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A nicely written, thought-provoking piece as Andrew's usually are.
I've been on SPDs for decades and suspect I'll never switch, even though the majority of people I ride with are on flat pedals. So much of what I find most fun and satisfying about riding just feels diminished for me on flats. Being the one who gets up a techy climb, trading haymakers at the front of the group ride, clearing a big-ass log. And, not to get all woo woo over it, but for me being clipped in really does give me a feeling of body/machine connection that I miss on flats.
Riding clips has kept me from persisting at learning to wheelie and manual, because off the back is the one direction that unclipping isn't automatic and those falls aren't fun. And I'd probably be a little more stubborn with skinnies if I were on flats, too. But for me those trade-offs are easily worth it, and it doesn't feel like I'm sacrificing any fun/loose/confident ride enjoyment. So these days snow rides are the only time I consistently switch to flats, because then the benefits of clips are reduced even when cleats aren't packed up.
But mountain biking is a long journey, and who knows what 5 or 10 years from now will bring.
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