Pedaling Efficiently



Joseph Tsui

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Apr 19, 2010
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How do you know if you are pedaling correctly and efficiently?
e.g. to reach a certain rpm before i start bouncing on the saddle.

any help is appreciated.
 

Chrisbnj

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Apr 21, 2010
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ive never really experienced the bouncing at high cadence that your talking about. but a good way to pedal efficiently (at least if u dont have any kind of pedal restraints) is to make sure ur pedaling with the ball of your feet instead of the middle or the heel.
 

fergie

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Apr 10, 2004
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Why the interest in pedalling and efficiency? Far more important metrics to concern yourself with while riding the bike.

Get a power meter. Then you can measure if you are more powerful for a given duration and course. With experience you should expect to see more power and a rise in preferred cadence.
 

BikingBrian

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Sep 25, 2003
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And I sense another thread about to deteriorate into an all-out flame war yet again....:rolleyes:

in 3.....2......1.......
 

baphometcycles

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Apr 26, 2010
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Sounds counter-intuitive, but ride a fixie.

First of all, ride one with brakes.

Alright, now get it going fast enough to spin-out. You might need to go down a hill, unless is has a low gear. While you're spun-out, your butt will begin to bounce. Now focus on "pedaling circles." That is, don't just push down, use your toes to follow the pedals back, then up, the forward, and finally down again. You'll really be able to feel your calves.

When you're pedaling very efficiently, you won't be bouncing anymore: your body will be more like a well balanced machine. The bouncing comes from having your (heavy) legs moving out of sync with each other. By "pedaling circles", you are countering each leg's motion with the other and balancing them out: one leg goes forward, the other back. When you start pulling back and up in sync with the other leg (which is pushing forward and down), you'll be contracting your hamstring and calf and thus taking out any slack in your leg.

. . . so just keep practicing "circles"
 

Sillyoldtwit

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BikingBrian said:
And I sense another thread about to deteriorate into an all-out flame war yet again....:rolleyes:

in 3.....2......1.......

Now why was I thinking the same thing? :D
 

fergie

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Apr 10, 2004
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There are two main gains to come from using a fixed gear bicycle.

You can't stop pedalling so you end up doing more work than you do if you had the ability to coast.

You use it on the track where the nature of the velodrome in the bends dictates you ride a higher cadence and the shortness of the racing means you work at a higher intensity.

Within reason more work or more intensity leads to a greater work capacity. I don't see how just aiming to ride at a high cadence is going to provide any notable benefit. Unless you want to do roller racing cuz that looks freaking awesome.
 

Fday

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Dec 6, 2005
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fergie said:
There are two main gains to come from using a fixed gear bicycle.

You can't stop pedalling so you end up doing more work than you do if you had the ability to coast.

You use it on the track where the nature of the velodrome in the bends dictates you ride a higher cadence and the shortness of the racing means you work at a higher intensity.

Within reason more work or more intensity leads to a greater work capacity. I don't see how just aiming to ride at a high cadence is going to provide any notable benefit. Unless you want to do roller racing cuz that looks freaking awesome.
Could you explain exactly what it is in the "nature of the velodrome in the bends" that "dictates" one ride at a higher cadence?
 

Fday

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Joseph Tsui said:
How do you know if you are pedaling correctly and efficiently?
e.g. to reach a certain rpm before i start bouncing on the saddle.

any help is appreciated.
First, there is no agreement here or anywhere else as to what constitutes "correct" pedaling technique. Many here would tell you to not worry about technique even though I suspect none of them would tell you bouncing in the saddle is just fine.

Second, even if there were agreement, there is no way of knowing exactly how you are pedaling (at least on normal cranks) without going into a research lab where they have pressure plate pedals. That is soon to change when the Metrigear Vector pedals become available but until then, everyone is just guessing.

Third, bouncing in the saddle is evidence you are not smooth and so is evidence you are not pedaling "correctly" (most would agree that smoother is better, especially if you are bouncing). So, this is something to work on. But, if you can correct this, not bouncing in the saddle is not necessarily evidence that your pedaling is optimum, it is simply evidence you are better than you were before.

Tools are available to help you change pedaling technique (computrainer spinscan, PowerCranks - I make PowerCranks, and soon the Metrigear pedals) but you will find that it is very controversial here as to whether these are worth the cost or the effort.

Enjoy the debate.
 

Fday

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Dec 6, 2005
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Joseph Tsui said:
How do you know if you are pedaling correctly and efficiently?
e.g. to reach a certain rpm before i start bouncing on the saddle.

any help is appreciated.
One more thing. The only way to know how "efficiently" one is pedaling is to go into a laboratory and have it measured. Efficiency is the ratio of energy that one actually delivers to the wheel versus how much energy the body is actually consuming in the effort. This requires measuring oxygen consumption while pedaling, something that can only be done in the lab.

And, all you will get is a number. There are many variables that go into that number some of which are genetically predisposed. Average efficiency for most people is around 20% so if you ended up at 18% you could conclude you probably have lots of room for improvement. If you ended up at 22% you could conclude your efficiency and technique is pretty good and there is not a lot of room for improvement.

The argument here is whether those right in the middle have room for improvement. I say they do and that learning a more efficient pedaling technique will help, many here will argue that it can't be changed or that it makes no difference in performance.
 

Fday

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Dec 6, 2005
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frenchyge said:
Interesting. I had know idea. Development too, or mostly manufacturing?
It is amazing as to what can be wrongly implied by taking words out of context. Oh well.
 

frenchyge

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Apr 3, 2005
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Fday said:
It is amazing as to what can be wrongly implied by taking words out of context. Oh well.


Ahhh, I get you now. It was an honest mistake, I assure you, arising from a misinterpreted wording.
 

