MONTEREY, CA—Clipless pedals are out. Flats are in.
In a trend sweeping the mountain bike world, riders of all disciplines are going barefoot to shave weight and improve lap times.
The unusual idea originated in the professional cross-country discipline, but has since trickled down to casual trail riders and weekend warriors.
“I can’t say I particularly enjoy the pedals’ pins piercing the tender flesh of my underfoot, the blood loss, or the constant infections, but this is a hell of a lot easier than losing weight,” said Brian Hamlegg as he snacked on a pre-ride Baconator from Wendy’s.
On average, going barefoot reduces overall weight by 900 grams, or roughly two pounds, an amount of weight almost any person can lose in two to three weeks through moderate diet and exercise. However, Hamlegg and many others prefer riding barefoot.
“I’m willing to overlook the crippling pain if it means I don’t have to eat kale,” said Hamlegg. “I mean, I finish each ride a little woozy from losing so much blood, but I’m also down two-and-a-half seconds on average on all my rides.”
While it seems detrimental, the blood loss from barefoot riding is beneficial for two reasons. First, riders are technically also losing weight when they nearly bleed out during a ride. Second, many riders have noted improved trail conditions—especially in drier regions—as the gallons upon gallons of blood add moisture to trails, replacing hero dirt with what riders are now calling hemo dirt.
Aside from the permanent damage to foot muscles and fascia from sharp pedal pins—which is easily negated by improved STRAVA times—there is one potential drawback of riding barefoot.
Some riders have noted slippage, which is amplified by small bumps and considerably troublesome on jumps, as the blood pours from their feet.
“Fresh foot blood can be a bit more lubricious than you think,” said Hamlegg. “Of course, that’s an easy fix. We just have to figure out a way to surgically implant clipless cleats into the human foot.”
As of now, no doctors are condoning barefoot riding, saying it could easily lead to chronic foot issues, severe lacerations and puncture wounds, broken bones and possibly foot amputation. It would just be easier, they say, to lose a couple pounds.
Hamlegg isn’t so sure.
“Why put in all that work?” he said. “I’m actually ditching my helmet and all of my clothing, and hot waxing my entire body too. I’ll shave another .2 seconds on my very next ride.”