What if I told you that I had a training tool that was guaranteed to improve the efficiency of your pedal stroke and trail skills? Better yet, what if this training tool costs less than $150, could easily be installed in less than 5 minutes and started to deliver noticeable results in just a few rides?

When seen from the viewpoint of Forced Efficiency Training, it makes no sense to spend all of your training and riding time on clipless pedals.

Well, if you didn’t know where this was going already you would probably be pretty interested. Who knows, maybe you still are. Most riders I’ve asked this question to certainly were.

But then comes “the catch”…as you have probably guessed this amazing training tool is a pair of flat pedals.

And this is where I start to lose a lot of those same riders who were very curious just a few seconds earlier. The thought of flat pedals being better to use during training than clipless pedals is a really strange concept to a lot of riders.

To help you understand why this is, though, let me ask you a question.

If you wanted to improve as quickly as possible would you choose a training method that…

  1. A) let you get away with inefficient movement and technique or
  2. B) forced your body to move as efficiently as possible?

The obvious answer is B – to use training methods that force you to move as efficiently as possible. Most of us would agree that finding ways to reinforce good, efficient technique is important when you train.

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On the trail, the more efficient you are with your movements and technique the less energy you’ll use in the process. This is one of  the major factors in improving your endurance and performance on the trail and should be a major goal for every rider.

In fact, for a lot of you reading this – especially those of us in the 40+ range – improving your efficiency can be even more important than increasing your cardio capacity. Since as we age our raw cardio capacity decreases, increases in efficiency actually become the major driver of performance at a certain point.

Being efficient with your movement is also one of the visual hallmarks of a great rider and ties directly into the concept of Arete that I’ve written about before. Adding some style and grace to your riding not only looks good but helps you ride faster and longer as well.

I like to call this concept Forced Efficiency Training. Think of it as a way to super-charge your program to make sure you get the most out of your training time.

So why would anyone want to train using training methods that didn’t reinforce good, efficient movement?

This is a good question and one that I ask myself every time I see a rider spend the bulk of their off season training time on clipless pedals. I feel bad for them because I know that they are missing out on a golden opportunity to improve in two very important ways.

First, when you get past the old, outdated lie that you need to pull up on the backstroke you see that you can – and should – pedal the same on both flats and clipless pedals. The difference is that clipless pedals let you get away with any type of pedal stroke you want to use while flats force you to use the most efficient pedal stroke. This means that time spent on flats will help reinforce a strong, efficient pedal stroke in ways that clipless pedals simply can’t.

Second, your trail skills also play a huge role in your riding efficiency and flats will help a lot in this area as well. Along with forcing you to learn how to pick up the rear end of your bike and bunny hop the right way they will also give you the confidence you need to improve your other skills. For most riders it is very hard to push skills like cornering and drops to the next level when clipped in, which is why 100% of the skills coaches I’ve ever heard of recommend flats in their camps to help improve your skills.

When seen from the viewpoint of Forced Efficiency Training, it makes no sense to spend all of your training and riding time on clipless pedals. Once you can ride 90%+ as well on flats as you can on clipless pedals you will find that your clipless pedal skills will have improved dramatically as well.

And who knows, you might just find that you get so good on flats that you might not feel the need to switch back. But that’s getting off track…

If you spend the off season doing at least 80% of your rides on flats and I promise that your pedal stroke and trail skills will have improved significantly. You’ll find that you can consistently apply more efficient movement on the trail, which will have a dramatic impact on your performance.

And at the end of the day, isn’t that what really matters no matter what pedal system we used to achieve it?

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

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