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Clipless Pedals Vs Flat Pedals – Which Is Faster? | GCN Does Science

Clipless Pedals Vs Flat Pedals – Which Is Faster? | GCN Does Science


– Many moons ago, we went into the laboratory
at Bath University to find out any difference in efficiency between flat and clipless pedals. And to our surprise, there was hardly any difference at all. – So why are we bothering to use them? I mean, surely there’s
gotta be some benefits to clipless pedals. So we have come to the real world, or at least the paradise
that is Alta Badia, to find out what it feels like to go back to riding a
bike like we did as kids, with flat pedals and cool shoes. – [Matt] Dan, are you really
gonna use those shoes? – Yeah, got flat pedals on. Gotta have cool shoes on don’t ya? And these are pretty cool. (funky electronic music) – [Matt] Our laboratory
testing involved Si riding at a steady state for
10 minutes at a time. So let’s start with something
completely different. Sprints. Surely there will be a significant
difference in peak power when you can’t pull up
on the pedal stroke. – [Dan] Or is there? Let’s find out. We are each going to do
five maximum effort sprints and analyse peak three second power and five second power for each one. The numbers should tell their own story, but we’re also going to be
talking about subjective feeling. (funky electronic music) Well, I think it’s safe to say Matt put his all into that last sprint judging by the noises he was producing. I am personally really hoping that the flat pedals are
reducing my maximum power output. Because Matt beat me in all five. Results to come later. – Okay, it’s time for the first sprint back on clipless pedals. Hopefully, I’ll be back to my former self in terms of sprint numbers,
we’ll wait and see. Certainly feels better
to be solidly in again. All right, here we go. (funky electronic music) Yes. Beauty. Right, three seconds and 1139, way above the flat pedals. More importantly, better than Matt. Let’s do it again. (funky electronic music) – Right, next up, let’s do a climb. We are going to do a 10 minute segment of the Passo Valparola each,
measure power and heart rate and compare the two. But again, also talk about
any difference in feeling between the two petal systems. (upbeat music) – So Dan, we’re just
over seven minutes in. How’s it feeling on the flat? – Well first up, 300 watts
is feeling quite hard. – Yeah. – I’ve got a feeling that has
nothing to do with my pedals. I mean, surprisingly, there’s a load of grip on these. More than I was expecting. You really can still swing your foot back, at the bottom of the pedal stroke, and over the top. Even though obviously you can’t pull up. I mean, you can feel it’s different, but it certainly doesn’t feel as alien as it did for sprinting. – Sure. (upbeat music) – Three, two, one, lap. Oh, it’s hard.
– Yeah. (upbeat music) Okay, it’s now my turn on the flats and straightaway it’s worth mentioning we haven’t actually
adjusted our saddle height. And I reckon there’s about a
centimetre or two difference in stack height but over 10 minutes, it shouldn’t be affecting
us too dramatically. But foot placement, straightaway
is absolutely crucial. (upbeat music) (crowd cheering over music) – All right 50 seconds
and our 10 minutes is up. About the same average power so far. – Cool. – Steep, this bit, isn’t it? – My legs are hurting more
this time up, so far Dan. (crowd cheering over upbeat music) We’re going to finish in
exactly the same place. Two, one. Okay it’s time for the fun bit now. The descent. Let’s see how these babies
feel down some hairpin bends. – I love descending. But, Dan, you need a lid on mate. You can’t descend
– Yeah, I’ve got one – But I’ve see this on Red Bull TV. If you’ve got flat pedals and
really cool shoes like this, you need to use one of these. – A full face helmet? – Yeah. – With Lycra? (Dan grunting) – Whose is this? They’ve got a small head. – No you’ve got just a massive head. (Dan grunting) (rock music) – [Dan] So if some downhill
mountain bikers prefer the freedom that flat pedal give them, could they be of any benefit to us on road descents? Well it is going to be
a hard one to quantify, but what we’re going to
do is a couple of descents of the Valparola and see how it feels. (rock music) – Ow. (Matt laughing) (rock music) – Let’s carve some tarmac. (rock music) (clicking) (rock music) – Right, the results are in, in terms of power numbers, et cetera. We’re also going to be
talking about how we felt. So for the sprints at the start, Matt you had a 15% greater power when you were using
clipless versus the flats, which is quite a big difference
I think you might say. I had a 30% difference.
– Wow. – Which is an immense amount
– No way. – Yeah. But I could tell
right from the very first time at which I kicked using
the clipless pedals that I had so much more power there. I obviously used the pulling up stroke when I kick into sprint, perhaps slightly more than you. But it just goes to show you why BMX’s downhill mountain bike is now generally preferred
