How to Pedal more Efficiently

Few pay much attention to the cycling stroke involved in riding your bike more efficiently. However, once you take a deeper look into it you will be able to connect the dots on where power is utilized.


Pedal Smart

There are different directions that you can use when pedalling. You can pedal up, down, back, forward and there is no denying that you will have to master all of these techniques. Yet, despite the amount of advice and tips available, it is still one of the toughest leg movements to master.

This is because an efficient pedal stroke is the result of a flawless relationship between angles and forces of the different parts of your legs. Nonetheless, a fast cyclist is not necessarily an economical cyclist. A top-notch cyclist will need to have 2 factors –  motors and economy, which translates to low energy cost.

Pedal Perfect

Pedaling in a perfect circle around an imaginary clock known as the crank has always been one of my endeavours except when I made use of Bio-Pace rings. Moreover, while I was training at USAT clinics and getting ready to acquire my USA Cycling certification, I have come across a good number of opposing ideas and opinions from various sources.

Although, only a few pay attention to the vector breakdown in a cycling stroke and where power is used the moment one pays attention to it, everything seems to fall into place.


The vector is located in two places. The first one is located perpendicular to the crank arm as it moves around like the clock. The second location of the vector is directly parallel to the crank arm. The vector in the second location though does create efficient rotary force.

Now, the goal is to reduce or eliminate the amount of negative force vector between the positive force vector that is located perpendicular to the crank. A perfect example is the way Lance Armstrong pedals during a race. In close observation on his video, one can note that he pedals with his toes down, which is a efficient way to reduce joint extension. This kind of pedalling technique efficiently eliminates force peak.

More explanations and examples other than Lance Armstrong’s are available. Nevertheless, to efficiently test economy in cycling it has to be performed in a laboratory. Riding a bicycle the way Lance does with toes down is not as effective for a good number of cyclists.

A partial explanation to Lance Armstrong’s different riding style can drawn from his position and the UCI regulations, for bike setups and frames. Rather than you pedalling with your toes down, it is better to go over the gear with the toes extending at a 180-degree position. For some riders, this is more effective.

Inefficient movement

There is always a solution to inefficient motion and the best way to do this is mastering bike drills and acquiring a bike that fits you well with the help of experts and specialists. Erratic movements like flailing knees on every pedal stroke or rocking hips back and forth are some examples. If these movements are not corrected it can result to loss in dynamic power and speed. Moreover, it will cost you more energy thus draining all your energy reserves for the rest of the race.

Which is more effective? Circles, ovals, squares?

According to the USAT coaching manual the pedalling in squares is common in amateurs while pedalling in circles allows you to save more energy because as you lift your leg you actually take out part of its weight from the pedal so you use less energy when you do the down stroke.

Knowing when to change leg positions at the top or bottom stroke will help you apply small but adequate amounts of power on the cranks, which greatly reduces the amount of energy you use for the downstroke. In other words, cyclist who pedals in circles saves more energy because they do not use a lot of energy on the downstroke.

A more recent style in pedalling is oval pedalling. However, whether it helps you save energy or spend too much energy is yet to be determined because the output will depend on the kind of chain rings and the type of rider.

Here are some biking drills that will help you pedal more efficiently:

Pedalling with one leg

Sessions for increasing rpms

Give the opposing approach a try, which entails using a bigger gear while generating lower rpms while biking uphill. This gives you the opportunity to have a better feel at every pedal stroke and train you to focus on when to apply force in a 360 degree rotation.

Riding a fixed gear should be done on a flat course. This will help you train your muscles, and get in tune with every pedal stroke, and ride your bike smoothly as possible.

Good luck!


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