MTB Strength Coach Podcast #28: Flat pedals & shoes, fixing joint pain and why calories don’t count

In this episode I cover:

Making the Switch to Flats – What you need to look for in pedals, shoes and accessories when you decide to make the switch to flats.

Fixing Joint Pain – What does a sticking brake caliper and knee pain have in common?

Why Calories Don’t Count – Why counting calories is a waste of time.

You can download the MP3 file and subscribe to this podcast by clicking on this link.

-James Wilson-

Social Comments:

WordPress Comments:

  1. Jonathan says:

    Excellent. Listened to the whole thing while swapping out a crankset. Good info about calories and eating habits.

    Reply • September 27 at 7:56 pm
  2. Rick Beauchamp says:

    Rick Beauchamp said,
    September 27, 2010 @ 2:38 pm

    Kona has the Jack Shits and the Wah Wah’s, I went with the Wah Wah’s and love them. They are wide and feel great and they are rebuildable. Unlike the cone type bearings that once they get wet or grit they are toast. I am having a problem getting the Five Ten’s. No one within 200 miles of Indianapolis has them in stock. I am looking at the Sam Hill 2 or the Karver but I want to try them on for size and see them but looks like I will have to order a pair and try them out and if they don’t fit then send them back. Have you seen or tried out the Sam Hill 2’s. I still get comments about when will I upgrade to clipless, I always say I won’t. Then I ask them to show me any documentation that proves clipless is better but no one can come up with anything. I get the looks and the comments and if it were not for being my first full year of racing and being out of shape, I will soon be racing past them. Thanks for the good info and keep it coming.

    Reply • September 28 at 5:13 am
    • bikejames says:

      I think the Sam Hills are just a custom colored low cut Impact 2 shoe. I’ve seen them and that’s what they look and feel like at least. I will also second the recommendation – I called them and asked about it and they said that they have a 365 day return policy so if you get them and they don’t work send them back. In fact, while they don’t encourage it you can order a couple sizes, keep the one that fits and send the rest back.

      Reply • September 29 at 6:02 am
  3. Chris Cowan says:

    Shortly after I switched over to platforms I also started wearing a Protect Ace SPX helmet (skate style) that I got for the pump track. It was so comfortable that I started wearing it all the time. That seemed to cut down on the advice from the clipless mafia quite a bit. I think when they see the helmet and pedals they pretty much figure it out that no matter what they say I’m not going to listen. I also wear a pair of Kyle Strait 661 knee pads which further enforces the fact that I’m not out there to win any race I’m just trying to have fun.

    Reply • September 28 at 9:16 am
  4. John Kozowski says:

    I was happy to listen to this podcast – I switched to flats awhile back and even with the 5.10s I was amazed at the learning curve! You gave some good advice for getting over the learning curve with flats – namely stand more! But I wonder James if you have some advice for people when they’re sitting down? Truth is you can’t stand all the time, and like you mention, it’s tricky to keep your feet planted when you’re sitting down and you hit a root or a quick rough patch. For example, do you drop your heels when sitting down to keep your feet on the pedals?

    In the end, I think pedaling with flats really forces you to develop awareness of your feet and their connection with the pedals. For example, I’ve become aware of strength imbalances between my right and left legs (my left foot pushes much harder than my right). And that alone has helped me to smooth out my pedal stroke and become a better rider.


    Reply • September 28 at 9:22 am
    • bikejames says:

      Yeah, dropping your heels helps but in all honesty, as you stand more your standing endurance will increase and you’ll be able to pretty much stand up whenever you want to. It amazes people who ride with me how much I stand – some of them have told me I’m going to tire myself out but I just keep on cranking.

      Reply • September 28 at 10:49 am
  5. Jonathan says:

    +1 on the Wah Wahs. I bought a set this summer. They are my new favorite pedal.

    I also want to give a shout to La Sportiva for their “Spotter” shoe. It’s a climbing approach shoe, and it’s the shoe that made me understand all that riding flats can be. The Spotter sole grips very, very well. La Sportive really doesn’t chase the mountain-biking market though.

