The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly: 10 Editors' Clipless Pedal Setups

Apr 27, 2022 at 13:40
by Henry Quinney  

As a long-term flat pedal rider, I just haven't had any curiosity to ride clips for a very very long time. That said, once the bug bit, it's been something I've had to dedicate some time to setting up. The setup I've landed on is not without its foibles, though, and it makes the most of the large amount of adjustment on Crankbrothers' Mallet E pedals.
Henry Quinney
Position: Tech Editor & Kettle Supervisor
Clips/Flats Time Split: 50/50
Preferred shoe style: Gravity/DH
Chosen Pedal: Crankbrothers Mallet E

I used to ride Shimano SPDs, prior to my flat pedal binge, so unclipping isn't so much of a concern. Rather, just finding something that gave me the attributes I wanted was. The things that I didn't like when riding a clipless system was the small contact patch and lack of grip to resist twisting forces, unclipping into the bike as I drove my inside foot towards the bike, and a loose vague feeling - where I couldn't be sure where the mechanism would release me. The problem I've had is that I've found Shimano's pedals couldn't give me the traction and Crankbrothers' pedals couldn't give me the distinctive in-out feeling. So, I ended up doing lots of trial and error and this is the setup I feel best balances these needs.

Starting with the pedals, I run a set of Mallet E's with all the pins wound in. I've always disliked the feeling of being clipped in and the pins dragging across the rubber of the shoe. I know that for some it's the vital way to get traction on the pedal, but for me it just feels like a very inelegant solution. Instead, I've decided to run a mix-match of traction pads, with the thicker 2mm option installed on the outside. I really feel like this gives me just the level of support that I'm after. 2mm on both sides make the entry too difficult, whereas 1mm all round isn't enough traction, and I feel like having the outer edge on the outside really helps me replicate the feeling of flat pedals - where you can really load the pedal on the exit of turns or really push out if you want to square off a turn. I could probably file them down to 1.5mm and have them equal but I haven't really felt a need. Ergonomically, the 1mm difference feels fine, although who's to say it isn't doing something catastrophic to my knees? Only time will tell.

In the pedals, I also run the longer axles to give me clearance to the crank. Again, this makes unclipping easier for me.

1mm traction pads on the inner side of the pedal...
...and the 2mm traction pad on the outside.

I've found my preferred cleats are the standard gold Premium 6-degree float cleats - and I run them on their correct side in the 15-degree release setting. If you run them inverse of their denoted side, you can increase the release setting to 20-degrees. Here is where another peculiarity creeps in - I have them pointing towards my big toe. This has been a huge part for me and really helps me get the flat-pedal feeling I was after. I still pedal straight, obviously, but my outer release is almost instantaneous and it's near impossible for me to clip in as I drive my heels toward the bike. This, combined with the traction pads, gives me loads of grip and support on the pedal without having any issue clipping out or getting back in. It also staves off unwanted uncoupling through turns.

I don't run a spacer underneath the cleat on my Shimano GR901 clipless shoes, and love the support and platform they offer.





Mike Levy - HT Leopard M1

HT M1 pedal review test
I like using HT's pedals for their extremely high release tension that keeps my feet locked in place regardless of how many cartwheels I've done.


I've spent about half my riding life on platform pedals, much of it with an inside foot hanging off, possibly with the rear brake locked, and definitely wearing a shit-eating grin. I used them for years of wheelie-dropping off the roofs of outhouses with roll-ins roughly zero feet long and only to flat landings, and they were on my bike for week-long cross-country races with over 30,000-feet of climbing and all the cramping.
Mike Levy
Position: Tech Editor; authority on lizard people
Clips/Flats Time Split: 99/1 (in the last ten years)
Preferred shoe style: stiff and light
Chosen Pedal: HT Leopard M1

Jump forward a decade and now all I'm looking for is the exact opposite - a pedal that can essentially lock my feet into place so strongly that I need to slide out of my shoes and leave them attached to the bike when I have to stop to pee.

For that, I've used HT's pint-sized Leopard M1 pedals for the last six or seven years because their adjustable entry/exit tension can be set absurdly high. For some reason, likely terrible form and a bunch of annoying ankle injuries, I can't keep myself from rotating my feet over the pedals through corners or while messing around, and no other system is able to keep me from accidentally unclipping at least a few times during every ride. Yes, I've tried almost everything else. Yes, I realize this is a 'me' problem and not an everyone problem. Yes, I'm tired of their tiny RC car bearings wearing out every twenty minutes and breaking one every twenty rides (including at the latest Field Test). And yes, I do walk down the road to buy three sets at a time from my local bike shop.


HT M1 pedal review test
I wear out bearings prematurely, snap retention bars, and bend axles, but they're still the pedal I prefer using.
HT M1 pedal review test
The M1s are roughly six-grams lighter than a set of Shimano XTR pedals that will outlast them by at least sixty years.


I also might be the only editor here using pedals without some sort of Trail Bike Approved-platform for me to stand on when I'm not clipped in but, as someone who's had some bad crashes from catching a pedal on rocks and roots, I've always had bit of a dumb opinion about that. And since you asked about it, pedal strikes are always rider error, but the much smaller body of the M1s gives me a bit more room for those errors. What about when it gets sketchy and I just need a set of TBA pedals to stand on? Don't worry, they're too tight for me to unclip, even if I wanted to, and I like the commitment that entails.

As for cleats, I use the normal ones and have moved them back from their original 'I raced cross-country in the 90s' at the very front of the slots to nearly the very back of them. One downside of not using a pedal with a platform is more casual-looking shoes with flexible soles don't provide enough support; they bend over the tiny pedal body, so I usually prefer to wear something a bit stiffer and sportier for that reason. And because rotating weight, but that's another dumb opinion...

But for what I need from a set of pedals, which is for them to hold onto my feet like I stepped into a set of damn bear traps, the security the HTs offer far outweighs the reliability they don't. Now I just need to stop peeing on my socks.





Matt Beer - Crankbrothers Mallet DH


Growing up as a die-hard flat pedal rider, I found the transition to clipless more natural with the Crankbrothers Mallet DH model. Unlike SPD systems, the Mallet’s design can lock the cleat into the mechanism from either direction; place your foot on the pedal platform and wiggle the shoe from in front of or behind the spring to clip in. That’s because the design of the mechanism can articulate 360-degrees around the axle, independently of the pedal body and “roll” with the cleat, which is where the Eggbeater system gets its name from.

Matt Beer
Position: Tech Editor & allergy kid
Clips/Flats Time Split: 80/20
Preferred shoe style: Gravity/DH
Chosen Pedal: Crankbrothers Mallet DH
I also believe this makes better use of the traction pins, since the shoe can pivot onto the grippy screws and then “unweight” from the pedal body. Other clipless pedals that have the spring fixed to the platform rely on the sole flexing to grip the pins, which might make twisting your foot to release more likely to catch the pins. The float on the Crankbrother system also has an even spring tension that I find to be more natural, whereas the SPDs have a “looser” feel that quickly ramps up before releasing.


As for the shoe to pedal interface, that can vary depending on the depth of the cleat mounting area. On these Bontrager Rally shoes and other Five Ten models, I use the plastic spacer provided, but on the Fizik Artica winter shoes, the sole is not as recessed into the rubber grip under the shoe, so I leave that out in that case. I’d like to see the grub screws on the Mallets accessible from the back of the pedal body because once they are damaged, getting a 2mm Allen key in there is nearly impossible. Once the pins are dialled in, I rarely unexpectedly unclip, as long as the cleats aren’t worn down to nubs.

I prefer to have the cleat behind the ball of my foot to take pressure off of my calves and let the larger leg muscles, similar to how you might perform a squat. I also like to move the cleats as far inboard as possible to widen my stance across the bike. I’ve played with angling the cleats, like Henry, and although I do ride somewhat duck-footed, I found that it’s more natural to enter the clip straight on and therefore leave them aligned with the length of the shoe.

Pedals have a hard life, often subjected to submersion and blows to rocks. A little maintenance once in a while goes a long way. The Mallets may not last as long as some other sealed pedals, but the cartridge bearings are easy to replace, don’t require special tools to work on, or unthread themselves. I’m open to trying new styles of clipless pedals, but so far the Mallet’s have been the easiest and most natural for me to get along with.





Mike Kazimer - Shimano XT


When the moon is full and the night is clear I grab my tools and head out into the woods. There, by the light of a roaring fire I set to work on my clipless pedal set up. I start by heating up each cleat until it's glowing red, and then I forge it into an entirely new shape that was inspired by the construction secrets of the Egyptian pyramids and Stonehenge. Next, it's time for positioning those custom cleats, which requires two calipers, a strand of silk, and an eagle feather....

Mike Kazimer
Position: Managing Tech Editor, nap aficionado
Clips/Flats Time Split: 60/40
Preferred Shoe Style: Comfortable
Chosen Pedal: Shimano XT
Nah, just kidding. I actually don't spend too much time obsessing over my cleat or pedal setup. I test so many different shoe and pedal combinations over the course of a year that I'd drive myself mad if I worried about achieving the absolute best, totally correct cleat position every single time.

Speaking of shoes, my current favorites are Crankbrothers Mallet BOA (it turns out that Crankbrothers shoes with Shimano pedals is a great combo). I also get along well with pretty much all of Shimano's offerings; I had to reluctantly retire a pair of AM7's the other day, and I'm now testing the new AM9 shoes. The shoes pictured here are the Five Ten Trailcross Clip, which I'm also in the process of reviewing. They're light and quick drying, but so far they're not quite as comfy as the Mallet Boa or the AM9. I also still haven't been able to shake the feeling that I'm wearing a pair of New Balance sneakers every time I put them on.

Not too far forward, not too far back.
Tension set to the 'just right' position.

I typically put my cleats in the upper mounting holes, and then slide the carrier all the way rearward. This puts the pedal axle slightly behind the ball of my foot for what I'd consider to be a fairly neutral position. Shimano's XT pedals are what I use when I'm not testing something else – the super predictable entry and exit is what keeps me coming back to them. They're also incredibly durable. I can't remember how long I've had the PD-8020 pedals pictured here, but they're still spinning smoothly, and when they do need fresh grease that procedure only takes a few minutes.

I have several pairs of Shimano pedals kicking around so that I don't need to keep swapping one set between different bikes, but no matter the model they all feel the same once I'm clipped in. I set the spring tension in the middle of the range, and usually don't need to touch it after that. I typically don't twist my feet too much when I'm riding, so I don't need a crazy high amount of tension to keep from unclipping.





Matt Wragg - Shimano XT

For the first 15 years or so of my riding life I had never even thought about trying anything other than a flat pedal. After moving to the South of France in 2013 I started doing more long distance rides and thought I should see what the fuss was about. Mavic had given me some shoes at a launch and I bought a pair of Shimano XT pedals. I've run them ever since. Ok, not the same pair of pedals, but when it came time to change bike, shoe or pedal, I bought the same thing again. It worked, it kept working and felt decent. This particular pair are not from the current generation of XT, but the one prior - I was running the newer ones before this, but even XTs can only survive so much pedal vs boulder action. I grabbed these from the spares box maybe 9 months ago and forgot about them until I came to write this. They are currently paired to these Shimano AM7 shoes, which seem appropriate to me as they too are solid and no nonsense (although I wish the wide sizes were available for more models, as the standards are a touch long for me).

I have become very stuck in my ways. A couple of years ago my wife was sponsored by Crank Brothers, so we had a spare set I could have tried, but the embarrassing truth is that I did not want to go through the setup and learning phase. Worse than that, I tried flats on my trail bike a couple of winters ago and it felt less fun than I remembered.
Matt Wragg
Position: Editor-at-Large
Clips/Flats Time Split: 95/5
Preferred shoe style: Gravity/DH
Chosen Pedal: Shimano XT


St Laurent de Touet France 2021. Photo by Matt Wragg.

St Laurent de Touet France 2021. Photo by Matt Wragg.
I have absolutely no idea how many years, bikes or crashes this pair of pedals have been through.
St Laurent de Touet France 2021. Photo by Matt Wragg.

St Laurent de Touet France 2021. Photo by Matt Wragg.
My forwards cleat position.


I have never spent much time thinking about my setup. In fact, I usually leave the tension adjust in the factory setting. When I first got on SPDs, I remember setting the cleat so it feels like I am driving from the ball of my foot as it felt most natural, which seems to be fairly far forwards compared to most people. Then I angled the cleats in a bit as I have wonky legs, running them with Shimano shoes, I have never felt the need to space the cleat out vertically. Since then every time I get a new set of shoes or cleats, I grab the old ones and try and replicate it as closely as I can. There was a brief period a few years ago when I tried a different brand of shoe and accidentally set the cleat too far forwards, so every time I pulled up the extra leverage unclipped me, but beyond that this setup is what I think all bike parts should aspire to - fit and forget.





Seb Stott - Crankbrothers Mallet DH


I learned to ride on flat pedals for many years but after changing to clips about ten years ago, I haven't looked back. I've given them a go a few times since, but I just can't stand my foot being in slightly the wrong place, and I also like how a clipless pedal allows my foot to "float" (rotate a few degrees relative to the pedal); this allows my knee to self-align throughout the pedal stroke which I find gives me fewer knee problems.
Seb Stott
Position: Tech Editor, UK
Clips/Flats Time Split: 99% clips
Preferred shoe style: Speciailzed 2FO Cliplite
Chosen Pedal: Crank Brothers Mallet DH / Mallet E

I've tried most of the major clipless pedal brands but my firm favourite is Crankbrothers. I like the large range of free float when moving around on the bike and for pedalling, the mud-shedding mechanism, the ease of clipping in both forwards and backwards and the large platform which makes it easier to ride out a section unclipped after dabbing.

The setup is finicky though. Even with Crankbrothers' own shoes you'll either have to wind the pins all the way in or add an extra cleat spacer to make engaging the pedal easier. I prefer the cleat spacer approach as it means there's more grip when riding unclipped, plus I have more pairs of pedals than shoes so its easier to add a spacer than to wind in the pins on multiple pairs of pedals. I point the front of the cleat a few degrees inboard (towards the big toe) in order to make them unclip slightly sooner. Otherwise, the shoe can hit the crank before unclipping.


I set the cleats all the way back and I only ride with Crankbrothers' Mallet DH shoe or the Specialized's 2FO Clip / Cliplite as they allow the cleat to go far enough back for my preference. The 2FO Cliplite is my favourite as it has a rare combination of stiffness and lightness typical of a trail shoe with a rearward cleat slot usually reserved for DH shoes. This puts your feet further in front of the saddle which in turn demands a steeper seat angle to compensate. By the way, this Journal of Biomechanics study suggests fore-aft cleat position doesn't affect pedalling efficiency.

