Clipless Pedals: Enhancing Performance or Covering Up Dysfunction?

Better is a relative term, especially when talking about artificial means of performance enhancement. The mistake people make is assuming that because something improves performance it must be better and therefore you want to use it all of the time. The fact is that equipment can either enhance good technique and fitness or cover up technique and fitness gaps and there is a huge difference between the two. The first will let you tap into your own abilities even more and the second will lead to plateaus and overuse injuries.

In mountain biking this is seen in the rampant use of clipless pedals but ours is not the only sport that has this problem and we can learn something by looking at the parallels between our situations. In fact, the best analogy to explain this concept is the use of a weight belt when squatting or deadlifting.

Using a weight belt will help you lift more weight, which technically makes it “better” from a performance point of view. However, anyone who knows anything about strength training knows that you don’t use a weight belt all of the time. You save it for when you need it but, on average, 80-90% of your lifts should be without it.

Why is this? If a weight belt is “better” then why do the strongest guys in the world not use it all of the time? The answer is because they know that you must build your technique without it so that you keep yourself honest and do not start to use the belt to cover up technique flaws. Watch someone who really knows how to squat and his technique will look the same with or without the belt and his best raw squat (using no belt) won’t be too far behind his squat while using a belt.

Compare this with the average gym rat who uses a weight belt for everything. It doesn’t take a highly trained strength coach to see that they their technique sucks and if you took the belt away and exposed their pathetic core strength they wouldn’t be able to squat nearly as much. Most of us would agree that in this case you are better off building your technique and fitness “raw” and using the equipment to enhance that base.

In fact, most sports have specialized equipment that is “better” than normal training equipment but they only use it to get used to it and for competitions. Track has racing shoes, swimming has special suits and I believe that clipless pedals belong in the same category – equipment that does enhance your performance but not something you should be using all of the time since they can be used to cover up technique flaws.

The truth is that you should be able to ride a bike relatively well with some good flat pedals and shoes. In one study (Mornieux et al. Int J Sports Med 2008; 29:817-822) it was found that the pedal stroke of elite cyclists looked the same on flats and clipless pedals. Another study (Korff et al. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2007; 39:991-995) showed that pedaling in circles or pulling through the top of the pedal stroke resulted in a less powerful and efficient pedal stroke –  in other words, there is no “magical” pedal stroke that is only available by attaching your foot to the pedals.

If you can’t pedal half as well without being attached to your pedals then that is a sure sign that you would benefit greatly from some time spent riding “raw”, so to speak, and building your technique and fitness base without the aid of being attached to your bike. Once you can ride almost as well on flats as you did on clipess go back and try clipless pedals again and I’ll bet you see a big difference in how effectively you can use them.

It is always a good idea to go back from time to time and spend some time on flats, just to keep you honest. During the off season make sure you do your indoor intervals with them since you can’t really practice clipping in and out anyways. During the riding season at least spend a couple rides each month on flats as a way to check your technique and make sure that you aren’t developing any bad habits along the way.

The dirty little secret is that the best riders are already in this category – take away their clipless pedals and they would still be the best in the world. They are using clipless pedals to enhance their already great technique, not make up for the fact that if their feet weren’t attached to the pedals they would fly off on every climb or rock garden. Training “raw” is a lesson that every sport has learned and we would benefit from not trying be at “100%” all the time and developing our technique and fitness base without the help of artificial enhancements. Clipless pedals are “better” in some regards but with that knowledge needs to come the perspective on how to best use them.

-James Wilson-

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  1. WAKi says:

    That was one of best articles on flats vs clipless topic. But at the same time your a bit more “aggressive” posts are also needed from time to time. It’s good to see that you dig through the subject so honestly. The right arguments come up all the time. Keep it up!

    Reply • November 14 at 5:43 am
  2. SDTRI619 says:

    great article. would this apply to road bikes as well?

    Reply • November 14 at 12:51 pm
    • bikejames says:

      I would say so, I can think of no reason why this concept wouldn’t apply to cycling across the board.

      Reply • November 14 at 12:56 pm
  3. Msswitchback says:

    Hey James, are you able to identify the “bad habits” that you say are covered up by the use of so-called clipless pedals?
    I was interested to see the Nikolai vid and my first impression is that the position of the pedal spindle was way back (compared to clipless pedals which seem to sit under the ball of the foot) encouraging whole of foot kind of grip over the pedal. These are very skillful riders and I marvel at the way they stay attached to their pedals even in the air (or certainly when landing).

