smooth out your pedal stroke and keep your feet planted on the pedals. This is a classic growth vs. fixed mindset scenario – if you know that you can learn to ride flats then you will be less likely to get frustrated by the learning curve.

2) When riding flat pedals you have to avoid “trying it out” by pulling a pair of pedals off your neighbors Wal-Mart bike and throwing on your old running shoes. Just as with clipless pedals and shoes, you get what you pay for and trying to ride a trail with the cheapest option possible will never be fun. Invest in some good flats and shoes or else don’t try it at all.

3) When looking at pedals you want to get a pedal with a wide platform (I like the ones that extend to the outside edge of your foot), thin profile and good pin placement. While you don’t need the whole thing covered, you do want at least 3-4 pins on the front and back edges and a few in the center as well. Also, pay attention to the axle material vs. the type of riding you’re doing as they will bend.

4) With shoes, at this point it is 5-10’s or nothing. Skate shoes just don’t cut it – the sticky rubbed used by 5-10 on their shoes is unlike anything else on the market and will keep your feet planted in a way no other shoes can. While other shoes are available with sticky rubber, none of them are MTB specific and made to protect your toes and provide some cushioning should you slam a heel into the ground.

5) If you don’t have a shop near you that carries 5-10’s then try Zappos.com. They have a great return policy so you can order a couple of sizes and keep the one that fits or even return them altogether after a few rides if you hate them. I personally use the Impact 2’s for most trail riding, although I own a pair of the Freeriders and love to wear them when cruising around town.

6) As stated previously, there is a learning curve to using flats and so you will want to wear some light weight shin pads to protect your legs. Keeping your feet planted on your pedals will require you to stand more and to actively “ground” your feet into the pedals, two skills that will take time to develop. In the meantime, just get you some bright yellow shin pads and freak people out on the trail…oh wait, that’s what I did. You don’t have to go with yellow but you will freak some people out when you blast by them on a climb with your flats and shin pads.

-James Wilson-

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  1. Laidlaw says:

    Regarding #4, pick up a pair of the Teva Links or Pinners. They are not as sticky as 5-10’s (intentionally), and after 3 weeks of riding with them, I don’t think I’ll ever go back to 5-10’s for mountain biking.


    Reply • October 21 at 12:31 pm
  2. Wes says:

    You don’t need to 5.10’s. While they’re a market leader there are other good mtb specific shoes for cheaper. I’m rocking a pair of Shimano SH-AM40’s that feel excellent, although I haven’t tried 5.10’s so I cant offer my opinion on those.

    Reply • October 21 at 5:59 pm
    • bikejames says:

      You’re right, you need 5:10’s but I’ve found the sticky rubber is hands down grippier than anything else. I use and recommend them but there are other good options.

      Reply • October 22 at 6:55 am
  3. James,
    I both rock climb and mountain bike. I’m switching to flat pedals…I ordered them a couple of days ago. Question: is there a 5.10 model of shoe that might work for both climbing approaches and with flats? Any advice?


    Reply • October 21 at 10:18 pm
    • bikejames says:

      You can use the approach shoes from a good brand and be fine. The sticky rubber on the bottom of the shoe is what you are looking for and I have a friend who wears his approach shoes on trail rides.

      Reply • October 22 at 6:52 am
  4. cookie says:


    I’ve been riding clips for about 10 years and have been forced to wear normal “shoes” due to a foot injury. While I have been riding the MTB using flats I’m really struggling to have the confidance to do jumps and really flow on rough sections. Any tips on these techniques?>


    Reply • October 23 at 3:23 pm
    • bikejames says:

      Drop your heels and ground your feet into the pedals. It just takes some practice but you’ll get used to it.

      Reply • October 24 at 1:05 pm
  5. electric says:

    From the other post: Don’t forget it will take 10x the level of commitment and time you budgeted to get it right!

    Reply • October 23 at 8:41 pm
    • bikejames says:

      Good point, it will take more than the 1 or 2 rides most people anticipate to get them down.

      Reply • October 24 at 1:06 pm
  6. Larry says:

    Hi all,

    I’m down with the footwear suggestions. My big concern is shin protection from the pedal pins. Can I get some recommendations?

    On behalf of my shins and reduced injury I thank you.

    Reply • July 17 at 8:17 pm
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      I have to be honest, I haven’t used shin pads is a while and so I don’t have any specific recommendations. If you can’t find something at you local bike shop to try check with a motocross supply store, they have plastic shin pads that work well for MTB as well.

      Reply • July 18 at 1:53 pm

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