The reliability of the internals isn't great and a rebuild kit is pricey, which makes me wish I preferred Shimano. But sadly, I'm a sucker for the Mallet's free-floating mechanism.



James Smurthwaite

I'm a relative newcomer to the world of clipless and only took the plunge when I first bought a gravel bike in October 2019. Two and a half years later and and only one traffic light tumble later and I'm fully convinced that it's the superior pedal system. When I'm able to get my hands on a new mountain bike (yes, MTB journos are being affected by the supply chain issues too), I'll be investing in a more substantial set up but for now I'm running Adidas Velosambas with Shimano M530 pedals.
James Smurthwaite
Position: News Manager & email ignorer
Clips/Flats Time Split: 80/20
Preferred shoe style: Frank Ocean approved
Chosen Pedal: Shimano M530


Honestly, the pedals I bought simply because they were on sale and in stock on Chain Reaction and until recently I'd been using a pair of Giro Rumble VR shoes with them. The shoes were fine for getting started but they are about as waterproof as a sponge with holes in it, which presented a fairly terminal issue for riding through a Scottish winter. So, I started looking for something else.

Yes, I'm a tart.

Truth be told, the Velosambas probably aren't it. I missed the first drop back when they were released in March last year as they sold out within a week but Adidas did a run of vegan shoes more recently and I was able to snag a pair in this updated colourway. I've only had two rides on them so far but I'll start with the pros - they are simply the best looking cycling shoes ever, easily nicer than shoes with goofball meshes, random bits of velcro and arthitis-alleviating thick soles. They also are very nice to walk in, there's still a small amount of clicking and crunching underfoot but keeping a natural gait is easy.

The bad? Well, to dispel you of any illusion, this isn't a performance cycling shoe. Adidas has since released more specialized kicks but this comparatively floppy shoe isn't great for longer rides. I'm going to keep them for riding around town and for casual rides but will have to try something more serious before I'm fully happy with my set up.




Alicia Leggett - Shimano XT

I wish I had a good origin story for my love of Shimano SPDs - I once found myself at a bridge crossing with a wizard, who told me he would bestow upon me superhuman speed and style if I just chose to run the proper, the best, the most reliable clipless pedals of all time - but not only do I still lack that superhuman speed and style, I have only met a few wizards, and none have given me advice about my pedals.
Alicia Leggett
Position: News Editor? Tech Editor? At this point, who knows?
Clips/Flats Time Split: 85/15
Preferred shoe style: Nothing too complicated, please
Chosen Pedal: Shimano XT PD-M8120

I started running Shimano SPDs because when I was a teenager, a guy who sold me one of my first mountain bikes threw in a set of old ball-shaped SPDs just in case I ever wanted to try clipping in. When I started to enter my first cross country races, I decided clipping in was what the real mountain bikers did, so I'd better figure it out. Aside from my semi-regular fling with a pair of flat pedals, I've been riding SPDs ever since. They work, they hold up against an astonishing amount of abuse, they offer what feels to me like just the right amount of float, and the tension is adjustable. I've just never seen any reason to switch over to anything else.

For roughly the last decade, I've used essentially the same pair of XT pedals as half the other editors in this article, both the older, more rounded style, and this newer 2020-and-onward version, which Shimano claims improves the shoe-pedal contact area (they feel pretty much the same to me, though) and allows more room for mud clearance (thankfully true, though the older version isn't too bad). The mid-sized platform gives just the right amount of extra support around the shoe, meaning that there isn't a need for ultra-stiff-soled shoes to compensate for a tiny contact patch and there's that extra bit of confidence that comes from knowing you'll still have somewhere to put your foot if, for whatever reason, you aren't clipped in when you'd really rather prefer to be. Also, the updated version looks so good. Look at those clean, angular lines!

I've been mainly riding in the Pacific Northwest these days, and these pedals, cleats, and shoes can handle the abuse that accompanies the constant wet and muddy conditions.

As for my shoes, I've been testing several different pairs lately, but my go-to over the last few months have been the Ride Concepts Hellion Clip. They come in a women's version, but it turns out my feet are too big for Ride Concepts' women's sizing, so I wear a men's pair. They're low-volume and suit my relatively narrow feet, the only weird fit things being that the laces and lace cover straps are extremely long. No problem there. They're quite comfortable and seem to dry quickly enough, as I put them on my boot dryer whenever I return from a wet ride and they're always dry by the next day or so when I go to put them on again.

I've also long been a big fan of Shimano's shoes, both clipless (SH-AM902) and flat (SH-GR901). Those are essentially the same shoe, aside from the clip/flat difference, so don't be like me and get them in the same exact color. You'll mix them up all the time. If you pay close attention to the latest Field Test videos, you'll also notice that I also often wear the Bontrager Rally shoes pictured above that Matt Beer is running.

I'm a little less scientific than some of the other tech editors when it comes to my cleat setup. I mount the cleats, depending on the shoes, pretty close to the center of the channel side-to-side and right behind the ball of my foot, pointing straight ahead. Since I haven't been using any shoes with overly aggressive tread, I don't use any shims or other adjustments. When I get on my bike, if something feels off, I'll move my cleat accordingly. If it feels fine, I roll with it. I don't overthink it, and I think I'm pretty adaptable when it comes to setup.

Speaking of being adaptable, I recently acquired several sets of TIME pedals and cleats. I also have a few new sets of shoes that I need to test sooner rather than later and I'm all out of SPD cleats, so I'm hyping myself up to try something different. Ask me about my pedal setup in a month or two and we'll see how things have changed.




Ryan Palmer - Shimano XTR XC

I started running clipless pedals sometime between 1992 and ‘94, and ran everything ''except'' SPDs until 2009, when I decided to switch to Shimano full-stop. I haven’t looked back since.


Do you remember the Onza HO pedals? Those ones that used elastomers instead of springs to control cleat release tension. They came with four colors, clear, gray, blue and black; each a different durometer. The concept seemed cool at the time, and the pedals worked alright in the summertime, but as soon as the temp dropped, the elastomers would freeze up and lock you in. Those were my first clipless pedals. Things could only improve from there.
Ryan Palmer
Position: Beta Senior Tech Editor
Clips/Flats Time Split: I used to try running flats on DH bikes until I realized that they’re stupid on those, too.
Preferred shoe style: Trail bike shoes, but if they have shoelaces I won’t touch them.
Chosen Pedal: Shimano XTR XC

Next, I went to Ritchey Logics, mostly because they were red. I was like 12 years old, so color mattered more to me then. Who am I kidding, color still means way more to me than it should.

The Ritcheys lasted a couple years, until I got turned on to the Time A.T.A.C pedals for their superior tolerance to muddy conditions. That’s what I ran through college, until I got a job working for a team that was sponsored by Crankbrothers. I started running those pedals because, you know, they were free, but I was never a huge fan.

So when I had to start paying for pedals again in 2009, I decided to ''finally'' hop on the SPD bandwagon. I’ve been happy ever since.

I generally run the Shimano XC-style pedals because I don’t feel like the pseudo platform on the Trail-style ones adds any function for me. The first couple generations added the tiniest amount of extra support for sideloading, but it was negligible in my opinion. The newest version does have much more of a platform, but I still don’t feel like it adds any benefit for me, because I run good shoes: Shimanos

If a company makes both pedals and shoes, I say match them up. It only makes sense that the shoe/pedal interface will be perfect, right? In my experience running Shimano/Shimano for shoes and pedals, the shoe lugs are always at the right height to allow float without dragging on the pedal body, and the cleats never require any special spacing or anything. When there’s too much friction preventing float, I get knee pain, so it’s something I’m always keenly aware of..


The seals come out and the spindles always develop play, but I still run them anyway.
If you like Shimano pedals, I say at least give Shimano shoes a try. Because if the shoe fits, it's probably the best interface you could ask for.

I also like the support of the shimano shoes. They range in stiffness from model to model, but they publish the stiffness number of each shoe so you can figure out what will work best for you. Most shoes are totally ambiguous when it comes to stiffness rating.

Shimano’s more walkable AM-series shoes have flex in the toes, but plenty of stiffness under the cleat where it counts, which I believe is why I’m happy with the platformless pedals. The platform is in the shoe rather than on the pedal. I realize this creates a different feel, but it’s one that I prefer.

Now, back to the pedals. I typically run XTR because I’m a total snob. I run them despite the fact that they’re not as good as the XT pedals, and never have been. Every set of XTR pedals I’ve ever owned have wandering spindle seals that allow a free pass for water and grime. They also develop play remarkably quickly, so I’m always rebuilding or re-adjusting the bearing play. It’s cool that you can adjust them like a cup and cone hub, but the frequency of service isn’t.

I’m not sure why Shimano hasn’t done any development on the guts of the XTR pedal for so long, because I’m sure they’re aware how imperfect they are. Perhaps because dummies like me keep using them.

If I were less pretentious, I’d run XT pedals since I know that in reality they’re a better, more robust product.







Sarah Moore - Shimano XTR


I suppose I did learn to ride on flat pedals as a little kid, but what I would consider my first "real" mountain bike, a hardtail Devinci Cactus, came with Shimano SPDs and so my first experiences with actually riding on trails were with clip pedals. Along with clip pedals, the Cactus also came with a pair of used clip shoes.
Sarah Moore
Position: Content Manager & Maple Syrup Connaisseur
Clips/Flats Time Split: 99.5% clips
Preferred shoe style: Trail/Enduro
Chosen Pedal: Shimano XTR

Unfortunately, the shoes were a size too big for me and I also didn't know that you could back the tension on your pedals off to make them easier to get out of, so a lot of my crashes in my first year mountain biking came on the uphills, where I would either tip over clipped in (ie: like Mike Levy likes to do) or pull my entire foot out of my shoe accidentally.

I started racing cross-country almost as soon as I learned how to mountain bike - "There aren't any girls racing, you'll do great" my coach said - so there was never any question that I would give up the efficiency on the climbs for being able to dab on the downhills. Eventually, I got shoes that fit (of the tap-dancing variety of course) and figured out how to back the tension off on the pedals, so the number of times I crashed climbing rapidly diminished, although I still managed to finish most every ride with a new bruise or two.

I never really gave flat pedals a fair chance until 2020, over 15 years after I got into mountain biking. I decided they would be safer to learn to wheelie on. While I enjoy flat pedals for wheelie practice and trips in the Chilcotins with lots of hike-a-biking, my day-to-day riding is done on a pair of Shimano SPDs. 15-year-old me would be appalled at the "heavy" cages on my pedals these days and shoes without a painfully stiff sole, but I like being comfortable and being able to smash my pedals and not worry about them.


I tried a lot of clip pedals for the Trail MTB Pedals Buyer's Guide last year, but like many of the editors in this article, Shimano pedals are the ones I've spent the most time on in the past several years. When my trusty XT pedals got stolen alongside my bike in November, I decided that there was no reason to "save" the XTR pedals I'd received for the Buyer's Guide for some special occasion (I'm not even sure what I thought that might be) and so I installed them on my new Norco Sight.

I suppose I could have waited until I got new shoes, but I quite like my disintegrating Shimano AM9 shoes with the cleats in exactly the right position. They're starting to feel a bit like slippers but I've been procrastinating getting new shoes since I know I'll have to stop multiple times in the first ride and fiddle around to get the new cleats "just right". I like Shimano shoes since they allow me to run my cleats as far back as I like to. I'm not sure if my calves are really weak or need stretching, but I feel like I'm on my tippy-toes with some other shoes. Last time I got new shoes, I replaced them with exactly the same model since I knew that I'd be comfortable with the cleats centred and all the way back.







386 Comments

  • 249 32
 Flatless pedals ftw
  • 25 1
 Ooooh new industry jargon!
  • 79 3
 Surprised no time pedals. Found spd pack with junk to much and with crank bros the occasional foot popping out on pedal strikes. The only thing I dislike about the times it trying to replace the bushing during the few times I had to rebuild
  • 33 5
 The slow death of Time pedals is a pretty good proof that the best technology doesn't always win (second proof: Spinergy spokes). I finally stopped using them last year because the cleat cutout in modern shoes is now built specifically for SPDs and won't accommodate anything else. I put my 15-year-old Sidi shoes (still work) and my 2021 Sidi shoes next to each other and they clearly narrowed the cutout around an SPD cleat. I could mount a Time cleat but I couldn't clip in.

Every time I ride with my SPDs I miss the mud clearance, float, and click of the Times. Still the best, and now patent-free.

I was amazed nobody in the PB crew was riding them, but perhaps the ecosystem problem I faced has affected others as well. SPD's aren't very good- but they're good enough.
  • 13 0
 Really surprised at the lack of Time pedals. SRAM just bought them, so I'm hoping that there's no major changes, and that maybe availability of pedals/replacements (mainly cleats - haven't worn out anything else) becomes easier. I'd suspect we're in for a power meter for all those mtb athletes clamouring for a power meter pedal (which I assume is almost nobody).
  • 41 0
 @ratedgg13: guessin SRAM is trying to figure out how to make the pedals blutooth....
  • 6 0
 @Mtmw: I just got some new Sidi Defenders at Christmas and they deal with my Times just fine. If they hadn't, I would have returned them. Which Sidis did you get and which Times are you using?

I was also very surprised that nobody at PB is on Time pedals.

I'm waiting to see what SRAM does to them now that they own them. I don't have high hopes since I've always found SRAM engineering to be sub-par.
  • 14 0
 @Mtmw: And by "slow death of Time pedals" I assume you mean the acquisition of Time by SRAM that gave the owners of Time millions of dollars?

Never had an issue getting Time cleats to fit with any shoes.
  • 2 0
 @Explodo: The Sidi Frost Gore. It's a winter boot (gravel). Tried it with both my ATAC pedals and my Mavic licensed Time-compatible. Just couldn't clip in and spent a lot of time moving the cleat around to make it work.
  • 1 0
 @fullendurbro: same here but with cb enduro/DH pedals the shoes certainly matters
  • 11 0
 I have been running Time ATAC pedals for over 20 years. I have a stash of the Z Control pedals. They work and work well. I have had some trouble with clip clearance but that is what the Dremel tool is for.
  • 1 0
 @Mtmw: My Sidi shoes fit but it was a snug fit around the cleats. I just cut away some of the lugs on the shoes to give some clearance.
  • 14 0
 I have multiple sets of shoes and Time pedals. I've never experienced clear interference issues with the shoes: I have a set of Pearl Izumi, Sidi, and two sets of Giro's. No issues.

