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Are Road Pedals Faster than Flat Pedals? | Clips vs Flats Hill Climb Challenge

Are Road Pedals Faster than Flat Pedals? | Clips vs Flats Hill Climb Challenge

(metallic whooshing) (hypnotic EDM music) – Three, two, one, up, up, up, up, up, up, up, up, up! What is the best upgrade
you can make to your bike? Now, some people would say making the transition from
flat pedals to clipless. – Clipless is a confusing name because you do, indeed, ride clipped in, but the name comes from a time when toe clips and straps, the visible cage around your foot, were the pedal of choice. These new pedals didn’t
have a visible clip, so therefore were known as clipless. – [James] Yeah, now anyone
who rides clipless pedals will tell you they make
you more efficient, they make you faster, and they allow you to have
more control over your bike. – But can you actually put out more pedals with these pedals on? Will you go faster? Or do they even make any
difference whatsoever? Well, that’s what we’re going to find out. To do so, we are going to tackle one of the most incredible
climbs in the world, twice. Maybe not the whole climb though. Once on the flat pedals and once with our normal clipless pedals. It sounds simple and it would be were it not for the
fact that the full climb is Sa Calobra in Mallorca, nine and a half kilometers in length at an average gradient of 7%. So instead of that, we’re going to reduce it to just
three kilometers near the top. Again, the average gradient is over 7% If you want to find out what
the benefits are supposed to be from riding on clipless pedals, all you need to do is a quick Google and you’ll find that the idea is all about power
transfer and efficiency. Because your foot is physically
attached to the pedal, you’re meant to be more efficient. – Yeah, you can also transfer more power because you’re able to pull
up and push down on the pedal, making your pedal stroke more efficient. But, Chris, this all sounds like rubbish because the first one
doesn’t make any sense and the second one is disproven. – Yeah, and despite that being true, you would absolutely never
catch me riding a road bike in a pair of flat pedals. – Yeah, I’d have to wrestle
them off you, wouldn’t I? – Well, my clips would,
if I don’t drop ’em first. – We’re going to be doing two runs. Our first run’s going
to be on clipless pedals with our Fizik carbon road shoes. Now that should give us a good benchmark. Now, our second run will
be with trainers and flats. – And it’s at this point
we should point out the obvious difference
between the two setups. You see, cycling shoes are really stiff and designed to be mega efficient. But if you’re riding on flats, it’s highly unlikely you
would’ve already bought yourself a set of cycling shoes and you
therefore would probably have quite a flexible pair of trainers. – Yeah, a bit like this actually. These trainers are designed
for running and walking and not designed to be
putting power through a pedal. – Right, let’s talk about the tests. To prevent our overly-competitive natures coming into play, we’re
going to be doing them in a time trial-specific fashion. That means we’ll only ever be
riding one rider at at time. – Yeah, but don’t worry. We’re going to be doing max efforts and we’re not allowed to look at our data. So, Chris, take off your Wahoo head unit. – In the pocket. – Chris and I have just ridden two thirds of the way up this
iconic climb, Sa Calobra, and we’re going to be
racing the hardest bit of it all the way up to there. – Yep, the bridge at the top,
or very close to the top. There’s a reason we’ve
chosen only to do three Ks, is we don’t want to do two back-to-back 30-ish minute efforts and have the accumulated fatigue of that. That could skew the results somewhat. But also I think it’d be more interesting to do something that’s a
little bit of a halfway house between the sprints they did last time and the longer efforts that they did. – [James] You ready for a max effort? – As ready as I’ll ever be, James. – All right, you’re going first. – What, and have you
chase me up the climb? – Yes. – Just give me three minutes. There’s nothing I hate more– – I’ll start you off. (hypnotic EDM music) Chris Opie, run number
one with clipless pedals. Three, two one, up, up, up, up, up, up, up, up! (relaxed EDM music) Right, Chris should be a
