Platforms or Clipped In? Which System is Better?

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 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!