By far the best pedals on the market. Every now and then I convince someone to switch. They always like them. Most people look at me like I'm crazy and keep riding Crank Bros that are made of cheese and can't hold cleats in and Shimano's that the cleats are either too tight or too loose.

Oh well.
  • 3 0
 @fullendurbro: they need those dollars though. Time used to be the gods of pedals that lasted forever, they really let that slip
  • 4 0
 I have lots of time pedals held together with JB weld. They almost always fail at the pin interface which gets loose, falls out and loses the clip and spring. However, time had always been good about sending me spare parts. That being said, I now have 2 pairs with broken clips that need parts and SRAM doesn't seem to have any.

I'm tempted to bite the bullet & buy 6 pairs of XT's after this article... Otherwise no complaints about all my time pedals.
  • 2 0
 @mashrv1: The big difference seems to be that the new forged retainers aren't as strong as the old stainless rod ones.
  • 2 0
 @laksboy: JB Weld works for the slipped out pin? Good to know. I've got one or two pairs set aside with that issue that I really should fix and pass along since I begrudgingly switched to SPDs so that I could get Garmin Rally XC power meter pedals. My trick to get a more similar feel to Times from SPDs is to use Nukeproof 8 degree float cleats.
  • 1 0
 @mashrv1: I see what you did there.
  • 4 0
 I was on TIME for nearly a decade, but made the switch back to Shimano XT when my last couple pairs of TIME broke prematurely or when the pin that holds the spring in kept coming out. Interestingly through, my original pair of TIME pedals is still going strong. Shimano just beats the current crop of TIME pedals in the durability dept. I do prefer the feel of TIME over all other brands though.
  • 2 0
 @blum585: This is exactly me too, but had ridden time for 20+ years. My oldest atac pedals with the plastic outers are still going strong. The newest pair didn’t last a season and were impossible to repair. I’m digging the XT pedals especially since they are user repairable.
  • 1 0
 @artistformlyknowasdan: as a newer mtb rider who did lots of road as a teenager I knew I wanted to be clipped in so I went for the Mallet DH paired with the then brand new CB Mallet shoes and I could not be happier.

Now, it's interesting to note I have never tired spd, but instead rode Look back in the day. So going CB was certainly a leap but one I've been incredibly happy with. I get the float I like, super easy clipping (occasionally I clip in while resting my foot there in the parking lot) the large platform that the shoe is literally made for, and three easy release all while never coming out when I don't want to.


Oh wait! I did unclip mid corner at Sea Otter on downhill practice in a berm, but had not trouble getting my foot back onto the pedal and clipped just by sitting there. So one accidental unclip.
  • 2 0
 @Mtmw: I've tried flats, Shimano, and Crank Bros, but I keep coming back to Times. I really love them. Plus, they aren't the same thing everybody else is running. I'd probably stick with Crank Bros if it weren't for how hitting a rock on the other side of the pedal just right causes an inadvertent release just like you said.

Why do I like that not everybody else uses them? Prolly because I'm a douchebag. I mean, I always ride alone, and nobody ever says anything to me about pedals either way, so it shouldn't matter.
  • 1 0
 @JakeEPooh: same here, I switch between flats (Dmr) and clips and I prefer Time ( mx6) over spd and cb, best feeling clipping in and out, great float and reliable. Maybe a bigger platform if I could ask for an improvement. With Time pedals almost no one will be able to ride/ try your bike
  • 1 0
 @notenduro: Yes. As good as new. Better actually. Now I add the JB weld when new to prevent the built-in failure mode feature...
  • 2 0
 @blum585: JB weld or the metal epoxy of your choice fixes the pin problem permanently. I agree you shouldn't have to and Time should fix this design flaw.
  • 1 0
 @st-lupo: Did you have problems with the spindles bending on the old ones?
  • 2 0
 I rode SPDs for 30 years but was never quite happy with the retention. I unclipped too often in bad places, even with the tension cranked all the way. I switched to Times about a year ago and am just loving them. No unwanted clipouts anymore. I hope they prove as reliable as the SPDs.
  • 1 0
 @NWBasser: add some jbweld to the pins and they might be.
  • 3 0
 Time Attack, they were the real shit. They are still quite common for CX racers, it's almost a religion for some people.
  • 1 0
 @jmhills: Time tension bars to gradually chew away at the sole of your shoe in a way that Shimano don't. That said i love they way they feel.
  • 4 0
 @Mtmw: I have been using Time Z pedals on my DH bikes since around 2003, the only issue I had with shoes was with old Shimano MT42 where I had to shave off a few milimetres of the sole, because the cleat was sitting too deep and didn't reach the pedal. Right now I use Time Z on my DH bike and Time MX6 on my trail bike with Shimano AM7 shoes with no issues at all - they work perfectly together.
  • 4 0
 @jmhills: Z-controls are the apex of Times. Basic ATAC system (the adjustable one just doesn't cut it for me), no unnecessary pins and bombproof. As a keyboard engineer, I'd say Time should do a inexpensive perhaps nylon platform version of those.
  • 2 0
 @hellbelly: I found that I loved them and bought 3 sets. I still have one set that had never been mounted and ridden awaiting its turn but the ones that I have on my bike right now are ugly and beaten up but clipping in and out is still easy and there is little to no play in the spindle. The small platform means that in some areas of riding where I do not want to clip in, I can still put full weight down. No stupid adjustable pins. Just nicely shaped and cut aluminum.
  • 1 0
 @jmhills: I bought my first set of Times in '97 and while I don't use them they still work. Zero maintenance. Ever. The worst thing any Time pedal did on a ride was a that clip arm snapped. I could still clip in on the other side. I say that Times are bastion of old guys, Francophiles and cyclocross racers. I still have Time Aliums on my commuter, but have gone completely to the darkside with flat pedals for all of my off road exploits over the last couple of years.
  • 1 0
 @artistformlyknowasdan: yep I'll second that. I had fiveten kestrals and I couldn't unclip from CB mallets. As far as I could tell the clear is too recessed for the CB cleat. Zero problems with SPD just doesn't like Crank brothers
  • 3 0
 @RBorek: I've been using the Crank Bros shoe shields to combat this issue with TIME pedals, which has been working really well and the shields have lasted through multiple pairs of shoes, which wore out from regular use.
  • 1 0
 I’m a Time fan, but the plastic stuff they made for several years sucked. The newer alloy Speciales are fantastic. I use them for enduro, xc, and road/gravel.
  • 2 0
 @briain: ha - I had that same exact setup, not great! At this point I’m not messing with pedals that are sooo finicky when it comes to shoes and cleat height. I never had to mess with that with times or spd. I have a set of cb enduros I’ve tried to give to some of my riding buddies, nobody wants em
  • 1 0
 @ratedgg13: Sram makes power meter cranks already so I doubt they will go that route.
  • 1 0
 @Explodo: Never had a problem with bent spindles. I’ve bent the springs on the Speciale 8 and broke the metal bodies on the aliums.
  • 1 0
 @artistformlyknowasdan: yeah I think it's pretty hard to argue just going sod works with everything and I can't really feel the difference in float between CB and them
  • 2 0
 @jmhills: Time ATAC's for 20+ years here as well. Cheers to you!
  • 5 0
 @fullendurbro: I think what I meant by slow death of time pedals is this thread, where nearly everyone using them has been using them for about 20 years. And this article, where nobody at PinkBike uses them anymore. They seem to be the pedal that grouchy 40+ year olds are clinging on to but nobody's adopting.
At least, that was my perception as a grouchy 40+ year old who was clinging onto his ATACs forever.
  • 2 0
 @Mtmw: Hey, I just turned 40 two days ago. I just use what works.
  • 2 0
 @Mtmw: I has the same problem with some shimano shoes. It is something that is easily solved with a cutter but I could understand beginner being puzzled at why they can't unclip and dismiss Time pedals as not working while the reality is some of the industry simply is hostile to broad compatibility.

I am also in my forties. I hope they will still be around for the next 45 years or be replaced by something at least as good so I can hope dying on my bike with a better system (to me) than the SPD.
  • 3 0
 @st-lupo: I have several old pairs of Times(like 15-20 years old) that have bent spindles but are otherwise good still. They just went in the spare-parts bin and stay there like all the other old parts. Back when those were bending I had trouble with all the bike parts, so they were better because they didn't fail, they just went a little off. The newer speciales that I have on both of my serious bikes are great except for the aforementioned forged spring bars which bend too easily. The forged spring bars are truly awful for strength compared to the old stainless rod ones. I guess I fit what others have said about this thread...I'm an old guy still on Times because when times came out they were light-years better than anything else you could get. I still THINK they're better, but I haven't tried anything else in 20 years because I'm not going to change over all my bikes for "maybe it'll be better than great."
  • 2 0
 @Explodo: I downgraded recently from time ATACs to Shimano XTR. Trust me, any ATAC pedal is both better and lighter than the worlds best SPD pedal. You’re not missing anything.
  • 2 0
 @Mtmw: @Explodo Old 41 year old guy here. I do plan to try some XT spd's shortly to see if I am missing anything... Agreed that the new forged bars are not nearly as robust as the old SS rods, but I broke those too... Time used to be really good about spare parts, but I'm not about to buy several pairs of $165 Special*'s and break every 9-12 months. I think I'd accept some downgrade in feel/performance for indestructible XT spds.. We'll see.
  • 2 0
 @laksboy: When my stash of Z Control's are done, the DH4 looks pretty exactly like what I have now.
  • 1 0
 @jmhills: yeah, I've taken an angle grinder to reshape the lower outer edge on both my Z-controls & DH4 so they glance off rocks better similar to the Special 8's. The square edge on those is a silly design and I don't have much use for the large platform. If I don't like the SPD'd, it's possible the DH4 might become the go-to for the best performance to price to longevity ratio.
  • 1 0
 @Mtmw: A dremel tool is your friend. Last week I widened the cleat cutout on a pair of shoes to work on SPD-like pedals with platform frame (Xpedo Neo GFX). The gap was big enough for the cleat, but the tread hit the frame/platform portion.
Time pedals being out of patent explains why there are relatively new 3rd party sources for the cleats! My spouse rides Time, but I need to have pedal extenders, so pedals which ONLY use the 8mm allen wrench don't work for me.
  • 54 0
 Came here expecting Levy to have the most batshit-crazy setup of the lot... aaand got exactly that. Who knew pedal set up was a window into someone's soul...
  • 16 0
 LOCK ME IN PLEASE
  • 1 0
 @mikelevy: Serious question Mike / Henry:
Ive flipped between clips and flats for the last few years and feel super comfortable using both.
Id probably rather get the benefit of clips but my right foot turns outward a fair few degrees from being level with knee. (Probably from multiple breaks over the years!)
As much as I try I cant get a cleat to get my foot comfortable (pointing outward) without feeling like its twisting my knee . So Im resigned to flats where I can position perfectly.
Any helpful tips? Thanks fellas
  • 2 0
 @pen9-wy: try a pedal with more float. my knees are sensitive to torsional pressure too and I could never gel with SPDs. I switched to Time pedals and never looked back. It's a strange sensation at first as the pedals hold tight vertically but have some horizontal movement and very little torsional resistance so your feet feel loose, even though they're not.
  • 3 0
 @pen9-wy: clips on the left, flats on the right?
  • 3 0
 @pen9-wy: try HT's pedals, I have the T1 and i keep the tension fairly low - get the float of a crankbros but have the similar ramp up of a shimano. You can twist easily but know when the tension will release due to the ramp up. Only issue is rebuild kits seem non-existent.
  • 2 0
 @pen9-wy: i think if you run time pedals and turn the cleats in the shoe as much as you can you should be able to have the angle you need because of all the float with time pedals.
  • 1 0
 @JasonALap: thanks for the advice sounds like that's what is needed - cheers!
  • 1 0
 @B3NBiker: cheerr!
  • 1 0
 @PaulinhoCascavel: Lopes style
  • 1 0
 @deaf-shredder: I like the T1 too, it's like a combination of all my favorite pedals of the past and something about the feel makes it my overall favorite. I've been able to get a couple of rebuild kits recently right off of Amazon.
  • 38 1
 After lots of experimenting and lots of wasted cash I'm back to SPDs...I tried with the CB pedals as my default is often riding flats so figured it was the move...sounds dumb but I just could not get clipped in effectively (using the Mallet shoes and Mallet E). I tired spacers, different cleat positions, etc. it just never felt clean or natural.

SPDs just have that click...there is no question if you're in or not which I like. FWIW the Saint SPDs are best of both words at least for me.
  • 6 0
 Same, crankbros do feel good with the platform, but that SPD click is just too hard to pass up. One day I’ll try saint pedals and see if the platform feels good, but for the next decade I’ll be using my trusty XTs.
  • 13 0
 Did you have the long or short axles on the Mallet E? The short ones are unrideable unless you have pixie feet.

If you get on with the Shimano mechanism there's no reason to use anything else IMO.
  • 2 0
 @seb-stott: Hmm...I guess it was the 52mm Q factor...so the short?

Perhaps that was the issue...It was bizarre and I'm no newb to clips from road riding days...It was infuriating...I finally got it but had the cleat so high that it was like iceskating when not clipped in lol.

I do agree with Kaz though...the Mallet Shoe + SPD (single release cleat for me) is a fantastic combo.
  • 2 0
 Agreed, I ran XTs for a couple of years at a time, my Saints litteraly looks like they will last forever and give a better unclipped platform to mash on for tricky situations.
  • 3 2
 @seb-stott: at some point in Quinneys analysis of all things pedal/cleat/shoe did you have the same desire I did to to tell at him to shut up and ride?

When I read your setup description, I just assumed you're more like me than him
  • 2 5
 I rode a pair of CB pedals for about 2 miles. I hated them so much I removed them and handed them to the first person I saw. It was a friend who loved them. Never again they just felt terrible couldn't clip in, didn't know if I was clipped in, had trouble clipping out. Literally nothing felt right with them. Went back to Time pedals and flats.
  • 1 0
 Spd on trail bike and mallet od DH bike for me
  • 6 0
 Crankbrothers feel quite different after a few rides and the brass cleats have been broken in. And better again a long time after that when the stainless cage breaks in, and then when the aluminum pedal body gets a concave carved into from your shoe, and then when the corners of the pedal have worn away to nothing...Hmm, guess it's been a few years on these
  • 3 0
 I started with the cheapest SPD's in 1996 and eventually landed on XTs. Like @mikekazimer said, they're very consistent, easy to setup, and require very little maintenance. I'm 100% certain that I could still be using those 1st pedals today if I really wanted to. I wish bikes were as tough and durable as shimano pedals.
  • 6 0
 @Philthy503: You've never tried to race DH in peanut butter. No matter what is surrounding or not surrounding an SPD from Shimano, HT, Nukeproof, etc....you stand a chance of being stuck out of or stuck in them when the clay starts getting thick & tacky.

