Are Clipless Pedals Worth It For Mountain Biking? (NEW 2021 Guide)

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If you’ve always ridden your mountain bike with flat pedals and before making a switch, wondering “are clipless pedals worth it?”

I would say, YES!

You must definitely own a pair of clipless pedals, that is actually clipped onto your feet.

It is not that you would never fall off your bike with your pedals clipped in, as falling off the bike can be considered an integral part of bike riding.

Then why clipless pedals? Read on to find out.


The Efficiency Of Clipless Pedals

When you wear clipless pedals, your body becomes one with the bike.

This means you need much lesser energy to ride down the trails, climb uphill and accelerate your bike.

Hence, we can easily conclude that clipless pedals are highly efficient than flat pedals.

“Clipless pedal systems provide approximately 10% more maximum power output during short periods (<30 seconds) of all-out sprints and steep climbing, compared to flat pedals.”

According to Pedalchile.com

Better Control Through Clipless Pedals

Clipless Pedal Riding With Better Control
Clipless Pedals With Better Control

With your shoes clipped into the pedals, you have better control over your bike. Riding clipless pedals is less technical when compared to flat pedals.

Clipless pedals allow you bunnyhop logs, potholes, and the likes by pulling your bike off the ground. It also keeps you safe by preventing your foot from slipping off from the pedals at most times.

When you are riding over a rock garden, you will be able to clip out the foot easily to dab.

Moreover, your clipless pedals won’t collect sticks or debris like they would when you use strapped pedals or toe clips.


Improved Traction

Even though it may seem a bit awkward wearing clipless pedals after long years of using flats, it definitely offers better traction while you are sailing on rugged and rough trails.

You will definitely thank yourself for your decision to switch to clipless, as riding on rocks, roots, and bumps become much easier with clipless pedals.


Better Experience On Technical Trails

Riding technical trails is the most fun-filled part of riding a mountain bike, and clipless pedals would make your ride much easier.

Your lifts, hops, jumps… everything becomes more fun and exciting.


Makes Ride More Enjoyable

With the improved stability of your feet, you will be able to enjoy your ride much better.

You would worry less about your feet and enjoy your trails and sights than you would, with flat pedals.


Learn How To Install Clipless Pedals

Installing Clipless Pedals
Installing Clipless Pedals

It is extremely important to set up your clipless pedals correctly, for maximum efficiency, better performance, and reduced strain.

Improper setup of clipless pedals can cause knee pain, among many other discomforts, which is not something that one would want to cherish after an exciting ride.

Do an online search on how to install the cleats for best performance.

If you are short of time, you could watch this video on YouTube, for a fair idea about how to install the cleats on your shoes like a pro.


Are Mountain Bike Clipless Pedals Suitable For Road Biking

Image of Clipless Pedals For Road Biking
Clipless Pedals For Road Biking

If you ask a pro whether you can use your mountain bike clipless pedals for your road bike, the answer would be,

“Of Course You Can”!

You can easily swap your pedals and get your road bike onto the long pavements, pedaling the clipless duo.


Do Professional Mountain Bikers Use Clipless Pedals?

The choice of pedal depends on one’s personal preference. However, many pro mountain bikers find it comfortable to use clipless pedals while riding on trails.

Professional mountain bikers typically prefer clipless pedals over flat or platform pedals due to the better efficiency it provides, along with improved control and better power that it offers on climbs.

They use clipless pedals also because they can be carefree about their feet slipping off the pedals.

However, some professional bikers and new riders find it difficult to clip out of the pedals, and hence they prefer flat pedals over clipless.


History of Clipless Pedals

In 1984, the ski binding manufacturer Look invented a type of pedal from which the rider could easily remove the shoes.

Prior to clipless pedals, riders used to fasten their shoes to the pedals using a string or cage.

Clipless pedals became popular after Bernard Hinault’s victory in Tour De France in 1985. The clipless pedals were initially favored for their capability for wider transitions.

Later there were other manufacturers who made clipless pedals in slightly different designs, and they all became popular.

Today, the most popular among those are the SPDs which allow shoes with recessed cleats to fit into.

Riders find this more comfortable to walk with SPD pedal compatible shoes than the Look pedal compatible shoes which have cleats that slightly protrudes from the soles.


When Should You Not Use Clipless Pedals?

Though clipless pedals are great, they may not be so for everyone.

One should consider swapping between clipless and flats or just get back to flat pedals if they feel that their techniques are being compromised.

Some mountain bikers find it really hard to preload the bike, do rear wheel lifts, and execute jumps while using clipless pedals, and they gradually shy away from doing those.

