Should a new mountain biker learn to ride on flat or clipless pedals?

Should a new mountain biker learn to ride on flat or clipless pedals?

  • Clipless

    Votes: 13 13.3%
  • Flats

    Votes: 58 59.2%
  • Doesn't matter

    Votes: 27 27.6%

  • Total voters


Active Member
I'm just getting into mountain biking and am wondering what you guys think about the whole clipless vs flat pedal thing. I'm well seasoned in clipless from the road, but as a fresh mountain biker, I would like to learn and build good habits from the get go. Should I continue with clipless or does learning to ride on flats benefit me in any way?
You will get very polarizing views on this topic. Personally, I started out clipless and rode them for a few years, and then I tried flats for like two years. The only thing I learned is that I couldn't figure out how to lift the back end of the bike over stuff, and I eventually went back to clipless.
Should I continue with clipless or does learning to ride on flats benefit me in any way?
What kind of mtber do you want to be?
XC, Enduro, Downhill, maybe something I don't even know about yet?

If you aspire to be xc, clipless is fine. I'm gonna say that guys who advocate flats for beginners grew up on a bmx bike and can do awesome stuff on flats because of years of experience.
i started on flats. beat the crap out of my shins. decided enough was enough and learned clipless (on a trainer first so i could get the feel for clipping in and out without the fear of falling)... i found out i relied on the clipless pedals too much and switched to flats again. now i go back and forth depending on bike and where i'm riding and if it's a race or not.

EDIT: and i realize this probably doesn't help you at all. i guess start on flats? :shrug:
If you have a preference already or feel more comfortable on one over the other that is what you should start on. If at some point you want to try the other go ahead, there is no right or wrong it really is just a preference based on individual experience so go get the experience and let us know what your preference is.
I started with toeclips because clipless wasnt a thing yet, thank God they did become a thing because eating 130mm stems sucked. That being said I converted flat because, well just because, I JRA these days and i find flat pedal specific shoes more fashionable when off the bike. You can lift the rear wheel with proper technique. But really this is personal preference choice but my vote was flat so you dont have that stopped fall like you were shot fall.
I’ll start by saying - what @pooriggy said

I’ll add, if you choose flats, get yourself a good pedal and a real good shoe.

I grew up riding and racing bmx on flats (shimano dx for those that know) and vans. When I got in to XC mtb, I immediately found the value of clipless. AND whenever anyone would mention flats on an MTB, I thought they were crazy... until I picked up a pair of raceface chesters and a pair of Fiveten freerider pro shoes... I could not believe how well tha combo worked. I now ride my SS mtb with that setup for 30+ miles at a clip with no issues at all. BUT when I ride my FS XC bike, I’m clipped.

Good luck to you and your shins
Just remembered... USA cycling banned clipless for kids under 12 years old racing bmx.... this is a good thing as they will learn valuable skills having started with flats.

Many older bmxers approve of the new ruling. Some would say the introduction of clipless pedals to bmx racing began the downfall of the culture that built the sport.
I feel flats encourage better muscle memory which translates to better technique.

Do both and pick which is best for you...
Started on flats and like @MissJR got sick of shin strikes and have been on clips.
Tried flats for the first time again at MCBP. It freaked me out when my feet lifted off the pedal. It didnt cause any problems but was an unsettling feeling. I guess i got too used to being connected to the bike. Havent tried flat since. So yeah... got nothing for you. 😛
Flats with shin guards until you learn proper technique. Couple that with a full face helmet and you’re a Shred God in the trailhead lot.
Noob here too, but one of the benefits I've been told about starting on flats is the easier ability to bail. Especially if you get into practicing skills like manuals, bunny hops, and trail stands.
If your brand new to offroad, maybe start out on whichever you feel more comfortable and confident on. Once you’re used to riding offroad, mix it up if you want

Its probably a good idea to try both....but Ive never ridden anything but flats personally.
Flats for learning, clips for burning.

Rode flats on Bmx but clips have so many advantages it is hard to ignore them for trail riding. I was flat curios in December and got newer pedals and ok shoes. Flats are better for Cornering and jump but I felt was a concession when just cruising along. Will probably try again when warmer.
I'm relatively new to MTB. I have been riding flats for a couple years. The biggest benefits to flats for me are being able to bail quickly and building confidence. Those 2 things are very closely related. I like to challenge myself to become a better rider and that often means riding features that intimidate me and are often times above my ability at first. Being able to put a foot down quickly without thinking about it gives me the confidence to keep trying stuff that is difficult. Others have mentioned that using flats will force you to learn to control the bike (lift the rear wheel especially) with your body weight and not rely on the clips to pull the bike up. I think this is also important but at the end of the day is not crucial. People have different riding styles/priorities and that's ok. I have been messing around with clipless pedals lately and I love the feeling of being connected to the bike. I have also tipped over from not being able to get a foot down quick enough in a technical sections that I couldn't clean. I am still working on learning clips and really look forward to being able to ride them confidently.

I think you will develop the best riding skills if you can ride both.
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