    Reply • November 14 at 4:59 pm
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      Yeah, if your feet fly off the pedals then you have some bad habits. That is not to say that your feet should never come off with flats but if you can’t pedals up a reasonably technical climb or make it through a rock garden without your feet coming off your pedals then you have some bad habits. You should be powering your movement by driving down into the pedals, not pulling up on them or your bike and when you are attached to your pedals you can get away with the “pulling up” instead of “driving down” way of moving. Humans are designed to push better than pull and clipless pedals allow you to develop a “pulling” riding style while flats force you to learn the “pushing” riding style.

      If you had never tried clipless pedals you would have learned how to ride like this, it is actually the natural way to power movement. You’d probably be shocked at how quickly you’d pick up flats if you gave them a few solid weeks of effort.

      Reply • November 15 at 9:21 am
  4. John (aka Wish I Were Riding) says:

    I don’t have a road bike, but I’m thinking of getting one. (Though it will be more upright and “Rivendell~ish” than racer.) This weekend I rode a loaner road bike with some flat pedals and my sneakers. It went surprisingly well, though I didn’t do much standing climbing, because the bike’s too small for that. Do you think riding on the road for base miles all the time with flats, and riding clips in the dirt would give me benefit? Or do I actually need to ride dirt with flats to learn better?

    Reply • November 14 at 9:10 pm
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      While that would help with your pedal stroke it would not do much for your trail skills. Being able to manual, corner and stand up through rock gardens are skills you need on the trail but never use on the road (hence the prevalence of “road riding on dirt” to appease the roadie invasion of our sport, but I digress). I would use flats on the road bike but would make some time to work on your skills as well, either in a parking lot somewhere or by getting out on the trail, preferably both.

      Reply • November 15 at 9:23 am
  5. Judd says:

    I can say from experiance that this is completely true. I rode clips for years even when riding downhill. I tried riding a couple times on flats on my demo a few years back and went right back to clips because I couldn’t keep my feet on. This year I dedicated the majority of this season to flats and everything has changed. I ride 3 times smoother. Where I used to loose my feet on my demo I have no problem on my enduro. I switched back to clips the last month and I notice right away when I start getting lazy with the clips while cranking. I will spend a lot more time training on flats from now on.

    Reply • November 15 at 3:47 am
  6. David Seal says:

    Okay, so you say that you should be powering a bike by pushing down, and not pulling up on pedals. Isn’t the desire to have a smooth, continuous stroke and therefore power delivery the whole reason for clipless pedals? This is the first place I’ve seen where someone purports to say that we should do the stomp-stomp method of pedaling and that by reverting to it we will be performing better and not worse. I can’t claim to be a cycling coach, but is this supposed to be very dry satire?

    Reply • November 15 at 10:47 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      I’m far from the only coach saying this – Andrew Coggan, author of Training and Racing With a Power Meter, had a presentation in which he sighted two studies that showed driving hard with the lead leg was more powerful and efficient than pulling up on the pedals or spinning circles/ keeping even tension on the pedals. Here are the references:

      Mornieux et al. Int J Sports Med 2008; 29:817-822 & Korff et al. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2007; 39:991-995

      There is a growing number of coaches who are starting to question the old ideas about powering a pedal stroke and are now coaching a “stomp-stomp” type of pedaling. The idea is not that crazy – how do you run? Stomp-stomp, not Pull-Pull. Your body is designed to power lower body movement most effectively through the stomp and these two studies found that top cyclists where indeed pedaling that way.

      The old advice was based on attempt to decipher the pedal stroke through riders descriptions of what it “felt” like, not actual movement analysis. Now that they are looking at how these riders actually move they are finding something much different than what most coaches teach. Unfortunately you are going to have a lot of coaches who will fight to maintain the status quo so they don’t have to admit they were honestly mistaken and change how they do things. You still see people using machines and jogging on treadmills in gyms despite reams of data showing much more effective ways and this is what is starting to happen to the “keep even tension on the pedals” idea.

      Reply • November 15 at 11:09 am
      • Jesse says:

        Just wanted to mention that while it is referred to as the “stomp, stomp” method, it is still very possible to get a smooth pedaling action. Its the best of both possible worlds (using flats) in that the hips and hamstrings become more engaged in the pedal stroke (stomp) making for much more efficient body movement(provided that you have good foot position on the pedal, unlike that of being clipped in) With practice the stomp, stomp action becomes very fluid in order to maintain grip on loose technical climbs.

