How can I avoid smacking my pedals on rocks?

Q: Find that the bottom of my pedals keep scraping rocks as I try to pedal over them, especially on ascents. I try to just coast over them, but end up losing all my speed. I ride a medium frame with 26-inch wheels. Have any solutions?
—Kevin, who fears for his clips

A: Some bikes use a low bottom bracket height to improve the bike’s handling. The tradeoff is pedal clearance. You can’t really coast up a hill (don’t we wish), so the trick is to time your pedaling so the pedals miss contact with the rock. This might require a quick quarter-turn backpedal as you approach a rock (and that hurts your forward momentum), or a short burst of increased cadence. You can try a slightly bigger gear, but this is not always possible when climbing. The bigger gear allows you to time your pedaling better. Also, try tilting (or rocking) your bike away from the offending rock. This lifts the pedal a bit and should reduce strikes.
Finally, you didn’t tell us which pedals you are using. If you are riding platform pedals, measure their thickness. Replacing them with thinner pedals will help. You may also want to switch to a clipless pedal if you are not using one already. We recently compared Shimano clipless pedals (MBA, September 2012) and were surprised that the pedal’s thickness is more important than its width for clearing obstacles. The thinner the better.

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