to use clipless pedals for that sprint from the starter house. – Definitely, I mean
I had a bit of trouble getting my foot in the right position. Normally, on clipless pedals your feet are dialled in, you don’t even have to think about it. But my thought process was thinking about positions of my feet and also, because I couldn’t
pull up in the sprint, I was recruiting my
thighs a lot more as well. So I felt like I was using
my thighs like pistons rather than kind of pedalling in circles, like I’m kind of use to. So it didn’t feel too bad, but it definitely felt different. There was a certain level of compromise, I just didn’t feel like I
was getting the power down as I would have done with the clips. – Yeah, you really had to concentrate. We’re obviously used to
using clipless pedals now, but even though I was
consciously concentrating on not pulling up, there were still a couple of occasions when I sprinted flat out where I could feel that my foot moved because I was pulling it up slightly. One of my feet came off
of the back end as well. Yeah. And then next we did the climb and for that we tried to
average about 300 watts. Or I did, and you just rode next to me. When I had the flats, you had the clipless we averaged 303 watts for me, you had 315. I got a bit excited when I put
the clipless pedals back on and networthed 305 watt
average, only two watts above and you had, of course, running 318 watts, so you were three watts above. The climbing, I didn’t notice much of a difference certainly as I did on the sprint. I’m still more comfortable, for sure, using the clipless pedals. It does feel like, when
you’re able to pull up, it does spread the load
of that 300 watt power over far more muscle groups and when you’ve just got flats and you’re only able to push down. – Yeah I tend to agree. I found that my thighs
were getting fatigued, although my heart rate
was pretty much the same, I felt more of an ache in my thighs. Less recruitment of the calf muscles than I normally would on clipless pedals. And, the most interesting I found was when I was riding out of the saddle, I felt that I almost
like peddling squares, again, similar to sprinting
when you’re out of the saddle, couldn’t pull up at all, so although I was delivering the power, it was for far less of the pedal stroke, so it was almost like
pedalling and bottoming out, so I didn’t particularly like
climbing out of the saddle, but sat down wasn’t too bad, although I tended to just
recruit one muscle group. – Yeah. Neither of us, though, had a difference in heart
rate for the two runs which is quite interesting, quite similar to what
we found in laboratory all those years ago. I did find that there’s quite a lot of grip on those pedals, although you can’t pull up, you can sort of push through the top and scrape through the
bottom of the pedal stroke but I think that was down to my cool shoes as much as the pedals. And finally the descent, which we didn’t take any numbers for. That was purely subjective feeling. I was concentrating more on the fact that I had a full-face helmet on. Perhaps I should have used a normal one. It did give me a greater sense of safety, bit like the difference between wearing a seatbelt in
a car and not, I’d say. – Yeah, well, I felt the
same in terms of the helmet but the pedals themselves, the couple of corners
when we banked it over, I think you experienced this as well, where I actually clipped the pedals ’cause they’re far wider. And actually, on one of the corners that I didn’t quite get right, I was able to take my foot out like a speedway rider as well, so not a lot of difference but just subtle nuances in terms of your positions on the pedals because accelerating out of
some of the hairpin bends, my feet moved which is a
little bit disconcerting so, again, I preferred
descending on clipless. – Yeah, as you said they are wider so you are much more easily
able to hit them on the floor which could be quite dangerous. And I think going back to the sprints, you could feel that
there was as much power when you sprinted outside of the corners to get back up to speed. So I would say on descent, I’m gonna be faster on clipless. – [Matt] Same here. – Right, well I don’t think either of us are going to be swapping
out our clipless pedals for these, which as you can see, we’ve taken off our bikes pretty quickly after that experiment. You could certainly get
around a sportive with them but I definitely think it is going to be more efficient overall, to be using clipless pedals on a road bike and probably for most
mountain bike situations too, although I’ll leave that to GMBN. Right, if you haven’t yet subscribed to the Global Cycling Network, you can do so by clicking on the globe. If you’d like to buy a
camelback GCN water bottle, head to shop.globalcyclingnetwork.com and now coming up, are a couple of videos fairly related to what
we’ve been talking about. Just down here is how to
choose clipless pedals. Or, for the original
clips versus flat pedals, with laboratory conditions
with Si Richardson and you as a pundit, click just down here.