Alex Simmons

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Mar 12, 2006
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There is no doubt that using Frank's cranks will change your pedaling technique and you will get better at using Frank's cranks.

And if you use a Computrainer or similar with such feedback information like the "Spinscan" number or about the torque profile of your pedaling, you might choose to attempt to change the way you pedal and get a different / "improved" spinscan number (whatever "improved" might be).

That's all very nice.

What there isn't however, is any evidence that doing the above will improve your sustainable power output, and that's what matters.

What does work however is training. Good consistent, smart, hard work. Progressive overload with appropriate recovery. Specificity in training. Good diet. Funky cranks or no funky cranks. Spinscan or no spinscan.


As for legs out of phase causing bouncing, not sure that's the case. My legs are permanently out of phase due to a large effective difference in fore-aft cleat placement between left (under ankle) and right (more normal ball of foot region) side, yet I race the track at high cadences and don't bounce.

First and foremost make sure bike set up, equipment choice and position is good. This is fundamental.

Then if bouncing occurs at cadences at which you expect to race / ride at, then do some drills at these higher cadences, with and without load (but much more of the latter) and you will, over time, improve. It doesn't require fancy gizmos.
 

Fday

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Dec 6, 2005
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Alex Simmons said:
There is no doubt that using Frank's cranks will change your pedaling technique and you will get better at using Frank's cranks.

And if you use a Computrainer or similar with such feedback information like the "Spinscan" number or about the torque profile of your pedaling, you might choose to attempt to change the way you pedal and get a different / "improved" spinscan number (whatever "improved" might be).

That's all very nice.

What there isn't however, is any evidence that doing the above will improve your sustainable power output, and that's what matters.

What does work however is training. Good consistent, smart, hard work. Progressive overload with appropriate recovery. Specificity in training. Good diet. Funky cranks or no funky cranks. Spinscan or no spinscan.


As for legs out of phase causing bouncing, not sure that's the case. My legs are permanently out of phase due to a large effective difference in fore-aft cleat placement between left (under ankle) and right (more normal ball of foot region) side, yet I race the track at high cadences and don't bounce.

First and foremost make sure bike set up, equipment choice and position is good. This is fundamental.

Then if bouncing occurs at cadences at which you expect to race / ride at, then do some drills at these higher cadences, with and without load (but much more of the latter) and you will, over time, improve. It doesn't require fancy gizmos.
I pretty much agree with everything you say. No one doubts that people actually get better with training. But, that is where the agreement seems to end.

There is essentially zero scientific evidence that any one form of training is actually any better than another form of training. Your advice (consistent, smart, hard work. Progressive overload with appropriate recovery. Specificity in training) is so general as to be essentially worthless. (What sets smart hard work apart from dumb hard work or what is "appropriate" recovery? And is cross training really worthless?) While you point out that there is little evidence to support the usefulness of training tools like spinscan or PowerCranks it is also true that there is zero evidence that gizmos such as power meters add any benefit to training regimens either and zero evidence to support one training regimen over another.

Since newton's laws of motion are still in effect when riding a bicycle I think we can say that bouncing in the saddle suggests the rider is not particularly smooth.

Anyhow, some have even come here and stated efficiency isn't important. So, when it comes to training one has to take a little leap of faith as to what one thinks works or what doesn't because there certainly isn't much in the way of scientific evidence. Makes for interesting forum debates I guess.
 

jollyrogers

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Aug 25, 2009
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Fday said:
While you point out that there is little evidence to support the usefulness of training tools like spinscan or PowerCranks it is also true that there is zero evidence that gizmos such as power meters add any benefit to training regimens either and zero evidence to support one training regimen over another.

Also true Frank, however absent a velodrome or steep climb, there really isn't any way to measure whether or not a rider is improving and the amount of improvement without a power meter.

And we're off
 

Fday

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jollyrogers said:
Also true Frank, however absent a velodrome or steep climb, there really isn't any way to measure whether or not a rider is improving and the amount of improvement without a power meter.

And we're off
When did PM's become generally available, 10 years ago? I suspect there must be some ways (other than needing a velodrome or steep climb) to know if one is improving or the amount of the improvement without a PM.

But, let us presume your statement is true, there is no other way (ignoring race results) of measuring improvement without a PM. There still is no scientific evidence that using a PM to measure improvement (or for any other purpose) results in better improvement or outcome than someone who doesn't do that.
 

alfeng

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Jul 23, 2005
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Joseph Tsui said:
How do you know if you are pedaling correctly and efficiently?
e.g. to reach a certain rpm before i start bouncing on the saddle.
FWIW. This may not be applicable, but no one seems to have questioned whether your saddle's height is too low, or not ...

Without knowing your inseam length OR crank length OR saddle orientation, I'll nonetheless suggest that if the distance between the top of your saddle & the center of your bike's BB isn't in the range of about 27" (based on what I recall your height being) then it may be too low.

If applicable (e.g., if the top of the saddle is only 26" above the center of the BB), try raising the saddle's height incrementally.
 

jollyrogers

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Aug 25, 2009
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Fday said:
I suspect there must be some ways (other than needing a velodrome or steep climb) to know if one is improving or the amount of the improvement without a PM. .

Let's hear your suspicions

Fday said:
But, let us presume your statement is true, there is no other way (ignoring race results) of measuring improvement without a PM. There still is no scientific evidence that using a PM to measure improvement (or for any other purpose) results in better improvement or outcome than someone who doesn't do that.

How do race results tell you whether or not you're improving? A couple years ago I raced 2 TTs in a local series. At the first, I placed 9th or 10th in Cat 5. At the second I placed 4th. Did I improve?