One of the biggest dilemmas for me this year was the choice of shoes/pedals for the Oregon Outback. I have had great luck with clip-less pedals and Sidi cycling shoes, so going with flats felt like a big risk. I knew that we wouldn’t go more than 100 miles in any one day, but we would be doing it for 4-6 days straight.
On the other hand, I didn’t relish the thought of running around in cleats on rough ground for the better part of a week. They add a certain amount discomfort: slippery footing in some situations, and “duck walking” on the ground. They also introduce unnecessary complexity and technical failure risk if a cleat gets damaged, or a shoe gets lost.
On flat pedals, at least I could comfortably use sandals or bare feet (in a pinch).
I rode on flats for the most part all winter and spring before the ride, with a max distance of about 50 miles. No problems. I have had occasional knee pain that has developed in the past over longer miles, but I was not as worried about it in this case. Both my clip-less setup (SpeedPlay Frogs, Sidi Spider SRS) and flats give my knees plenty of float. I seem to have had the most pain on a relatively locked in SPD setup.
Long story short – flat pedals were great, thin approach shoes were comfy as hell.
About the setup I used:
Pedals: Watch your shins on these pedals – they are grabby and have sharp edges, but after a few nicks, you figure out how to stay away from them. They lock your foot in really well – there were quite a few “holy crap” bumpy, loose, fast downhills we had to traverse, and I never lost my foot on the pedal – something that has happened to me on other pedal/shoe combos, and scary when you are rocketing downhill on single track or loose fire roads. These guys just work, and have a large platform to find purchase on.
Shoes: I’ve got 3 pairs of these – they are the most comfy shoes out-of-the-box I’ve yet encountered. They are a minimalist approach shoe, but are runnable. They wear well – I still use all three pairs, and two pairs have gone on several off-road adventures. Oh yeah – they are fairly inexpensive, too…
I also used some Echo sandals for part of the day when we were in the hotter, more exposed sections of the trail, but I mainly went this route because I had gotten the Cruzers wet, and wanted to dry them out on the back of my bag. This is an added benefit of flats – spare footwear just works.
After several days on the dusty trails, my feet felt great – no pains or aches, and my knees were fine for the distance. I hope other folks try out this sort of combo – the cycling community still really pushes clip-less combos for “comfort”. While some may need an extra stiff sole, I think this may have evolved due to the tiny surface area on most clip-less pedals. Try some big, flat pedals – you may be surprised…
That’s it for now. Let me know if you have found similar flat pedal/shoe combos you like.
David Person said:
John, I would say that the shoe choice is as important as the pedals. It wasn’t until I paired the 5-10’s with the VP Vice that it all came together. I was very much of the same opinion as you. I couldn’t give up my Speedplay’s but wanted something different for errand running and such. I feel that the VP/5-10 combo works just as well for me now as the Speedplay’s.
David Person said:
Thanks for the write-up. I’ve been missing your regular postings. I’ve been a devout Speedplay X user for years and years. My dependence on clip less pedals with free rotation goes back to the ’80’s when Avenir introduced their clip less pedal (they can be seen on Speedplay’s website, in their Pedal History Museum). Could never find a shoe and flat pedal combination that gave me confidence. That is until I paired some 5-10 Freerider shoes with VP Vice pedals. Now that is all I ride. I feel as if I’m clipped in.
I’ve read if others having reliability issues with the bearings in the Thin Gripster pedals. I wonder if the shorter axle is a possible cause. The axle on the Vice runs the whole width of the body. I’ve not had any issues with the bearing on the four pair of Vice I own. Otherwise the platform is quite similar to the Thin Gripsters.
Mine were clicking by the end of the trip and just needed repacking with grease. I agree that the vice is a beefier pedal. Haven’t had to do anything with those, yet.
David P. said:
Those Evolv shoes look to be a good alternative to the 5-10s, especially if one is not going for the skate shoe look, which the Freeriders definitely have in spades. Not sure a 50-something guy like me really rocks the skate shoe look. I see your banner page that top shows a pair of 5-10s. How do the Evolv compare to them in terms of grippy-ness and stiffness, or lack thereof?
Just as grippy, but not a stiff shoe at all. I found that with the VP pedals I don’t need a stiff shoe, however. Even on a 100 mile day with steep gravel. Evolv is a climbing shoe company, and these hug your feet. 5/10 wears more like a normal sneaker.
Andrew Jorgensen said:
Tell me more about that spoon! Camp whittling?
Axe spoon carving. Cool way to make something useful out of a piece of plum tree.
John Bokman said:
Brian, thanks for the review.
I have been riding clipless (Speedplay Frogs) for twenty years now. I mention this because I’m so accustomed to this “system” that doing anything else feels wacky.
While I like my system, I’ve been intrigued by the idea of going flat for several reasons (the main one being I have difficulty being able to spread my toes in “cycling shoes”, and going to flats would allow me to wear wider toe-box shoes).
Problem is, every time I try to go to flats, I don’t like it. I tried MKS sneaker pedals first, then MKS Lambdas, and most recently your VP Vice.
What i’ve come to realize is that it’s not the pedals, it’s me. Which is to say I’m so accustomed to my system that using anything else just doesn’t feel good. So my question is: how long did it take you to make the switch, and be happy with it? Was it a long drawn-out process, or was it relatively quick? And, did you switch back and fourth for a time, or just go the whole hog at once?