little bit a ways up now. I’m going to start off myself. Three, two, one. I just hope I can clip in. Right, clipped in, let’s
chase that fast sprinter! (relaxed EDM music) – That hurt, as you might’ve expected. (panting) It’s now time to head down, change pedals, and go again. Let’s see if Hank can catch me. (relaxed EDM music) – Run number one done. Let’s now change pedals. Whoo! – Don’t really want to put
these pedals on my bike. It just seems, I dunno. I mean, what, they’re worth
less than an inner tube and the bearings don’t really turn, so maybe just you could do the test. – No, that’s not fair. After all, this is all for science. – [Chris] All right, okay. (quiet bluesy rock music) – Right, Chris, how does it feel to be wearing trainers on your Pinarello? – It’s really weird ’cause I don’t know, I mean, I don’t know where to put my feet, as in this shoe’s definitely
not made to ride a bike with. – No, are you ready for
this max three K effort? – No, not really. – Well, don’t worry about
that, mate, ’cause here you go. You ready? Three, two, one, and up! Up, up, up, up, up, up, up, up, up! Looks slow. (aggressive rock music) Now, the good thing about having flats is I don’t have to
worry about clipping in. So here goes nothing. Three, two, one, up! (grunting) Slow start. Oh, it’s harder than I thought. (aggressive rock music) Whoo! That was tough. How do you feel? – It was really weird because every time you’d go to stand up, you can’t really pull up on the pedal in the same way that you normally would. It was actually easier to stay sat down and turn a slightly
bigger gear than normal. – Right, how are we going to
look at these results then? – Well, we’re going to need a laptop, so we’ll do that bit somewhere else, and we’ll enjoy the rest of
our ride for now, I think. – We’ve made it back to GCN
HQ and all the results are in. So Chris, are you ready to elaborate? – I am. So we chose that three kilometer section at the top of Sa Calobra. We’ll start with clipless pedals first? – Let’s do it. – We’re used to riding them. James, 367 watts, 78 revs per minute, that’s how fast his
cadence was, 9:17 minutes. – [James] Not bad. – [Chris] Now I’ve been
training a little bit. I did manage to roll you here. 9:12 minutes but I did do a lot more watts because I’m a lot heavier than you, so it’s 409 watts but a cadence of 73. I tend to pedal slow, again, uphill. I’ve noticed you always seem to look like you’re in an easier gear,
getting a little bit faster. So that was clipless. Obviously, we’re trained to
ride in that sort of fashion. We know what it’s like to be clipped in. – The flat’s a bit alien, wasn’t it? – It was a bit. It didn’t feel quite the same. Should we get the results first? – Let’s do it. – [Chris] Right, 351 watts for you at 70 RPM with a time of 9:42 minutes. Putting seven seconds into me here, because I did 9:47, 380 watts, but my cadence dropped quite a lot. And both of us lost a bit of cadence but mine dropped more than yours, 62 RPM. – So what was the conclusion? I guess we’re not losing
a huge amount of time but it’s all really on feeling. – Yeah, exactly. You would stand up, or
you’d try to stand up to go out of the corners and accelerate and try and pull on the pedals
but you didn’t have that, so the bike felt sort of
clumsy underneath you. Now obviously, we’re not
used to riding without clips. So that was quite alien
to us, as you said before. – Yeah, I mean, I rely on
the upstroke of the pedal, especially when I’m climbing, so to have to kind of flip it
and rely on the downstroke, I just didn’t feel like I could get nowhere near the amount of power. – No, you don’t get that initial drag through the bottom of the stroke, do you? Actually, the power discrepancy,
I think, isn’t huge. It’s not even quite 10%, so
that’s actually in fact 5%, so that’s really not that bad at all. But it was all about the sensation and the feeling, wasn’t it? It just didn’t feel like we
were riding our bikes anymore. – [James] No, but other than that, I think, you know, they’re
not as big time gaps as we thought they were going to be. – So if you do have flats at home and you don’t really want to change, then don’t feel pressured into doing so. – No, do what’s comfortable, I guess. If you enjoyed this video and you enjoyed seeing us
suffering up the Sa Calobra climb, then make sure you give
this video a big thumbs up. – And for more content
right now, click down there.

