Improper pedaling technique?



Nicole S

New Member
Jan 19, 2007
3
0
0
I have been cycling for less than a year and the reason I started to ride was to train for my first triathlon last summer (actually I did 3, I am hooked)...my strongest leg is the running portion because I love to run and have been a runner for years...
My problem started when I purchased a tri bike at a well known local bike shop the middle of last summer...I would take it out for 30 mile rides twice a week and then do my 4 days of running, only to find that my running suffered...I felt pain in my achilles and lateral to my achilles (the outside of my legs)...I was also experiencing knee pain...the bike shop fit me on a 52cm with 650 tires (a men's trek equinox)...I am 5'7 with a long torso (the WSD model wouldn't work?)...I moved the seat up a little and that took care of the knee pain but I am still experiencing the lower leg pain...
I took a break from cycling from September to December and had no problems with running pain free...for Christmas I got an indoor trainer and once again, because of cycling, the achilles and lateral leg pain is back...
Because I have been cycling for such a short time my knowledge is limited...I may have a fancy bike but I don't know much about it:eek: ...I have read some articles on this forum and bike websites and I wonder if I have an improper pedaling technique?...I have read about "ankling" and maybe that's what is causing the pain...but I wouldn't have any idea of the proper way to pedal a bike, I always thought there was just one way!...or could it be something else that I am doing wrong??....
Any ideas or tips would be greatly appreciated!
 

rayhuang

New Member
Jul 27, 2006
522
0
0
Nicole S said:
I have been cycling for less than a year and the reason I started to ride was to train for my first triathlon last summer (actually I did 3, I am hooked)...my strongest leg is the running portion because I love to run and have been a runner for years...
My problem started when I purchased a tri bike at a well known local bike shop the middle of last summer...I would take it out for 30 mile rides twice a week and then do my 4 days of running, only to find that my running suffered...I felt pain in my achilles and lateral to my achilles (the outside of my legs)...I was also experiencing knee pain...the bike shop fit me on a 52cm with 650 tires (a men's trek equinox)...I am 5'7 with a long torso (the WSD model wouldn't work?)...I moved the seat up a little and that took care of the knee pain but I am still experiencing the lower leg pain...
I took a break from cycling from September to December and had no problems with running pain free...for Christmas I got an indoor trainer and once again, because of cycling, the achilles and lateral leg pain is back...
Because I have been cycling for such a short time my knowledge is limited...I may have a fancy bike but I don't know much about it:eek: ...I have read some articles on this forum and bike websites and I wonder if I have an improper pedaling technique?...I have read about "ankling" and maybe that's what is causing the pain...but I wouldn't have any idea of the proper way to pedal a bike, I always thought there was just one way!...or could it be something else that I am doing wrong??....
Any ideas or tips would be greatly appreciated!
I would talk to the LBS and see whom they recommend in your city as the best fitter for Triathletes and then spend some time on a fixed trainer with this person to asses your position and peddling technique while actually riding. Even better if they have a power reading type trainer and maybe with Spin Scan (which analyzes your peddle stroke).

I know this doesnt help in the short term.
Ray
 

daveryanwyoming

Well-Known Member
Oct 3, 2006
3,857
98
0
Nicole S said:
... I wonder if I have an improper pedaling technique?...I have read about "ankling" and maybe that's what is causing the pain......Any ideas or tips would be greatly appreciated!
Nicole,
I'd agree with rayhaung to have a good shop double check your fit while you actively ride a trainer or rollers. They might see something that eluded them in a static fit.

But you also haven't said much about how you ride or the terrain you're riding in. I've ridden with a lot of runners and triathaletes new to the cycling part and quite a few started by pounding the big ring all the time at low cadences almost as if they were running on the bike. I don't know if this is your case, but the forces and range of motion in cycling are different than running so even if your cardiovascular system is top notch(pretty likely from the steady diet of running you describe) you need to start in easier gears and develop a decent spin of at least 80 and preferably somewhere near 90 rpm for steady state efforts. That may drop quite a bit on steep hills, but you should still carry gears that allow you to turn the cranks at 60 to 70 rpm on hills.

Anyway, this may be old news to you and describe the riding that causes you pain, but make sure you're not slogging away in huge gears for the terrain and keep it easy enough to give your body time to adapt to the new motion.

