What's the best way to pedal?

Discussion in 'Cycling Training' started by Chance3290, May 9, 2005.

  1. Chance3290

    Chance3290 New Member

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    It might sound like a silly question, but how do you pedal? I know you press down on the pedals from 12 o'clock to 6 o'clock but what happens after that? Do you push back from 6 to about 8, then pull up from 8 to 12? I know this sounds like biking 101, but I'll bet there are a lot of people (like me) doing it wrong.
     
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  2. ric_stern/RST

    ric_stern/RST New Member

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    try not to worry about it. there are no special techniques. let it be a natural action. people often suggest that pulling up or some such thing to get a "rounded" stroke is the holy grail of cycling, but there's no evidence for such an idea, and indeed the available evidence runs counter to this. That is, better (elite) cyclists push down more and pull up less compared to less good cyclists (county level), who push down less and pull up more.

    The only place it may make a significant difference is on very steep roads/off-roads where traction is low and pushing down more and pulling up less can cause the rear will to spin.

    ric
     
  3. eortiz

    eortiz New Member

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    Push and pull. This will allow you to use all your muscles in your leg and also give your other muscles a rest while pushing and pulling. In my experience, there are times that my quads were cramping and I still had a long way home. Aside from calling my wife to pick me up ;) , I kept going by pulling on my pedal stroke and not much (or less force) pushing to give my quads a rest.
     
  4. pod

    pod New Member

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    Exactly the same here. When my quads are fatigued late in a long ride on a steep hill and cramping up, I can get relief by dragging through at the bottom of the stroke and pulling up more to shed more of the work to my hamstrings. Otherwise it makes little difference how you pedal as the limiting factor is your aerobic engine not which muscles you are using.
     
  5. ed073

    ed073 New Member

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    there was a school of thought that the bottom of the pedal stroke should be like scraping mud off the sole of your shoe....Greg LeMond was a fan of this.

    I reckon it makes no difference at all......just get out there and train, don't worry about where you "think" your power is coming from.
     
  6. Conniebiker

    Conniebiker New Member

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    I pedal for smoothness. On an mtb you get better feedback through hearing your tread, but try to pedal so you are not surging. Surging is a waste of energy if you can pedal a continuous circle.
     
  7. mitosis

    mitosis New Member

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    Smoothly.

    Don't concentrate on pulling up, you'll end up decreasing power output.

    To improve your pedalling a good tecnique is to practice at high cadences (>100) and try to keep it smooth.

    The more you ride the more smooth your pedalling will become. :)
     
  8. Lonnie Utah

    Lonnie Utah Banned

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    My guess is "with your feet!" :D
     
  9. Hypnospin

    Hypnospin New Member

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    this is indeed a worthy question to seek input on.

    some riders develop a smooth flowing pedaling action without any consideration of the factors involved. there are those, too, who even after riding some condsiderable miles look labored and sloppy.
    when a rider who has a smooth style nears their limits of output, endurance or fatigue they commonly look as "ragged" as the rider who has less smoothness.
    this then contributes to inefficiency, and you get passed.
    it's probably a good thing some with whom i ride sre not really smoothed out at times or i would have an even harder time...

    my advice is to disregard those who will tell you to just absorb a smooth style and actually consider the components of a smooth efficient spin. after all this is what propels the bike, puzzling how some would leave this to chance.

    when i first started getting coached to race there was a lot of emphasis placed on developing a good spin. one pan am games sprinter told us you need to have leg speed if you are going to turn the big gear when it counts.
    upon being asked how to develop this he advised to start and end a ride with high cadence spinning, wind it up until you bounce on the saddle then try to smooth this out and hold it there. no way this can be pulled off without a smooth spin.

    it is true that the actual force that propels the bike is exerted only through a small portion of the spin, so this makes considering everything involved even more valid.

    a district champ time trialist told me he would envision his knees being pulled up at the top, all the way up. since then i have heard it is common for time trialists to concentrate on their spin for the duration of the event.
    during a solo breakaway this is crucial as well.

    greg lemond was mentioned here as popularizing the "scraping mud off the shoe" at the bottom of the stroke.

    for myself, i like to picture the revolution of the cranks as comprised of several sections, and try to transition between each of these as smooth as possible.
    pulling up with the leg opposite of the leg applying the power works to lesen the dead weight that would work as an antagonist to counteract your power.
    when the muscles are firing in coordinated bliss and you are conditioned to a peak nailing a good spin these are things you will treasure for a lifetime.

    i offer up this rambling commentary on not from a desire to be a know it all (that i am not, i try to be teachable, always looking around...)or prove anything, but to pass on some of the things i was fortunate enough to have been coached about early on.

    i was also told early on that even the cat 1/2's (who were at the time looked up to as gods to us, even though they would have an "aw shucks" attitude or shrug their shoulders at any implication opf greatness for the most part...)
    would work on specific components of their cycling. sure, we knew they must work on miles, climbing, sprinting, but their "spin?", yes we were told they would work on their spin, too.



