Michael Hanslip Coaching

If you want to go faster, you have to pedal harder

Clipless pedals revisited

When I bought my first DH bike almost 15 years ago, I put clipless pedals on it. I couldn't imagine riding a DH bike as it is meant to be ridden (as much as that is possible without the talent and skills of a World Cup rider) on flats. Back then, I couldn't really imagine riding any bike on flats!
Fast forward through years of riding flats for everything from XC (but not racing) to trail and Enduro racing and never having had clips on my current DH bike - my recent day visit to Thredbo involved throwing the Crank Brothers Mallet DH Race pedals on the Sender and pulling the old Shimano DH cleated shoes out of the closet. It was an interesting day out. I had zero issues with clipping in (I'd hope not after all those years of being clipped) and having my feet locked to the pedal was fine (I didn't find it more reassuring in rough terrain as I assumed I would - perhaps never blowing a foot off my aggressive flats has something to do with that?). The Shimano shoes permit the cleat to go back quite far. But probably not quite far enough to mimic the location my foot sits on my flats. Obviously I didn't have to change my approach to jumps and drops, but I found that I was doing it differently until really late in the day when I'd made some adjustments.
The Mallet pedals are great. I can understand why so many DH racers use them. Easy in. Easy out. Good retention.
The Shimano shoes are very comfortable and provide decent foot protection too. So no problems there.
But I won't be keeping the clippy pedals on my Sender for the next visit. I want my flats back. Feet loose on pedals is the only way I can judge the amount of downward pressure I've applied through my feet: enough pressure means my feet stay locked on the pedals (and not-quite-enough pressure means my feet get skatey on the pedals).
Across numerous Enduro races and 1 DH race, I've never felt like flats were making me slower. Perhaps If I put in many days on the clippy pedals I could get a feeling of confidence and control superior to flats, but I do doubt it.

I'm sticking with my flats for the big bikes (Enduro and DH). I'll keep the clips on the hardtail, and swap them in and out on the trail bike as the ride demands.