Crank Brothers, once set up correctly...you can just stomp into them regardless. Even with ice frozen in them.
Time has that same characteristic.

But I never want to risk riding skates trying to clip into SPDs again or worse...being bound up in them for that briefest of instants they take to disengage versus Crank Brothers & Times.
  • 1 0
 This is why I’ve never really bothered to try clipping in. I’m comfortable on flats so it’s fine but I can see the possible advantages of clipping in. It’s just with so many different types of pedals and shoes and settings etc that it just seems like it’s going to be a huge pain in the ass to switch and find something that works. And then I just say f*ck it and keep riding what I have.
  • 2 0
 @sino428: yeah, back in ye olden times, we figured out that you had to cut away a ton of the sole of most shoes, especially when Airwalk, SixSixOne, etc started coming out with "DH" shoes with flat soles.

But now most all companies have realized they need to clear lots of space in and around the cleat in the sole if people are going to get right in first try.

If I was being paid to make someone happy in clipless first time around, I'd tell them to:
1. Go with the Shimano AM7 or AM9 shoe (don't need to cut out any sole)
2. Go with Crank Brothers Mallet DH pedals (biggest flat style platform so you can ride around without a desperate need to clip in to keep on the bike)
3. Mount the cleat almost all the way back in the plate.
4. Use ONE cleat spacer
5. Mount the cleat to release in the 15 degree (easy exit) position
6. First time you pop out of the cleat when you get comfortable hammering at race speed, flip the cleat to the harder 20 degree release position
7. Use the brass cleats (softer, smoother entry and release but wear out quicker)

That's it. Crank Brothers can be muddy as satan's thoughts & still clip in or out of them in a panic if you run that exact setup.

I regularly swap out between Nukeproof Horizon flat pedals with Five Ten Freerider Pro shoes to the combo of clipless I mentioned above. Makes boring trails new again to change that single contact point on the bike.

Once all the leaves are off the trails and a main line really burns in for the season, clipless lets you slot into that groove and maybe snag an extra trail that day.

Flats when the leaves start falling or if the roots are glass...you can just get silly and toss the bike and your rudders (feet) wherever and whenever. Same trail two days in a row...swap shoes and pedals and it's a whole new ride
  • 2 0
 @blowmyfuse: This is so on the money. Thanks
  • 47 8
 The term 'clipless' needs to be banished to the bin of history. When's the last time you chose between flats and toe clips?
  • 10 1
 Agree. Could we start calling them click pedals?
  • 10 0
 @pakleni: But my CrankBrothers pedals don't click, they kinda just mush together.
  • 86 9
 Nah, I like to use it as a reminder of where we came from. I also find it funny how annoyed some people get with the term - that's almost more motivation to keep using it. Sorry.
  • 12 4
 I have a commuter bike with clips. Also respect your bike heritage. Just because it hurts your brain doesn't change the history. You can call clipless pedals whatever you want, but they are and will always be clipless pedals. Sincerely your local retrogrouch!
  • 9 10
 @mikekazimer: it's a pain in the ass if you're selling pedals to humans. Especially if there's an "ackshually..." finger-waggling roadie/historian somewhere in the workflow that insists on the term's importance.

clip pedals or flats. these are the options for people looking to ride bikes...
  • 2 2
 Every moron I know that started in the last 20 years call them clip-on pedals.
  • 6 0
 @unrooted: Back home in Croatia everyone called them SPD pedals even though most of us were on Eggbeaters
  • 1 0
 Forty years ago ....
  • 7 0
 I took the metal cages and leather straps off my old platform pedals and now they are clipless
  • 8 0
 I think we should rename flat pedals to analogue pedals.
  • 13 0
 Obviously, there is only one way to alleviate all this confusion:

Flats = BMX background pedals
Clipless = Downcountry pedals
  • 1 0
 @TommyNunchuck you left the space out of your name. Can't unsee it.

Will forever pronounce it like a buddha sitting on the toilet pushing out a spicy sauce.
  • 1 0
 @pakleni: This!
  • 2 0
 @mikekazimer: That reminds me I need to take my horseless carriage to the mercantile store this afternoon to pick up a new set of clipless pedals for my velocipede.
  • 1 0
 @st-lupo: for the culture!
  • 1 0
 In 1991 I think.
  • 2 0
 @mikekazimer: I'm going to start calling them clipfull pedals out of spite now
  • 34 0
 I feel like I'm enough of a pedal snob to judge the value of an editors opinion due to their cleat placement.
  • 25 0
 Hey @henryquinney could we get a 'getting to know..' article on each of the PB staff? A friend and I were just discussing how we'd love some more back story on how you all got into mtb, type of riding, professional history, how you to to PB etc. I think it would help us understand reviews and articles better from your perspectives. Just a thought.
  • 23 0
 That's a great shout! @mikelevy could talk us through his favourite Sum 41 songs and why gravel bikes are an actual real thing.

Joking aside, I'll look into it. Thanks for the suggestion.
  • 23 0
 Dunno about pedals, but @jamessmurthwaite is clearly winning shoes.
  • 15 0
 Glasgow chic
  • 15 0
 I have been on the same pair of XTs since 2014... and mountainbiking is my main sport, granted I only weigh 140 but damn if that is not the best money I have ever spent on bike components, its not that I wouldn't be able to afford a new pair, it's just that they keep on working as well as the day I bout them...8 years ago....
  • 10 0
 I'm a flat pedal guy. My biggest gripe with clipless aka riding clipped in (doh) is how far forward the cleats on are on shoes. even with them adjusted all the way back i just cant get comfortable. With flats i feel the pedals are in my mid foot where as clipless i feel like I'm on the balls of my feet. It feels fine when pedaling but not in the air for me. makes the bike feel nose heavy. I feel like shoes with the cleat mounts further back toward the midfoot would fix that for me. i also wear a size 13 shoe which i don't think helps. For now i don't feel i give up anything in any discipline when i ride on flats.
  • 1 0
 I'm a size 13 too and have dremeled the slots in my shoes in order to get the cleats further behind the ball of my foot. Works well and the mod doesn't seem to compromise the integrity of the sole (I'm only extending the slots by 1cm, maybe a bit less, or so).
  • 1 0
 @MaineErik: What models have you been working with? Somethinh like a shimano m089 with a plastic sole seems easy enough to put a dremel or drill to, but I prefer more beefy shoes with some protection and better rubber for walking. The newish fizik gravita tensor shoes are very comfy and has just enough protection, but the cleat slots are 10-15mm too far forward.
  • 1 0
 @alexasu: I've always only had xc race shoes, I like that they're stiff, low volume, quick drying. The sole is usually all plastic, so easy to Dremel. On something more rubbery (5-10s) it could perhaps be more challenging?
  • 11 2
 I'm 37 and have never had any device ever attaching my foot to a pedal. Mostly because I was scared to even try. I feel like I could successfully do it now, but I'm just too old to change at this point.
  • 8 0
 Took the plunge at 39, is tough to start something new when you could just carry on with a good setup. You'll celebrate like a champ when you first come to a stop and don't topple over. Get a cheap pair of SPDs. I now spend half my time on each, it's great fun to mix it up
  • 3 0
 @HankHank: I did celebrate like a champ. A little win not falling in slow motion while getting used being attached to the bike at a stop sign and with people watching and wondering what the heck.. Now I feel disconnected when not clipped in.
  • 14 1
 You're 37 not 70...you're not too old to do anything except maybe pull of the modern mullet look that kids are rocking these days.
  • 4 2
 I rode SPDs a few times as a teen (I prefered toe clips?!) then finally took the plunge at 39. Now I have SPDs on all my bikes.

My tips:
- it's fine to buy used pedals to start (my first set I bought new but the used pedals on my gravel work as well.. nearly impossible to kill them)
- get new cleats and don't bother with the multirelease
- start with the pedals at the lowest tension and ride around on roads to start to figure out clipping and unclipping
- bump up tension if you get accidental releases
- I follow Jeff kendall-weed on tension: two clicks max and if I get accidental releases then it's time for new cleats

It didn't take many rides to get used to it and after a season I can touch down as easy as a flat. It feels like I'm just putting my foot down.
  • 1 2
 @eh-steve: I disagree

Multi release are the best.
  • 1 0
 Never to old to start.
  • 8 0
 Sympathy for Ryan Palmer. My first two clipless pedal experiences were Onza HO followed by Ritchey Logic as well. The Onza were deathtraps even in summer once they suffered through a few good rock strikes. The body was soft enough to deform so that one side would release far too easily while the other side locked you in with no hope of escape.
  • 3 0
 I ran Onza pedals until about 15 years ago. Eventually my supply of elastomers fell apart. Tried Crank Bros for several years, and always felt like I never knew when I was clipped in for sure. Eventually you just get "stuck". Finally tried Shimano about two years ago (it only took me about 30 years) and have really liked them.
  • 4 0
 Loved my Onza pedals, but mostly because I felt cool for being the only person around that wasn’t on SPDs. Then my bike got stolen, and I spotted my pedals for sale in the used bin of my local bike shop. Those pedals worked great for me, and were lighter than the SPDs I-had before.

Now I’m on the same set of Speedplay Frogs for the last two decades. The bolts on the cleats have needed replacing, but everything else on has held up great. Super light, but the crazy amount of float took a long time to get used to for sure.
  • 2 0
 @MB3: I know a couple of guys running the Frog pedals. They're bummed you can't get cleats for them anymore.
  • 8 0
 I have unintentionally double ejected out of crankbrothers twice resulting in a violent collision of my junk to my stem. And while I'm sure someone could quote user error or the brass cleats were worn or blah blah blah, SPD's have just always worked.
  • 2 0
 Beer shot outta my nose on that one!
  • 6 0
 Well done on this one Henry! It was a nice look at the different personalities and kit of each rider. Would love more of these looking at specific personal gear of the editors. Lots of options and felt less pressured by current trends. Much like most of the riders here I am on XT's that have lasted for... I don't even really know how long. I run my cleats as far back as I can cram them, retention clips cranked up, and running Giro Terraduro shoes that I don't think they make anymore and am hanging on to despite them starting to fall apart. I do think there is some merit to the "ride in flats" to improve skills argument but don't stress it on the MTB because the BMX has flats and that harsh little bike keeps you very honest or punishes you harshly...and often in front of my son and a gaggle of scooter kids. The BMX is great for keeping those pump and jump skills fresh while on flats.
  • 10 1
 No Time ATAC love? I have them on all bikes and prefer the feel float over SPD.
  • 3 1
 Time ATAC. all the bikes. i have a pair from 1997 too.
  • 2 2
 @nwtoney55: Me too, oldest part on a number of my bikes, they just keep going and going like the Energizer bunny.
  • 2 0
 Old ones were great, new ones... meh
  • 5 0
 Timing of this article is perfect as I have just decided to get back to clipless after several scary pedal slips on my flats this season. That said, I simply cannot figure out the Crank Brothers Mallet DH pedals that I purchased. Even with the pins wound all the way down and the cleat spacer installed, I absolutely cannot get the pedals to release. Any tips from the pinkbike crowd? Do I just need the pedals/springs to break in a bit?
  • 3 0
 Had the same issue...sounds like the spindle might be the issue...or just get SPDs.
  • 1 0
 @MikeyMT: Yea. I do have a pair of SPDs I could try again - that said, years ago I rode both SPDs and Crank Brothers pedals, and I preferred the float and easy exit of the crank brothers. My goal here is to have a pedal that will keep me from slipping over rough sections, but will allow for a quick exit if I need to put a foot down.

In the meantime, I've ordered the 10 degree release cleats - maybe this will make it easier while the pedals break in.
  • 8 0
 @KJP1230, installing the longer spindle could definitely help if your foot is hitting the crank arm before you release. There shouldn't be much of a break-in period with those pedals, though. Could your shoe still be interfering with the cleat and pedal? Sometimes more than one spacer is necessary to make it easier to get in and out.

You might want to try clipping your shoe in without it on your foot (or clip in and then take your shoe off). Then you can flip it over to see what might be causing the issue.
  • 2 0
 What shoes do you run? I have Mallet DH and Mallet E and have tried a combination of shoes with them. I found 5.10 DH shoes to be the absolute worst as the sole would interfere with the pins even with lots of spacers. I'm currently running Shimano ME7 shoes and previously had some DMT enduro style shoes that were much better. I think a flat sticky sole doesn't work well with the pins so you either remove the pins or try different shoes
  • 1 0
 @DC1988: Well that explains it. I purchased 5.10 Hellcats, and even with 2 metal spacers and the pins wound all the way down, there is still significant pressure between the sole of the shoe and the platform when clipped in.

I could try a 3rd spacer, or just give up on 5.10s...
  • 1 0
 Same issue, and dislocated my elbow and broke it, in a parking lot. Can't clip in, can't clip out. Pins down and... 2 spacers.
  • 1 0
 @KJP1230: Once you get too many spacers you can't even walk with the damn shoes...I don't know...something about the CBs doenst add up for me.
  • 1 0
 I also have Mallet DHs and 5.10 Hellcat Pros with a plastic and metal spacer... They are so hard to get in and out of that I've had the setup for over a year, and have only tried them a handful of times because I feel like they are too hard to use.
  • 5 0
 my daily rides are all on flats, since being able to wear the same shoes when loading/unloading, driving, stopping for snacks and riding is just so convenient. But on longer adventure days I rock almost the same setup that henry has, for all the same reasons. My current favorite shoes are ride concepts transition clip, with the cleat all the way back and angled aggressively towards the big toe
  • 1 0
 If you angle the cleat further towards the big toe aren't you more likely to unclip given the heel is starting further out?
  • 2 0
 @tmou1t: for rotating the heel away from the bike yes, but for the heel rotating in towards the bike (like the inside knee during a flat turn) it’s even further away from unclipping.
  • 2 0
 I’m tempted to try clips again. My feet would constantly blow off in corners with any brand of pedal. Got frustrated and became Flats-4-Lyfe.