100 comments on “Are Road Pedals Faster than Flat Pedals? | Clips vs Flats Hill Climb Challenge

  1. I had speedplays installed on a Cervelo S5. Drove out to a remote area for a ride. Discovered I'd left the shoes at home. Rather than waste the day, I rode in my moccasins (sperry). I set multiple PRs that day. Riding soft street shoes on pedals that are about the size of a US $0.50 coin and I set PR after PR after PR.

  2. I have switched to clipless this October. And for me it's the other way around. It feels weird and I find it still difficult to put power down the pedals. At least clipping in and out was easy right from the get go.

  3. We all started on flats.
    Some progressed to a better solution. The percentage of pros in road, cx, xc on flats says it all.

    Surprised the difference is so small though. I can barely commute to work in flats anymore. Constantly worrying about foot hold.

  4. Here in NYC only the hard core roadies clip in. Too many emergency stops and often too much walking when you get to your destination even though MTB shoes exist. Looking forward to making the switch though.

  5. I'd prefer to see real flat pedals, something big like a deity tmac, and combined with a proper flat pedal MTB shoe, maybe a split shank like Afton produces.

  6. They should have tried riding mid-foot instead of ball of foot. Plus a decent set of pedals and dedicated flat roads. The difference would have been a lot closer.

  7. I like and ride flat pedals. I do think power transfer is better with my firmer soled mountain bike shoes on the flat pedals than my softer soled cross trainers.

  8. I find dual sided SPD pedals with good stiff SPD (MTB) shoes more convenient than one sided SPD-SL pedals and cycling shoes if only because of them being easier and safer to clip into. SPD-SL shoes are more comfortable on long rides for me, but problems clipping in especially in situations like road junctions or steep gradients make them more stressful. I'd like to use SPD-SL as I feel more part of the bike, but use SPD as I feel safer.

  9. i use flats on my commute and clipless on weekend rides. i do not only think that clipless are more efficient and feel more sportive, but its a fact that the maximum power output you can generate easily doubles, as you can push down with one and up with the other foot simultaniously. i even begin to miss my clipless on my commutes, so i began just pressing my feet so hard on the pedals that the friction is enough to simulate clipless. (i cant use my clipless shoes to uni because wearing them while walking in them gets unconfortable). id still say that getting used to clipless is the best upgrade you can get.

  10. Realistically at max 30 seconds difference provided results aren't tampered. for the average person this does not warrant a pair of clipless pedals or shoes.
    Quality GCN videos… maybe hire a professional to look at your methods before conducting experiments.

  11. 5:03 The whole video in a nutshell. Should've used Five Ten shoes and Catalyst pedals, had one of the testers start with the flats, and used the same cadence in both runs. Oval chainrings also mitigate the need for pulling up, if you even pull up.

  12. Heavily flawed test, I expect better from y'all.
    – Plastic flats with trash bearings
    – BOTH riders rode clipless first and were fatigued for the flats
    – Old flexible trainers when flat cycling shoes exist

  13. Honestly the best part about clipless isn't the pedaling efficiency or being able to pedal in circles. The best part of being clipped in is that your feet never come off the pedals and you never lose that 'butter zone' foot position. That's the best part for me.

  14. I ride flats, and I’ll keep them because that’s what I’m comfortable with. But I did buy some stiffer mountain bike shoes (I ride gravel) because my feet hurt riding with running shoes. I got the “Five Ten Freerider Pros” and they are surprisingly light and stopped the foot pain. This works great for me.

  15. Sweet video. Thank you. I wonder why you didn't go to Mallorca for your 24h challenge video 😁
    I guess you could have gone twice the mileage

  16. If I ride the MTB which has 'flats' on, it's just power – push motion, tho if I ride a cleat with lots of float it's horrible too..

  17. I use Look Pedals when I go for a training run on my good bike. I occasionally use my Look Pedals with Pedal Plate which are a super cheap way to convert your clipless to flats when needed.
    My experience is – ride clipless on long spins away from traffic. Use the Pedal Plate on the urban short distance runs where you will be riding in stressful heavy traffic.
    Power transfer is best with clipless though no doubt about it .
    Hope that helps with the practical aspect of this question.

  18. I ride clipless. But I keep my gravel/ cross bike at work for riding across campus (the two buildings where I spend a lot of time are 3km apart). It has flat pedals with pins that more strongly adhere to shoes ( since I wear street shoes at work). It feels less alien than the kind of pedals you used for this test. Some viewers who are reluctant to use clipless might like flat pedals with pins.

  19. way to go using some foamy sole “running shoes” instead of skate shoes, as any decent mtb rider would use.. also getting some of the cheapest plastic pedals, instead of getting some nicer flat pedals.

