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Discussion Starter #1

Flats just look weird after all these years!
Recently, I've read some information from James Wilson, MTB Strength Coach that has me absolutely fascinated. The long and the short of it is Wilson says that being clipped in can ultimately set you further to set you back in your training, teach improper pedaling mechanics and not allow you to refine your riding technique.


I spoke with him last week for about an hour, and he had some good points to support his stance. Which you can read by clicking here.


He's a really cool guy, extremely knowledgeable about how to train off the bike and I very much enjoy talking to him. If you haven't seen his site, hit the link above and poke around.


This topic is akin to disc vs v-brakes, full suspension vs hardtails and 29" vs 26" bikes (and soon to be 27.5" bikes added to that "conversation") to the MTB crowd. Some are in alignment with Wilson, and some think the wheels between his ears are in need of truing. Go to a family party, bring up religion and politics, and you get the idea of how the camps are divided.



Crank Brother 50/50 pedals
Me, I'm about 50/50 right now. I get his point about energy lost pulling up on the pedals, further shortening hip flexors and all of the "fun" things that happen as a result.


So, never being one shy away from a self induced muscular massacre in the name of science, I ordered a set of Crank Brother 50/50 platform pedals and a pair of Teva Links to ride in. Now, this is cool for a couple of reasons:


1) I rode around my neighborhood on them, and it instantly had the feeling of when I'd ride my bike as a wee lad. So, tons of feel good warm fuzzy feelings there.


EXCEPT when I had to scale the Col de Sunset Dr to get back to my house after each excursion. That my friends, was neither warm nor was it fuzzy. In fact it was down right cold and prickly. EVERY TIME. Always a pleasure after an 8-hour pick up baseball bonanza at Veterans Memorial Park every summer!


2) It is always fun to get new bike toys, and this time is no different.


So, the Giant Anthem X3 29er is equipped and read to rip. The only thing I need to do is to get the tubeless tires back on (don't ask, long story) and I'm set.

The Teva Links I'm using for the experiment


Here's how the experiment will go:
1) Four weeks of riding short interval loops ranging from 3:00 mins to 5:00 mins that I use to train on. They are extremely predictable in terms of terrain/conditions, so short of rain, I will get a consistent experience riding in terms of the terrain. This will also include timing myself on a 5-mile loop that I've ridden quite a bit for race training.


2) I will start out with rides on the 29er, and then put the pedals on the 26er as well to compare apples and oranges not only between pedal systems, but bikes as well. My suspicion is that the 26 Anthem X2 will be a blast to ride on the platforms because it will be easier to throw it in and out of corners! Hopefully, this won't entail throwing a check in and out of a Blue Shield co-payment envelop as well!


3) I will then upload the times to Strava.com to see how they compare.


One of the other things I will measure is how I feel the next day after riding without being clipped in. How the back does, the knees feel and the other muscular hot spots that crop up during a week of riding. This will include how my body adjusts when I see my chiropractor.


The goal is to very much to not dispute what Wilson says, but more so to:
1) Have fun doing something different on the bike!
2) See how much of a difference, if any, there actually is.
3) See how handling skills/bike control are affected on the plus and minus side.
4) See how much better my pedaling technique gets and if that translates into time improvements on the interval loops post experiment being clipped in.


The first ride is Wednesday (my birthday!!) on the new set up, and I will report as the experiment unfolds!
 

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As I'm sure you know, several of the dirt rags have recently been giving space to the topic of flats vs clipless. I'm on the sidelines at the moment. 100% of my low speed crashes are due to not being able to unclip at that last half a second when I'm climbing, hit a root or rock and can't get my foot down in time. But I also feel that the power gained on the upstroke while climbing with clipless is worth the occasional crash.

So... I'm very interested and hearing what your opinion is. I understand that the shoes are key to getting the extra grip on the flats.
 

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It is my understanding that proper technique does not involve pulling up on the pedals. I believe simply unweighting the rear pedal is recommended.
 

