Sometimes it's something you don’t think about as it becomes second nature. It becomes something you are well tuned to and it engraves in your muscle memory. But when asked to think about pedal stroke, you might have some questions that arise on what and how to have the best pedal stroke.
There is no perfect perfect pedal stroke, but there are ways you can make your pedal stroke most efficient for you. Every mile. Every meter. Every watt. Every bit of play, propulsion, and progress you make on your bike begins with pedaling. How fast (or slow) should we pedal? How can we make our pedal stroke stronger? How can we pedal so efficiently that we can ride forever (or at least a very, very long way)?
This is why I like to tell you all to practice pedaling at all cadences to become well versed and be able to find that spot. now we are all human so for some certain cadences might work, but for others, a different pedal technique might work better. We are all different on an individual basis. And that is OK. That is why I am here to provide information to go by to help you know that knowledge of certain techniques and ways can help you find the way that best works for you. now there are ways that will best help you optimize your riding and make you most efficient. Gaining knowledge on what ways you can
let's address those burning pedal stroke questions…
Is there a perfect pedal stroke?
ere is and there isn’t. We have been told to pedal in perfect circles in the past over 20 years ago. Now we know that’s biomechanically impossible—and unnecessary. Though there are riders who have silky smooth pedal strokes and those who look like they’re stomping through mud, Jeff Broker, Ph.D. says both styles can win world championships. again this goes to how it works on the individual level. Riders tend to pedal in the style that suits them. Making yours more efficient can save you effort and energy. The goal is less about “spinning circles” than maintaining momentum by ensuring all your power production is propelling you forward without wasting watts. Picture your pedal stroke from the right side as a clock face. The bulk of your power is produced on the downstroke, from where your pedal is at high noon to about 5 or 6 o’clock. The goal of the upstroke isn’t to create more power—it’s a waste of energy to try. it’s to get the back leg out of the way of the power that the front leg is producing so you don’t have dead spots with little to no productive power. That means you want to start producing power over the top of the stroke as early as possible while resisting with the back leg as little as possible.
If you mash the pedals. You allow the cranks to be vertical and then need to push really hard on the downstroke. which can lead to wild power oscillations
Oscillation is defined as the process of repeating variations of any quantity or measure about its equilibrium value in time. Oscillation can also be defined as a periodic variation of a matter between two values or about its central value.
If you’re riding at 200 watts, it’s more efficient to oscillate between 300 and 100 than to oscillate between 400 and 0. To a certain extent, pedaling style is dictated by body type and the kind of riding you do. Sprinters tend to have the highest oscillations, likely because they tend to have the largest legs. which takes more energy to lift. Mountain bikers usually have the least dramatic oscillations because creating balanced force around the stroke helps them maintain traction on rough terrain. top gravel riders also have lower oscillations. Zwift can be a mix of both worlds.
As your leg is coming up, imagine driving your knee toward the bar and your foot horizontally over the top. That will help you initiate power by the time you hit 12 o’clock. As you apply pressure through the downstroke. drop your heel to parallel or 10 degrees below 3 o’clock, and sweep through the bottom of the pedal stroke. as if you’re scraping mud off the bottom of your shoe.
But avoid ankling...intentionally dropping your heel in an exaggerated motion and using your ankle to pedal, which wastes energy and robs power.
When you drop the heel, you’re absorbing some of that downward force and creating a dead spot
Now you can put this right to practice!
Do this Drill:
High-speed pedaling drills help smooth dead spots by training your muscles and neuromuscular system to work together. To stay on top of the power on the downstroke without resisting it on the upstroke. That's another reason I like to add additional fast pedaling.
Start by pedaling in light gear at 80 to 90 rpm. Then build to 100 to 120 rpm over the course of the next 30 to 60 seconds. you usually want to do 4-6 of them with a min. of recovery in between
What happens if you pedal out of the saddle? Will is better for your pedal Stroke?
Standing to pedal means you use your body weight along with gravity to help you on the downstroke. It will feel good at times but can use a bit more energy if you have not practiced it through training as it forces ankling. This will happen especially if the hill is steep which creates more dead spots. That is a reason why your heart rate might elevate when you hop out of the saddle as well. Standing can give your body a much-needed break on a long climb, but it’s more economical to pedal seated. Again, there is always a time and place to know when to stand and when to sit and that can come with practice knowing when you lose momentum in areas of climbing that you then know you need that extra help from gravity.
Now the last burning question on improving pedal stroke…
Does it make sense to get a bike fit?
A professional bike fit can ensure you’re in the optimum position for your muscles to flex and extend. just the right amounts for strong and efficient pedaling. As a start, aim to have your saddle height set so you have a 25- to 30-degree bend in the knee when your leg is at the bottom of the pedal stroke. That will give your leg room to bring the pedal down and around the rotation without overextending or under-extending. Both of which waste watts and set the stage for overuse injury. It's important to have someone measure these angles and have an outside perspective to see you’re fit. It doesn’t have to be the fancy fits, but a simple fir to just make sure the daggers of angles are correct and not hindering your pedal stroke.
Now I Hope You have learned something to take away and put into practice to best optimize your pedal stroke just for you and make you most efficient.