Pedalling Technique

The foundations for successful riding

Pedalling Technique

Postby Toolish » Tue Jun 05, 2012 1:48 pm

I have always though I pedalled ok without being great, however I just purchased a new bike and i was told I pedal by rocking my hips rather than fully straightening my leg though my knee. I am pretty sure it is a muscle sequence thing rather than a fit or flexibility issue (although flex and core strength could be better!)

I know people debate pedalling technique a lot regarding pushing down vs pedalling circles, etc, etc. but is there anything I should do to work on fixing this up?

Any or all suggestions welcome.
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by BNA » Tue Jun 05, 2012 4:01 pm

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Re: Pedalling Technique

Postby arand18 » Tue Jun 05, 2012 4:01 pm

I was told to push down more with your heel so you engage more of your muscles
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Re: Pedalling Technique

Postby toolonglegs » Tue Jun 05, 2012 4:12 pm

Sounds like a bike fit issue to me... rocking hips may mean saddle too high... but you also don't fully straighten your leg either when cycling.
Pedal technique... not going there myself... sure other's will.
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Re: Pedalling Technique

Postby Toolish » Tue Jun 05, 2012 4:27 pm

toolonglegs wrote:Sounds like a bike fit issue to me... rocking hips may mean saddle too high... but you also don't fully straighten your leg either when cycling.
Pedal technique... not going there myself... sure other's will.


95% sure it is not a fit issue. Fitter was very concerned by my hips rocking and kept the seat very low. To be honest it feels too low to me know and my quads are struggling with it. has gone down over 1" from my last bike so maybe I did have it too high and have taught myself bad habits. Might have to see if I can get some video.

Will try the heel thing!
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Re: Pedalling Technique

Postby foo on patrol » Tue Jun 05, 2012 7:26 pm

You should never be straightening your leg in a normal peddaling action! :wink:
Try and focus on keeping your hips still, whilst riding. :idea:

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Re: Pedalling Technique

Postby DoogleDave » Tue Jun 05, 2012 8:20 pm

As a rough guide, you should be able to put the back of your heel on the centre of your pedal whilst it is in the 6 o'clock position (keeping your leg straight, but without your knee being locked). If you have to lock your knee the seat is too high and if you can't straighten your leg the seat is too low.
Once the seat height is adjusted to suit you should now be able to pedal normally and you should see a slight bend in your knee at the bottom of your stroke. this is what you want to see.
If the seat is too low you'll likely get sore knees at the front.
If the seat is too high you'll likely get sore knees at the back (and you will rock from your hips to try and reach the down stroke length).

*this is only a guide and can/should be fine-tuned from there until you find YOUR suitable height.

And I agree that it is suggested that your heel lead your pedal in the down stroke and to pull backwards at the bottom of the stroke (like you're scraping mud off your shoe).
It takes quite some practice to get it right (I'm still trying), but I have found it does make a difference (particularly when going uphill)....and when trying to keep a fast, smooth cadence - without bouncing all over the place on your pedals.

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Pedalling Technique

Postby RonK » Tue Jun 05, 2012 8:21 pm

Assuming the saddle height is correct, and that you don't have core flexibility issues, rocking hips suggests you may be a masher - pushing a big gear at low cadence.
The benefit of adopting the circular pedaling technique, together with cleared shoes/pedals is that you can pedal efficiently at a higher cadence. At 90+ rpm I doubt the hips will rock very much, and muscular fatigue will be reduced.
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Re: Pedalling Technique

Postby Tazzy » Tue Jun 05, 2012 8:25 pm

DoogleDave wrote:If the seat is too low you'll likely get sore knees at the front.
If the seat is too high you'll likely get sore knees at the back (and you will rock from your hips to try and reach the down stroke length).
Dave

I have a bit of knee trouble, have looked into this a bit and I was sure that this was the other way around.
Seat too low = pain behind knees.
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Re: Pedalling Technique

