Forum home Road cycling forum Road beginners

How to pedal like a pro!

Gav888Gav888 Posts: 946
edited January 2009 in Road beginners
Guys, I spotted this article which may help some people with there pedalling, but could you expand more about the pushing down part, ie, should you push down with the ball of your foot with your heel higher so your calf feels smaller, almost like you are walking around on the floor on the ball of your foot with your heel off the ground, or should you keep you heel more inline with the ball of your foot, like walking normally and your calf more stretched out?

Anyway, here is there article, would anyone like to expand on it?

You’ve decided to take your bicycling seriously. Chances are you’ve been riding your bike between 10 and 15 miles per hour at about 60 revolutions per minute (also known as cadence). But Lance Armstrong figured out that bicycling at nearly twice that many revolutions per minute helped with his success in so many Tour de Frances. Pedaling right involves perfecting your form too. Whether your goal is to win a bicycle race or bike all day with your equipment while touring, getting your pedaling form and cadence right is the key.

Step1 Place the ball of your foot on the pedal. You can generate more force with the ball of your foot than the arch or heel.

Step2 Make sure your seat is at the right height. To do so, have someone hold up the bike while you pedal backward until one pedal is at the bottom. Your leg on that pedal should be just slightly bent, almost straight.

Step3 Drop your heel slightly as you pedal down.

Step4 Pedal in circles. In other words, don't just push down on the pedals during the downstroke, neglecting the bottom of the stroke and the upstroke (cleated shoes are necessary to this well). Spread the energy your expend throughout the stroke.

Step5 Shoot for 80 to 90 revolutions per minute (RPM) once you’ve mastered basic form. This is also called “cadence”. If you don’t have a computer calculating your revolutions, count them for 6 seconds (a friend can help with this while you keep your eyes on the road) and then multiply that number by 10.

Step6 Adjust your gears to maintain your cadence while still putting pressure on your pedals. At the same time, make sure that you stay steady in your seat and don’t move around or side to side.

Step7 Continue to pedal even during descents. This will keep your legs from cooling down and seizing up.


Tips & Warnings


High-cadence pedaling improves the suppleness of you legs and reduces strain on your joints especially your knees.

The gear needed for your "ideal" cadence depends on the slope of the road, the wind conditions and your own condition at any given time.

While everyone has their own natural RPMs, you can train yourself over time to make your cadence as efficient as possible.

Pedal cadence is your key for knowing when to shift "up" into a "higher" (harder) or "down" into a "lower" (easier) gear.

Armstrong’s coach has said that Lance likes to train at 110 revolutions a minute.

On a long ride, maintain a comfortably fast cadence. However, if you are going to sprint or race for less than 30 minutes, ride faster by putting more pressure than usual on your pedals, which will slow your cadence by about 10%. This technique is also good when you want to pick up the pace to catch up with another rider. But don’t try to keep it up too long or your muscles will tire.

Try riding a fixed gear bike to improve the smoothness and circularity of your stroke.

As an exercise, pedal with one foot at the time. Try to keep your stroke consistent throughout the revolution. Once you’ve mastered this, your stoke should be dramatically smoother and more circular.

Fatigue comes from how hard you press on the pedals not how fast you turn them.

Don't wear soft-soled shoes that allow the pedals to press against your feet to make them hurt.

Do not bounce up and down in the saddle.

Avoid coasting. Your legs should be moving at all times. Coasting breaks up your rhythm and allows your legs to stiffen up. Keeping your legs in motion keeps the muscles supple, and promotes good circulation.

Experienced riders know that you should not bend your foot up when you pedal up because it wastes energy and tires you earlier.

If you are spinning faster than 100 times a minute, you could lose coordination.
Cycling never gets any easier, you just go faster - Greg LeMond

Posts

  • Fair points most of them. I've always been confused by the heel up or down argument. When I started cycling, the common view was to have the heel up on the downstroke and almost 'push' the pedal forwards and down. Current thinking, as this article suggests, is the heel down approach which makes more sense when you think about it. It's worth practising the technique though as it could result in calf stretch if you're not used to it.

    My other pet hate is seeing people with the arch of their foot over the pedal axle. This, as the Americans would say, is 'cycling 101'. It leads to all sorts of strains as this is not how the bike is designed to be used. My wife despairs as I always point it out to her when I see it.

