Flat Pedal Riding Tips For Comfortable Ride Like Never Before

Have you just switched from clipless pedals to flat pedals or planning to? Or you’ve got your first bike with flat pedals and you need to make the most of your time on the trails?

Either way, this article will take you through some important flat pedal riding tips for efficient riding on the mountains and technical trails.

Switching from clips to flats could be a great decision, however, it is always better to be informed about the challenges you are probably going to face.

Since your feet are conditioned to flats, you may find yourself pulling your feet up and off the pedals while climbing the mountains. 

You may experience a similar flying off of your feet while descending on your mountain bike. You need to equip yourself with techniques that would help overcome these challenges.

Tracia Davis of crankjoy.com, about the challenges faced while making a switch from clips to flats:

“Much like other sports, we find balance from our feet. On a mountain bike, we initiate a lot of moves from the feet while also controlling traction and pressure when we need to make the bike heavy and light for getting over obstacles.“

If you are new to flat pedals, there are some important things you need to consider, before you start your ride.

These tips will help you enhance your riding experience with flat pedals.

1. Choose The Right Pedal

Flat Pedal For Riding

Did you know that all flat pedals are not equal?

They are available in various platform sizes and designs. From small chunky pedals to low-profile large pedals, the choices are huge.

The choice of pedals is purely based on personal preferences, and my personal preference is the concave flat pedals that are thin but wide enough to fit my feet comfortably and gives better pin placement options.

I would recommend you check out those kinds!

Always remember that the platform must match your shoe size; the bigger your feet, the bigger should be the platform.

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Some of the most favored flat pedals are:

2. Invest in Flat-Pedal Friendly Shoes

Normal trainer shoes would be a bad choice for your pedals, as they are made for entirely different purposes and hence typically have soft soles.

You may lose your grip or even tear your shoes if you resort to them for riding your mountain bike. Look out for a pair of mountain biking shoes that are made exclusively for flat-pedal mountain biking. They may be a bit expensive, but won’t for sure disappoint you!

Your shoes need to have sticky rubber soles so that they won’t slip off the pedal too easily. But, extreme stickiness is not recommended since that could completely hinder any movement of your shoes, even when they are necessary.

However, if you are still unsure about whether you would pursue mountain biking longer, and you want to cut down on any extra expenses, you could go for a good pair of skating shoes as well.

This way, you can use your shoes on a casual outing too.

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Most favored shoes for flat pedals are:

3. Thread Pins Correctly

Threading flat pedals could seem to be easy, but most people end up threading it the wrong way. You must be aware that the threads are different in right and left pedal; while the right pedal on the drive side threads clockwise, left pedal threads counterclockwise.

Here’s a step by step instruction on how to thread flat pedals on your mountain bike:

4. Use Assembly Grease For Re-fixing

Make sure you use assembly grease every time you re-fix your pedals. It will make the threading of pedals seamless, and resist corrosion.

Typically, thicker grease gives better performance. A bike grease that you can place your trust in would be the WPL Absolute bicycle grease.

5. Check On The Pins

Over time, the metallic pins that are dotted across the flat pedals may fall off or get damaged from the abuse of mountain biking. The pins are used to help you fix the shoes in place and avoid the chances of your feet sliding away from the pedals.

So, routinely check your pedal pins to ensure that they are all in place. Most good flat pedals come with removable pins. Use an Allen key to thread in from the underside of the pin, to remove and replace the pin and make your pedals work like brand new!

6. Learn Pin Placement

Just like the choice of pedals, pin placement also can be a personal choice.

However, MBR recommends the following placement, which I think works great:

"One in each corner and think about omitting the center pin at the front to save your shins. Some pedals, like the DMR Vault, give you the option of different types of pins, and the ability to reverse them for a different grip feel. Fewer pins can give you more grip, but you may find you have to be that bit more accurate with where you place your foot each time"

7. Collect Real-Time Tips For Better Grip

Now, this is a great tip that I learned from the Global Mountain Bike Network’s YouTube channel: Swap the shorter pins with larger ones around the edges for better grip.

Sometimes it’s great to have questions in your mind, to build a rapport with other riders. So, feel free to check with your fellow riders on how they get maximum grip on flat pedals.

8. Work On Your Foot

Do not always blame your flat pedals when your foot flies off the pedals. You may have to work on your foot too, to make it stronger enough to take the impacts.