100 comments on “Clipless Pedals Vs Flat Pedals – Which Is Faster? | GCN Does Science

  1. were the flat shoes stiff bike shoes?if not go back and do the test again with soft flexable shoes on bothe bikes

  2. i am wearing trainers at the moment till my new clip less pedals come. Trainers are no way better than road shoes with clipless pedals. Why because they are more efficient, have a harder surface to push against when compared to trainers. Trainers are not designed for cycling and i feel the teeth of the pedals when pushing against them. Also they bend a lot. For advantages you can get on/off the bike very fast, not fall over if you not used to clipless pedals or have them too tight. You can wear any shoe or trainer for cycling but do not expect them to be great.

  3. dude if you ride clipped padels all the time and change to flaty you might be slower. I think there is no difference depending on what you prefer.

  4. As a long distance rider, I would say shoe comfort would have a lot do with it. Casual shoes would not have the same support as cycling specific shoes.

  5. I think clip-in pedals are better for racing and long duration riding due to the fact you can pull up on the pedal stroke and balance out the muscle use resulting in less fatigue. The flat pedals however are better when you are starting and stopping a lot as they allow you to just plonk your foot on the ground whenever you need to, as well as the added benefit of not needing special shoes. However I do have to mention for guys who pretty exclusively ride clip-in pedals, your results are a little suspect, I imagine if you did a comparison between someone who exclusively rode with flat pedals, the results would be practically identical, as the flat pedal rider would be more comfortable, and would have built up bigger related muscle groups to flat pedalling to be able to remain competitive with the clip-in pedal. The only downside I would say is that flat pedals sometimes can slip especially in wet weather, it just relies on getting a good flat pedal and a soft based shoe in which the small gripping points can dig into.

  6. I don't know which pedals do we get when we buy a new cycle( mine is triban 100 btwin)
    Should i buy cleats or not ???
    Plz help

  7. Well i yesterday fell due to the slipping of my leg from the pedal and am pretty injured
    So which pedal should i prefer ????

  8. As a courier, it makes more sense for me to use flat pedals. I've seen riders nearly go under a bus because they couldn't get their foot out in time. It also means my shoes are safe for running up stairs and through the street. Also, I don't think pulling your knee joint up is good for it.

    I think you guys are both used to clipless, so of course you're adapted to them.

    Those flats you chose are rubbish. They are huge and put holes in your shoes. I'll stick to my tiny Evans flats.

  9. Until recently I was using flat pedals with velcro pedal "straps", and had no drama pulling up on the back leg (although pulling up actually does stuff-all, and increases risk of injury). The straps were tight enough that I had to 'wedge' my foot in, but they allowed a bit of 'play'.

    I recently switched to SPD MTB pedals and cleats… all it's done so far is cause me to finish every ride with a slightly-sore right knee, despite hours wasted adjusting every aspect of cleat position and seat position..

    With clipless, if you don't get the cleat position exactly right – fore/aft, side-to-side and foot angle – they are pretty unforgiving. They also require that you get saddle height and fore-aft position really dialled-in.

    What that effectively means, then, is that your setup is for a specific pair of shoes&cleats (or shoes with a specific sole thickness) – because if the shoe has a thicker sole your seating geometry will change enough to bugger things up.

    Flats with straps, on the other hand, give "float" in multiple directions (as opposed to just foot-angle with SPDs and SPD-SLs).

    It also seems absolutely obvious that a fixed sole position (relative to the pedal spindle) at all phases of the pedal stroke is a terrible idea .

    Plus, you look like a bloody Kardashian clomping around in those stupid shoes: the world needs fewer people in stupid shoes, not more.

  10. Foot placement is the #1 reason I have tended away from flats since I tried my first pair of clipless pedals. I like the certainty of clipping in.