        The point of having the best of both worlds needs to be made. It is entirely possible to maintain a smooth pedal stroke using flats. You just have to to try and practice to find out. Quality and efficiency…

        p.s. keep up the greatness James!

        Reply • July 5 at 7:04 pm
        • bikejames bikejames says:

          Good points, thanks for sharing.

          Reply • July 7 at 10:03 am
  7. Joe says:

    I tried clipless when I first got my mtn bike and found out rather quickly, it was a bad idea. Got flats and never looked back.

    Do you want to ride really FAST ? Ride for several weeks (solo), with your flats. Stand and pedal as much as you can.. or as much as your body will allow. Don’t be too discouraged at first 20 minutes is tough to stand and pedal uphill with flats. You’ll get tired quickly. You’ll think.. heck I’m tired. Of course, doing James combo drills helps alot as well.. but aside from that;

    Then one day when the weather is nice… show up Saturday morning at your favorite trailhead with your riding buddies.. but put your clipless pedals on. LOL. You’ll leave them in the dust.

    On the other hand, If you would prefer to plateau very quickly. just keep riding clipless….

    Reply • November 15 at 11:49 am
  8. Peter says:

    Sorry but I can’t agree. There are too many other variables that are not being addressed. Road bikers that really seek a competitive edge have their bikes custom fit. Taking into account seat height; handlebar reach; width of handlebars. Mountain bikers generally don’t seem to be concerned with true “fit” issues. You see them on the trail raising and lowering their seats at will. If we are going to be truly concerned with human power / performance / efficiency envelop we have to consider the entire picture, holistically.

    I have a friend who used to ride in excess of 16,000 mi / yr. for the Russian National Road team. When he is on a Mt Bike climbing it’s amazing. Like an electric motor. His bike is fit for him and he is clipped-in. He convinced me. I spent the $210 bucks and had my Mt Bike fit and I now out climb kids half my age—and I never lower my saddle.

    Reply • November 15 at 3:18 pm
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      I totally disagree – bike fits are over rated for trail riding. Lowering your seat is the #1 thing you can do to improve skills and balance on the trail and you should be standing up more on the trail. Mountain biking is not road riding on dirt and bike fits do not have the same carry over that it does to road riding. Bike fits are another thing that tends to be covering up dysfunction in more rider than it is really improving performance – if you have any mobility or strength deficits and don’t address them before getting “fit” all your fitting is your flaws to the bike.

      Using flats is holistic – if you don’t use the body as a unit your feet fly off the pedals.

      Reply • November 15 at 5:56 pm
  9. Different Joe says:

    I totally agree with the benefits of riding without clipless petals. Something to add to this discussion is the example set by Trials riders like Ryan Leech, who have to master proper balance and stability techniques and never use clipless. Most of those riders have incredible trail riding skills ‘by default’.

    Reply • November 15 at 7:41 pm
  10. Jim says:

    All I know was that when I changed over to flat pedals (about 3 years ago) after riding clipless for 15+ years, my lower back pains went away after about 2-3 weeks. Plus, it’s just more fun riding flat pedals. I’ve also becaome a lot smoother too and try things that I would do before and make it. Unless, you are actually in an XC race, there is no need for clipless pedals. You can always go back. I threw mine on once this year for a really long xc ride on the continental divide trail. It’s just like riding a bike, you don’t forget. So you have nothing to lose by trying flat pedals, but you have a lot to gain.

    Reply • November 15 at 11:17 pm
  11. ED BIRCH says:

    hi james, one problem. i am a total convert to platform pedals; and reading your blog today, i get the feeling you are saying “train with flat pedals, ride/race with clipless”? is there a dis-advantage to racing with platforms?……ed

    Reply • November 16 at 1:25 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      Technically speaking the attachment point and stiff sole do offer better power transfer to the pedals but the truth is that, if you have a good pedal stroke, it is not that much. When you factor in the mental stress of being clipped in, a lot of riders find they are actually faster without them. I just need to make the concession that if you want to use them, clipless pedals can be “better” for racing but the truth is that you need to be a high level rider to really appreciate it.

      Reply • November 16 at 7:06 am
  12. James k says:

    When I started riding mtb as a 12 year old, all I could afford was cheap flats, but the majority of guys I ride with now grew up on spds, it’s clear to me that they rely on them for locating their feet as on the rare occasions they try flats they are all over the place, and can’t hop etc. I tend to use my clipless pedals for long Enduro rides as I find they help preserve some energy, but after having some painful crashes due to not being able to “dab” if a tyre loses traction I cant ride with the same confidence that flats give me.

