Best Road Bike Flat Pedals – I’ve been riding clipless pedals for almost two years now. I thought about switching to flat pedals…but something always made me change my mind. But not this time. I ordered flat pedals, Race Face Chester pedals to be exact. To compliment them, I also ordered the Five Ten shoes. We’ll get into how the switch actually works, but first let’s talk about why I decided to make the switch.
Many riders I’m sure many of you who ride mostly road bikes are thinking about this right now. For example, “Why would you do that?” Mainly because I want to dispel the theory that you’re not a serious cyclist if you don’t ride clipless. My concern is that I limit myself to clipless riding. So in an effort to find the best platform for my feet, I switch to flat pedals.
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In a sense, this is going to be a small review of a couple of different flat pedals: the Race Face Chester and the Pedaling Innovations Catalist 1. However, I didn’t want this article to be primarily about those two pedals. I’m actually focusing on why I switched to flat pedals and what it was for. I learned about a few products along the way, so I thought I’d go into detail about them and share my thoughts. Let’s get started!
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The debate over which is better, clipless pedals vs. flat pedals, is a rather contentious issue. Right here with the question of whether tubeless tires are worth it. Ask people who mostly ride road bikes and they will almost always choose clipless over flat bikes. But MTB cyclists? A mixed bag indeed. So the choice between pegs and gravel slabs is likely to be a matter of debate for years to come.
It turns out that neither clipless pedals nor flat pedals are more efficient than others. GCN did their own test of flat pedals and clipless pedals and found that there was no real difference. In fact, depending on the rider, efficiency may be slightly higher with flat pedals.
Well, it really depends on the type of driving. GCN ran another test to determine which is faster: clipless pedals or flat pedals. Because they are mostly road cyclists
This was evident in their test. They said they preferred clipless for subjective reasons, but confirmed that there wasn’t much difference in performance between these pedal systems.
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However, there was one very noticeable area where the clipless pedals were better: sprinting. Both riders saw a huge increase in clipless pedal performance during sprints. This is probably the only area where confirmation bias is the highest for clipless pedals. It’s a myth that you sprint faster on your shoes because you can lift the pedal when you’re backstroke, which gives you more power and speed. However, this is not really the reason why you can run faster with clipless pedals. The real reason why cleats are better for sprinting is likely due to the ability to move your feet up and over the pedals faster than flat pedals allow. You can just pedal, pedal, pedal as fast as you can without worrying about your feet flying off the pedals.
To answer this question, you must first overcome the myth surrounding clipless pedals. Basically, the myth is that clipless pedals allow you to engage all of your leg muscles, which in turn allows you to pedal more efficiently.
James Wilson of MTB Strength Training Systems talks about this in the Flat Pedal Revolution Manifesto he wrote a few years ago in an attempt to debunk many of the myths surrounding clipless pedals. This is a really deep dive and James has written a ton of information on the subject that is well worth reading.
In short, the human body does not know how to pull the pedal. Yet cyclists are sold on the idea that only clipless pedals can give you that “magic” pedal stroke that leads to more efficient pedaling. James calls this shit pretty tough, and rightly so. He’s not saying that clipless pedals are bad…he’s just saying that the advertised benefits aren’t really true, and that clipless pedals should be put into perspective.
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In general, if you are a road cyclist, especially one who competes, you will probably see more benefits than clipless. This is primarily due to increased speed during running, which has nothing to do with more efficient pedaling. The advantage is simply that your feet are attached to the pedals. Quite simple logic:
. But keep in mind that this will only benefit you in situations that require more performance. Unless you’re riding at high speed with a lot of sprinting, you probably won’t feel the real benefits of clipless pedals.
But if you’re an MTB rider, the question of which pedal system to use is a matter of preference. As GCN mentioned in one of their videos, some MTB riders like clipless because of the extra speed they give when sprinting off the start line and such. However, technical riders prefer a flat riser because it allows them to get on the ground quickly to negotiate hairy corners and such. This is the main advantage of apartments:
Well, like MTB, it’s a matter of preference. I think those who race at higher speeds usually ride with clipless pedals. For more technical gravel riding, flat pedals may be more beneficial. This depends a lot on the type of gravel riding you do and how technical the riding is.
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Personally, I’ve seen more situations where clipless pedals just get in the way. I’ve been on a few gravel rides where the terrain gets a little hairy and requires more technical riding skills. This led to situations where one of my feet would get stuck on the pedal and I would fall. Not fun at all. If I were driving on the plain, I could better navigate the terrain and not fall. This is probably the main reason for switching to flat pedals. There are other reasons, which we will talk about a little later.
Obviously this isn’t my first rodeo with flat pedals. After all, the bike I rode as a kid had flat pedals. Also, the last two bikes I owned were flat pedal bikes. Heck, I even rode the flat pedals that were stock on my Marin Nicasio road bike.
The difference this time is that I’m switching to a more modern flat pedal adapted for mountain bikes. The flat pedals I’m used to have a light grip and are designed for easy riding. MTB pedals differ in that they have metal pins that provide much better grip. So yeah, new territory for me, which based on the clips, should be interesting.
To make the switch, I first needed to find a flat pedal. At first I just wanted to find something relatively cheap to test. After a bit of research, I settled on Race Face Chester pedals, which are well received and highly reviewed. And at just $50, they won’t break the bank.
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With the clipless pedals I used before, I moved the cleats as far back as I could. The reason is that I did not feel comfortable riding with the axles on my feet. When I moved them closer to the arches, it got better, and it ended up being much closer to where my feet end up on the Chesters. In the Chesters, my feet are slightly forward and the rods are between the ball and mid-arch of the foot. It didn’t take me long to get used to simply because it’s so close to where I’ve been riding unbuckled.
The main thing that will take time is the placement of the legs. Since I’m not holding anything, getting a good pedal position is a bit of trial and error. It was a little weird at first, but after riding around for a bit it got easier. It’s really no different than a first ride without pistons. It just takes time to develop muscle memory. I’m sure after a lot of riding it will settle down and my feet will find the right position every time.
There are two characteristics that flat pedals are usually judged on: material and traction pins. In terms of materials, most good flat pedals tend to be alloy, but nylon composite pedals like the Chester are starting to gain popularity. The advantage of nylon pedals is that they are cheaper to make, less prone to scratches and still lightweight.
For pins, flat pedals come with pins that screw in
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