  11. Theres (at least for mtb) SH56 clips that are easier to release and Click R that are even easier to release. For beginners is the way to go first

  12. Кто понял что они там говорят? Есть вообще разница между ботинками или нет?

  13. I rode to my motorcycle test using full face helmet on a MTB and I felt like I was in a redbull tv show or something.

  14. Worth mentioning that clipless pedals hypothetically put more wear and tear on your meniscus due to the twisting motion required to unclip. Since there's very limited options for treating meniscus damage, I personally choose flats with decent studs and well matched shoes.

  15. I like to use flat pedals with the cage but straps taken off. You can easily slide your feet out sideways but still pull up on the pedal to get some pedaling power. You should have tested that set-up/method.

  16. One of my brothers uses clip-on pedals on his road bike and mtb. They seem cool until I saw him fall like a tree while when we were mountain biking. He couldn't get his foot off the pedals fast enough to put on the ground. Funniest fall I have ever seen. That's when I was really happy to have regular pedals on the bike I was riding.

  17. I’m a downhill rider and I prefer clips, much more attached to your bike and more confidence inspiring once you get passed being scared

  18. I see the point you guys made, however as someone who rode on flat pedals his whole life. I am not sure it is fair for you to judge this as I imagine you guys spend most time in clip less pedals. Therefore it's only natural you feel insecure. I personally always feel comfortable in flat pedals in fact I feel like flat pedals are more comfortable because I feel much more flexible and on balance. I am sure you guys are way more used to clip less.

  19. I've never used clipless .. but I never have to think about pedals when I'm riding .. I've got a great pair of flats on my mountain bike , just brought some giro mtb shoes for both my bikes .. they grip my flat peddles on mountain bike .. I've just brought a cannondale caad optimo .. it's Awesome but the pedals are crap .. so going change them to mtb flats .. this vid definitely made me think don't get clipless .. there's not that much in it unless you are a pro … good vid guys , but would rather have seen a flat peddle rider doing this test with you ..

  20. Flats vs clips, android vs iOS… blah…blah…blah… why are we obsessed with this vs that? My feeling is finding the right tool for the job and having a level of comfort. I love flats for mtn biking for very different reasons. I like clipless for road for different reasons. Different strokes for different folks. 🙂

  21. Could you release a shirt with two silhouettes of two riders side by side and a line of cars behind them… and MAMIL written on their jerseys (maybe not silhouettes then). I'd fucking rock the shit out of these (literally I'd smear them in shit and do crazy things with them).

  22. You guys make great videos, but this one is obviously less about cycling and more about confirmation bias. Even after studies have shown that clipless offer no advantages, you still insist that it has merit.

  23. Being used to flats is much better, you can learn to keep your feet on them just as well, use your toes right and you can still pull up on the pedals as well as push down, clipless is just a short cut that takes the skill part of it out of the equation and leaves you less of a rider for it, just ask any good skater they will tell you that you learn to use your toes to grip the deck

  24. I think this test would have been a lot better if they had used a proper pair of 5 tens with sticky soles and some good sharp pins that would grip a lot better. Instead of using those terrible trainers.

  25. No pull on the flat pedals so more fatigue on the long distance. If you suffer an injury on a long haul it’s easier to finish with the clipless as you can focus muscle usage. Wouldn’t want to load up the outside pedal into a downhill corner at 80km/h on a road course with sneakers on.

  26. over a bump at high speeds my feet lose contact with the pedals, soetimes you can land again on the pedals but sometimes you can't. that's pretty scary. I've just order my first clipless'

  27. clipless is downright dangerous on technical trails where you have to slow down a alot to go around rocks or whatever.

  28. Clipless look cooler and everyone uses them so if you don’t want to look like a newbie at the group ride, clipless are the way to go. Even if that means breaking our another chunk of change.

  29. I use flat pedals on road bike, because I feel more safe. In fact, it saved me few times from falling, because I was able to put my foot down, without even thinking about it. I don't race, so I don't care if I'm less efficient.

  30. Could not be bothered changing shoes on a ride. Then again I only ride for pleasure and to keep fit, I couldn't care less about speed or effort.