    I believe they do help dramatically for that feeling of power, I use a single speed road bike to train on, and there is a hill that on flats I can only get 3/4 of the way up before i really can’t get any more power out, with clipless however I fly up it, being able to pull up slightly really helps. would you say that is highlighting the benefits of clipless or a poor. technique, or both james?

    Reply • November 16 at 1:47 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      At the highest levels of effort they can provide help so maybe that hill is at that farcend for you but I would venture to say that some deadlifts and kettlebell swings would get you up that hill faster than the clipless pedals 🙂

      Reply • November 16 at 7:09 am
  13. Jason says:

    Great write up James. I thought from your previous write ups that you were totally against clipless but now I see that isn’t the case. I have always ridden clipless and I am about to try flats to try and fix a knee issue I am having. As for the road bike I think I will stay clipped into it. I always get a laugh at all the people that comment comparing road cycling to mountain biking. Its like comparing football to soccer. They both use a ball but totally different other wise. To be a good mtn biker you have to get out of the roadie mindset and vice versa.

    Reply • November 16 at 3:40 am
  14. Vincent says:

    Funny that you give the reference to Mornieux et al. to justify that the movement should be push-push.
    Because they seem to say that pull-push is more efficient in a more recent study:

    I quit clipless years ago and ride only flats everywhere now. This has had a great effect on my style and
    technique, but anyway I have to say that sometimes when it is steep uphill I miss pulling on my pedals!
    In my opinion, the real advantage of flats is the fun you get out of it!!

    Reply • November 16 at 3:43 am
  15. WAKi says:

    One thing to drop regarding turning in circles. Just talked to my roadie step-sister, one of the best in Poland (nothing really special but still whe deals with a kind of “pro” trainers that are found all over the world). She’s just been to physiotherapist, specialized with helping road racers. He told her she has overgrown quads as for a road racer, she must be pushing down too much. So I asked, what isn’t your coach giving you tips on how to ride, and technique lessons? The answer was no, she said she never ever came upon a single thing like that, all they talk about is putting mileage in specific intensities, nutrition, and race tactics.

    Then another example from Polish top ten, this time XC. Talked to a guy once, does he have a coach – sure no coach no top ten, training program, everything. I was impressed by his skills, riding super steep sketchy stuff with high saddle, so asked him whether he trains his skills. Answer: no, just with friends if we have time, I train only on a road bike.

    Iam having more and more trouble understanding where are those “specialists” from pedalling efficiency coming from, as is seems that even on national level – no one cares, probably knows nothing about it. I wonder whether these are really coaches having anything to say in that topic, OR just 90% clipless shoe manufacturers an 10% “sport performance labs” making their living on measuring such stuff.

    Reply • November 16 at 9:12 am
  16. nicolas says:

    Hello James, I found this (and many articles more) really interesting, I really like the way you reach into conclutions, very proffesional and impartial. The fact is that I´m from Argentina and I would really like to translate some of your articles and post it on another website, ALWAYS quoting the source. Where I live (Argentina, and particularly my own region) DH is a very (I mean VERY) amateur sport and I think articles like this could really help develop the sport. I´m looking forward to your answer…

    Reply • November 16 at 10:32 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      Of course, please feel free to translate and use any of my articles, please just link back to I really appreciate your help in spreading the word…

      Reply • November 16 at 7:03 pm
  17. Peter says:

    If I may draw from my personal experience. Once, during a race, I was descending a long steep technical single track trail. The top of my seat post broke leaving a jagged edge. My first response was to remove the seat post. Descending more on the trail, I realized that I had lost lateral / balance control of my bike. Stopping again, I re-installed the seat post wrapping a rag that I had in my tool bag, around the top of the seat post. This brought back the control and allowed me to finish the race.

    With more than twenty years experience Mt Biking; and I don’t even own a road bike. Riding without being clipped-in is just plain unnerving. To reiterate, I can out climb, out maneuver on technical single track kids half my age. I do real well descending, though I’m not that interested in high speed.

    Reply • November 17 at 9:52 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      I hope you take this the right way but if you can’t ride without using your seatpost for lateral control or without clipless pedals you have a lot of really bad habits. You may be doing alright with them but the fact still remains that using your seatpost for control and needing to be clipped in is not a good sign of your underlying skills.