That’s not a good thing for a mountain biker, and you could do away with your clipless pedals if you find yourself in that situation.


Avoid Common Mistakes While Using Clipless Pedals

We have discussed several benefits of clipless pedals.

However, for best results using clipless pedals for mountain biking, one must avoid the common mistakes that riders make while riding clipless.

Here are certain things that you must consider for optimum results from your clipless pedals.

1. Learn To Unclip Easily

Most beginners panic while unclipping, which is not a good thing when you are on a bike. One must practice well enough to get a knack of how to unclip clipless pedals.

Watch this interesting video to learn how to unclip clipless pedals without turning it into a disaster.

2. Choose The Right Pedals & Shoes

It is important to choose the right pedals and shoes for the best experience riding down the trails.

Clipless pedals are available with external cleats as well as recessed cleats.

While there are multiple types of pedals available, SPD pedals are the best for mountain biking. You could get a pair of SPD shoes to go with your pedals.

SPD shoes will have the provision to fix cleats with two bolts at the bottom of the shoes. There are quite a few manufacturers that make shoes that can be used for clipless riding.

We recommend using BV bike dual pedals. These clipless pedals can be used for both Shimano SPD and Look Delta cleats.   

A most sought-after mountain biking SPD pedal is the Venzo clipless pedal. This pair of pedal is made exclusively for the most demanding trail riders.

3. Check Your Saddle Height

A mistake that most riders who shift from flat pedals to clipless pedals are that they overlook the saddle height, until one day they realize the real cause of their discomfort of riding clipless.

The change in shoes and pedals may most likely cause a change in the distance between your feet and the seat.

Hence, you must check whether you find the present height comfortable, after fixing the clipless pedals. The saddle height must be adjusted as required.

4. Know The Speed For A Change Immediately

I understand you may be all enthusiastic about having the new clipless pedals and are waiting for speeding up your ride. But the reality is, it does not happen instantly.

Your need for Speed will have to wait for a few more rides. Until then, enjoy the new clipless experience with all your heart.

In addition to these, I would like to share an interesting tip that I found on Bikeradar.com, regarding paying attention to the angle of your feet, without presuming that you can correct it later.

You must not blindly continue to maintain the angle that you used to observe on flat pedals. If you feel any discomfort or knee pain, make corrections immediately, or else, it could lead to severe pain in the knees.


Do Clipless Pedals Give More Power?

With improved pedaling efficiency, clipless pedals facilitate more power transfer through the legs and feet, to the drive train of the bike.

This means that you can ride faster, and will have more speed.


Can Clipless Pedals Boost Your Confidence?

With more power, efficiency, and control, clipless pedals can boost your confidence immensely on the trail.

However, if you find it difficult to unfasten the clips, you may lose your confidence in executing techniques.

It is just a matter of practice, and once you have mastered the skill of clipping off the pedals, it can boost your confidence in performing techniques as well.


Freedom On Clips

Clipless pedals typically compromise afloat and tension technology.

Swiveling a few degrees sideways is made possible by the float; this prevents knee injuries that can occur when you have your feet locked in one position.

The effortlessness of clipping in and out of the pedal is taken care of by the tension adjustment.

Riders who feel sketchy about being clipped in must consider lightening their float a bit for better ease.


Riding Technical Terrains

While technical terrains may be fun with clipless pedals, you may find yourself in a bad state if you cannot get out of the clips when necessary.

Practice is the mantra that one must follow in order to become comfortable clipping out at lightning speed.

Do check out Katie Kukaburra’s video on how to learn clipless pedals easily for more tips. It will make your journey to be a professional clipless pedaled mountain biker easier.


Finally!

It is quite common for mountain bikers to start their riding journey with flat pedals, sometimes with toe clips.

But as you move on to become a professional rider, you will need pedals that can give you better control, more efficiency, safety, freedom, and power.

Clipless pedals are always worth the investment, provided, you practice enough to get used to it and gain confidence in performing jumps, lifts, spinning, and the likes with clipless pedals.

I hope now you have the answer for “are clipless pedals worth it.”

To be precise, I would say, they are the best companion for mountain bikers, and all that you need to do is to observe patience while you try to understand how your companion works.

We have done a similar deep dive about riding a mountain bike with flat pedals so definitely check it out.


References:

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Rohan runs Biking KnowHow along with his team. Rohan has been a mountain biker since 2005. His mission is to simplify mountain biking for everyone. All Biking KnowHow content piece is thoroughly fact-checked. Our content is backed up with leading research and inputs from expert cyclists.

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