2 questions - climbing & pedaling problem



I'm new to the forum so hello to all. :)

On to the questions..

1) I have a problem with my pedaling style. Basically, when I pedal i do so with my toes pointing way down and my heel far from parallel to the ground. Basically my toes are much lower than my heel, if that makes sense. I realize this is inefficient and fatigues the calf muscle. I've tried to pedal correctly, in circles as they say and with my foot parallel to the ground at the bottom of my stroke, but it feels extremely awkward....going through the pedal stroke that way it feels as though my ankle is flexing and unflexing try to keep the heel parallel to the ground at the bottom of the stroke....do any you have or know of any tips, articles, drills, or techniques I can try to improve this?

2) Where I live, let's just say the whole area is vertically challenged. Flat as can be. However, I would like to develop my climbing ability. In part just so I can be a well-rounded cyclist and in part because I would like to to do some tours in mountainous areas such as the blue ridge parkway in NC, going-2-the-sun road in Glacier NP...you get the idea.
Any ideas on how to become a super climber in an area devoid of hills/mountains? Ok, maybe super climber is a bit much, how about a respectable one at least?

Since you may wonder about my equipment, background, etc...i ride a nice trek hybrid, use toe-clips & straps (though will soon be switching to clipless pedals), have a bit over 6 months of riding experience, ride about 3-4x/week for a total of 60-70 miles/week, as for build, 5'9 150lbs.
Walking up steps (2 at a time) can help your climbing ability. Maybe looking for a few headwinds might help too. I don't know how much tho.
On the first question. You need to change your technique... obvious I know... easy it is not! Technique describes the way you coordinate your body when doing a task, so you are going to have to change your coordination! Coordination is a neuromuscular process and so involves the muscles and brain (CNS).

The best way to change your technique will be through 'shaping' (gradualy changing your technique). Make sure your saddle and bike setup is OK and you are flexible enough to pedal 'flat footed'. Get some rollers or a turbo with low resistance and start pedalling. Pedal over a variety of cadences and try to push your heel down during your whole pedal action. Use a mirror to see your pedal style change.

This will take a long time to acheive and the keys are lots of pedaling in low gears (so that you are not working too hard and don't get fatigued), imagery and lots more pedalling.

Remember pedalling toe down is not always bad, just look at the pro peleton for examples. If its not broke don't fix it.
To add to 2LAP's post re pedaling, here is a nice article to read: Click here

You're in a difficult situation regarding Q2. Click here for some weight training exercises you can try.
Maybe obvious but have you checked your saddle height? Maybe too high? ;)
For a while, when I was unable to get to the outskirts of town to do real climbs, I was doing power intervals: 100% effort in my 53 x 17 for 15 minutes x 3. The Dutch are great climbers but they don't have hills either...from what I have been told, they do mostly flat land power training. It might be interesting to see if there is any advice from that area of the world.

As for you pedaling...I agree..."don't fix it unless it's broke" I too, pedal with my heel a little high...I have found that I use my hamstrings and calves and get more consistent power. Also, many elite cyclists change their pedal stroke to fit the power need or cadence, it helps muscles from fatiguing as quickly.
All of the attributes required for effective climbing can be acheived on flat roads. In the lab we do cycling on treadmills at a gradient this is very similar to riding up hills on the road.
this is a problem i used to have to, i found that the more i rode my body anatomically adapted for optimal performance. this may sound weird but really happened perhaps youll have the same experience to. ;)
Yeah,you are dead right. This is described in ecological psychology (check out 'bernstein's problem' and 'Newel's constraints model'). Basicaly the more you do something the more energeticaly efficent you become, this is both a psychological process and physiological one.

Just think about how much better you are at walking you are now than when you were 2 or 3. How did you improve? Lots of practice and falling over! There is a lesson in there for us all.
The thing that may be the problem in the equation is that you're using toe-clips which doesn't promote correct pedal technique.

The correct action can be tested/practised by cycling with only one foot clipped in. Basically, pushing forward and down at the top of the stroke and pulling up and back at the bottom. You will notice that this is almost impossible with toe-clips. So get those clipless pedals and shoes asap.

I know this because I had the same problem. And I now have a bit of a toe down position but not as extreme as it was. My foot actually gets flatter when powering hard too.
Excellent point, if you don't have clipless pedals you cannot have &quot;360&quot; of power in your pedal stroke. It just won't happen. Hills, flats, wherever. You will gain a ton of extra speed and energy b/c you won't be exhausting your quadraceps alone, and you will being to use your hamstrings much more going to clipless pedals. I am still pretty new to cycling and someone said in this point changing the angle and position of your foot, either by ankle angle and float does help especially with longer distances and endurance, but I generally don't like to ankle my pedal strokes unless I am accelerating or I'm not planning on shifting for a brief period. I shift alot still b/c I like a consistent cadence. <br />As far as the hills??? Get a good trainer with a computer and some nice hilly courses if you can. A friend of mine bought a nice refurbished one from Performance Bike for around $300 and it came with Net Athlon software, which you can even ride with other people online I believe. I have lost of hills in my area, though none of them much longer than a few miles. I will probably get a nice trainer eventually to do some long climbs. Good luck!
Did you change to clipless pedals yet ciclista_novato? Did you find you improved?
[quote author=2LAP link=board=19;threadid=979;start=0#21070 date=1032546861]<br />Did you change to clipless pedals yet ciclista_novato? Did you find you improved?<br />[/quote]<br />Any type of clipless system will make a big difference, if your not into road racing why not use MTB pedals and shoes?<br /><br />cheers