      This is something I argued with a buddy of mine for two years about – he refused to lower his seat because he said he needed it to help him control his bike. He was trying to get into the more aggressive side of trail riding and I kept telling him that his seat was screwing up his ability to control his bike whether he knew it or not. After gaining a nickname based on his penchant for slamming into the ground and breaking both wrists from getting tossed over the handlebars thanks to his seat being too high he finally consented and starting getting his seat out of the way.

      The results were a marked decrease in crashes and no season ending injuries since. He also used to clip in for “control” but gave that up pretty quickly as riding with a group of guys who really knows how to ride flat pedals destroys all of the myths about needing to be attached to your bike.

      He is now a much better rider and preaches the flat pedals-lowered seatpost gospel to other riders. He thought he was a good rider and having fun before but he now sees that he was actually holding himself back by relying on his seatpost and clipless pedals for control. I’m not judging anyone and if you want to keep your seatpost up and use clipless pedals that is fine, just please know that what you described is actually a sign that the chance for some major improvements by getting out of your comfort zone and forcing yourself to learn how to ride “raw”.

      Reply • November 17 at 10:11 am
  18. Peter says:

    James you might like to know that the serving isn’t allowing “replies” so that the thread can remain contiguous.

    Reply • November 17 at 9:57 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      Not sure why that is, I am planning a major overhaul of the site in the near future…

      Reply • November 17 at 10:02 am
  19. Phil says:

    I learned to ride squeezing the seat and so when I first began to experiment with dropping my seat I felt very insecure and out of balance. Several times I tried this and would stop and at least put the seat back up some to help me out. Once I began reading about riding in more athletic position (attach position) I realized it could not fully be done without the seat out of the way so I began trying it again. The more I did it the more I found that if the seat was up I was less confident and more vulnerable to being thrown over the bars or off balance. As I mentioned in the last post you did on flats I did one of Gene’s camps this year and bought a dropper seat post. Now if I get caught in a hairy situation with the seat up I hate it. Actually just before I got on line I was reading some notes from Gene’s camp. The first line in his section on descending body position reads…”Stand, lower your seat, so you can be independent of the bike (not squeezing the seat).

    Reply • November 17 at 2:58 pm
  20. Mike says:

    Hi James,

    You’ve probably seen this but just in case – Grant from Rivendell shares your views

    (long term lurker first time poster)

    Reply • November 17 at 4:15 pm
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      Thanks Mike, I have seen that post before and the only thing I would say is that I feel that every rider, racers included, would benefit from some time on flats…although I understand the need to draw a deep line in the sand so that riders understand that the needs of hard core racers and more casual riders are different.

      Thanks again for sharing, please feel free to post some thoughts or comments on future posts.

      Reply • November 20 at 9:50 am
  21. Eric says:

    I started riding clipless on a full rigid bike many years ago. I started with flats, then toe clips, and a friend destroyed those for me, and I rode flats for a bit. Admittedly they were composite caged, not very high quality. On a long, very bouncy downhill, I bounced so much that my feet nearly slid sideways clean off the pedals. I often glance down at my chainrings as a habit and seeing that scared me. I immediately went out and got another set of toe clips and promptly switched to clipless soon after. I have been riding platform clipless now for about 8 years, and I tend to clip out a lot. I have also had trouble getting clipped back in, and thusly careened through many a rock garden with only one foot clipped in. I do find it uncomfortable, but you raise an interesting point. I plan to invest in a remote lock telescoping seatpost next, but I think a nice pair of concave flats with adjustable set screw pins would be a worthy purchase.

    Reply • November 18 at 12:44 pm
  22. Ian says:

    Just wanted to chime in on my experience in this debate. I started on flats, and after that first year of getting bucked off my pedals and getting hounded by my friends, I decided to try clipless. I bought a nice set and tried a couple of rides with them. I found that it didn’t make me ride any better, and now I was worried about hurting myself by going down and not being able to unclip. I just wasn’t having any fun with those pedals, whereas with the flats I was at least able to move around and have some fun. I then sold the clipless set and bought a nice set of flats and a nice pair of shoes to go with them. I then focused on riding the terrain, not just trying to stay on my bike. Between learning to work the trail and getting much stronger through strength training, I run away from my friends on the trail now. I also have a lot of fun riding with flats. I love being able to shift my feet a little on the pedals.

    I think there are two huge advantages to flats. One is that they teach you to pedal correctly, but equally as important is that it is much harder to learn how to ride the trail on clipless. On clipless pedals you can slam into those bumps without getting tossed, but you are definitely slowed down. However, because you can stay on the pedals, it’s not as big of a concern to learn how not to slam into things. On flats, though, you have to learn to use your body as suspension very quickly so that you can keep your feet attached. By learning this, you learn to flow the trail instead of just riding it.