It’s a great skill to keep your feet grounded on the pedals, and it requires you to routinely exercise your feet.

Especially if you have been riding on clipless pedals, which, contrary to their name are clipped in, may have made your feet weaker, due to limited activity.

So, now is the time to give your feet some extra stimulus to make them stronger. Stronger feet would not only help keep your feet grounded on the pedals, but it would also help in swiftly responding to trails.

The following exercises will help you keep your feet stronger:

6 Best Flat Pedal Riding Tips While On The Go

Here are some important flat pedal riding tips that will make your life on the bike with flat pedals much easier:

1. Practice Before Taking A Bigger Leap

Image of Balanced MTB

Practice on more consistent, safer places such as your neighborhood, a pedestrian road, or even a fire road, if you are allowed to ride in there.

It would be a good idea to check with your local MTB club regarding the legalities of riding on a fire road near you.

A good amount of practice would save you from a severe flat pedal injury that may occur due to unfamiliarity with the new pair of pedals.

2. Pedaling Your Flats

Once you’ve got your new flat pedals, be ready to face this challenge: it’s going to be a bit tough to maintain traction and spin smooth circles on rough trails.

Here’s a flat pedal riding tip that will be handy in this case:

"Spin a slower cadence when you are in a higher gear. This should help keep your feet in place."

Always read the trail ahead and pedal at smoother spots. Also, look out for sections that are ideal for pumping transition for speed, rather than taking turns on the cranks.

3. Learn How To Keep Your Feet On Flat Pedals

Flat Pedal Ridding Tips Foot Pacement

Better foot placement is important for improved bike control and easy bails. It also gives more opportunities for learning and performing tricks.

On the other hand, overlooking foot placement can lead to not only worse bike control and imbalance, but it can also cause slippery, slower riding speed, and body pain.

Most beginners follow central foot placement, which is not recommended while riding a flat-pedal mountain bike. Especially when you are on technical terrain, central foot placement may do more harm than good, as it may cause a pedal strike.

However, central foot placement on your mountain bike flat-pedals may be helpful during a steep climb, or when it requires you to pedal through.

While some riders recommend toe placement on flat pedals, I would recommend keeping the ball of your foot on the center of the pedal. It would give more flexibility to your foot while giving your knees the required amount of bend.

4. Get Comfortable With Pedal Strikes

For most riders, the learning curve could be cumbersome, as it typically takes few rides to get adjusted to the new flats.

Since the shoes are not clipped in, there are higher chances of your shoes slipping away while learning new tricks or riding technical trails.

The shin often takes the impact when your feet slip, and mostly aggressive flat pedals with large pedals can hurt you badly. So, if you are new to flat pedals, wear shin guards for better safety

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5. Downhill With Active Feet

Common Mountain Biking Myths Featured Image

Try pumping your feet into the pedals when you are on technical terrain, and experience how responsive your bike gets!

Here is what Lindsey Ritcher from LadiesAllRide has to say about pedaling the mountain bike downhill:

“It’s important to push down into the pedals with your feet to stay active on the bike and to keep your feet connected. I find when I become passive and don’t deliberately push into the pedals with my feet in technical or bumpy terrain, I will fly off the pedals easily.”

6. Learn To Corner Well

Cornering An MTB

Work on your cornering skills to improve your speed and confidence.

Try to push harder into corners, while you can drop a foot if required; this will give an idea about the amount of traction you possess when leaning over a corner in your mountain bike.

9 Best Flat Pedal Riding Tips For Dirt Jumping

MTB Drop Offs

Most of the popular jumpers use flat pedals for best results. The primary reason being, the agility that you get to bail and drop your foot at a jiffy when you are riding extreme.

Flat pedals are great for bunny hopping at as high as 1.5 meters. Using a flat pedal pushes the rider to master dirt jumping.

Here are some flat pedal riding tips for dirt jumping, by Aaron Lucy, who is a lead-skills instructor and writes for Ridelikeaninja.com:

Key Takeaways

While it’s not possible to learn biking from the book, I hope these tips would help you significantly in getting comfortable in your new pair of flat pedals.

A new pair of flat pedals opens door to many adventurous, enjoyable biking experiences. Have fun and don’t forget to share your experiences in the comments.

Biking Know How is committed to share the passion and love for mountain biking with you. Hopefully you find our resources to be useful.

Our ultimate aim is to make your outdoors and mountain biking experience absolutely amazing.

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