Postby Oxford » Tue Jun 05, 2012 8:33 pm

I found riding a fixie improved my pedaling technique as it helped to develop the muscle memory required for the circular action. also bike fit as indicated is essential, if you're rocking your hips the seat could be too high. roughly speaking there should be around a 15 degree angle in your leg at BDC of the stroke. a lot will depend on your preferred foot positioning, personally I had my cleats set so my heel was low through the stroke to help with calf muscle cramping.
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Re: Pedalling Technique

Postby DoogleDave » Tue Jun 05, 2012 8:38 pm

Tazzy wrote:I have a bit of knee trouble, have looked into this a bit and I was sure that this was the other way around.
Seat too low = pain behind knees.


That's not what I had read...
http://www.australiancyclist.com.au/article.aspx?aeid=2825

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Re: Pedalling Technique

Postby PawPaw » Tue Jun 05, 2012 9:53 pm

Have a look at Steve Hogg's website.

http://www.stevehoggbikefitting.com/blo ... bout-smps/

http://www.stevehoggbikefitting.com/blo ... smp-seats/

http://www.stevehoggbikefitting.com/blo ... can-it-be/

http://www.stevehoggbikefitting.com/blo ... oad-bikes/

Based on Steve's articles and my views, my evolved belief is that you want to focus on a smooth transition of force delivery to the pedals from the quads to the hamstrings. By this I mean you want the hams to pull back firmly as the pedal gets to 5 o'clock. If the saddle is too high, the knee will be too straight for the hams to generate adequate force initially. The more the knee is bent, the more physiological and mechanical advantage the hams have. However, too much knee bend compromises the hip flexors and quads. This is why many experienced coaches get you to focus on scraping mud off your shoes, which is advice to get you to focus on engaging your hams more. Everyone engages their quads without thinking about it. A strong hams contraction is the key to smoother force delivery and higher cadence in my view.
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Re: Pedalling Technique

Postby Tazzy » Tue Jun 05, 2012 10:18 pm

DoogleDave wrote:
Tazzy wrote:That's not what I had read...
http://www.australiancyclist.com.au/article.aspx?aeid=2825

Dave

I must of got the wrong impression from somewhere.
I only have knee pain on the left side on top of the patella so after reading this, particularly the section on saddle height,
http://www.stevehoggbikefitting.com/blo ... knee-pain/
I dropped the saddle a tad which never made a scrap of difference to my knee problems. I've never had pain behind the knee.
According to this,
http://slovelo.com/index.php/articles/knee-and-hip-pain
particularly,
' If the seat is too low, stress is placed on the knee from the patellar and quadriceps tendons and is generally felt anteriorly below the patella where the tension inserts on the tibia.'
This isn't my problem.
I might try moving my foot back on the cleats a bit and see if that helps.
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Re: Pedalling Technique

Postby Toolish » Tue Jun 05, 2012 11:01 pm

I decided to get the camera out to see what is actually happening.

http://youtu.be/ErOvfjJJhrk

I never realised how toe down I was the whole time!

The last little bit of the video was where I focused on pushing through the heel and have exageratted a bit. It should be noted that was on my road bike which when pedalling like that the seat is definately too high, will be dropping that 10-15mm to see how it goes after that.

When I focussed on pushing down with the heel more I could tell that my hips were a lot more steady and the stroke was a bit smoother overall. Now I just have to work to make it all a habit.

Again, comments welcome....please don't pick on the state of my shed...I know it needs a clean up!
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Re: Pedalling Technique

Postby wulfy117 » Tue Jun 05, 2012 11:18 pm

Interesting.....

I think cleat position and to a minor degree crank length have a huge impact for some people. In your video, the first technique looks more natural except for the last 1cm of toe down.

I wonder if moving the saddle down a little and/or moving the cleats back or would steady your lower leg and make for much smoother, rounder and compact action. Where you can better utilise your hamstrings to make your motor hum, rather than chug.