    @Rick, try for the Five Tens. That’s where I bought my last pair. As I recall, Zappos has a good return policy in order to take some of the risk away from buying online.

    Reply • September 28 at 9:35 am
  6. Geoffrey says:

    I have to take issue with the calories not mattering. For example, one snickers bar or three snickers bars. No brainer. Interestingly, I’ve actually seen a number of studies that tie fat loss and fat retention to insulin response. Search on “diet soda insulin response” and read away. Turns out the body doesn’t know a difference between fake and real sweeteners, and when your insulin spikes, your body holds onto all the body fat it can, and won’t let it go. This is why Diet Coke doesn’t aid fat loss.

    I realize that I am supporting the calories don’t matter, but a Diet Coke is better than a normal Coke, which has High Fructose Corn Syrup, which is really bad (stops your body from saying you’re full, converts to fat before carb stores are replenished). But, looking at the rules of good eating, pretty much each one could have the phrase “to help reduce insulin spikes” after it. Lean protein, no refined flours, smaller meals, more veggies, all lead to fewer insulin spikes.

    Interestingly, regarding the flats, I learned to wear shin pads the hard (and more painful) way. Also, I wear some old Merrell mocassins I had laying around. A more flexible shoe, yes, but plenty sticky.

    Reply • September 28 at 3:51 pm
    • bikejames says:

      Good insights but nutrients, like sweeteners, are not the same as calories. In the manual my wife brought back from the Results Fitness fat loss seminar they had several studies that showed stuff like:

      – 5 meals a day resulting in more fat loss than 2 meals even though the total calories were equal
      – Equal calories in a diet but 90% coming from either fat, protein or carbs resulting in significant differences in results
      – People that ate a higher calorie breakfast getting more fat loss than those that skipped breakfast or had a small breakfast

      Overall, the science supports the notion that calories don’t count nearly as much as where they come from and when you eat them.

      Reply • September 29 at 5:59 am
  7. Rick Beauchamp says:

    Thanks guys, I bought my five ten’s from Zappos, ordered yesterday before the 1:00 pm pacific cutoff time and shipped out that day and got them the next day. Tried them on and true to size and look great. Can’t wait til the weekend to try them out. Got a 40 mile mtb ride next Sunday so want to get them wore in a little. Still getting flack for spending that kind of money when I could have gotten REAL bike shoes for that price.

    Reply • September 30 at 6:11 pm
    • bikejames says:

      …but those are real bike shoes.

      Reply • October 1 at 6:29 am
  8. Martin says:

    Generally enjoyed the podcast, but could have done without the anti-scientist rant. I think you’ll find that the research behind current “it’s not about calories” thinking has been performed by scientists. Aim your vitriol at bad science and pseudo-science (rife in nutrition & diet) not the girls and guys doing the good science

    Reply • October 1 at 7:00 am
    • bikejames says:

      I’m pretty sure I gave specific examples of how science has confused the issues, which is my main point. The truth is that there is a lot of bad science out there and most people don’t understand enough about it to understand how powerful entities like the AMA and Surgeon General can say things like “you need to consume X number of calories” yet be fundamentally wrong. We are generally lead to believe that if it came from a study then it is the truth.

      There is good science but a lot of scientists don’t add in the “we think” to their conclusions when speaking with the media and then that gives the wrong impression. Science also is reductionist by nature – you have to be able to isolate things in order to study them and isolation comes from reducing things down to their individual components. I don’t really feel anything I said was untrue or unfair, simply stating some specific examples.

      I even said in the podcast that I “like” science, I’m just speaking the truth about it so that people can make more informed decisions. If you can find where I made an outright statement against any and all science then I apologize, that was not my point. If you can point to any examples or statements I made that were false then please let me know and I’ll correct the errors. If not then perhaps you were hearing something that I wasn’t really saying.