As far as ankling, scraping mud, spinning circles and all the ways folks describe the "perfect" pedal stroke. We used to press that stuff real hard but in recent years a lot of folks have taken a look at that way of thinking and the current thinking is that putting force into the pedals on the downstroke and simply getting your foot up and out of the way on the upstroke is more important than fancy pedaling motions. It turns out the fastest cyclists are simply those that push harder, not those with the prettiest spin. That's a bummer for me since I've spent years riding a fixed gear on and off the track and have a pretty darn good spin :mad:

Good luck,
Dave
 

rayhuang

New Member
Jul 27, 2006
522
0
0
daveryanwyoming said:
As far as ankling, scraping mud, spinning circles and all the ways folks describe the "perfect" pedal stroke. We used to press that stuff real hard but in recent years a lot of folks have taken a look at that way of thinking and the current thinking is that putting force into the pedals on the downstroke and simply getting your foot up and out of the way on the upstroke is more important than fancy pedaling motions. It turns out the fastest cyclists are simply those that push harder, not those with the prettiest spin. That's a bummer for me since I've spent years riding a fixed gear on and off the track and have a pretty darn good spin :mad:

Good luck,
Dave
As I found out last weekend riding my new mountain bike in the snow, there are still times when a smooth pedal stroke are helpful!! I was able to ride up a fairyl steep snow covered hill!! I could induce wheelspin at anytime. Although I would agree with the scientists that power is power, I will always strive for a better-more round, more efficient pedal stroke and I would recommend it to others. A fixed gear is in my future!!

But yeah-pounding a big gear or maybe even poorly aligned or positioned cleats (maybe they moved on her shoes?). Or maybe shes cycling in running shoes?? Heck, Ive had pain in my gluts during a ride because my seat wasnt perfectly straight. So many things it could be.
 

Nicole S

New Member
Jan 19, 2007
3
0
0
daveryanwyoming said:
But you also haven't said much about how you ride or the terrain you're riding in. I've ridden with a lot of runners and triathaletes new to the cycling part and quite a few started by pounding the big ring all the time at low cadences almost as if they were running on the bike. I don't know if this is your case, but the forces and range of motion in cycling are different than running so even if your cardiovascular system is top notch(pretty likely from the steady diet of running you describe) you need to start in easier gears and develop a decent spin of at least 80 and preferably somewhere near 90 rpm for steady state efforts. That may drop quite a bit on steep hills, but you should still carry gears that allow you to turn the cranks at 60 to 70 rpm on hills.
I do have the problem of wanting to be in a higher gear, even though I have read that the opposite is better...I guess it's because I feel I can go faster with more resistance?...I have counted my rpm's on the higher gear and it is usually around 70-75...
I should mention that I focus my pedaling more on pulling up rather than the pushing down...
I do have bike shoes (cleats) for my pedals:) ...I have also noticed that my toes will go numb on the later half of my ride...I don't know if that has anything to do with the pain on my lower legs or not...
We have had 2 free tri bike fittings in my area in the last 6mo., I just have never gone...I guess next time there is one I should go!:D
 

rayhuang

New Member
Jul 27, 2006
522
0
0
Fit is everything. Proper fit can lead to dramatic increases in power and since your racing, its extremely important to be properly fit. Even more so since your speciality requires creating power in the Tri (aero on bars with steep seat tube angles) position.

When you make a change to position, make them in tiny increments (mm's) and ride them at least 3x unless its clearly obvious in a dramatic way that you went the wrong way.

Try like Dave says to increase your cadence to 85 to 95. Sure its gonna feel funny, but higher cadence I hear leads to fresher legs for the run!!

Ray
 

n crowley

New Member
Jul 10, 2003
743
0
16
80
It turns out the fastest cyclists are simply those that push harder, not those with the prettiest spin.

Good luck,
Dave[/QUOTE]


That's true for sprinting but not for time trials.
 

daveryanwyoming

Well-Known Member
Oct 3, 2006
3,857
98
0
n crowley said:
That's true for sprinting but not for time trials.
Well, that's debatable and has certainly been debated a lot in the last few years. Note that I'm not talking about low cadences and huge gears, I'm talking about a pedaling focus on smooth circles, trying to apply force evenly throughout the stroke, scraping mud at the bottom or scuffing forward at the top of the stroke. There's a lot of good arguments for maintaining a moderate to high cadence and not overgearing but it's not clear that a ton of effort trying to spin smooth silky circles actually pays off in time trials.
 

