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Clipless vs. Flat Pedals: Which is Superior?

When looking for bike pedals, you need to consider your type of riding. Will you be mountain biking or road biking? Are you looking for the ease and maneuverability of flat pedals or the efficiency and pedaling power of clipless pedals? Perhaps you want to enjoy the perks of both worlds.

Whether you’re a beginner or thinking of making a change after years of the status quo, here’s everything you need to know about clipless and flat pedals so you can make an informed decision.

What Are Flat Pedals?

Flat pedals come with little replaceable pins that allow the shoe’s sole to grip the pedal. Most flat pedals are either made of metal or composite. Metal pedals are heavier but promise durability and better grip. Composite pedals are usually lightweight but aren’t as durable.

Some flat pedals come with a concave shape that allows your foot into the pedal for maximum stability and grip. These pedals are compatible with any type of athletic footwear, including shoes, boots, and sandals. You can even ride them barefoot.

Pros of Flat Pedals

  • More confidence when trying features or new skills: This is one of the huge benefits of flat pedals. Flats give you more confidence when learning new skills since it’s easier to put a foot down.
  • Adjust your foot position as you ride: Flats allow you to change your foot position on the pedal depending on your bike.
  • Easy to bail: If your foot isn’t clipped into your pedals, it’s easy to touch down if you’re sliding out in a corner or want to stop your bike.
  • Reduced risk of injury: Since your feet are free to move around on the pedal, you won’t suffer from joint damage or knee pain caused by improper adjustment. If you place your foot in the wrong position, you can move it to avoid pain and discomfort.
  • Riding flat pedals is cheaper: You don’t need to look for special shoes, pedals, or cleats. You can find a cheap pair of flat pedals at any bike shop. You also don’t have to buy new shoes to ride the bike.
  • Flat pedals have a lower center of gravity: These pedals can make your bike feel more stable.
  • Easy to get on and off: You don’t need special skills to get off the bike. With these pedals, you won’t have to worry about missing your clip or starting on a hill.

Cons of Flat Pedals

  • Lacks sufficient power and efficiency for uphills: Flat pedals can be tiring because they lack the power and efficiency you get from clipless pedals.
  • Flat pedals make the bike wider: Most flat pedals come with large platforms that give your foot extra support. However, the larger profile widens your bike making it hard to ride through narrow gaps.

What Are Clipless Pedals?

Clipless pedals are designed to help you attach the soles of your shoes to your pedals. The aim is to keep your foot stable and in an optimal position when pedaling. Clipless pedals are mostly used by mountain bikers, road cyclists, commuters, and bicycle tourists.

To attach your foot, just step on the pedal. Most pedals will make a clicking noise when you’re locked in. When you stop the bike and want to remove your foot, swing your heel, and the cleat will detach from the pedal.

Pros of Clipless Pedals

  • Better efficiency and power: When your foot is attached to the bike, each pedal stroke means you’re propelling your bike forward, especially for steep climbing. With a clipped-in shoe, you can push on the downstroke and pull on the upstroke, giving you more efficiency and power as you climb.
  • They give you more control: With your feet attached to the bike, you can use the legs and feet to improve maneuverability. Clipless pedals allow you to navigate challenging trails more precisely. You can also use your weight to manhandle your ride without falling off.
  • Easier in the air: Hopping and jumping your bike is easy because you won’t have to worry about your feet disconnecting from your bike in the air.
Clipless vs. Flat Pedals

Cons of Clipless Pedals

  • Riding clipless is more expensive: With clipless pedals, you have to buy clipless specific cleats, shoes, and pedals. Clipless pedals cost three times more than flat pedals. The complex clipless systems make them more expensive.

Which of the two types of pedals is superior?

So, which one is better, flats or clipless? The pedals you choose boil down to the kind of riding you’re doing and what you feel comfortable with. If you’re cycling competitively, clipless pedals will give you a bit of freedom and functionality. However, you should choose an option that suits your skills and ability.