Can cycle science tip the balance?

Clipless versus flats. Can clipless help us with better power, control and efficiency? We jumped onto the Wattbike and found a big difference.

>>> How to ride flat pedals properly

For years now, the pros and cons of both have been going head to head and kicking up a fuss – it’s the Fury vs Klitschko of mountain biking.

Thanks to our cool new test, clipless pedals have thrown the knockout punch which pinpoints how important they are when we need to put the power down.

To the Wattbike! Pic: Doc Ward.

Cycle science

Whether it’s climbing or negotiating slick roots, so much of our ride relies on controlled pedal power.

According to sports scientist Will Harrison, “The type of pedal we use will alter technique and the lines we choose. Clipless can knock our confidence at first, however they can help us with better power, control and efficiency”.

That’s exactly what we wanted to test- do clipless really affect power that much? We jumped onto the Wattbike and found a big difference.

Punching above their weight; flats are outclassed in the power test.

So what does this show?

Will explains the results: “Mountain biking is about being as effortless and smooth as we can. A lot of our bike control comes through our pedals and how we get the power down. Clipless pedals mean we’re connected to the bike. It means our cadence can be more fluid, the power transfer in each revolution can be smoother and the combined push/pull gives us more immediate acceleration. This shows in our results”.

We can’t forget that flat pedals have their own benefits though – most importantly they’ll help us build confidence and skill set on technical sections. As for fun factor, we all know flats clinch that round as we can throw our weight around the bike. Of course our test doesn’t account for everything on the trail but we should look at it in broader terms. “If we want to be more efficient and explosive then clipless pedals are definitely the way forward”.

Sandy Plenty. Pic: Doc Ward.

Top tips on pedal set-up

Rider, racer and coach Sandy Plenty is on hand to give us some tips on pedal set-up:

1. How can you say you don’t like them if they haven’t been tried? Clipless pedals feel awkward at first and everyone’s slower to start with. Give it at-least 5 rides before deciding if they’re for you.

2. It’s all about muscle memory! Spend time setting up cleats so there is less of a difference between flats. Try and get your feet in the same comfortable position you’re used to normally.

3. Although you can’t move around as freely in clipless, a great bonus is that they’re easy to adjust. Don’t have the ‘it will do’ attitude once comfortable. Be sure to try changing pedal grip and alter the mechanism tension to hold you in better.