National Coaching Manager Luke Madill discusses what happens when a rider begins using clip pedals prematurely
Clip peddles have been a huge discussion in the sport ever since they were introduced in the 1990’s. The debate has raged for years about whether or not they help or hinder riders, especially those in their developmental stages.
The long and the short of it is that clips can hinder the development of a rider’s natural technique. Novice and young riders who jump into the deep end with clips prematurely will be robbed of the opportunity to fulfil their potential as a competent, fast and technically advanced rider.
Last week the 2018 BMX Australia Rulebook was published, and among the key changes was a change to Rule 20, which precludes the use of clip in pedals for Novice and Sprocket classes at select events. It reads as follows:
Interlocking pedal-cleat systems are not to be used by Novice or Sprocket classes at any category R, S, ST, NS & CN events. They can be used at catergory C (Club) events.
The decision to preclude these classes from using clip pedals followed numerous discussions with national coaches. As a result, the group agreed that the beginner riders in these classes are increasingly displaying incorrect skill technique, and it is hampering the development of their natural technique.
This will lead some to the question of ‘what is a natural technique’?
BMX is a highly technical sport, and it takes time to develop the skills to be a competent racer. It is crucial that new riders learn the basic skills needed from the outset. Skills such as pumping, jumping and manualing, paired with the coordination and rhythm needed to execute them correctly takes time.
When a rider adds clip peddles into the mix too early it allows them to cheat that development process. Initially it may seem that the clip pedals speed up this process, but it does not do so naturally. In many cases it makes the rider reliant on ‘clip-pulling’, where the clip does the work to pull the bike up when jumping, or pulling the pedal up to produce slightly more power when pedalling.
Resultantly this means that riders don’t master the basic skills early on, and heavily rely on the clip pedal to do the technical work for them, not their natural technique.
Over time BMX Australia national coaches have witnessed the development of a riders who spend longer periods developing their skills on flat peddles, and in these cases, those riders have a naturally stronger technique later in their career. They progress through the sport without a technical disadvantage, such as the disadvantages developed from the hasty use of clip pedals as a beginner.
While the rules are specifically geared towards younger, beginner riders, the use of flat pedals for riders of all ages and skill levels during training is essential. It ensures riders continue to work on their natural and efficient riding style, and is something that all elite riders include in their training.
Once a rider is competent with all skills on flat peddles, they can start adding clip peddles into their training program. All riders new to the sport should check with their club coaches in whether they are ready and competent for clip peddles.