Going from being a roadie to riding mtbs, it was natural for me to stick with clipless pedals. One platform, one pair of shoes – It all appealed to my frugal nature.

Falling over like Arte Johnson seemed natural, too.

Sure, sometimes that hurt. The time I landed on a rock with my left hip and couldn’t sleep on that side for a month. The time I heard the little carpal bone or the other time I heard one of my ribs go, “Crack!”.

It was only last winter, gun-shy from knee surgery and tired of kicking the snow out of cleat on the shoe I put down all too often that I decided to try flats.

I’m not too bright sometimes. Six years on an mtb and only now I’m riding flats. Yeah, there’s a learning curve. But the number of falls I take has declined by something like 156%. And it’s way easier to start back up on climbs and in sketchy sections when you aren’t focused on clipping in.

Frustrated by how my feet didn’t stick to the pedals in bouncy rock gardens, I did go back to clipless for a few weeks in the spring. But then I Arte-Johnsoned a couple of times, and thought, “Fuck this.”

Ben suggested new shoes. I’d been riding soft-soled 5-10s with cleats, which I figured would work fine on flats, too. But Ben said he could hear the metal of the cleats hitting my pedals. I couldn’t, but hey, old carpenters can’t hear much more than tinnitus, and nasty and blood thirsty as the pegs on my flats are, they don’t engage well with metal. So I bought a pair of 5-10 Freeriders – Oh, man, I love these shoes.

There’s a rock garden at Waldo that’s my litmus test. I’ve been killing it lately, which is way easier when I’m not scared of falling and when my feet aren’t bouncing off the pedals. When my feet do bounce around, repositioning them is a piece of cake. And I’m focusing more on my foot position, which is making me a better rider all around.

About swampyankeecyclist

I'm Andy Engel, just a middle-aged, middle-class guy from Roxbury, Connecticut. I've been married to my best friend since 1988, and we have two grown sons. I like riding bikes, and my biggest accomplishment is the 180K D2R2. I own 5 bikes but my go-to rides are a 2016 GT Grade gravel and commuter bike and a 2016 Specialized 650b hardtail mountain bike. Additionally, I have a 2000-something carbon-fiber Orbea road bike, a 1990-something Specialized Sirrus that's my old dirt and commuter bike and which now serves as a spare and a trainer bike, and a 1985 Ross Mount Hood MTB. All but the 650b have Brooks saddles. I work from home now, but used to commute 32 miles round trip to work by bike year round. I was a carpenter and still love building things, but regular paychecks, insurance, and vacation time lured me into journalism. I've written a couple of books on carpentry, and I've been an editor at Fine Homebuilding, Fine Woodworking, and Professional Deck Builder magazines. Currently, I manage construction events at the JLC Live and Remodeling Show trade shows. Additionally, my wife and I run Transylvania Guest House, an Airbnb. Find us on Instagram. Come stay with us and I'll show you some great cycling.
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