      Reply • October 1 at 12:25 pm
  9. Tubby says:

    Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say poor nutrition contributes more then calories, rather then calories don’t count. What I mean is that if you are following the habits and good nutrition then wouldn’t it come down to calories at some point. Or maybe a better way to say it would be that callories are one spoke of the nutrition wheel.

    Reply • October 1 at 9:09 am
  10. jade Jenny says:

    Haven’t visited your site in a while, still riding and training, diet wise…paleo all the way, eat until your content, eat the right stuff, and you’ll get lean and mean…by the way, I know you’re not a fan, but I opened a CF box, loving it.

    Reply • October 1 at 6:36 pm
    • bikejames says:

      Glad the whole flats vs. clipless debate didn’t keep you away, I do like to see riders like you around my blog. As long as you apply some common sense and a higher standard for technique than most Crossfit places then I don’t have any issues. I just don’t like it when an organization says one thing yet lets people fly their banner and demonstrate another. Good luck, I guess you’re now in the realm of “small business owner”, let me know if you want some advice or direction on making it all work.

      Reply • October 5 at 5:58 am
  11. Mike says:

    Finally got around to listening to this one. So very many things wrong with the “Calories don’t count” segment, I don’t know where to begin.

    You asked for an explanation of the food pyramid. It’s really pretty easy, and describes pretty much what you recommend for nutrition: Whole grains, veggies and fruit, good fats in limited amounts. It doesn’t say a thing about calories. Before you bash something as being incomprehensible, take a look:

    I understand your point, but it was poorly argued on your part. You bash the AMA and Surgeon General, and science in general, then go on to talk about various “scientific studies” that support your contention. You can’t pick and choose your science. The great thing about science…it does indeed reduce questions down to finite parts. That’s the only way to really see what is happening…you have to eliminate other variables and focus on one. I really don’t think any scientist, the AMA, or Surgeon General are saying to ‘eat anything you want, just focus on calories.’

    The AMA and Surgeon General aren’t responsible for the obesity epidemic. They have been preaching balanced healthy diets for decades. That’s how the food pyramid came about. Fast food joints, “Big Food” (Con Agra, ADM etc), and advertisers share some blame.

    And finally, “calories in, calories out” is a simple, important concept for the general population. If a person eats 2000 calories a day (of anything, cheeseburger, milkshakes whatever), and burns 2000 calories, they will maintain their weight. They may be contributing to heart disease etc, but they will not be obese. If a person eats 3000 calories a day of even very healthy food, but only burns 2000, they will gain about 2 lbs a week and soon be fat. Simple math, dude.

    Your rant has shown me that you do not think rationally, and I can’t trust any of your other advice. And I was almost tempted to try flats…..


    Reply • October 7 at 9:09 am
    • bikejames says:

      This is a classic “straw man” argument that got thrown my way once before and I addressed – I never “bashed science”, I simply pointed out what it is and why that narrow view of the world can be wrong on many levels. If the advice that the AMA and the Surgeon General gave, including use of the Food Pyramid, was working then we wouldn’t have the obesity epidemic we do today. I am able to alter people’s eating behavior everyday with simple advice and I know from talking with hundreds of people over the years that things like the Pyramid and telling people to eat X number of calories confuses people on key issues. And calories in/ calories out math doesn’t work in the real world and never has, yet another reason that calories don’t count nearly as much as where they come from and when you eat them.

      There is far more to things that the simple sum of their individual parts so reducing things down and studying them is but one way of looking at things. In this case it does not provide a very clear or concise picture of good nutrition. Calories are like pedaling endurance for downhill racing – part of the picture but no where near the top of the list (you’ll probably disagree with me on that one too).

      And if you don’t want to try flats because we disagree on some points then fine, your loss. I do hope that you come back, though, you obviously care enough about riding to check this site out and I’m sure that there is something here that can help you out. You just have to stop believing everything that your teachers told you and check out some other resources like

      Reply • October 7 at 11:58 am

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