     
  10. mitosis

    mitosis New Member

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    Rambling response? More like verbal diarrhoea. :D
     
  11. andrello

    andrello New Member

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    The muscles are part of your aerobic engine. Try entering a rowing competition and see what happens.
     
  12. Matt N

    Matt N New Member

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    1. Forget the BS about pushing and pulling - it sounds good in theory but anyone who actually knows how to ride a bike isn't doing it.

    2. Use the technique with which you are most comfortable.

    3. Spinning is good - spinning on rollers is way better.

    4. Don't ride with your knees sticking out like chicken wings - your legs should go (as much as your musculature permits) straight up and down. I also use clever little things called wedges (made by Le Mond) under my cleats to get my foot on the correct lateral plane.

    5. Ride in a relaxed manner (relax both your upper body and legs) and you will notice your pedalling to be much more natural and comfortable.

    6. Probably most importantly, focus on rythmic breathing and pedalling, especially up the hills. There should probably be a separate post on this topic (but I'm too lazy to kick it off), as it is so fundamental to cycling technique but so little discussed.

    I'm sure there are other important pointers. But at a minimum, these points, combined, will improve your pedalling more than any BS theory about pushing and pulling.

    Cheers
     
  13. werzel

    werzel New Member

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    not to sound sarcastic, but i find the best way to pedal is around in circles. rather than trying to break the pedal stroke down into parts, i just try to think of the pedals as going around in circles. seems to feel smoother, let my muscles work out how to get the pedals going around.
     
  14. RapDaddyo

    RapDaddyo Active Member

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    First, I don't claim to be an expert. And, I did my serious riding and racing before power meters. But, I distinctly recall how I learned to pedal more smoothly and with less energy, both of which are unarguably desirable. I worked repeatedly on high-spin drills. By high-spin, I don't mean something just beyond your present comfort level (e.g., 100). I mean a cadence way beyond your comfort level, say 125-140. When I first tried to spin that high a cadence, I was extremely uncomfortable, I was hopping up and down like crazy and I got exhausted inside of a minute. But, as I kept doing them, week after week on my rides, my mind and body figured out a way to pedal in a way that was both smooth and endurable (I could go longer). Maybe it was better fitness and maybe it was technique. I can't be sure. The only conscious change in the way I was pedaling that I can recall is that on the downstroke I envisioned my feet were on hot coals and that I wanted to lift them from the pedals as quickly as possible. More like a short burst from about 1 o'clock to 4 o'clock rather than a long push from noon to 6 o'clock. I'm certainly not advocating riding at such high cadences. I'm just saying that learniing to ride at such high cadences results somehow in smoothing out your form at lower cadences. By the way, I didn't invent this traiining method. I got it from a riding buddy at that time, a member of three or four Olympic road teams. You don't even want to know how high he can spin -- cadence meters don't go that high.
     
  15. pjhiggins

    pjhiggins New Member

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    Daddy,

    My question to you on this, then, is what leg alignment puts the least amount of strain on your knees? I agree with you on the high cadence drills; the longer I can hold a higher than normal cadence, the smoother the rest of my spinning is.

    But about the knee position, do you suggest directly over the foot (at 12:00) or pulled up to almost over the top tube (at 12:00)? Watching the pros, it seems like they tend to pull their knees over the top tube at the top of their stroke. I am just trying to smooth out the stroke over the winter here and build some base for the spring.

    thanks.
     
  16. wiredued

    wiredued New Member

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    I tried the Greg Lemond thing scraping mud off the bottom of my shoe and it just messed me up thinking about it. I just keep it in the optimum gear to get my optimum cadence and the dead spots vanish.
     
  17. RapDaddyo

    RapDaddyo Active Member

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    The pros have their knees in close to the top tube to reduce air resistance. It can be learned, but is difficult at first. I find it best to just bring my knees in toward the top tube as much as I can and from there they move in a vertical plane. It's sort of like walking pigeon toed.
     
  18. n crowley

    n crowley New Member

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    It is claimed by some experts that everyone has their own unique style of pedalling. The reason for so many varied styles is that there is no clear objective for riders to aim for. When as very young children, riders are developing their pedalling style on their first bikes or trikes, it is done with the back in an upright position and without the advantages that cleats/ straps have to offer. You don't see many pros. riding TT's in this position, and for many riders their lower backs are not able to cope with this unnatural continuous strain.
     
  19. acoggan

    acoggan Member

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    Hard - preferably using both legs. :D
     
  20. n crowley

    n crowley New Member

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    Both legs ? So you do believe in Frank's claims after all.
     
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