sogood

New Member
Aug 24, 2006
2,148
0
36
daveryanwyoming said:
Well, that's debatable and has certainly been debated a lot in the last few years. Note that I'm not talking about low cadences and huge gears, I'm talking about a pedaling focus on smooth circles, trying to apply force evenly throughout the stroke, scraping mud at the bottom or scuffing forward at the top of the stroke. There's a lot of good arguments for maintaining a moderate to high cadence and not overgearing but it's not clear that a ton of effort trying to spin smooth silky circles actually pays off in time trials.
I don't see the contradiction in good circular pedalling technique and good power. Irrespective how you pedal, there'll always be more power being delivered during the down stroke. So even for a good circle pedaller, the down stroke will still have the max power. So push hard on the down supplemented by good forward push/rear drag and upward lift would do no harm by logic.
 

daveryanwyoming

Well-Known Member
Oct 3, 2006
3,857
98
0
sogood said:
I don't see the contradiction in good circular pedalling technique and good power. Irrespective how you pedal, there'll always be more power being delivered during the down stroke. So even for a good circle pedaller, the down stroke will still have the max power. So push hard on the down supplemented by good forward push/rear drag and upward lift would do no harm by logic.
Yes your logic is sound, which is a big part of the reason we advocated smooth circular pedaling for so many years. But it's been studied in lab time trials with force measuring pedals and the fastest cyclists did not have the smoothest spin. Check out this blog and the references to Coyle's study: http://smartttraining.blogspot.com/ you can argue correlation vs. causation but at least in this group of trained cyclists smooth spin did not correlate with the fastest 40 km times.

P.S. A glance at the 26 pages of the pealling [sic] push up push down thread shows you have a dog in this fight n_crowley. I'm sure you're more than aware that the subject is debatable although I can see where you weigh in on the debate. Pedal any darn way you like, but I won't waste a lot of effort with new riders on mud scraping.
 

mikesbytes

New Member
Apr 12, 2006
1,715
2
0
61
It does sound like a fitting problem.
- The bike itself
- The cleats. Put the shoes in the pedals by themselves (not in your feet) and see that the heals point directly backwards. Put the shoes on and check that you feet are correctly mounted over the pedal axils
- Crank length. Perhaps shorter or longer cranks may suit you better
- Generally females have longer legs, shorter body and arms than males of the same height, you could need a shorter head to bring the handlebars closer to you.

Cycling fitness, as per other posts, riding uses the legs differently to running, it takes time for the body to adapt, perhaps you are using your aerobic fitness to push the bike harder than your legs are currently capacible of.

Have you also considered, that it has exposed a problem you were about to get anyway.
 

vadiver

New Member
Oct 3, 2006
313
0
0
Nicole S said:
I do have the problem of wanting to be in a higher gear, even though I have read that the opposite is better...I guess it's because I feel I can go faster with more resistance?...I have counted my rpm's on the higher gear and it is usually around 70-75...
I should mention that I focus my pedaling more on pulling up rather than the pushing down...
I do have bike shoes (cleats) for my pedals:) ...I have also noticed that my toes will go numb on the later half of my ride...I don't know if that has anything to do with the pain on my lower legs or not...
We have had 2 free tri bike fittings in my area in the last 6mo., I just have never gone...I guess next time there is one I should go!:D
Do you have float in your cleats/pedals?

Are your shoes too tight?

And as another poster posted, are your cleats aligned corectly?

Free might be well worth the money if they help.
 

hockinsk

New Member
Jun 23, 2005
17
0
0
I have read yours and others posts Nicole and it sounds like you have a combination of things to look at:


a. You should, NEVER, EVER concentrate your pedalling on the upstroke - there is very little useful force to be found there and I would say may even be the likely cause of your Achilles pain!

b. 70rpm is way to slow to be affective or fluid in Time Trials these days! I would advise you watch this nice long youtube clip of Lance Armstrong time trialing on your computer, while riding your bike on the trainer and increase your RPM until you can visually see and feel it is matching his which floats around 90 - 110rpm. This will feel very uncomfortable, but it will show you how far off you might be? You will also notice that even though Lance is riding at maximum effort, there is very minimal body roll and almost zero head movement! All power comes from your legs in the down stroke and alot also from the the lower back.

c. Position, style and most importantly pedalling fluidity are the primary factors in riding and pedalling a bike fast for the majority of riders - big power comes very, very low down the list. In fact, most will say you shouldn't even feel really the pedals because gravity and motion does most of the work for you! World Hour record man Chris Boardman had very low power output compared to most riders (half that of Armstrong), but like Bradley Wiggins does now, has a very fluid, high cadence pedalling motion and amazing ability to keep a high enough cadence for a whole hour in a chosen gear was what made them fast. Boardman regularly used to beat Armstrong and Ullrich in Time Trials and still holds the fastest ever prologue time trial i believe!