    By the way, at my last race I rode the flats (a 30-mile XC race). In that setting I’m definitely not the fastest out there (finished middle of the pack overall), but I can say that there were a number of people commenting as I went by on how they were disappointed to get passed by a guy on a singlespeed with flat pedals. Oh, and most of those passes were done on the uphill sections!

    Reply • November 18 at 2:57 pm
  23. Peter says:

    Everyone, so that we are clear, I enjoy a good frank discussion. Please forgive me if I sound like I am ranting. Debate will help us all grow. Insight can only make us stronger.

    James I think you make some salient points. To be clear without observing and physically riding together it is impossible to access each others riding skills.

    At the risk of sounding self absorbed… I haven’t fallen off my bike or hurt myself in probably a decade at the very least; the paint on my bicycles can attest to that. When I started mountain biking I rode with stiff, soft soled road shoes on flat pedals, raising and lower the seat to suit the terrain. That was over twenty years ago. I still ride some pretty hairball stuff. Today, as posted earlier, I ride clipped-in with a fixed seat post. The last time I fell, was over the handlebars on a Ibis Bow-Ti doing a technical bit of trail using too much front brake. My coach, strangers and friends that watch me make comments like, “he’s the smoothest rider I’ve ever seen,” or, “you’re a very natural and intuitive rider.” There is no point in me making this up. I do my best to be open and teachable to other’s ideas. I will and do listen.

    It could entirely have to do with the trail that I learned to Mt Bike on. It was a mild Summer, I was working on a pretty intense creative project. The guys I was working with were all road bikers. We made the decision that we would learn Mt Biking on our afternoon breaks. Yes, we took two hours breaks in the middle of the day to ride! Was that the coolest job or what? The nearby trail was a moderate climb, but a very technical single track that made its way deep into the mountains. We did this daily all Summer long! It was only years later when recounting this story to others that I got the response, “you rode that!?” We didn’t know, we just thought that was Mt. Biking. In retrospect it might have been crazy, but made us very strong riders.

    Reply • November 22 at 10:46 am
  24. Peter says:

    I just read the Rivendale article that Mike cited. He rants a bit, but also makes some good points.

    Soft sole shoes don’t work for me, my feet cramp up on rides over 10 miles. Some people argue that cycling shoe are just an artificial way of making your bike lighter—by moving the weight from the pedal to the shoe. You can make the same argument for padded shorts.

    Which leads us to this question… We wouldn’t wear shoes that are too small, or, too big. Why, with the intimate part of our anatomy involved, do we have a “one size fits everyone” mentality with our saddles?

    Reply • November 22 at 11:15 am
  25. Peter says:

    I forgot to add a little fuel to the fire…

    I ride with the second to the smallest, highest end, saddle I could find—from an Italian company that builds saddles in different sizes. My wife rides with a high end kid’s saddle that I had custom upholstered in leather.

    This gives me the ability to stand and ride / maneuver without the saddle getting in the way; and I can squeeze the saddle with my thighs or not.

    Sorry, I’m not trying to change the subject.

    Reply • November 22 at 11:26 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      I won’t argue that you are not a very good rider, I am sure that you are. However, there is a saying – nothing causes failure like success. The truth is that there is no way you are maximizing you technical skill potential if you rely on your seat for lateral stability. Every skills coach I’ve ever talked to says the same thing and my experience confirms this as well.

      This is not meant to infer that you are not a very good rider, I just think that based on my experience and study that you could be better if you learned to not rely on your seat being up. Being good on your local trails and being a fundamentally good rider are two different things and you may have room to grow by becoming more fundamentally sound.

      Reply • November 22 at 12:05 pm
  26. David Seal says:

    Hi, I wrote a skeptical comment to this article a few years ago and just came across it again. Boy, were you right, however! I have been riding flats on my all mountain bike for over a year, and find it was a seamless conversion and I much appreciate being able to get off the bike when I need to, and not have to wear cleats on tech trails. I feel I give up very little in terms of efficiency to clipless, on anything but road bikes.

    Reply • October 15 at 10:10 pm
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      Thanks for the follow up, it takes a big person to admit that they made a mistake and too few of us in the cycling world are able to do that. I’m glad I was able to get you to try out flats and they are working for you, having more fun and being safer is what it is all about.

      Reply • October 16 at 10:18 am

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