RLC Member Success: The Flat Pedal Challenge and Mal Schulstad

Are you still flat pedal curious? From enjoying the benefits of comfortable shoes to an increased sense of freedom, more flow, confidence and fun all while not losing pedal efficiency, member Mal Schulstad shared, in a Facebook post, his enthusiasm for flats after finishing the last ride of the 12 Ride Flat Pedal Challenge course. Mal is also an accomplished photographer and provided these photos to help illustrate his experience.

Share your experience with flats in the comment section below, or complete the course and go have fun on Flat Pedal Challenge Ride #12, then answer the nine questions after your ride!

Here is what Mal said: 

So yesterday was what I'm calling my celebratory flat pedals ride - 32km and 1000+ meters of climbing (and naturally descending) on rarely used trails and fire roads that I'd never been on with a fairly fit group.

Throughout the ride I kept up with everyone on the ups - no loss of pedaling efficiency, rode over unfamiliar technical terrain comfortably, hopped over small sticks and ruts (didn't bunny hop as I'm still in the middle of learning how to do this properly) jumped as naturally as if I had clips on, and left everyone for dead on the descents.


The photo above is the only one I took of my stuff as I usually take photos of everyone else. After the last descent my discs had gotten so hot they started changing colors and my pads were leaving a burning smell behind me. Drops of water just evaporated off them. 

1. How would you describe the increase of connection to and with your bike from Ride #1 and now after Ride #12? Since changing to flats I'm much more aware of my connection to the bike and what is happening to it. I can't use brute force to ride through challenging trail aspects now - I have to use more technique, which makes me more aware of how I'm riding.

2. What aspects of your riding technique have changed? My riding technique has changed such that I interact with my bike better - my legs and arms working properly together and my whole body working to get the bike to maneuver.

3. What part of riding on flats has been the most fun? The most fun I have with flats is just the freedom it gives on the bike - and wearing comfy shoes!

4. How would you say your riding style has changed? [Some obstacles are hard with or without flats!]  I think my riding style will change to become a smoother rider. Can't really bounce my way through tricky terrain knowing I'm stuck to the bike anymore. Finesse is now required!

5. What was the biggest overall benefit to flat pedals that you have discovered? Biggest benefit I've found so far is the ability to change the position of my feet on the pedals depending on what I'm doing. It's also forcing me to become a better rider.

6. What was the biggest challenge with riding flat pedals? Biggest challenge I've had so far is being bounced off the pedals on rough terrain. I think I'll get better with more riding so it shouldn't be an issue.

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! I can't really see any need to switch to back to clips. I can spin fine with flats with minimal pedaling efficiency loss, it makes me a better rider, I'm enjoying the freedom, and the shoes are way more comfortable!

8. What else have you learned from this challenge? I have learnt that that flat pedal riding is not voodoo magic, and to definitely trust the advice from the courses and everyone here - it works!

9. What would you tell someone interested in trying flat pedals for the first time? I think my advice to anyone thinking about switching to flats from clips would be to commit. Don't think about going back - just keep looking forward. And probably invest in a good set of pedals and shoes. That made the transition easier.

So in summary, love the flats, not going back, and trying to talk others into it!

Ride on, Mal, and thanks for sharing your story! 



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