Never thought to angle the cleats… Is my life about to change?
  • 1 0
 @Lylat: When I switched to clips this was a big problem for me as well. Once I got the angle right and the more I got used to the clips it was no longer a problem. It actually got to the point that I had too much angle and the float was too far outboard.
  • 7 0
 Flats are real fun for busting wheelies and manuals on the way to the grocery store and general urban assault. Hard to give up for that alone
  • 3 1
 100% Flats for the win - zero extra crap to worry about, jump on and go in any shoe. Flat out with your foot out...
  • 3 2
 @threesixtykickflip: flat pedals win medals
  • 2 2
 @wburnes: Not anymore they dont
  • 1 0
 @CM999: bike riders win medals
  • 4 0
 I have run just about every clipless pedal out there and have been on shimano spds since about 2008. They just work, and work well. If Time would make an equivalent quality pedal as an XT I would be happy on those but my last few pair of times died very quickly.
  • 1 0
 How??
  • 1 0
 The old school Time Alium can be found on eBay for cheap. They might actually be more durable than xt pedals. Similar weight. So not light.
  • 1 0
 @georgiamtbiker: I've had pins come out on aliums too. Like all my time pedals. JB weld FTW
  • 4 0
 Probably a bunch of people here still rocking Shimano DXM636 pedals. I took mine off the bike a while back as they were heavy, but my god, talk about durable pedals. I still have them.
If you run Shimano pedals, look at spending the $3-4 on TL-PD40 which is the Shimano pedal axle removal tool to rebuild your pedals with.
  • 3 0
 I run the 636s and I love those things
  • 1 0
 Yep! Same pair since 2013. Long live the DX
  • 4 0
 I’m so pleased I’m not the only tart running those velosamba shoes! Though I think I got on with them a little better than @Jamessmurthwaite by the sounds of it. Perfectly happy with them for gravel climb, trail descent type rides, but they don’t feel great for hard pedalling. But they look so good!
  • 2 0
 It's early days for me but they just feel a bit sweaty and my heels are slipping on the back a bit but that could just be a sizing issue. Don't disagree on the looks though!
  • 1 0
 @jamessmurthwaite: I have never suffered from cold feet so that could explain it but also agree on the loose heel, not caused me bother yet though
  • 4 1
 Started on Crankbros and switched to SPD couldn't be happier. Went through 3 sets of Mallet E's in a season. Switched to Shimano and as expected the durability is awesome. Much more secure feel and less unintentional popping out. SPD for lyfe.
  • 4 0
 Just wondering, what caused your Mallet Es to fail? I've had bent axles and worn internals, but not three times a season and nothing that can't be fixed.
  • 3 1
 I couldn’t reliably get out of the Crank Bros, but Shimano release was much easier. I actually blew a foot out of my SPDs a few times on jumps before learning how to keep them in.
  • 2 0
 @babathehutt: This kind of sounds like a pro for the Crankbrothers. When I'm clipped in I like to stay that way not blow my foot out of the pedal haha.
  • 2 0
 @hukriede: too many tip overs and an over the bars incident that resulted in a broken hand have changed my mind. I didn’t have the confidence to try technical moves descending or climbing so I changed them out. It was the best move I made. I have a big collection of 20 year old SPDs that I got for free and they’ve been bulletproof.
  • 3 0
 I started riding clipless after about a year of mtb, I chose SPDs paired with Shimano shoes. I feel absolutly no need to ever try anything else, they have been perfect and are still going strong, after a season and a half of hard xco racing with thousands of miles. They weren't crazy expensive either.
  • 5 2
 I envy people who are able to develop this reflex to unclip when falling. For me it would require far to many crashes and after a broken wrist I gave up, it's better to ride flats than have too many contusions to ride at all.
  • 7 1
 I never ever had a problem with unclipping, in any situation. My problem is clipping in on a rough trail, e.g. steep fast rocky trail coming out of corner where I had to dab a foot. Or starting on a steep slab, where you have only one chance before falling off. While on rolling trails and when at least a few meters to get a start, everything is fine. XTs with AM shoes.
  • 1 0
 @cxfahrer: good for you. Having to twist the foot is completely unnatural for me and always needs to by done consciously which kind of is a no go.
  • 2 0
 @cxfahrer: same here, but I found a solution in FUNN Mamba combos...unclip to go foot out through a corner, pedal naturally rotates around so your foot lands back on a traditional flat pedal and holds until you have a chance to flip it and clip back in
  • 3 0
 Ran SPD's since first gen, no issues really... Tried CB's for a year or two, engagement was just too mushy... Switched to HT's for same reason as Levy, but got tired of falling down when doing techy climbs... Switched to Saints (only thing I could find locally) and I'm way more stoked than I thought I'd be, consistent and clear in and out, great platform, heavy AF so Levy would probably hate them...
  • 4 1
 This post is funny to me because of all the former flat pedal riders switching to clipless. I went the completely opposite way after riding clipless (SPD then CBs) for more than 15 years, I tried flat pedals with pins and good flats shoes 5 years ago first on my hardtail and then moved them to my full-sus. I still ride clipless on my cyclocross bike, but I'm a flat pedal convert for my MTB.
  • 3 0
 @mikelevy,
You can adjust the SPD spring tension by pulling the mech apart, and adding a bit more pre-load to the wound spring (bending the little tabs out, adding a shim under the tabs where it rests against the perch) I used to do it all the time with XT pedals for our XC racers, so you’ve got the best of both worlds (durability, and clear retention)
  • 2 0
 Yup, but it’s not enough.
  • 1 0
 @mikelevy: Really?!
I’ve never tried the HT pedals, but was able to modify the XT’s so that they held firm. We used to leave the shoes on the pedals as it was easier than getting them unclipped. I will say, it does make them more difficult to get clipped into as well.
Are the HT’s more difficult to clip into when the tension is wound up?
  • 1 0
 @onawalk: Unfortunately yes, they get super difficult to enter if they're set up tight.
  • 1 0
 @mikelevy: send me a pair of old XT pedals if you e got em hanging around, pretty sure I can get them modded. It’s been 20 years, but the design hasn’t changed really.
On the HT pedals the spring looks to be physically part of the cleat hold mechanism, not just adding tension to the system. That likely has something to do with how well it holds the cleat as well. Have you tried their enduro pedals?
  • 1 0
 @mikelevy: Mike, did you even consider trying road bike clip pedals? Those have a lot of tension as well! Jk.
  • 3 0
 I use those same gen XT Trail pedals that Kazimer does. They are from 2017. Just two weeks ago I pulled them off my bike (the 2nd bike they've been on) because they need a rebuild. Their first rebuild in basically five years. Assuming I can get a rebuild kit for them, I will continue using them for another five years.
  • 4 0
 Love/Hate my HT's. Love how my foots never going anywhere when I'm blowing my knees out on my single speed. Hate it when I'm on my side from a wet root on a steep climb.
  • 2 0
 Try loosening the retention screw or clean the mechanism thoroughly, let dry then lightly lubricate springs with Boeshields T-9. The spray works great for this and on derailleur pivots, the drip bottle works good also.
  • 2 0
 @RyanRPalmer I also love Shimano SPD's, but have been blasting through the bearings on both XT & XTR's. I gave the Look X-Track SPD's a try, and so far they've been great! (you don't even need to swap cleats on your old shoes)

You can also be as snobby as you want form base CroMo/Alloy to top end Carbon/Ti model. And they're also holding up to heavy rock strikes so far.
  • 2 0
 Anyone got any tips for those Shimano XTs? I have been trying the same set but we I clip in it feels like I'm balanced on top of the cleat, like the soles of my shoes don't actually contact the platform around the mechanism. I want the mechanism to sink in to my shoe more so that it actually feels like I'm connected to the whole of the pedal.
  • 1 0
 What shoe are you using? Could the cleat set up on the shoe be outset a little more? Like on a tradition xc/road shoe vs. a more inset trail shoe?
  • 2 0
 @snl1200: I'm using the AM5 from Shimano.
  • 1 0
 @JonnyTheWeasel: Huh- I've ridden those pedals with a similar shoe and never had that sensation. Is it different from how other clips have felt? Just wondering if it that pedal specifically or if it is just that difference between sitting on a clip system or not... Either way bummer if it is something that is messing with your ride.
  • 1 0
 @snl1200: Yea it's pretty weird. These are the first clipless pedals I've used though for mtb (I've used a different style on my road bike).

I wonder if a different style clipless pedal like the Mallet might feel better.
  • 2 0
 That's one reason I switched to CB Mallet E – that feeling on SPDs of being perched on top of a small metal-to-metal fulcrum point. The Mallets have more of a sense of contacting a wide platform, but they still release about as well as SPD once properly set up. They're less prone to release when angling your hips, too. The one big downside of CB is that if you hit the bottom of the pedal on a rock, it will release, since it uses one spring unit for both sides of the pedal. But I find that less of a problem than the too-easy release of SPD.
  • 1 0
 I find that if the axle is right under the balls of my feet, it feels tippy. Try moving your cleats back; works for me.
  • 4 0
 I had a pair of those Onza pedals. Who cares whether you could get out, they weighed nothing which was my no.1 and 2 priority.
  • 2 0
 Yup! Me too. Only stopped using them because the bike got stolen. Went to Speedplay Frogs with ti spindles, which ended up being even lighter.
  • 2 0
 @MB3: Ha, mine were stolen too! My brother borrowed my bike to get to college and left it lying around, the bastard. That was not a happy day in our household.
  • 1 0
 @olly76: ouch. You don’t put Onza pedals on a beater bike, so I’m guessing it was one you loved.

Wait a sec… why would he borrow a bike with cleat-specific shoes? Did he borrow your shoes as well?
  • 1 0
 Same here - except I wore out the elastomers and could barely stay clipped in on a hard climb. Then went to richey logics (the red ones, still have them and use them). Put on first gen egg beaters, but the springs weren't long enough. Went back to the richeys for years (and found 3 more pairs for $5 each) until recently... and I'm an spd convert. The M520.
  • 1 0
 @MB3: He was not in a good place at the time, no idea if he even noticed the pedals were tiny! The bike was one I'd lovingly upgraded with all my money, was a Ridgeback with a Tange Prestige frame. Had even had it professionally resprayed Frown
  • 2 0
 SPD all the way for me. I tried dh mallets but I just ended up on my ass because i either couldn’t unclog or they released for no apparent reason. I think it was to do with the part of the cleat on the bottom catching something which causes the cleat to open up and out pops your foot at some inappropriate moment
  • 2 0
 Love that, without any provocation, a number of the clip in crowd feel the need to argue that riding flats doesn't require better technique and more skill. Clipping in has its merits and I don't care what you ride, but at least own the pros and cons.
  • 2 0
 I typically enjoy bike maintenance. I do not enjoy pedal maintenance. I see a real opportunity to take a personality test here and come up with your "pedal type"...

Single dude, has three bikes, has more time on hands since break-up = HT pedal type. Needs constant attention

Father of 5, rides after bedtime, washes bike ever other year = SPD pedal type. Never think about pedals again
  • 12 8
 Uh oh. I already hear the flat pedal nazis goose-stepping their way into this forum....
  • 7 1
 "Bruh! I'm ALWAYS ready to ride! I can go to the grocery store, and hit some sick curb whips on the way back!"
  • 1 0
 @cgreaseman: I don't think my pedal choice is stopping me from hitting some sick curb whips...
  • 3 0
 I, too, am a nap aficionado and email ignorer. Also i had those Onza elastomer pedals. Did not enjoy the cold weather performance of those.
  • 1 0
 My problem is more shoe than pedal related: I really like the initial feel of my combo of Mallet Es with Five Ten shoes (Kestrel Pro) but after a few weeks the soles will settle just in the area of the traction pads so I have to change the traction pads until the soles have settled again. Around the pins the shoes are more or less fine since the pins are nearly in. Does anyone have a solution so the shoes don‘t wear out so fast?
  • 1 0
 It's funny that being finicky and particular about your setup seems cool. I'm that way about somethings but man I'm boring about pedals. XTs, trail version or not, near max tension, cleats a little bit back from where they should be and then I don't have to think about them much. Well other than lubing them from time to time. 3 days in the desert and they start to feel a little stuck. I used to lube the springs but think a little dry chain lube on the cleat is all they need. Oh and it's hard to beat Shimano ME7s. I love the neoprene around the ankle that keeps stuff out of the shoe.
  • 2 0
 Still think we need a wireless clipless pedal release to mount on handlebars. Coming from someone whose left foot is paralyzed and can't physically unclip, but would love for that foot to stop bouncing around.
  • 1 0
 Electromagnets?
  • 1 0
 @MisterChow: do you have some man-made electromagnetic pedals that you would like to donate? Hook it up.
  • 1 0
 On that topic I recently met a guy out riding in Port Gamble that only had one full leg, the other was prosthetic and he said he rides clips because otherwise his for comes off too easily. He was on CB I believe.
  • 1 0
 @BarryWalstead: That's rad! My only gripe is if I fall to left, I will always fall clipped in.. I just lack the muscle function to unclip (spinal cord injury - left side primarily affected). I wonder if he has any sort of way to unclip that leg or if he just sends it.. too scary for me personally, but respect if so.
  • 1 0
 @michaels-t: He told me he is able to release with the narrow release cleat, and I think he lost his leg slightly above the knee. But that was just a guess from looking at it.
  • 1 0
 @michaels-t: Would these help?

www.magped.us/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI58aAlqjH9wIVAhx9Ch2k6wIcEAAYAiAAEgJ3uvD_BwE

You could reduce any bouncing off the pedal and possibly still release easily.
  • 1 0
 Check out hustle bike labs magnetic flats.
  • 2 0
 @schlicss @bogey

Yeah I mean the only way I can really dismount is by pulling up and then, more or less.. throwing my leg left out to kickstand (best way to put it when your leg barely works, just emotionally unattached to it at this point). I can’t roll/pivot my ankle to undo the magnets. Being able to pull up while pedaling would be huge, but still don’t think I could release my left foot.. need it to free in the same way that I use it, hence the on/off.
  • 1 0
 @michaels-t: Is there a way to momentarily disable permanent magnets?
  • 1 0
 @MisterChow: you are asking a guy with a Biology degree. I might need to phone a friend with this million dollar question.
  • 1 0
 @MisterChow: Sure, use electromagnets instead.
  • 1 0
 @michaels-t: so at the recent enduro race at Port Gamble I met a woman who years ago made her own magnetic flat pedal.
She used a Kona Wah Wah and glued in neodymium magnets and bolted a plate to her shoe.
Looked really secure and she said it basically guides the 'foot' into place.
  • 1 0
 @BarryWalstead: Thats's awesome. There's kind of two parts to this equation. Foot bouncing/positioning for me is somewhat secondary. Pins for the most part keep my foot on, I can somewhat reposition my foot on the pedal too, we'll call it "good enough." Ideally though, it'd be huge to be able to pull up using this foot for steep climbs/ledgy bits so that I'm not relying on my right leg to do all of the work, which eventually fails if it's too steep/tricky since my left leg can't help keep that momentum going just by pushing, but pulling up would help a lot.. (just need it to be able to release or I fall pretty hard).