    Amusingly I've just received a load of bumph from Halfords Cycle2Work, encouraging me to take a basic bike handling skills course. All of the photographs, including that of their 'professional' instructor, show people pedalling with the arch of their foot!
  • carefulcareful Posts: 720
    Also received wisdom is to assist the circular action by pulling back on the lower foot at the bottom of the rev "like scraping something off your shoe". Also, don't really pull up on the foot that is rising (except maybe when climbing out of the saddle). It does help though if you at least use effort to take the weight of the rising foot. If you don't, then the other foot (on the down stroke) has to push it up. I didn't explain it very well but I frequently try to use the technique. It uses different muscles and brings much needed extra power when you need it, eg the last 100 metres before the top of a hill.
  • dennisndennisn Posts: 10,601
    My other pet hate is seeing people with the arch of their foot over the pedal axle. This, as the Americans would say, is 'cycling 101'. It leads to all sorts of strains as this is not how the bike is designed to be used. My wife despairs as I always point it out to her when I see it.

    Amusingly I've just received a load of bumph from Halfords Cycle2Work, encouraging me to take a basic bike handling skills course. All of the photographs, including that of their 'professional' instructor, show people pedalling with the arch of their foot!

    FWIW I have noticed that there has been talk(or whatever) about the benefits of pedaling
    with the arch over the axle. Someone is even making a clipless pedal for this purpose(at
    least that's what I hear). The theory that I heard is that by pedaling with the arch over the axle your calf muscle is not really used and the much larger thigh muscle takes up the whole load, thereby saving energy(something along those lines). This is all just theory but at least someone out there is challenging the so called "conventional wisdom".

    Dennis Noward
  • The world is flat. Anyone who says otherwise is a heretic.

    Aside from that, using the thigh only will surely put more strain on that? The anti-arch movement (member one, me) also queries that it's a balance thing. Having the ball over the axle means more flexibility in the ankle and a better degree of being able to adapt leg movement to different scenarios.

    I'm all for challenging conventional wisdom as long as it's within defined boundaries. :wink:
  • (a friend can help with this while you keep your eyes on the road)

    What!! I don't think I've heard anyrthing more dangerous!!
  • Lance Armstrong didn't invent the high cadence. :roll:

    and does someone have the link to the "flat pedal guru"... ?
    This guy proposes everyone to use them...
  • Counting to ten and multiplying by six? That would be inherently more dangerous.
  • Gav wrote:
    Step3 Drop your heel slightly as you pedal down.
    ... the common view was to have the heel up on the downstroke and almost 'push' the pedal forwards and down. Current thinking, as this article suggests, is the heel down approach

    Perhaps I'm reading it wrong but I think it is warning people off pedaling on 'tip toes' to have a flatter foot on the downstroke rather than encouraging 'heel lower than the ball of your foot' on the downstroke.
  • unclemalcunclemalc Posts: 563
    I read this a while back.
    See what you think about 'Cleat Position' halfway down....

    http://www.cyclingnews.com/fitness.php? ... e_position
    Spring!
    Singlespeeds in town rule.
  • Mister WMister W Posts: 791
    I think tests have shown that even pros don't pull up so I have no plans to!
  • unclemalc wrote:
    I read this a while back. See what you think about 'Cleat Position' halfway down

    Interesting. Moving your foot forward increases the leverage & makes pedaling easier.

    But if leverage is the important factor in pedaling, why not have longer cranks?
  • The issue is not whether you gain more power by a mid-foot position as that stands to reason. If you try to break a piece of wood you don't hit it with the ball of your foot, you stamp on it. It's balance and the flexibility of your ankle joint which is impaired by a mid-foot position.

    Flat Straight TT's = long cranks and mid-foot cleats! It's a crazy idea but it might just work!
  • dennisndennisn Posts: 10,601
    The issue is not whether you gain more power by a mid-foot position as that stands to reason. If you try to break a piece of wood you don't hit it with the ball of your foot, you stamp on it. It's balance and the flexibility of your ankle joint which is impaired by a mid-foot position.

    Flat Straight TT's = long cranks and mid-foot cleats! It's a crazy idea but it might just work!

    i would think that balance would be better with a mid-foot pedal stroke. My balance is much better if I stand with my weight focused near the "mid-foot" than on the balls of my feet. Plus I only have to use my thigh muscles and not my calves.

