EinsteinWell, it’s happened again. Einstein once defined insanity as “trying the same thing over and over, expecting a different result” and that seems to be what is going on recently with several “Flats vs. Clipless Pedals” videos being posted lately.

The other day yet another video pitting flats against clipless pedals made the rounds on the internet in which flats not only did better than expected but actually won. For those of you keeping count at home, this makes the third time this has happened in about a year.

This time the video was inspired by Sam Hill’s recent 2nd place finish at the Enduro World Series in La Thuile, Italy. As they pointed out, this was interesting because Sam Hill runs flat pedals while no one else in the Top 30 runs them.

This means that he beat A LOT of clipless pedal riders in a discipline that most feel is best suited for clipless pedals.

The crowd looks on in awe Sam Hill does his thing. PC www.enduroworldseries.com
The crowd looks on in awe Sam Hill does his thing. PC www.enduroworldseries.com

To test it out for themselves they had their guy do two timed runs down the same track, an 8-minute stage from the La Thuile Enduro World Series course. While you can watch the video to see the details below, you already know who won…

Like I mentioned already, the flat pedals won by a full 8 seconds. However, as impressive as this is when you break down 2 things it gets even more interesting…

– They broke the track up into 3 timed sections which consisted of 1 steep downhill section, 1 flatter section with more pedaling and another steep downhill section. While he was faster on the downhill sections, the really surprising thing was that he was the exact same speed on flats in the pedaling section as well. In other words, the clipless pedals didn’t even help him out where they are supposed to outshine flats every time.

– The rider was admittedly rusty on flat pedals, saying that he never rides flats except during the winter (cheers to him for at least spending some time on flat pedals). So when you factor in that he hadn’t been on flat pedals for months his time is even more impressive since he wasn’t nearly as used to with as he was his clipless pedals. It would seem to me that if he had been spending time on flat pedals and had them dialed in better he probably would have won by even more.

As expected, though, there was no way they could just let flat pedals win without a lot of excuses and apologies for their beloved clipless pedals. They theorized that since it was such a steep track that perhaps clipless would have won on a flatter, more pedaly track (forgetting that flats tied clipless pedals on the pedaling section of the track they did test). They also theorized that since this was a single run that clipless pedals might do better over the course of a full 2-day weekend of racing.

In other words, despite experiencing for himself that he was significantly faster on flat pedals, the tester continued to believe that clipless pedals were better. To me it was almost as if some sort of alien mind control started to take over and his ability to think for himself went right out the window.

Now, this single test is obviously unscientific and we can’t read too much into it. However, like I said, this is also the 3rd time that a video was posted in the last year or so in which someone set out to prove that clipless pedals were better and instead ended up showing flat pedals outperforming their “superior” counterpart.

In case you haven’t seen them here are the other two…

What is the Most Efficient Pedaling Style?

Clips vs. Flats – Which One is More Efficient?

When you take these videos along with the science that questions the need to attach your foot to the pedal you start to see a consistent pattern of flat pedals being a much better option for most riders than we were led to believe.

Most riders on clipless pedals are unknowingly working through dysfunctions instead of letting their body find its more efficient path. When you take those constraints off the body it will actually perform better.

I feel that our sport is going through a bit of a painful growth phase where the lies about the superiority of clipless pedals and the need to attach your foot to the pedal are running head first into the wall of mounting evidence that it is all a lie. While it was so much easier to control the conversation and the mindset it created before the modern internet age, it is just as hard now to contain the truth when it is so easy to find.

Eventually, though, we’ll come through the other side in a much better position for our sport. While this is a subject for another post, the truth is that the biggest impediment to the growth of our sport is this insane insistence on clinging to the status quo of “clipless pedals are better than flats”.

Countless riders quit or never even try riding in the first place because of it and when the outside world looks at us and sees that we embrace the same pedals they knew and loved on their BMX bikes as a kid we’ll see a lot more interest in our sport.

Clipless pedals have their place…it just isn’t on a new riders bike for the first 2+ years of riding or on anyone’s bike 100% of the time. Everyone can benefit from flat pedals and hopefully videos like this can help convince a few people reading them to see past the myths and half-truths surrounding this subject and give them a shot.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

MTB Strength Training Systems/ Pedaling Innovations

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