Watch: Clips VS Flats on Slickrock’s Toughest Climb

Like me, Alex has platform pedals, and he just can’t keep his spin going on this steep climb. He pushes his way up, and then gets caught mid pedal stroke somewhere along the way. Brian sits atop the hill with a smug clipless grin. Despite the fact that he finds amusement in seeing Alex suffer, he takes a moment to save him from falling off a cliff.

Both Brian and Randall cleaned this steep climb on Slickrock trail. Aside from being good riders, they’re both clipped in. This is definitely the preferred setup for climbing. Among the many benefits of riding clipless is the ability to pull up on your pedals in addition to pushing down, maintaining power transfer through your entire pedal stroke. Side note for the newbs, clipless refers to being clipped in. I know it’s confusing.

As someone who runs platform pedals most of the time, I still can’t argue with the benefits of clipless. After adjusting such a setup, your shoes will always remain in the perfect position while riding. It’s also nice that on really bumpy terrain clipless pedals keep your feet where they’re supposed to be. So they’re secure, functional, and efficient.

Of course, platform pedals are not without their benefits either. Anyone who wants to throw some tricks into their riding should consider platform pedals, and if you take a lot of risks they may improve your chances of survival. For me, that’s the main selling point. Consider what could have happened to me here, or here if I couldn’t unclip on time. Add that to the fact that they’re better for jumping around, and platform pedals are definitely for me. Still, I’m making tradeoffs in other areas.

Brian is scheming. As Alexander catches his breath, Brian runs down the hill to execute the ultimate one upper—showing up Alex on his own bike. So, let me get this straight; the rider wearing SPD shoes is going to do this climb on platform pedals? You can see Brian using his heels to avoid slipping on his cleats.

It’s ironic that the clipless rider actually proved the climb could be done on platforms. I do think riding clipless can teach you how to spin better, and spinning is what you should be doing, not mashing. You can see how Brian keeps the pedals moving fluidly throughout the climb.

Alex could take no more. With fire in his eyes, Alex set out to put this climb behind him. He finally cleaned it.

It’s clear to see how with proper technique you can, in fact climb just about anything on platform pedals, and it doesn’t always take 35 tries. I did this climb first try on platform pedals, although I took a slightly different line. Another rider on the trail, Sarah, did it head on as her friends cheered. We then saw quite a few other riders owning this climb on platforms.

I think every rider should try platform and clipless setups in that order. Each pedal type teaches you something different, and they both come in handy for different types of riding. Since pedals are so easy to change, they can be swapped before rides. Look at these pedal types not as opposing sides, but different weapons in your mountain biking arsenal.

For the rest of the day, Alex nailed every climb he encountered. It was a matter of spinning, and technique, not pedals and shoes. Alex didn’t blame his failure on gear—that would have been a cop out. Instead he took responsibility for botching this climb and committed to making it right. Having cleaned it, he became a better rider on the spot, and that my friends, is what mountain biking dreams are made of.

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