Flat Pedals: set your intention

Last week I tweeted a photo of a customized Little Black Dress. It was a gorgeous bike – such a deep red it looked fast even at a dead stop. And a few minutes later (such is the way of the internet), I got back a mixed review:

“Everything about that bike is foxy. Except the pedals. It’s like house slippers paired with a little black dress.”

Two things of note:
Yes, those pedals did not belong on that bike. At the time I conceded, explaining that I threw the pedals on so I could give the rig a test ride.

But no. Flat pedals are not house slippers. They are not a frumpy stand-in for something more appealing. Flat pedals are more like flip flops. More intention than substance. They are the easy ambivalence of summer, like an open patio door or a two week vacation. They invite you to come and go as you please and take your time doing it.

I’ve been riding flat pedals on my fixie for a couple of months now and it has changed my relationship with that bike. I am on and off like its no big deal, no real commitment. I’m riding and then I am not. I roll out to a coffee meeting with a customer. I cruise to the store in sneakers and rolled up pants. I even rode to a bike advocacy fundraiser in high heels and a dress.

Flat pedals nudge you in the right direction. They tell you to slow down, to enjoy the relaxation, to soak in the summer. They might not look fast, but these are the months when you want it to last.

From → Bike Love, Bikes, Design


  1. Hey Natalie! Love the bike. Looks stunning.

  2. a

    I am with you 100% on your philosophy, but don’t go sayin that those of us who ride the dual sided (flat on one side, clip in on the other) are on the fence or confused. I think we’re just efficiently maintaining our ability to “get on and go”.

  3. I might add, flat pedals are also extremely practical for riding in the city, when you have to stop every other block sometimes, or if you have to stop suddenly in traffic, it makes it that much easier (and perhaps safer) than having to clip/unclip.

    They’re a component of a real vehicle – get on at any moment in whatever you’re wearing and go (even barefoot if you want).

    They’re a component of the bike you ride to the opera in your stilettos or wingtips, and they’re a component of the bike you ride to the beach in your flip-flops.

    The all-purpose pedal, simple and elegant. Perfect for all those occasions where eeking out every last ounce of efficiency doesn’t really matter.

  4. There are indeed some frumpy flat pedals, but then again, depending who you ask, some clipless pedals are considered very frumpy (when considered lovely to the next person). Geez. Can’t please everyone.

    I have flat pedals on my errand bike and on my fixed gear. I agree that jumping on no matter what my choice of shoes, is a delight. One less thing to worry about. At one point I even considered racing cyclocross on flat pedals, a la Rhonda 2005!

    PS they’re also great in the winter, when you want to be riding in the moon boots.

  5. Tanis

    Indeed….so very true!

  6. Good for you for sticking up for flat pedals. There’s a time and a place for everything. Skirts and heels go great with flat pedals, and I’m hearing from the dudes that they love seeing girls in skirts on bikes. Can’t have it both ways.

  7. Moonboots. Yeah, they don’t come with cleats yet, do they?

  8. jj

    amen, sister. which reminds me that i need to go swap out my pedals on the mixte ‘cos i just got new flat pedals for the xtra so the velo orange touring pedals can go back on sweetpea. :)

  9. Who wants to change shoes just to ride to the grocery store? I feel stupid even cuffing my pants on a milk run.

  10. Agreed! I switched out the toe-clips on my pista for flat pedals to the disapproval of the guys at the bike shop. I’ve had no regrets. I can jump on my bike in my big wide keens for a quick run to the co-op.

  11. I have the COOLEST moon boots. If I put cleats on them, though, it’d mostly be for traction. 😉

  12. My flat pedals on my winter/training/rain/everything “else” bike mean I ride a lot more than I would if both bikes were clipless. That pretty much settles the argument right there for me.

    But more than that, they mean that I can ride in shorts and a tee — and get to have FUN on a bike, tooling around, taking detours, observing flowers, butterflies, sexy female cyclists, and so on. When I do this, I think to myself, “Right, this is why MOST people enjoy riding bikes!”

  13. Flat pedals are awesome for around town riding, or pretty much any ride that doesnt include spandex. I also rode them for years on the gnarliest downhill trails you can imagine, and you’d be surprised at how well your shoes “stick” to them!

  14. Matt

    I am so with you about flat pedals. I have wide feet and spent a butt-load for fancy bike shoes for my clipless pedals. I barely ride anymore because of all the hassle of finding the shoes, which pinch my feet, and having to “gear up” for a ride. Putting flats on my mountain bike this weekend so I can ride our backroads without a whole lot of hullabaloo.

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