I'll check back in a few years when more folks like myself come out of the woods and get creative Smile if Hope made dual-lever brakes, there's got to be other companies getting creative with other adaptive bits (maybe.. hopefully..)
  • 1 0
 Great idea for an article and a really interesting read. Just switched to clips and went for some CB mallet Es, loving them so far but we'll see how that goes when the slick trails come around in the winter (or just the next time it rains)
  • 2 0
 I had way to many unintended releases with spd's (lots of body English) and switched to crankbrothers. For all their faults that one thing it does better makes everything worth it.
  • 2 0
 Time atac is the durability of Shimano's but the ease of entry and exit of Crank Bros. You will never accidentally pull out of Times.
  • 1 0
 @georgiamtbiker: well...depends on how far you (read: I) have let your (my) cleats go
  • 6 5
 There's often a lot of comments regarding poor technique that are heavily leant towards riding clipless. However, riding clipless is arguably a matter of commitment and trusting your skills and technique enough that you don't need to unclip. You could say that having to have the option to hang a leg/take your foot off is a measure of poor technique when riding flat pedals. I'm not sure poor bike handling/technique can be solely put down to which type of pedal you choose to ride. Anyway, choose a pedal and be a dick about it.
  • 5 3
 Two words, Sam Hill. (Full disclosure: I switch between clipless and flats depending on the ride)
  • 5 6
 It doesn't sound like you've spent much time on flats. It's not just about bailing faster in crash. It's about seeing your line in 3D instead of 2D and thinking about where to pump, where to generate grip, etc. It's about having more than one foot position relative to spindle for climbing vs descending.
  • 5 2
 If you’re ok with pedaling flats and know how to bunnyhop and keep your feet on the pedals, why would you need to ride clipless? I rode clipless for a few years 20 yrs ago and have been on flats ever since for this reason, I don’t need them and they detract from my freedom on the bike.
  • 4 2
 @fentoncrackshell: "seeing your line in 3D instead of 2D"

wtf does this even mean lol, what a load of shit. Pumping and weight distribution on clipless works exactly the same as on flats. The only reason you need 2 positions on flats because the descending foot position climbs like shit, and the climbing position slips off too easily. Having multiple foot positions is pointless if you never have to worry about slipping off the pedal.

I get why people might like the feel of flat pedals but if there was any real advantage there we'd be seeing them on a lot more pro podiums. The only advantage I noticed was that the shoes walk a little better. In terms of actual on-bike performance I prefer SPDs in literally every way.
  • 2 2
 @emptybe-er: because keeping your feet on your flat pedals requires faffing about with pins every 5th ride if you frequent rocky trails. I was clipless from the 90s to about 2018, then flats, and recently went back to clipless because I got tired of either spending too much time keeping my flat pedals working well or slipping off because I'd sheered the pins off and was too lazy to deal with it.

If I rode flowier trails with fewer rocks I could see going back to flats. They are different feeling, and in a fun way.
  • 1 0
 Yeah, neither is a measure of poor, vs good they’re just different.
Most serious mountain bikers that I know, the ones that race, and are regularly pushing to increase speed and pace, ride clipped in. I’ve ridden both, and prefer flats (walking, hike-a-bikes, parking lot beers, driving afterwards, coaching) which I realize have little to do with actual riding, but make up part of the enjoyment of riding my bike.
All that being said, mat]bye it’s time to give it another try, it’s been years, but I’m pretty sure I still have an unused pair of eggbeater DH pedals in powder blue from interbike 2005, maybe I’ll give them another go…..
  • 1 2
 @bkm303: It means you're far more active in weighting and unweighting the bike on flats, because you're forced to do so in order to stay on the bike. On flats, I can corner faster because I have much for feedback in finding the limits of grip. When I rode exclusively clipless for a decade, I didn't think about any of that. It's like driving an automatic vs stick - you get lazy and careless.
  • 3 1
 @fentoncrackshell: It's similar in that people who drive stick, or learned to drive on stick, endlessly romanticize the importance of driving stick despite the fact that (a) it doesn't matter for most people's driving, (b) the fastest drivers in the world are using paddle shift, and (c) knowing how to drive stick won't make you better at driving an automatic.

That's great that you can corner faster on flats, but I think the entire pro DH and enduro field (except for Sam Hill) would disagree with you on that.
  • 2 0
 @bkm303: keep in mind we all believe that the way “I” do something, is the best way, we then go about finding anecdotal evidence, or using our own personal experiences to justify why it is the “best” way to do said thing.
Presenting facts on the contrary usually only reinforces the original belief,
We are weird animals, great hulking biased apes really, that put a lot of importance on our opinions on riding bikes in the woods to have fun.

I’d be willing to put a 6-pack on the fact that we could all learn to corner faster on either flats, or clips, if we spent 30 mins a week with focused practice.
  • 3 1
 @bkm303: Pro riders all started on flats and have impeccable form. They race clipless because they need pedal retention for pedaling flat and bumpy sections when they're completely gassed. If you look at free ride, slope style, BMX, or any discipline that's purely about bike handling and not power, flats are king.
  • 1 0
 @onawalk: I agree that practicing on whatever pedal you like is way more important than which pedal system you pick.

Never said that everyone needs to clip in, just that it's ridiculous to claim that ppl can only learn "proper" bike handling technique on flats, or that flats are faster when they're objectively not.
  • 1 0
 @bkm303: I totally agree, I guess I was agreeing somewhat with your response.
  • 3 1
 @fentoncrackshell: what on earth are you on about now?
I respect that everyone has a right to their own opinion, and you’re kinda proving my previous comment correct.

How are you gonna ride slope, with clipped in pedals?
Any street BMX, or dirt jumping, well same question as the slope style.

All BMX racers ride clipped in, you ever watch those guys pedal?

Not sure what you’re referring to with Freeriding, but if it’s comps (Rampage) bruh, how you gonna Superman with clipless pedals. One of the sendiest riders I know, rides clipped in my man.

Not sure what you mean by “all pro riders started on flats” but I guess if we are talking about pedalling around the garden, at least you got that part right!
  • 1 0
 @sspiff: Yeah it does seem like the traction pin situation could be improved. I’m able to run small screws while using a bit more flexible sole, so the pins are harder to smash but I don’t do a lot of rocky climbs. I had really long pins while using shoes that were too stiff but had stealth rubber sole. It felt like riding in boots and the stealth rubber made repositioning while riding almost impossible.. was not a fan
  • 1 0
 @onawalk: It’s true! Imagine learning to manual, jump, properly bunnyhop, whatever with clipless.. And you can’t be a good rider without those skills..
  • 1 0
 @emptybe-er: help me out here, maybe I’ve missed your point.
Anyone can learn those skills while clipped in, and then transfer the skills to riding flats, or vice versa.
  • 1 0
 @onawalk: Sounds good on paper, but I think you’d have a hard time finding anyone with those skills that didn’t first learn them on flats. Probably why you never hear about it?
  • 1 0
 @emptybe-er: not at all,
I do quite a lot of mtb coaching, and have tones of people who have learned virtually all their mtb skills while clipped in.
They’re just skills, you can learn to do any of them either clipped in or on flats. It really depends on how open people are to learning. As evidenced in most of these comment sections, most people come with a confirmation bias that what they are doing is the “best” way to do it. It’s an uphill struggle when you’re working against that.

Trails change, equipment changes, we should prolly change once in a while as well. As things progress, so does the use case for them.
I’d love to try a modern pair of clipped mtb shoes, ones where I can move the cleats further back, willing to bet I’m quicker on them once I learn to use them to my advantage.
  • 1 1
 @onawalk: So the fact that most people can’t keep their feet on flats after using only clipless, and many times can’t even bunnyhop or jump isn’t significant? Any decent flat pedal rider can do all of this using clipless. It’s not a coincidence.
  • 1 2
 @onawalk: The translation of skill is easier from flats to clipless because flats teach proper bike control. All skills were invented on flats. Take someone that has always ridden clipless and have them bunnyhop with flats. Now do the reverse and notice the flat pedal rider can still bunnyhop just fine.
  • 2 1
 @emptybe-er: flat pedals don’t teach anything, they are a means of pedalling your bike. Just because someone uses flat pedals does not mean they are a skilled rider, same with clipped, they’re just pedals. If you’re racing at a high level, being comfortable clipped in will be an advantage, and learning bike control skills while clipped in, will be an advantage, you see how that works…..

The question was never if YOU prefer flats or clips, cause that doesn’t matter to anyone other than you, and you’ve found what you like. But just because you like it, doesn’t mean it’s better for anyone else, and that’s fine too.

You’re using very generalized language to try and justify your opinion, saying “most people can’t keep their feet on the pedals after switching from clipless”.
How are you quantifying that?
What testing are you doing?
How much time are you allowing for the person to get used to a new system?

In reality, they are just skills to learn, whether flats or clipped, given correct instruction, and practice, you can learn to be proficient on both, and virtually all high level cycling racing is done on clipped pedals.

And your last point about switching riders to bunnyhop, maybe the flats rider can bunnyhop, but can they corner as fast? Willing to bet you a 6 pack, I put a couple of the kids from my shop, who are unreal dirt jumpers, on clipped pedals, and the carnage that would unfold would make a highlight reel for Friday fails.

For the record, I haven’t been clipped in since 2004, but am going to give it a try again this week to see how it goes. We can all learn, there’s new things to try, none of us know it all, and we are just riding bicycles in the woods.
  • 1 1
 @onawalk: People were cornering just as fast on flats, still are. If you can’t bunnyhop, you probably can’t jump correctly, or manual. These are the building blocks, time to get with some logic
  • 1 1
 @emptybe-er: good luck out there
  • 1 1
 @onawalk: Some say luck is to clipless as skill is to flats
  • 1 1
 @emptybe-er: no one says that,
No one.

You’re being silly, silly is good
  • 1 1
 @onawalk: Almost as silly as thinking that an even mildly skilled dj’er would have a hard time unclipping from clipless pedals. You obviously have no idea how much skill is required for dj.. Anyone can learn to get in and out of clipless in about 5 min, and riding with them doesn’t require any special technique or skill, unlike flats. Oof
  • 1 0
 @emptybe-er: you wanna unclip, and clip back in, in the air, while dirt jumping?
Really.
Here’s what I’ll do, totally willing to spend a day instructing, hell a weekend while you learn to dirt jump, doing feet off tricks…..
I’ll buy the beer, bring the bar-b-q, even provide all first aid requirements while this happens.

Deal?

Not sure why you think I have no idea about the skills to ride different bikes, in different situations. No need to try and insult
  • 1 0
 @onawalk: Not being insulting but that’s ridiculous.. we initially were discussing why it is that a flat pedal rider can bunnyhop, jump, whatever you want (within reason) on clipless pedals but a clipless rider can’t do the same on flats.. until more (flat pedal specific) skill is learned. You don’t seem to want to acknowledge this for some reason even though it’s a well known fact. I hope you don’t charge much but have good insurance haha.
I’m 47 and learned sui’s on a amp b3 with a 75mm stem in the mid-nineties and that was the only real skill clipless pedals actually helped with.
  • 2 1
 @emptybe-er:
You’ve decided that for some reason, and with well known facts, that somehow flat pedal riders are superior in bike handling skills. You gloss over that there would also be skills that the clipless rider is more skilled at, cause you want to be right, more than anything else.
I’m trying to point out, that they are all learned skills, both ways. One is not better than the other, they are simply tools, that serve a purpose.
Better for some, worse for others, not a be all and end all either way.

