6 Tips for Making the Switch to Flat Pedals

Here are some things to keep in mind when looking at riding 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. Paul says:

    Great tips! I’ve recently swapped over to flats after 15yrs on SPD’s…and can relate to the transition. Luckily I did all of the above without thinking about it! Got to love the 5 10’s!! WOWZERS!

    Reply • October 4 at 2:35 pm
  2. Rick Beauchamp says:

    Ditto on the 5-10’s and Zappo’s free shipping and free return shipping. Got my Sam Hill Impact 2’s the next day. These are great shoes and so comfortable to wear while riding, with the stiffer sole they are not real good for walking in. The learning part comes from having to lift your foot, it sticks so good to the pedals. I have the Kona Wah Wah’s and are just as James said they should be, wide with a good placement of pins. Have ridden with them on a few short rides since I got them and have a 40 ride coming this weekend so will know how they are for an all day ride.

    Reply • October 4 at 5:38 pm
  3. Jeff says:

    I bought some Gusset Pinhead pedals and ended up really liking them. They are not your normal $25 pedals they stick really well to 5.10s are very light and don’t bend or flex like the cheap plastic pedals. They seem intended for DJ and BMX use so seem like a good pedal to learn on and abuse. I know they are a little on the scary cheap end of the scale and I a was hesitant to recommend them because of that but honestly they are quite good.

    Reply • October 5 at 10:19 am
  4. Tim says:

    I’m thinking of trying platforms but haven’t found the right pedal yet. I was using some Crank Bros mallets with clips but we have a LOT of rocks on some of the trails out here in vegas and I was getting a lot of pedal strikes. I swithced to the Crank Bro Acids and love them. They are a bit more narrow so I don’t have as many problems but can anyone suggest a fairly narrow platform pedal?

    Reply • October 8 at 10:35 am
    • bikejames says:

      The Kona Wah Wah’s are pretty thin. The Canfield Brothers make a super thin pedal as well. You will have to alter your pedaling style slightly and get used to where you can and can’t pedal but once you get it down you won’t smack your pedals very much.

      Reply • October 11 at 9:54 am
  5. Frode says:

    I personally prefer the Shimano AM 40 shoes. The Vibram sole on these is super grippy! I think they’ve even got a slight edge on the 5.10s, because of a better rubber pattern. Also, they come with an optional inlay sole to adjust the shoes stiffness, and the thinner sole help for a more direct contact feel than the 5.10s. They are a bit fugly though.


    Reply • October 11 at 1:51 am
  6. Jorgen says:

    James, you’ve almost converted me … 🙂 I’m looking at either the Freerider, Impact 2 or Karver shoes, which are available for shipping to Australia from CRC. My main purpose is XC with a bit of technical downhill, rock gardens. I’m on a 29er, the GF Hifi Deluxe. Which would you recommend?

    Final thing will be to nail down the pedals, I haven’t started researching those yet..

    Reply • February 3 at 6:21 pm
    • bikejames says:

      Man, just buy any pair of 5:10’s (the Impacts are highly recommended if you are riding full on DH) and decent pair of flats in the $50-$100 range and get going already. Nothing to really analyze there – all 5:10’s use the same material for their soles so it all comes down to looks and no one has cornered the market on “must have” flat pedals.

      Ready, Fire, Aim – get going and then worry about the “perfect” set up later. Hope this helps, just trying to light a fire under you to just do it so you can start enjoying the benefits…

      Reply • February 5 at 8:19 am

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