  20. Using clip less pedals and road shoes will always be faster .  No resistance from the other crank , using all of the leg muscles , etc. Odd that this is even a legit topic . I didn't even watch the vid before commenting . Now I just listened to a long winded version of the same .

  21. Of course you mentioned it but definitely it's not fair when both guys are trained on clipless. It takes time to fully adjust to making the best use of clipless just as the opposite is true. But the other thing here is we're talking about high torque efforts here. For just riding along, there's no difference in performance. There is a control benefit of course though.

  22. I watched former BMX riders smoking everybody with flats on my Mountain course and made the switch to flat pedals. The transition was spooky and I had to relearn all the the lofting skills. But once I was fully retrained I found I could hop higher, put more power thru the pedals all the way around the circle. The trick is you are always putting your whole body into the pedals and torquing thru the bars. A lot more control of the bike. It made me a more powerful faster rider. So I am convinced if you went thru the same type of learning curve the results would be at least flat if not an improvement.

  23. With proper shoes, proper pedals and proper(normal) technique it wouldn't be much difference. But it is of course pointless to ride flatties on a roadbike.

  24. I was looking forward to this video and you guys did a rubbish comparison. Use some same quality flat pedals and shoes. Next video, which is faster flat tires or pumped up ones.

  25. Im the other way round. Cycling with clipless in London. Thinking of switching to flats. It can be a lot of stopping and starting

  26. So you use high quality clipless pedals and shoes and rubbish flat pedals and shoes by two people who I assume ride almost exclusively clipped in at all times and think it's a fair comparison? I think not. Nice try GCN. Just going for views and comments?

  27. If you're about to comment about sneakers and cheap flats:
    1. They are really truing to chow the type of cheap pedals most people have
    2. most people with flats ride in a normal sport shoe (which they explained)
    This video might have been intended to compare a "proper" pedal and shoe setup to what the average flat rider would normally use.

    I do agree about having one person start on the flats for the first run and then switching in case fatigue is a significant factor.

  28. Actually you can feel the difference between the two while rinding uphill…. Its more efficient using Clipless than FlatPedals

  29. Of course the clipless pedals have an advantage with these guys, when you are only accustomed to them going to a flat would be difficult. A decent flat pedal and stiff shoes would make a better choice. Lower end MTB flat shoes cost less than most running shoes. And why are those shoelaces flopping all over? Tuck those ends in.

  30. I'm going to stick with flats and not go back to clueless as the only times I have fallen whilst riding has been in slowing group rides and someone comes to a complete stop in front and brought down those behind.

  31. Not a fair test considering they didn't get good quality flat pedals and shoes. I find my DMR V12/Vaults and 510 Freerides to be just fine in terms of power transfer (way better than my tennis shoes were), which makes sense as the tennis shoes are meant to cushion impacts. I like the freedom to move my foot around for different situations, and commonality between my mountain bike and pavement bike (not actually a road bike but rigid). The only thing the clipless were definitely better at for me was sprinting as they said, but I come from a flats background so my style doesn't normally take advantage of it.

  32. Clipless have the advantage, but this "test" is biased. Better flats and better shoes will show better results for flats. Not better than clipless but not as bad either. How about testing clipless vs. flats on downhill mountain biking?

  33. Ok, my conclusion: you lost a bit of time, but it took you also less effort (less power), so flats are not bad. The only thing is, you guys used the wrong shoes for flat pedals. I'm riding all my bikes (mtb, cx, road) with flats and I get KOMS on all three.

  34. A guy that does the shop rides I do uses flat pedals and running shoes just like the video, his nick name is tennis shoe mike. The last bike he had he put 25,000 miles on in flats and running shoes before the frame developed a crack. He is also 74.

  35. Good flats are a much bigger platform, and allow you to change foot position for different cadence, low cadence I usually put the pedal further back in my foot to drive harder with.

    Think of it this way, we don't like staying in the same seated position a whole ride, sometimes we like getting out of the seat, use the tops etc. I figure it's the same with foot positioning.

    That being said, when using my wahoo kickr or stages power meter, the difference is non existant for efforts over 10 seconds for my pedalling innovations flats to my dura ace 9000 pedals.

