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We’ve heard this question many times before, and in fact, we asked it ourselves once upon a time. The question is (if or) when should you switch to using clipless pedals? The answer is somewhat frustrating, because it really depends! There’s really no set time that you should switch because it’s really up to your style of riding and comfort level.
However, we’ll discuss some common options for when many people decide to go clipless (or not), so you can see where you fit.
Immediately – Often times, people who started road biking before mountain biking may choose to start with clipless pedals immediately. If you’re already a comfortable road rider who uses clipless pedals, you might feel weird being on flats after years of being clipped in, so this is a pretty typical situation. However, if you’re uneasy riding off-road, clipless may or may not be the right choice for you so test it out and see what feels right.
There’s definitely a learning curve to figuring out clipless pedals. Learning to mountain bike can be challenging enough, so unless you’re already a comfortable biker, we don’t typically recommend going clipless immediately because it could make it even harder for you in the early days.
After a few years of riding – Once you’ve gotten comfortable with mountain biking, navigating roots, rocks, and challenging terrain, you may choose to switch to clipless pedals to take your riding to the next level. By switching to clipless, you will be able to get more power out of your pedal upstroke and can take advantage of that greater connection while jumping and tackling tricky features. The main reason many people switch to clipless is for the feeling of optimal control of the bike. The majority or professional mountain bikers ride with clipless pedals. Many people who switch to clipless and get comfortable riding that way and say they could never switch back to flats.
Never – Some riders choose to ride flats indefinitely and that’s fine too! Or, you might ride clipless for afew years and decide to go back to flat pedals. Whatever your path is, flat pedals are great for newer riders who want that peace of mind of feeling like they can put their foot down whenever. Likewise, some professional mountain bikers choose to ride flats so they can strategically take their foot off the pedal around turns for optimal body positioning. If you decide to go with flats, we highly recommend paying a little extra for higher-end mountain bike specific pedals and shoes, with grippy soles that will keep you feeling glued to the pedals, while still having the ability to take your foot off as needed.
Regardless of what you choose, you can always switch to something different. Pedals can be swapped out easily so don’t feel like once you switch to one or the other, you’re stuck that way forever. Sure, you’ll probably have shoes that are specific to your pedals, and that can be somewhat prohibitive, but it’s ok to try out some different options and see what works for you.