Happy to host you doing foot-off dirt jump tricks, and we can drink a beer and debate why clipped in djing would prolly be a silly idea
  • 1 1
 @onawalk: Which skills are clipless riders more skilled? If there were some surely we’d all know about it by now.
The fact remains that the most skilled riders ride flats. Do you suppose this is logic or just a big coincidence? And why is it that a flat rider transitions fundamental skills to clipless just fine but not vice versa? Can you address that without word salad?
I know you wanna focus on trying slopestyle with clipless but that really only proves that clipless is horrible for dj/slopestyle skill, in addition to being a hindrance to strong fundamental skill. Not sure how that supports your argument..
  • 1 0
 Having run various iterations of TIME, SPDs, and CB pedals over the years, I would 100% run TIME if they would offer a modern pedal design that would offer some of that Crank Bros feel with flat pedal shoes. Nothing beats a properly setup Mallet for the feel. TIME can do it - I am hoping the SRAM cash injection brings some more modern designs that don't cost an arm + leg (looking at you Speciale 12). Having tried the Speciale 8, they don't cut it and feel just as skatey as the Shimano trail pedals.
  • 1 0
 That’s interesting what shoe are you using? I haven’t used the CB to compare but I use the special 12 with the CB Mallet shoe and when clipped in the shoe sole rest on the pedal body so there is no skatey feel to me at all. Only downside I can think is you have to run the pins in back all the way down and even then the sole rest on the platform so you cannot have clearance if you desired the looser feel. I think maybe they should have lowered the back so you can raise the pins if you desired the grip or lower them for float and also adapting the CB cleat shimming idea I’ve always thought makes a lot of sense for this clip/platform hybrid designs. After running time since 98 I just can’t really use anything else but hopefully Sram steals some of the better ideas of CB but if not the 12 are still great.
  • 1 0
 @Jesse221: the Time Speciale 12 is over $400 retail list in Canada, which is whack, so when I picked a system their are many $$ reasons to not buy them over any CB pedal. I used to be a TIME guy in my X/C days so I know the mechanism well and how good it is. Their MTB pedal designs for gravity sports and pricing leave a lot to be desired. Lots of potential for SRAM to improve.
  • 1 0
 @excel: completely understand on the price. I picked them up on sale and even then they’re still crazy expensive but knowing the system and how long they last I justified it to myself. I think they should have made the 8 the same size and just fill it the cut outs for the strength lost my the cheaper alloy. They went for weight instead of performance which was the wrong path for that class of pedal IMO.
  • 1 0
 @excel: Speciale 8s for around 100 USD is a much better price for the same performance. Super happy with them!
  • 1 0
 I used to feel the same way about laces as RP. But some shoes like the Crank Brothers have a very good lace system that is very effective at tightening/staying tight and offering more customization. And while boas offer very precise adjustments, they are targets for passing rocks and I've snapped off a couple off during technical maneuvers. If it were up to me, I'd opt for the old-school 3 velcro straps on everything.
  • 2 0
 I had 14 years on a pair of mallets. Finally blew on me last week. Yeah, I should of probably retired then a long time ago. Went straight to some new ones, but geez I like 14 years ago prices a lot more.
  • 1 0
 No love for TIME? I rarely ride clipless pedals anymore, but they were my favorite. Shimano are bulletproof and work pretty well, however they could let go in the worst way when I was trying to put extra body English in to squirm through a tight line - the extra-firm release point on TIME was much better for me. Never liked CB, perhaps they’ve improved, but they always felt vague to me.
  • 1 0
 My best setup is CB Mallet Dh with Hellcat shoes. I miss them a little bit cos I f*ck up me knee so bad I do not trust myself to ride again clips. I was ridding CB clips for 8 years,to me most important thing is you still need a good amount of pedal support like mallets or something similar. Those tiny spd pedals and / CB eggbeaters are terrible to ride any bike,you lost any foot control and a ton of power wile pedaling. That´s why road cleats are huge,cos pedals do not have any support for your shoe.
But I think flats are way more fun to ride
  • 1 0
 Carbon soled shoes basically give you a huge shoe sized platform. Your fit has no idea if the pedals are small or large. Can't walk in them but I don't walk my bike.
  • 1 0
 @OnTheRivet: Yeah, if I was doing miles of hike-a-bike then I'd probably want a softer shoe + platform, but for actual riding on the bike I'd rather just have my 'platform' built into the shoe. Plus if you don't need the stealth rubber sole, your shoes last forever.
  • 1 0
 @OnTheRivet: I think you would notice a wider cleat or narrow cleat with a platform a lot more than you think. Most SPD pedal/shoe combos are not very efficient if you compare with road combos or DH/Enduro combos mentioned above.It is just pure contact patch&area between shoe and cleat. That´s why I think SPD´s and eggbeaters are not very good pedals,even with a carbon shoe sole you still have a little contact interface.
I test many SPD and almost all CB pedals. I would like to try Time pedals /cleats
  • 1 0
 Why are the cleat slots sooooo long when nearly everyone that rides with fun in mind set their cleats all the way back? Almost seems like the whole slot assembly could be moved back about 5mm or more to give a wider range of usable positions no?
  • 3 0
 "I used to try running flats on DH bikes until I realized that they’re stupid on those, too. " Ryan, no need to be rude about it. This isnt a flat pedal hate page Razz
  • 1 0
 I'm w/ @mikelevy on the HT Leopard train (w/ worn out bearings and spindle play). He forgot to mention that you have to buy an unholy expensive service kit w/ proprietary tools to service them which is fun but yeah, their tension is super high and that's what I like when I ride clips.
  • 1 0
 I'm using VP Race pedals. Best spd/shoe interaction combo I have tried. Tight and solid feeling without being overly difficult to release. However, it seems like VP is not making the high end pedals anymore. I have a few pairs, but when they run out I will likely just go back to Shimano.
  • 1 0
 I started with cleats, clips, and straps on my road bike in 1986 as a 9-11 year old junior roady. They worked great. The big innovation was the cleats had screws and could be adjusted, as opposed to the nailed-in cleats from only a few years before. When I moved to clipless on my MTB in the 90s, I went with Ritchey logic, because that's what came with my Y-bike. I loved them. Predictable engagement, relatively mud proof, and you can tilt to disengage, not just rotate to get out. While working for a certain bike brand in tech support, we'd get warranty bike returns with the Ritcheys still in shrink wrap. Corporate wasn't supposed to let us get anything for free, but the parts would otherwise go to the crusher for metal recycling, and they knew our pay was garbage, so they'd look the other way as long as we weren't stupid about it. I stockpiled the Ritcheys and the cleats. That was about Y2k. I put my last pair on my 2019 Santa Cruz Blur CC X01 Reserve that I bought used in January 2020, replacing my '95 Y-bike (still have it). I don't know what I'll do when those wear out. The cleats work with the SPDs I have on my road bike, so maybe I'll just finally go that route. But I don't have to like it. Or maybe follow my son. He's too young for clipless, (agreed, stupid term in hindsight, but here we are), and has been podium-ing in CX and XC with flats. "Flat pedals win medals" has some truth to it. I ride a ton of miles, am one hell of a mechanic who can make anything work, but I'm also a cheap bastard, and I don't see a lot of room for me with what's available in the current market. Hope this last pair of Ritcheys holds up for awhile (like, 10+ years in my terms).
  • 1 0
 Old red shimano DX 737- big platform and work forever enduring north shore abuse . I tried newer xt but were painful- even with shiimano shoes . I see others riding old red(aluminum) and newer( grey poly) DX on new slick bikes as well so its not just me. One guy i know who was a DX diehard just changed to Saints but without the side holes and with flat tops they might not clear mud as well. I thought someone in this article would have used or commented on the Saints .
  • 2 0
 THIS!!! I've been running the DX for years both trail and DH. Can't kill them.
  • 1 0
 This article came in the right time when Im angry about me not being able to place my feet comfortable on flats every time. I tried SPDs several years ago (some xc model), but I could not get over the feeling that the contact point is just the cleat, my foot was twisting all the time without any grip, and my foot got swollen because the shoe was "soft".

After like 10 years from this weird experience I feel like maybe its time to reconsider it again, get proper shoes and pedals. As for the shoes I feel great in 5.10’s Freerider model for flats, so I believe their Hellcat model should be okay. For the pedals Im not decided in between CB Mallet E or Shimano XTR. I like the click from SPDs, but Im afraid the grip and contact with the pedal wont give me the support as I know from the flats. Mallet E looks good for the grip and contact points, but I have absolutely no experience with their locking mechanism and the reviews does not look good as they use to get broke, unclips the shoes in weird moments, etc.

I just want to have the same foot position on the pedal every time I hop on a bike with the feeling as like on the flats and not being afraid I would not be able to clip out in emergency situation.
  • 1 0
 I used Onza, then Ritchie, then Time, then Crank Brothers Candy (plastic ones). I like the Candy for a few reasons for XC and Trail. 1) I have a leg length discrepancy and I shim my cleat from the shoe by a decent amount. The traction pads that they sell let me cheaply shim the shoe from the pedal and prevent wobble, 2) Not sure I have ever had a "vertical" release issue (same with Time) and I can be out of them in a snap (technical riding with lack of skill) and 3) with my Calling and the local trails (Lynn Woods, MA) my pedals are squarely on the "consumable" list as the combination of terrain, skill, and pedal height leads to roughly a dozen strikes per ride. I can get them when on sale for about $59 each with cleats.
  • 1 0
 I like my Mallet DH with the easy release cleats. I've ridden various SPD platforms and tried HTs. Having a platform pedal with the retention and positioning of a cleat it pretty ideal. Biggest advantage for me with clipless is by far keeping my feet in the position I want them in. Flats are definitely safer but with sticky shoes getting your feet where you want them can be a bear.
  • 2 2
 I'm sure this comment section will turn into a flats vs clipless debate, but here's something for both sides to chew on: there are more crappy pedals out there than good, both for flats and clipless. And on top of that, preferences definitely vary from person to person. So I wouldn't recommend making up your mind over the one or two pairs of the (flat/clipless) pedals that you tried for a while.

I prefer ___ pedals, but of the ~10 different types that I've tried, I have yet to find one that I think is a perfect 10/10. I'd give one a 9/10 and a couple others an 8/10, but the rest were pure garbage IMO (and most of the ones I hate are widely recognized as some of the best).
  • 1 0
 Are there any bad clipless systems? Unless you buy some weird offbrand stuff off of Aliexpress.
  • 1 0
 Crankbros Mallet DH pedals for me, however I wish I would have held onto my Time ATAC MX8 pedals. Those things were damn near indestructible, had amazing spindle bearings and were stupid light.
  • 1 1
 No one in the PB/Outside offices are riding those magnetic pedals? LMAO. Respect to those on flats, but i switched like 10 years ago and have never looked back. Still have the 1st pair of clipless shoes somewhere in the garage from that long ago, which is something I could have never said from any flat pedal shoes I had previous to that.
  • 1 0
 The newest Look SPD-compatible pedals are great. Better platform than XTR (talking XC pedals here, not platform SPD boat anchors, though Look makes those, too), better durability, and better bearings.
  • 3 0
 I have been using Shimano XT Trail pedals for a decade... nothing else is betta
  • 1 1
 Always had trouble with whips or throwing the bike around in the air with CB's, Switched to SPD's and it's a much more confident feeling in the air, still have to focus on moving hips instead of ankles.
Anyone else found the same?
  • 1 0
 I've been riding the same pair of Deore XC style SPDs for probably 10 years. My question is there that much of a difference with the little additional platform of the trail pedals?
  • 1 0
 One of the reasons I switched to flats again was the lack of shoes that fit my wide feet and are comfortable. I'm using 5.10 freeriders currently, are there clipless shoes that fit similarly?
  • 2 0
 Lake and Bont both make really well-shaped wide shoes. Neither come in a flat/skate aesthetic, and the Lakes look a little homemade. Both brands are pretty ugly IMO across their lines, but they do the job really well.
  • 1 0
 Shimano AM903 are a Huge improvement over their narrow hard 902s. Have to be the best shoe ive worn. The Giro DH shoe is a close second but the XC style sole with raised heel is just too harsh on the foot.
  • 1 1
 I started riding clipless in 1980, kept riding clipless until ~ fifteen years ago, got into mountain unicycling and clipless were not safe, after I went back to mountain bikes I was more comfortable on flats, now ride everything from tech, to snow, to slime on flats, no plans to get clipless. Folks get all worked up over pedals, so silly.
  • 3 0
 Palmer is the only one who actually understood the assignment! Pick your pedal and be a dick about it!
  • 3 0
 Super rad article. I love to see stuff like this where people’s personal gear is up to check out.
  • 1 1
 Here’s a tip to keep the seals in the Shimano SPD pedals: put an o-ring on the spindle and push it down the spindle until it is up against the seal. It adds nothing for drag and keeps the seal in place.

No, you shouldn’t have to do this but it works.

Shimano - fix your sh!t!
  • 1 0
 Lets wait for Time / SRAM pedals to come out in AXS version.

"Control the tension of your pedals with your phone. Set variable release tension based on what mode your Flight Attendant suspension is in."
  • 1 0
 Has anyone tried to run a XC style SPD on a road bike? Is there any issue? I have a pair of spare M540 and don't want to buy new SPD-SL pedal and shoes. Plan to use M540 on my road bike. Is that all right? THX!
  • 1 0
 No issues, now that gravel is so popular I see tons of road/gravel bikes with SPD pedals.

I've been running them on my gravel/commuter for almost a decade bc I like having just one pair of shoes, and I want to be able to walk somewhat normally in my commuting shoe.
  • 1 0
 I do. I run CB Candy's on my road and gravel bikes along with the same Shimano shoes I usually wear when mtn biking with clipless. My road route has a couple of walk-only bridges and I got tired of walking in Speedplay cleats. I ride alone 99% of the time, so absolute power transfer isn't a priority for me.
  • 1 0
 "I used to try running flats on DH bikes until I realized that they’re stupid on those, too." Every time I think I just read the most annoying Ryan Palmer quote I find a new one. Thanks Ryan!
  • 5 2
 Now do one for the sane editors riding flats.
  • 2 0
 Great article! Been running flats for years but tried HT clipless pedals a few months back and love them.
  • 1 0
 Is any spindle play considered acceptable? Ive got a pair of XTRs and XTs with a smidge of play. Could they just need fresh grease?
  • 5 0
 Fresh grease certainly won't hurt, and those pedals use a cup and cone system that should allow you to get rid of that play.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=bVmSrsnVUGI
  • 1 1
 Buy the Shimano pedal tool and readjust. I think it's tl-pd40.
  • 2 0
 SH 51 or 56 shimano cleats? Makes a biiiiig difference if you ask me!
Enjoyed the article cheers!
  • 6 0
 Definitely SH51 - the multi-directional 56 cleats release way too easily for my liking. I'd say those ones are best suited to riders who are just learning to use clipless pedals.
  • 1 0
 SH51s all the way. I accidentally bought the 56s once (before I knew they were different) and hated them.
  • 1 0
 @mikekazimer: I just bought a pair of the 56ers as I thought the 51's only unclipped heel outwards and I like going inwards with my left foot. The 56ers pop out a bit too easily...
Then again that's not the end of the world as I've just bought a pair of xpedo titanium pedals and they're a bit unreliable with the stock clips, had my first spud falls for two decades the other day!
  • 3 0
 Try Time pedals and you wont change back
  • 1 0
 Running Times now since three years, the fact that i dislike Shimano in General nur am curious now of the SPD-System I think I‘ll try Looks EN-Rage.
  • 1 0
 After 10 years with the same shimano XT pedals I think i'll never change them. Still running smooth. They have manage at least 3 rides per week on Chilean dusty trails.
  • 3 0
 Why doesn't Levy just admit he uses HT because Nino does?
  • 1 0
 It’s the only reason he uses them. Nino for the win!
  • 1 0
 read the whole article, no mention of downcountry e-bike specific pedals.. that's 10 minutes of my life i'm never getting back
  • 4 0
 M530 Thats all.
  • 3 0
 These are the workhoses of pedals, they will outlast 2 or 3 bikes at least. If you want refinement you can get XTs but the M530 are all you'll ever need
  • 1 0
 Went from Look S2S Nevada Clipless Pedals to ATACs, to Eggbeaters, and have settled on Look X-Tracks. I really like the adjustability of them.
  • 2 0
 all those spd's... makes me wanna ride...
  • 2 0
 can someone explain the feeling of CB vs Times?
  • 3 0
 They feel basically the same, except Time pedal are more durable, cleats last longer, and you don't unclip when the bottom hits a rock (if your using the round spring version not the flat retention bar style.)

Time is a more refined and durable CB.
  • 4 0
 I find Times way easier to clip into. CBs seem to often "roll" when I try to step into them. I started on SPDs, switched to CB when they were the new hot shit, but hated them. Tried Times just to be different, and feel like they are just as easy to clip into as SPD, plus the cleats feel smoother and tighter tolerance than SPDs. Buuuut, the stack height is a touch higher, and it's annoying to not be able to swap or borrow bikes easily with friends who are all on SPDs.

If I weren't already invested in perfectly functional Times on two bikes, I'd go back to SPDs. Won't go back to CB.
  • 5 2
 I call them 'clips'
  • 2 1
 Well everyone that knows what they are talking about thinks you are talking about toe clips, so try harder. Do better!
  • 3 0
 No ATACs? Weird.
  • 2 0
 I'm reading this article @HenryQuinney voice. Velvety smooth
  • 2 0
 People who use the same pedal as me are smart and cool.
  • 2 0
 Beta senior editor hates flat pedals... The end is near
  • 1 0
 If you angle the cleat further towards the big toe aren't you more likely to unclip given the heel is starting further out?
  • 1 3
 My idea of flat pedals is when I ride with my basketball shoes standing om my XTR cross country pedals. You can really find out about your "skills " standing on those babies! About 1 inch square and polished slippery smooth.