This fluidity only comes with years of practice or gift of the gods though, but by gradually increasing your cadence a little each week, you will begin to understand what they mean and see how it helps in the complete ride. Certainly there are riders who go against this, such as Ullrich in the video clip is no slow rider and he certainly uses power more at low cadence to go fast, but then who knows what chemicals he was on to maintain such power and recover from such efforts for the next day!.

edit: slightly edited the above to make more sense.
 

Abernathy

New Member
Jan 31, 2007
14
0
0
Hi All,
This is my first post on this forum...

It might be a good idea to throw this question to the professionals. Steve Hogg seems to know as much, if not more, about the intricacies of the human body in relation to cycling.
He is easily accessible and usually posts a swift response. I know it's all relative, but Steve uses language that is easily understood, creating an easily identifiable mental image to keep and work with.

Here is a link;

Got a question about fitness, training, recovery from injury or a related subject? Drop us a line at [email protected]. Please include as much information about yourself as possible, including your age, sex, and type of racing or riding.
ALSO, this following link will get you to a page that may even answer a few of your questions/problems; http://www.cyclingnews.com/fitness/?id=2004/letters07-26 ...down towards the bottom of the page.
I currently run the 'SPEEDPLAY' pedal and cleat system. They come in a few guises, I have opted for the unrestricted float version. They may take a bit of getting used to but allows your knee some lateral rotation and eliminates any resistance your knee encounters with a spring system. I could go on so just check out the webpage. They have saved my knee and encourage a more efficient pedaling technique.
 

davef

New Member
Oct 25, 2003
108
0
0
77
mikesbytes said:
It does sound like a fitting problem.
- The cleats. Put the shoes in the pedals by themselves (not in your feet) and see that the heals point directly backwards. Put the shoes on and check that you feet are correctly mounted over the pedal axils

I have read that one should observe your natural resting position of your feet, ie toes in, straight or toes-out and align the shoes to match that.

My left foot is slightly toed-out, that's the way the bike shoes are set up, no float and NO problems.
 

mikesbytes

New Member
Apr 12, 2006
1,715
2
0
61
davef said:
I have read that one should observe your natural resting position of your feet, ie toes in, straight or toes-out and align the shoes to match that.

My left foot is slightly toed-out, that's the way the bike shoes are set up, no float and NO problems.
Haven't heard that one before, guess that float should cater for most.
 

Alex Simmons

Member
Mar 12, 2006
2,471
20
38
mikesbytes said:
- The cleats. Put the shoes in the pedals by themselves (not in your feet) and see that the heals point directly backwards.
Careful here, as correctly fitted cleats may not result in either heel pointing in this direction at all. Mine don't, yet my knees have very little lateral movement, even though I ride with zero float cleats (and use straps on the track bike).

For the OP:

Ditto the advice re seeing a bike fitter experienced with triathletes. Well set up, the cycling leg should aid your run, not ruin you.

If you do make position changes, I recommend a few weeks of only moderate intensity to enable your body to adapt before pushing hard again.

Don't sweat the pedalling technique thing too much. A few million turns of the cranks will sort that out and you are just starting out. Don't be scared to try some different things and see how you go. Higher cadence/lower cadence etc.

Certainly if you learn to or naturally pedal faster you can choose to pedal at a lower cadence. Much harder the other way round.
 

Abernathy

New Member
Jan 31, 2007
14
0
0
Hi DaveF,

that is the glory of the Speedplay system, your heel tracks where it wants to go with no resitance. If one leg toes in more than the other there is nothing resisting it except your muscles.
Since swapping to speedplay, my 'feeble' leg it feels as if the muscles that were not being put to work previously (i.e. muscles, via a springed resistance or float, that were kept subdued) are now more so employed. That may take a bit more explaining though.
My leg feels stronger, definitely more stable and pain free. (I have had an ACL reconstruction)
Of course there is much more to a pedal stroke than pedals... But a free floating pedal is a solid foundation to work with. And this may just be one man's opinion out of millions, but if you are locked into a bike with minimal, or no float and the setup in even minutely incorrect, that combined with the serious repetitive nature of cycling, you are bound for injury.

I still (damnit) have a direct comparison to another padal system...
I am saving to replace the SPD's on my MTB and can't wait to be rid of them. I just don't do the bigger enduros at the moment, just the shorter 30klm or so local club meets instead of the 12 + 24hr stuff.