An inspiring and useful course completion report from Renzo who just finished The 12 Ride Flat Pedal Challenge. Thanks Renzo!…
Completion Reflection Questions and Answers from Renzo:
1) How would you describe the increase of connection to and with your bike from Ride #1 and now after Ride #12?
a) Before starting the flat pedal challenge, I would have described my connection to my bike as a good combination of line choice assisted by being clipped in, with the “clipless” (man, I hate that paradox) aspect providing forgiveness for flawed technique. I was “one with the bike” in a more literal, mechanical sense due to being grabbed by the clipless system. That allowed me to force the bike into following me instead of working with it to achieve a goal in a smoother way.
b) Currently, I’d say I’m “one with the bike” in a more metaphorical or spiritual sense. I’m more aware of the feedback that I’m receiving through the soles of my feet, and I’m using my body suspension much more. Additionally, my technique has improved significantly, with me being more active on the bike and using these skills to stay on the bike safely. I’m now more conscious of how much I still have to improve to get to where I want to be. I wasn’t doing as well as I thought before starting this challenge.
2) What aspects of your riding technique have changed?
a) I’m improving my proactive movements, allowing me to be better set up when going into technical features; once in these features, my body suspension and improved technique are helping me stay on the bike and with better body position.
3) What part of riding on flats has been the most fun?
a) I’ve had the most fun working on becoming a more dynamic rider, using my body suspension, weight, position, and foot position to use the terrain more effectively. That includes pumping, hopping, being light or heavy on the pedals, and other valuable techniques that help me keep my feet on the pedals with more confidence. I really enjoy looking for features that can be used as launchers for small and fun jumps, drops and turns.
4) How would you say your riding style has changed?
a) I believe that I’m approaching obstacles with more confidence and better prepared to move according to both what’s coming next and what’s happening below me. I like to think that I’m riding with a smoother style, because it certainly feels that way. I’ve felt more naturally supported by platforms than I did with the clipless setup. My calves used to feel very tired during and after rides due to the spindle being beneath the balls of my feet, but that has disappeared with flats.
5) What was the biggest overall benefit to flat pedals that you have discovered?
a) Challenging myself to improve on basic skills has been fun and rewarding. Using flats has ensured that I develop proper technique instead of relying on a handicap to achieve a desired result.
6) What was the biggest challenge with riding flat pedals?
a) Starting the process of helping my body forget all those terrible techniques I’d adopted with those crutches (clipless system). Clipless may be helpful in many situations, but good technique will help me improve whether I’m clipped in or not, and that’s something many people refuse to accept.
7) Will you continue to ride with flats from now on, or will you ride clipless, or both? I’d love to know your rationale for that answer!
a) I plan to mainly ride flats from now on, though I will keep my Mallet DH pedals for occasional use. I feel that the dynamism I’ve added to my rides by going to flats is something worth keeping, and it’s clear to me that my skills still require lots of practice to get to where I’d like to be.
b) Having experienced how much of a crutch a clipless system can be for poor technique, forgiving many bad habits and even fomenting them, I believe that skill progression will be done on flats, not clipless. There will be occasions for clipless, but I will now consider that to be an alternative, not my preferred system. This challenge has made me ride in a more fun way, and even though I know I can take this to clipless, I believe doing so will interrupt the positive progression I’m having, probably making me revert to the bad habits that I’m barely breaking free from at this time.
8) What else have you learned from this challenge?
a) I’ve learned that most riders are extremely skeptical about most of what I’ve said here, probably because of sheep mentality and peer pressure in favor of clipless systems. It’s a shame that so few people in my area are interested in giving it a try! Most people are wrongly coached, and end up believing that clipless is safer (with no need to develop correct technique), and that all you need is a combination of your clips, unclipping skills, and good cadence.
b) On a more personal note, I’ve learned that I’d developed some pretty bad habits, and my skills were lower than what I’d estimated. I’ve discovered many opportunities in my riding which I hope to continue to improve on in the near future.
9) What would you tell someone interested in trying flat pedals for the first time?
a) Both clipless and flat pedal systems can be used to develop our skills, but the best results towards proper technique will come when we rid ourselves of the clipless crutch. You can always go back if they make you feel safer, but you’ll be a better rider because you learned the proper way.
Thank you for the challenge, Ryan and Team. I look forward to working with you again in the near future!