I have been riding clipless since they were invented and would never consider riding flats. Say what you want about dropper posts "revolutionizing bikes, if you ever spent a really epic day with your feet jammed into a set of toe clips, believe me, you'd know what revolutionary means. This was as true for road riding as it is for dirt.

I ride with a pair of Shimano Dura Ace pedals on my road bike, I think they are the first model. Pretty sure I've had them since 1983. Still work perfectly. On my mountain bike I use Shimano XTR's, the kind with no platform. I'm only on my 2nd pair, the first lasted from whenever I got them in the 1980s until 2020. I feel like I got my money's worth. And kudos to Shimano for still building them with adjustable bearings. If my new pair goes as long as the last pair I won't need to replace them until I'm over a hundred.

As for "skills", as far as I'm concerned the real skill set that matters is being able to safely ride clippless pedals in all circumstances. Like doing the Slickrock trail or riding down Kennebec pass to Durango on the Colorado trail. Or riding in stop and go traffic for that matter
  • 1 0
 They're all ugly. It's okay, but clipless pedals are one component where form does not follow function.
  • 1 0
 Pick a pedal and be a dick about it?
SPD for life you flattest's! Kidding, love.
  • 1 0
 This might be useful... www.cleat-key.com
  • 1 0
 I have a box of old CB pedals anyone on here is more than welcome to
  • 1 0
 Same except all the non-drive pedals need full rebuilds... for some reason I always kill non-drive pedals
  • 1 0
 I knew I liked @mikekazimer for a reason. XT’s for the win!
  • 1 1
 I ride flat pedals 100% of the time. Guess I’m bored and said f*ck it lets read this article.
  • 1 0
 XC Carbon Look"s crap on all
  • 1 0
 Really surprised at the lack of Time pedals. Ha! Just kidding.
  • 1 0
 James FTW
  • 1 0
 Dx for life haha
  • 33 36
 Best advice I ever got for improving my bike skills, was to go back to flat pedals, that was 19 years ago and the last time I clipped in.
  • 10 12
 no
  • 10 12
 Cool story bro.
  • 8 7
 How does going back to flat pedals inprove your bike skills?
  • 14 1
 I like both; I ride a mix of flat pedals on my mid-long travel bike and clipless on my XC bike. You definitely learn a lot from riding flats, but I personally experience the biggest gains when I've been riding flats for a while and then switch back to clipless. All of a sudden I'm just a little bit less hesitant to pop over that rock/log/bush and shortcut the trail than I would have been on flats (or even in clipless before riding flats for a while). I also find that I'm definitely faster on clipless, though that certainly doesn't always equate to fun. The flats encourage me to turn around and hike up a trail/feature, put a foot down through a turn, or just generally try for unnecessary-but-awesome style points. For best results: mix it up!
  • 15 6
 If peeps are serious about developing good bike handling skills learning flats is a must imo…can’t cheat with em
  • 11 3
 This. I've progressed more in the past 2 years of riding flats than the previous decade of riding clips. I had to unlearn bad technique and learn how to weight and pump the bike properly. I learned how to jump the right way and gained so much more confidence in steep tech. I'm probably 2% slower on fire road climbs but I have more fun and I push myself to try new features.
  • 5 7
 Cheat? I don't think I'd go that far.
  • 1 1
 And pedals back then were garbage compared to whats available today.
  • 3 2
 @woofer2609: as someone who ride both frequently the clips are 'cheating'...that said for long pedals I'm not running flats, I'm cheating with my clips
  • 3 4
 @woofer2609: or gears... or disk brakes, or brakes at all for that matter! don't get me started about dropper posts and sealed bearing headsets!
  • 1 0
 @racecase: thanks!
  • 12 2
 @captbennett: Helps to ensure you're not relying on your pedals to stay connected to your bike for things like jumping, bunnyhopping, adjusting lines, moving the rear around and to just generally keep you on the bike through fast rough terrain. You should be able to do all that just as well.. or maybe almost as well on flats. Now that's not to say that using clips to help with some of that, some of the time is bad... it's technique that can be very useful in certain situations... especially while racing. But good foundational technique and form that will help you ride better/faster/stronger shouldn't rely on your clips.

I decided to try flats again at the beginning of 2021 as a "skills check" to make sure I wasn't relying on them too much. Turned out I was pretty good, but definitely needed some time on my flats to get things back to where I wanted them... I was coming off my pedals a little while jumping and also a little through fast steep rough chunk. Over a couple months I got back to being fully confident and almost as fast on flats... but I was having so much fun on my flats and there still wasn't any racing happening here, so I just left them on.

It was only last week that I finally switched back... now I've got a bit of the opposite problem... had a couple low speed climbing tumbles because I kept just trying to "step-off" my pedals.. ha!

Anyway... I think I'll go back and forth more often to help keep skills in check, for fun and just to spice things up.
  • 4 1
 @captbennett: With clipless, one has a tendancy to pull the bike up in the air with their feet. Which is bad technique. Riding flats forces you to learn proper technique. Clipping in should only benefit you in the fact that it's more efficient and you won't slip a pedal.
  • 2 0
 @captbennett: Your going to go for it more and take more chances so naturally that will improve your skills.
Sure your feet will move around and sometimes be in the wrong position but that's the trade off.
  • 10 5
 @islandforlife: I like to not grip with my thumbs to ensure I’m not relying on my handlebar to stay connected to my bike.
  • 2 1
 Riding rigid will also help you build skills- especially around line choice- but I still want to ride my full squish rig taking advantage of those skills. Flats vs. Clips... whatever... do what makes you happy. The argument that you are cheating or that easier is worse doesn't really cut it for me. Why not favour one part of a machine over another if it offers an advantage for you and your riding. But but but Sam Hill... yeah... are you Sam Hill or trying to do what Sam Hill wants to do on a bike? I agree that learning to move a bike without clips is valuable... so do it... and then if you want to enjoy clips do it.
  • 4 0
 @DDoc: Not necessarily. Some will take more risks on clips because the bike stays connected to you. I think the skills you get from flats are more related to learning to move the bike with more than just the connection to the pedal- through shifting hips, knees and weight to actually hop a bike with your body etc. Rather than switching back and forth I think riding a DJ or a BMX can be really handy for those also...and then you can tell people you "have a BMX background" which is very on trend at the moment.
  • 4 3
 @islandforlife: I don't understand the argument that riding clipless teaches "bad technique" . Bad for who, flat pedal riders? If someone has no intention of riding flats, why should they care if they use a technique that only works with clipless pedals? They'll never know the difference.

Isn't it true that modern flats with
long pins and flat-specific shoes basically adhere you to the pedals? Seems like the goal is to emulate the secure connection you get with clipless. The only difference at that point between flat and clipless is one requires a specific foot movement to disengage and the other doesn't, no?
  • 4 1
 @e11ys: It is sort of like the old Roman practice swords for training, they made the wooden swords twice as heavy as combat swords, so when fighting their weapons seemed light as a feather.

Flat pedals will improve your technique for body movements, handlebar manipulation, flow and so on. That way when you do race you are even faster with clipless. Overall clipless are more often than not faster than flats, but if your basic technique is flawed, you as a rider will never get much faster without reworking your fundamentals.
  • 4 0
 @e11ys: Mostly because you just can't do the same thing or perform at as high a level. The skills you learn manipulating your bike through pure weight transfers and being "one with your bike" allow you to move the bike in a way and to a degree you just can't achieve at the same level by pulling with your pedals.... or I guess I should say that by using flats you're forced to learn these skills... but if you've only ever used clips you may not learn them to the same degree... and it may hold you back... but you might also never realize why you can't do what you want as fast as you want.

Again it's not to say that those same skills can't be learned while riding with clips.. it's just very rare that you'd get to the level of bike control. Also, again, once you've got a good solid foundation of core bike maneuvering skills... adding to it what you're able to do with the addition of being clipped in can take you to another level. Which is my almost all DH and EWS racers use clips. They learnt those foundational skills a long time ago and use clips to take them to the next level.

There a lot more to it and quite a bit of nuance than can be explained in a comment section. And I'm not trying to tell anyone what to do... if you don't want to it's cool, you do you.

I've found that skills learnt while on flat pedals helped me as a rider overall
  • 2 3
 @Bomadics: This sounds good in theory, but I'm struggling to visualize how riding slower on flat pedals would have enough of an impact on my riding to justify buying new pedals/shoes that I'll almost never use.
  • 2 0
 @e11ys: A lot of it is personal preference. I used to ride clipless for years. But as I got more into bike parks, big jumps, drops, etc. I found that I felt more comfortable being able to ditch the bike anytime I want, even in mid-air. I sometimes miss the increased pedalling efficiancy, and not worrying about my feet coming off. But with good pedals and some stealth rubber soles the pedal slips don't happen very often. So, to me it's worth the trade off.
  • 2 1
 @e11ys: If you prefer clips then ride clips, if you want to take your riding up a notch then ride flats, I find them more fun, but it's all about preference. If you don't race there is no need to get faster!
  • 1 3
 @tmwjr777: it's only bad technique if you plan to go back to flats. If you stay on clipless there's no downside (except for flat pedal traditionalists turning up their nose at you).

Saying you shouldn't rely on your pedals to keep you clipped in is like saying you shouldn't use your suspension or your dropper post. Yeah, I guess if you plan to go back and ride a high rigid seatpost frequently then it's "bad technique" to rely on the dropper... but if not, then make the most of what your hardware allows you to do.
  • 3 0
 @bkm303: That's not the case... because you just can't do the same thing or perform at as high a level only learning to control your bike through being clipped in. The skills you learn manipulating your bike through pure weight transfers and being "one with your bike" allow you to move the bike in a way and to a degree you just can't achieve at the same level by pulling with your pedals.... or I guess I should say that by using flats you're forced to learn these skills... but if you've only ever used clips you won't learn them to the same degree... it'll hold you back... but you might also never realize why you can't do what you want as fast as you want. For those who just want to cruise around and not get as good as they possibly can, it's totally fine.

Again it's not to say that those same skills can't be learned while riding with clips.. it's just very rare that you'd get to the level of bike control. Also, again, once you've got a good solid foundation of core bike maneuvering skills... adding to it with what you're able to do with the addition of being clipped in can take you to another level. Which is why almost all DH and EWS racers use clips. They learnt those foundational skills a long time ago and use clips to take them to the next level.

Regarding suspension and dropper post... yes actually.. riding a rigid bike will teach you some fundamental line choice, bike handling and maneuvering skills you'll probably never learn. Probably some good weight transfer skills to be learned by leaving your seat post high all the time as well, ha!
  • 3 0
 @bkm303: It's also not about just staying clipped in, @islandforlife has some excellent points. I see it like this, with clipless pedals you can make your bike to incredible things, push, pull, twist. . . you are the master. With flat pedals you and your bike work as a team, and that pairing can make magic!
  • 1 2
 @islandforlife: nothing about clipless pedals prevents any kind of weight transfer fore/aft or side to side. The only skills you can't learn on clips are the ones that are specific to flat pedals (how to maintain traction on the pedal by angling your foot, etc). And knowing those skills doesn't do anything for you when you're clipped in.

Riding a rigid bike only teaches you the right line choice for a rigid bike.... which I think is a perfectly good analogy to flats vs clipless. I ride my gravel bike (with high, rigid seatpost) on mtb trails all the time and I don't really think most of the skills translate very well to the trail bike at all. The higher speeds, bigger tires, and suspension mean that unless there's a nice berm, I'm probably riding on a completely different part of the trail on the FS bike - jumping / unweighting over stuff that would be too jarring/awkward/sketchy to ride on the gravel bike.

Anyway... I totally get why people like flats, or want to use them when they learn to jump (or whatever). But there's pretty much no aspect of trail riding that you can't learn on clipless if you want to. 2 years ago I decided to switch back to flats for a full season just to "refresh my skills". My conclusion was that it was annoying, it didn't really help anything, and that I greatly prefer just having a single foot position on the pedals 100% of the time.
  • 1 1
 @Bomadics: like I said in other comments, as a "feel" thing I totally get why people like flats. It's like driving a manual transmission or something... it's like one of those things that's nice to know, can be really fun, and is super romanticized as a rite of passage by people who learned on manual transmissions. But at the end of the day knowing how to drive a manual doesn't really mean anything for driving an automatic or an EV. I just think the whole "you gotta ride flats in order to *properly* ride clipless" thing is completely overblown. If my suspension and dropper allow me to plow through rock gardens, I'm gonna do that. And if my pedals allow me to yank up on them with my feet when I feel like it, I'm gonna do that too. It's not bad technique, it's just different.
  • 1 0
 @woofer2609: I don't know if I'd call it "cheating" but switching back to clipless after a Winter of riding mostly flats (drop bar bike still had clipless) definitely made some aspects of riding feel easier.
  • 2 0
 @bkm303: Yes but overall driving a manual car makes you a better driver, like riding a bike, there is much more to driving than shifting gears, you have to understand weight transfer, balance, timing, flow and much more.

I am speaking from VAST experience, I taught manual shift driving for one of the top driving schools in the world, I have experience racing open wheel formula cars as well as off road rally and have been mountain biking for well over 40 years.

My argument is that the more skills you have the better, your argument is that you have enough skills thank you very much and you don't need to know anything "useless".
  • 1 0
 @Bomadics: "weight transfer, balance, timing, flow"

You don't need flat pedals to learn any of these. Flat pedal riders just tend to *think* that's the only possible way to arrive at those skills.

More skills are better as long as they apply to what you're doing. If someone told you "in 5 days you're going to do a street race in a Tesla", how much of that prep time would you spend practicing clutch control? Time in the saddle practicing with the equipment you're going to use is what matters.

It's occasionally fun to throw flats on my bike, and I love riding my rigid gravel bike on mtb trails from time to time, but I've never felt like switching my equipment up unlocks some untapped reservoir of performance. Does it make me better on my regular mtb setup? Sure, in the sense that I spend X number of hours out riding. Is it more effective than spending an equivalent amount of time on my regular mtb setup? IMO, no. It's just different.
  • 2 0
 @bkm303: Any experience on anything mechanical makes you better, the broader the skill set the better. You think differently and that's great, just enjoy your bike, you'll never convince me you are right though!
  • 6 9
 i pReFer mY fEet tO cOMe oFf tHe pEdALs wHeN i cRAsH fAnKs
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