    I do feel less sore after a long ride on the flats compared to the clipless, did a 300km ride on flats just over a month ago, no soreness at all besides the usual fatigued legs

  36. you are changing two variables at the same time, shoes and pedals. Why not use mountain bike shoes that can be used with and without clipless pedals?

  37. Ok I started riding bikes in races on BMX before any of these guys were born and I can say you don't use a ultra light flexible shoe. In the 80s they used VANs, I personally use a low top basket ball shoe (they grip the pedal good) but both types of shoe have a stiffer sole than a light weight runner or trainer show because those the sole flexes just too much, at least for my comfort. I currently use flats on my older road bike that I have converted to a commuter bike.

  38. There are advantage of not having to unclip and reclip when running into traffic lights and stop signs. I run a setup of Race Face flats & Five Ten cycling shoes. Add bonus, shoes are much more comfortable for short walks in store/cafe.

  39. Well, there goes the Christmas gift list. Strike off "Time XPRO 15 pedals with ceramic speed bearings and Titanium Axles." Replace with "flip-flops"

  40. I think if 1 minute or under max power is relevant to your riding style, then you should go clips. If not you probably won't have much gain on clips vs flats.

  41. 1. That 30 second difference slower every 10 minutes on a climb would bother the living sh#t out of me.
    2. The difference means I could not ride and keep up with my riding companions.
    3. Even with toe clips (straps), on an extended ride with serious climbing, my feet would be aching in trainer shoes. That's what used to happen before the upgrade to clipless.

  42. I wonder how close the gap would be if you used a good pair of MTB flats and a proper pair of MTB shoes (that will have a stiff sole, and mesh well with flats).

  43. I noticed 30% increase with clipless after dumping over a few times. Flats are good for training but you'll need to prep before a race to recondition for a clipless series

  44. Trainers and cheap flats really make this invalid. I can out climb some of my friends who clip in on road bikes while I’m on flats with my xc hardtail.

  45. 2:09 – that lace, bro. Ahhhh. Another reason I prefer my cycling shoes. Velcro straps or gtfo. 5yr old me knew what was up.

  46. Quite entertaining! Maybe you should challenge somebody next time who is used to flats! 🙂 Although we flats might not be riding a Pinarello 😀 but possibly a nice retro road bike! Great video!

  47. Uphill is far more efficient in clipless, but… even with custom shoes and fittings and so on, I NEVER had knee problems until I went clipless.

  48. Great video guys. I believe clip less allows for best form which translates to being more efficient power transfer over flat pedals. Form translates to efficiency using clip less.

  49. I've gone from clipleess back to flats which I know sounds strange. The reason I did this was to alleviate knee problems and numb feet and it seems to have worked for me.

  50. terrible quality video. a good set of pinned platforms and stiff soled MTB shoes work wonders for those of us who have been hit by speeding trucks and can no longer use clipless because of those injuries.

  51. Doing the flat test should’ve used stiff shoes too.. literally no one would use floppy trainers, or rubbish pedals. Try using some pinned flats, they are amazing. Also riders both use clipless all the time anyway. Also how many rides do people do just uphill? On the downhill flats would probably be faster especially on a tight bendy road, as you could lean more. Daft test.

  52. I use clipless to get work which mainly uphill and just regular shoes home. I feel this video is accurate not much of difference in time but you feel more efficient in clipless uphill. I like wearing regular shoes and clothes to ride just because I don’t race anyone but myself.

  53. Should have done it with higher quality regular pedals.
    Some new or stiffer shoes that would take up city/commuter abuse would have been better.
    Definitely took it too casual as if it was a complete beginner

  54. I like flats. This comparison is a rigged hoax. A flat pedal witch hunt:). In all serious, if you want a semi-reasonable comparison you can't compare high end clipless pedals again some flats that you bought at the local grocery store. I use race face atlas – large surface, pins that keep your feet in place, and good set of bearings – but there are other good options out there as well. If there wasn't that big of a difference with the grocery store pedals, I've got to think a better set of flats would be even closer. One other perk of using flats – it makes passing people in clipless pedals more satisfying:).

  55. Another video, fixed (no brakes or brakes) vs geared roadie (no lights or few stop start intersections). I'm just as fast on either around the nationals road course in Buninyong, Australia.