  31. I use flats 100% on my mountain bike – I know you lose the upstroke but my power is push down and I like getting my foot off like a dirt bike

  32. I use a flat pedal with a mini toe hold on the front, a plastic/fiber piece that your front of sneaker rest in . Works great for short or long, any nice comfortable sneaker fits it. You can walk or run around right off the road bike. The slight weight on the front keeps pedal pointed down so getting your foot in the pedal is very quick!!! Be careful to measure tip of the mini to tire for hitting potential. I always use these as I,m long distance rider.

  33. The naming is terrible. Flat pedals are at least equally lacking of "clips" (noun) than clipless pedals are. Secondly, although they lack clips (noun), clipless pedals require clips (verb), whereas flat pedals both lack clips (noun), and do not require clips (verb), so in a literal sense, flat pedals are more "clip-less" than clipless pedals.

  34. Was it me, or did you guys keep referring to "clipless" peddles as "flats" to really mean "clip-on" or clip-in" peddles to flats?
    "Downhill clipless/flat peddles are superior to "clip-in", but losses ground clearance on the turns while peddling." is what I've heard. A bit confusing? Clip-in peddles allow more muscle usage particularly on the pull up stroke. Makes sense. Maybe, it was the rhetoric?
    I have "flats" or "clipless" peddles on my Bianchi Sempre. I own a pair of "clip-ons" that I never used. I personally think they're unsafe on public streets with cars and pedestrians.

  35. Try climbing a 40 degree hill on a single speed and then tell me clipless aren't faster. Being able to pull up with your other leg at the same time you're pushing down with the other one may not increase your maximum speed, but it doubles your torque, which extremely useful for hard climbs.

  36. You should try an item called "Power Grips" straps. They cross the pedal diagonally. Been riding for years with them.

  37. I have a modern road bike with clipless, and a steel road bianchi from the 80's with downtube shifters+flats I installed. I learned how to road cycle with the Bianchi/flats. The clipless feels better all around. Like the videos, especially the sprints.

  38. What about strap pedals like my Power Grips? They keep my feet in place over the right spot in the pedal and give me an upstroke as well. I use them on my road bike and I love them. They were recommended to me by someone who does cross country tours.

  39. German law dictates that bicycle pedals must have reflectors on. So what clipless pedals are out there with reflectors? (I prefer double sided clipless).

  40. I ride flats for years and it's great becuase I can adjust my feet position.. sprinting is never a problem, I believe for those people who rides flat, sprint or climb is never ever gonna be a problem..

    But now I ride clipless and the noticeable different is less fatigue as you're able to utilize your calf muscle in upwards motion (while not sprinting).. I still ride flats from time to time, especially when commuting or in heavy traffic

  41. Haha do I really need to watch the video past the first 14seconds. Couldn't have asked for a more time efficient review.

  42. Is there something more scientific regarding the activation of muscle groups between clipless and flats? I have always ridden flat pedals so far, and I feel all the stress on my thighs until the knees, but my calves are not loaded, and not trained when riding my bike. Is it really different with clipless?

  43. I think flats are better for me I can move freely cuz sometimes I do weird positions and in case if crashes u can freely jump on a flat compare to the clip

  44. Used to ride clipless on all my bikes for a few years but I got really fed up with replacing cleats, shoes (wearing out inside of shoe) and smashing my knee on the handlebar because even at max setting during sprints I could rip my foot out of the clip occasionally. Gone back to flats, can wear whatever shoes i want, very happy.

  45. 1. This is not science, and this is not a scientific process.
    2. If you're not generating more power through the complete rotation with clipless pedals (versus non), then you are not doing things right.

  46. If there is very little difference why do 99.9 percent of pro mountain bike and road racers use clipless .

  47. Clipless pedals allow for some float whereas flats don't. I have a torn meniscus and flats hurt but clipless allow my leg to find a comfy position as the foot can rotate a little.

  48. Twice the effort and half the power for flats. OK for a Sunday strole through the local park on your mamma's shopping bicycle, but for real riding it has to be 'lock in and loaded'

  49. I saw the full video to see if you would mention wet roads and I could tell you I don have clip in pedal or shoes and it’s certainly annoying to bike when the shoes get wet and I can’t get any grip. I hope I can transition to clip in pedals some day. Thanks for the analysis.

