Pedaling. It’s one of the most fundamental skills to riding a bike, but also one of the most overlooked. You do it without even thinking about it. How much to it can there really be?
Truth is there is a trick to doing it well, typically expressed in the well-worn phrase, try to pedal in circles. Indeed, if you are just pressing down at the top of the pedal stroke – and not using the full 360-degress of rotation – you are not pedaling efficiently.
Instead, try these tips to help you eliminate dead spots and become better at pedaling your bicycle.
Scrape Your Foot
When pedaling your bike think about pulling your foot back and up like you are scraping your foot on the ground. When done properly, you will feel this in your hamstrings and the back of legs. When your pedal is lifting up the feeling should be one of lifting your knee with help from your hip flexors.
Slow Down To Go Faster
To improve your stroke, try this drill. Start by slowing the movement down. Ride up a hill in a gear much harder than you would normally choose. Target a cadence of about 40rpm. Rest your hands lightly on the bars and keep your upper body still. Now start paying close attention to your pedal stroke. You should be able to feel where you are strong and where the dead spots are. This slow cadence practice will help you focus on eliminating those dead spots.
When riding, think about smoothing things out, and trying to eliminate any surges in your pedaling action. One trick to achieving this is to only think about second half of pedal stroke, when your foot is coming up.
Touch Your Toes
Focus on trying to push your foot forward in your shoe, touching your toes to the front end of the shoe each time you are at the top of the pedal stroke. This will help you transition more smoothly through the 12-o’clock position. Start in an easy gear and then increase resistance as you get better.
For out-of-saddle efforts, focus on lifting your feet on upstroke by un-weighting and pulling up with hamstrings.
Check You Saddle
Make sure your saddle is at right height. If you saddle is too high, you can’t pedal smoothly. If it’s too low, it’s much harder to recruit the right muscles. To check this, lean against a wall, sit on the saddle, then drape both feet straight down. If your saddle height is correct, your heel should just graze the pedal at the bottom of the pedal stroke.
Use One Leg
One legged drills are another great way to smooth out your pedal stroke and hardwire the correct pattern of muscle recruitment. Try going at a steady rate for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, five times per side. This is a great drill for indoor trainer workouts. It’s amazing how quickly you’ll realize the unevenness in your pedal stroke or weakness in your hamstring.
Here’s a video recap that further illustrates some of these key tips and tricks to better pedaling.