  56. Not really a definitive result. Difficult to isolate the effect of the pedals themselves when your test is also impacted by fatigue and also gear ratios (Chris' first run in large chainring and second run in small chainring). Also the results could be easily manipulated by the rider putting in more, or less effort. I'm not saying you did deliberately manipulate the results, but you can't possibly draw any conclusions from this test.

  57. Clipless Pedals are like HorseShoes. Albeit to deserve them, one has to measure fitness in HorsePower! Otherwise don't bother. I have a set of perfectly flat pedals and a pair of solid flat-stiff sporting shoes. They do work Perfectly. The idea of being leashed doesn't appeal to me. And no, I'm far from pro.

  58. I love this chanel but unfortunately their video become nonsense
    This is not even a fair comparison..
    At least compare rb clipless pedal vs mtb clipless peda or vs any pedal options

  59. Great so it's pretty much like the previous video about this, just in a different location.

    Running out of content aye?


  61. I'm actually going away from clipless back to flats. A bunch of traffic and loads of cyclists and traffic stops. In a lot of areas I spend too much time thinking about being clipped in or not. Once already I had to break real hard to prevent an accident and felt over because I was still stuck. I'll give up those 5% for more peace of mind I won't be winning any grand tours regardless.

  62. Using your data I came up with this:

    Averaging both Chris and James efforts in a comparative analysis the final result was that they lost 3% efficiency using their flat pedaled shoes. (Their total average wattage loss divided by their total average wattage output.)

    3 freakin percent. That’s all. Why am I still using clipless pedals and LOOK shoes? Why am I replacing LOOK cleats 4-5 times per year, which is an annual cost of $200 (156 lbs for our friends across the pond).

    And, there is nothing more inconvenient than those damn protruding cleats, which require that lovely penguin walk if you need to maneuver one step off the bike…

    Cyclists! Help me to rationalize this. I no longer compete. I no longer do group rides. Am I brainwashed by conventional cycling lore?

  63. For me, the benefits of clipless are not power transfer. Etc. But control while cornering, and the security of knowing I am not going to be coming out of my pedals on sprint or maximal efforts on 20% gradients.

  64. At my advanced age, I've not been happy with clipless and have good flats with toestraps. Because the strap is lashing my feet firmly to the pedals, I suspect that negates the floppy shoes a bit and I can also pull up but I tend not to because I was told there's no advantage. But thanks for the video, I'll stick to my flats.

  65. Shoe with groovy bottom. Be comfortable, having the option for an extra socks.
    Flat, wide medals with pins. In city and on trail its the best

  66. This is not the right test. Being clipped in allows you to use a larger number of muscles to produce the same amount of power, thereby increasing endurance. The right test would have been to do a century ride.

  67. I’d argue you gotta have the right material of flat pedals. A stiffer metal pedal with a wide platform would be better than a plastic commuter one

  68. I like the video, and I really like the conclusion. I am 50 years old and I like to go fast on occasions. I also have three bikes for three different purposes. I have a steel surly disk trucker for multiple day bike packing trips or just long one day outings, a carbon Giant TCR for when I want to go fast or just for a good workout, and a aluminium Giant Talon XC mountain bike for riding some trails and working on some bike handling skills. All of them have flat pedals good flat pedals (flats don't have to be cheap with bad bearings) . My point is I just don't like the feel of being clipped in. I'm not trying to set any speed records or win any races, I just like riding. BUT, don't wear trainers! Get some good flat pedal shoes. I recommend a good pair of 5/10's. They're stiff, but you can still comfortably walk in them and they grip (good) flat pedals really well. I think it is kind of like the best of both worlds.

  69. Would have been nice to see you pair a set of FiveTen danny macs with the stiff soles and grippy rubber on a set of DMR Vaults with the megapins – you know to get a comparative set of results from an equally decent flat pedal setup where you can pull on the pedals – rather than just taking the absolute piss like this.

  70. If those trainers come anywhere near the time of Fiziks, my wife is never seeing this video. Half way through and I’m too scared to watch the rest incase my $500 shoes are just proving that I am a tosser.

  71. Quality flats and shoes vs clipless pedals and shoes will have a negligible difference. I still don't believe in pulling up on the stroke is efficent at all, if anything you're wasting energy since pushing is far easier.

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