  50. I'm 43. Road bike now. Mountain bike growing up. Flats all day. I've never been clipped to a bike. Just recently took muh kickstand off muh road bike. I think I miss it but it sure looks clean without it. I keep hybrid tyres and probably more of an expedition/exploration rider that loves a good climb! 6up m8's!

  51. Its all about feel. It feels better being clipped in. But then again, trail riding is different from pavement riding.

  52. As a clipless mountainbiker for me flats have the advantage of changing the foot position depending on terrain. For example when I ride down a trail standing, I like my foot position a little bit to the center of the foot – this feels more stable and is much more relaxing and comfortable on longer descents. And of course you can easier get off the bike in an emergency.

  53. Only very well trained athletes such as the two in de video have a benefit in using clip's, for the rest of us it's more comfortable and safer to have flat pedals.

  54. So, no particular difference in the lab, marginal /subjective difference in racing conditions even to professional riders. And totally fucking lethal or at the very least inconvenient and a right royal faffing pita in everyday riding in traffic which nearly everyone does. On balace, i consider the latter most important and so Im sticking with flats. I might bung some spds on when i enter the tour de france although they might not make up for being a totally average cyclist like nearly everyone else.

  55. if beeing fast is the main thing, there is only one choise…… clipless pedals….that's why every one use it in the race. But for Fitness an commuting flat pedals are much better.

  56. i do long rides, climbs, decents and i feel like flat pedals are alot better as its giving me freedom on moving and my bikes actually a hardtail mtb, and i think using cleats set are only perfect for sprinting climbing and descenting and not for all around use like jumps,going offroad, jumping road bumps to not lose speed, and i think its better to be used for road bikes,and i prefer using flat pedals i guess but its also good to use cleats set.

  57. Okay how about you try a urban environment? I find that it’s faster and easier to get going at stop lights with flat pedals compared to clipless petals.

  58. Flat pedals allow for adjustments of the position of the feet on the fly, which might be translated in increased performance (sprinting) and overall efficiency.

  59. Same major flaw here, as the comparisons the guys at GMBN make when comparing wheel sizes. You guys fail to take into consideration the preference of the rider, which is the biggest factor in my opinion.

  60. This study is not done correctly enough. Attaching ones foot to the pedal is more efficient and safer for pedaling, except when taking foot off pedal. For non racing situations, flat pedaling is fine. Here are some points not mentioned:

    1. The sneakers if not stiff will absorb energy. Will lose power. If sole flexes, will lose power. So proper flat shoes are important.
    2. Slipping foot off pedals with flats can be a problem in hard efforts.
    3. You missed a third comparison of using cage pedals with toe clips and straps, and no cleat on shoe. I have an mtb with mtb pedals and toe clips. Use mtb shoes without cleats. The toe clip and straps keeps the foot from moving forward and straps maintain foot on pedal for side to side movement. Having ridden all styles of pedals, this setup is close to clipless pedals for efficiency. In the toe clip set up i don't cinch straps too tight so i can easily pull foot out on a stop. Just tight enough to keep foot from moving around. with the stiff mtb shoes i have the efficiency difference is there, but small. When i put on spd pedals i usually can pedal one gear higher for same effort.
    4. You need to adjust saddle height if flat pedal shoes change saddle height. Just a 5 mm difference can make power different. I find riding with flat type pedals is easier with lower saddle. You see some really high saddles with extreme heel up positions on some people's clipless setups.
    5. Which pedals are safer when it rains?
    6. You definitely need time to adapt to the pedal type. Not sure if a quick comparison is accurate.
    7. In my many years of experiments with pedals, pulling back is overrated. Uses more energy unless really good at it. Better to let one leg rest and float back while other leg pushes down.
    8. There is probably more….

  61. I’ve ridden across USA 4 times with flat pedals. My reasoning is this, after pedaling 8-10hrs a day I often walk a mile or so to to get a change of pace. Also when cycling across USA I am completely on my own and I have to go shopping for food and it’s not fun to walk around in clipless shoes for any amount of time.

  62. I'm new to cycling and I'm getting a little confused, is flat and clipless not the same? Remember I'm new to this world so when I hear or read clipless I think of pedals and shoes without clips, so wouldn't that be flat?

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