    Dennis Noward
  • Here's a repeat of a post on mid foot cleat position I made recently on another forum:

    I'm neither for nor against the use of mid-foot or arch cleat position. The evidence is equivocal. But then I'm allowed to have a foot in both camps since, by definition I have one cleat in the "normal" ball of foot position and one effectively under my "ankle"

    It's not all that suitable for racing with highly variable power needs*, more suited to flatter TTs. And bike set up needs to be changed a lot, sometimes requiring a whole new frame geometry.

    There is no published scientific evidence that it is any more or less efficient (there have been a number of studies), so riders who experiment tend to go by what they feel.

    Certainly there are plenty of riders who go just as fast with either. That's because it simply emphasises the recruitment of the major muscle groups that drive us forward, and removes much of the need for the lower leg which essentally acts as a stabliser and doesn't contribute all that much to the power production anyway.


    * Then again, Susanne Ljungskog has won two world road race championships (in the sprint mind you) in 2002 & 3 with mid foot cleat position.
  • I think by and large the thoughts are fine but there are a few items I think could use clarification or should be backed up by some evidence. So in that sense I am only commenting on those bits.
    But Lance Armstrong figured out that bicycling at nearly twice that many revolutions per minute helped with his success in so many Tour de Frances. Pedaling right involves perfecting your form too. Whether your goal is to win a bicycle race or bike all day with your equipment while touring, getting your pedaling form and cadence right is the key.
    Cadence is a red herring. Power is what matters. Lance simply produced more power than others and his gear choices simply meant he pedalled a little bit faster than others (but talk of super high cadence Lance is just media beat up).
    Step1 Place the ball of your foot on the pedal. You can generate more force with the ball of your foot than the arch or heel.
    While we can generate more force that way, our ability to generate force is NOT a limiter when cycling (except perhaps for events requiring maximal sprint efforts lasting only a handful of seconds). The forces involved in cycling a really quite low and are well below our maximal force generation capacity.
    Step4 Pedal in circles. In other words, don't just push down on the pedals during the downstroke, neglecting the bottom of the stroke and the upstroke (cleated shoes are necessary to this well). Spread the energy your expend throughout the stroke.
    Honestly, unless your cranks change length while pedalling, there is no other way to pedal than in a circle. Spreading energy more evenly around the pedal stroke has in fact been shown to be far less effective at producing power. The most powerful riders apply greater forces on the downstroke, rather than seek to apply greater even-ness of force around the pedal stroke.

    People confuse a "smooth pedalling action" with one that involves "pedalling in circles". Really it's about firing the motor units at the right times consistently with greater force and more rapidly.
    While everyone has their own natural RPMs, you can train yourself over time to make your cadence as efficient as possible.
    Hmmm, maybe a poor choice of word but in general, lower cadences are more efficient than higher ones (efficiency being ratio of mechanical work done to total work performed by the body). That, however, doesn't mean that lower cadences are more effective. They rarely are.
    Fatigue comes from how hard you press on the pedals not how fast you turn them.
    Fatigue comes from how much power you produce and for how long. IOW it is the combination of pedal force and pedal speed that matters. One without the other is not all that fatiguing (within the bounds of cycling cadences).
  • HeadhuunterHeadhuunter Posts: 6,494
    "Chances are you’ve been riding your bike between 10 and 15 miles per hour at about 60 revolutions per minute".

    That's a slow cadence! You must have it locked into a hig gear and be heaving on the pedals! You can definitely gain a much higher speed than that with a higher cadence, also keeping things in a lower gear means that you're able to slow and then pick up speed again if suddenly necessary without worrying about changing down a chunk of gears, ie a car pulls across in front of you or a pedestrian steps off the curb without looking
    Do not write below this line. Office use only.
  • BuglyBugly Posts: 520
    Gav888 wrote:
    ... But Lance Armstrong figured out that bicycling at nearly twice that many revolutions per minute helped with his success in so many Tour de Frances. Pedaling right involves perfecting your form too. Whether your goal is to win a bicycle race or bike all day with your equipment while touring, getting your pedaling form and cadence right is the key.
    .

    All for a reasonable cadence but Pharmstrong had sweet censored all to do with figuring itout. High cadence has been used by many generations of cyclists.

    It works well for most cyclists but does not turn you into a pro. Bike setup and geometry play a part in determiinig your optimal cadence.
Sign In or Register to comment.