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Finally - a semi-scientific experiment instead of the tried & true knowledge that is passed down unchanged - it is pretty bad in all sporting activities & usually only changes based on who wins - and if he/she does it and wins then it must be right - the top athletes in any sport are basically freaks - they do things often that are biomechanically wrong and still get by because their nervous system is that superior - occasionally it is because they are ahead of the game on the most current drug cheating system - training especially running & biking for distane events & even sprints falls until that same category - if any one wants to read a phenomenal book on training & some other weird stuff - I would read the 4 hr body by Tim Ferris - especially if you are a distance athlete and would like to have a little more time to actually have a life also - it has no direct biking information - but like you integrate he tests these methods himself on himself usually in a scientific manner - I have many who think I am crazy simply wanting to be safer by using a dual platform cleat system for stoplights - crossings etc - I am not competitive except with myself so if I want to be safe from the failure to unclip this makes sense to me in a rational scientific manner - I am not B Wiggins but if I was I would be getting paid for it and the injuries I sustain would be part of the process of being a professional athlete - I however make my money teaching with my hands therefor I can't afford my best hobby to cost me my livelihood - I look forward to your results but like many other that try to do sporting activities in a scientific manner - you will be scoffed at and rebukes - that is unless you can win the tour in them next year !
 

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One suggestion which is probably too late - I think your performance might improve with some New Balance Minimus shoes - I have a pair that really have been great - however if you are in muddy areas would not recommend them
 

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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
Tank,

I tried the pedals with Merrell Trail Gloves and Altra Instincts, but the souls weren't stiff enough and didn't bite on the pedals to my liking.

Here's the tale of the tape after yesterday's ride (1500', about 11 miles, pretty technical with rocks, roots, drops, and a gazillion switchbacks):
1) My out of the saddle technique is need of improvement.
2) I found I needed more total body strength to pedal up steep pitches and lay down power.
3) Heel position is critical climbing/descending
4) I used my hips/hams more, and seemed to have a better go of it.
5) Cornered better than I have in I don't know how long.
6) Left knee (surgery 2005) felt pretty good today with little to no swelling. I usually get some after a long ride.
7) Hips/low back felt pretty loose without having to do much to get the "groove greased."
8) Legs feel pretty decent today.
9) Arms are a little more fatigued than normal.
10) Seat may need to come down a little to adjust for the difference in stack height between the Specialized BG Pros/Crank Brother
Candy C's and the Teva's and 50/50's.
11) The rhythm of my arms and legs working together through my trunk was a lot more important.

The key to this whole thing is the shoes. The Teva's were designed with input from "legendary free rider" Jeff Lenosky so I figured they'd be some decent kicks. A friend recommended them, and he didn't lead me astray.

I used them on a 3:00 min interval training run (.73 miles, with a decent 3-5% climb for the last 1:00 or so) I've ridden about 50 times on Tue, and I was only :09 off my PR. And that was without having tubeless tires on. I've got the tubeless set up going again, so I'm thinking that should be worth at least :05-:10 seconds less the next time I do it.

The 26er is what I'm really looking forward to riding. Its a Giant Anthem X2, weighs about 25lbs and corners/dips/dives like something the fellas from "Top Gear" would drive! I'll start riding that in about two weeks.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
I don't think I'd race something other than a Super D on flats, but I'm very much looking forward to training on them to see how much better being clipped in gets from the power efficiency perspective.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
As I'm sure you know, several of the dirt rags have recently been giving space to the topic of flats vs clipless. I'm on the sidelines at the moment. 100% of my low speed crashes are due to not being able to unclip at that last half a second when I'm climbing, hit a root or rock and can't get my foot down in time. But I also feel that the power gained on the upstroke while climbing with clipless is worth the occasional crash.

So... I'm very interested and hearing what your opinion is. I understand that the shoes are key to getting the extra grip on the flats.
Shoes and pedals, very critical. I actually went ahead and ordered Straitline Amps because they are lighter than the 50/50's and have better reviews. The pegs also look better as well. The 50/50 pegs have been known to recess into the pedal over the course of a long ride.
 

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Discussion Starter #11 (Edited)
26 Anthem ready to go tomorrow with the flats!! Truth be told, my 29er brakes need to be bled. I had a fair amount of brake fade on Wed's and I don't want to ride where we're headed in the morning on brakes not working 100%.

The 26 just came back from the shop with brand new XT levers, so I feel more comfortable riding those. Plus, I can't wait to put some down some quick power jumps on them, not too mention there are about 30 switchbacks on tomorrow's ride!!
 

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INTEGRATE, any update on your pedal experiment?
 

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Discussion Starter #13
It has stalled out at the moment because I've hit a bit of a nasty cold. I'm hoping to get back to it next week. Last weekend I got out for about an hour, and went home and crashed!
 

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It has stalled out at the moment because I've hit a bit of a nasty cold. I'm hoping to get back to it next week. Last weekend I got out for about an hour, and went home and crashed!
I had the same thing two weeks ago. Get better man!
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Temp is holding steady at normal, I escape that by tomorrow morning and I will be happy. Wifey and Tiny Cub both had one so fingers are crossed!!
 
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