I think it's not feasible to modify how you extend your ankles by pure "technique".

Spinning, yes, power transfer yes, but ultimately I believe it is fit related.
Last edited by wulfy117 on Wed Jun 06, 2012 1:30 am, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Pedalling Technique

Postby PawPaw » Tue Jun 05, 2012 11:52 pm

My coach says heel down is not important during higher cadences. You just don't have the time during the pedal stroke to get the heel down without compromising force delivery.

Your pelvis was rocking more so on the aero bars.
At 35", you look a little high on the saddle.
When you were on the bars or hoods, you were less stable on the front wheel, most likely due to
- being too high in the saddle
- compromising for weak hip abductors and core strength by alternating trunk bilaterally.

How long can you hold the plank for?


How many of these can you do?
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Pedalling Technique

Postby Dr_Mutley » Wed Jun 06, 2012 1:18 am

Just had a quick look... Yr a little knee out at the top of yr stroke which will influence hip rock a little... BUT...
in every instance yr saddle height is too high... Initially not much.... Concluding with the shogun rowdy which looks an inch too high...

Measure yr saddle height from pedal axle to top of saddle (along the line of your seat tube) and see what the height difference is

Edit: overall I thought ur stroke looked pretty good except for the saddle height... Fix that and then post up some vids
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Re: Pedalling Technique

Postby foo on patrol » Wed Jun 06, 2012 6:31 am

Yep drop the seat! :wink:

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Re: Pedalling Technique

Postby Toolish » Wed Jun 06, 2012 8:31 am

Dr_Mutley wrote:Just had a quick look... Yr a little knee out at the top of yr stroke which will influence hip rock a little... BUT...
in every instance yr saddle height is too high... Initially not much.... Concluding with the shogun rowdy which looks an inch too high...

Measure yr saddle height from pedal axle to top of saddle (along the line of your seat tube) and see what the height difference is

Edit: overall I thought ur stroke looked pretty good except for the saddle height... Fix that and then post up some vids


You really think even on the TT bike the seat is too high? It is pretty much an inch lower than the road bike and at the moment feels really low but that might just be what I am used to.

Can't drop the TT seat any further without cutting the post (It has already been cut a bit) so might leave that for the shop to do when I see them next.

PawPaw, yep my abs and core generally are weak. I have been thinking about getting this DVD as a starting point for fixing that up

http://www.cycling-inform.com/store/pro ... rkout.html

Does anyone have any experience with that?

The heel down part was definately exageratted towards the end there as I am working on it, really just wanted to get it a bit flatter but it was a bit of a result of working on pushing the leg rather than rocking the hips.
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Re: Pedalling Technique

Postby foo on patrol » Fri Jun 08, 2012 3:57 pm

You will not, develope the correct or close to correct pedalling style over night, it is something that takes time to develope correctly. :wink:

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Re: Pedalling Technique

Postby Alex Simmons/RST » Fri Jun 08, 2012 5:39 pm

RonK wrote:The benefit of adopting the circular pedaling technique, together with cleared shoes/pedals is that you can pedal efficiently at a higher cadence. At 90+ rpm I doubt the hips will rock very much, and muscular fatigue will be reduced.

Might need to explain what you mean.

In what manner other than circular do the pedals rotate?

If you mean where around the pedal stroke one attempts to apply force, and if by "circular" you mean an attempt to even out the application of force around the pedal stroke, then that's a fruitless search for improved performance.

As has been demonstrated by studying these things (e.g. Korff et al., 2007 Pedaling technique and efficiency), efforts to adopt pedaling in such a manner does not improve cycling efficiency (GME is generally less than regular pedaling or "pushing") and when e.g. pulling actively, actually substantially reduces efficiency (i.e. increases metabolic cost for no increase in power output). This is not surprising really as it requires one make greater use of inherently less efficient motor units/muscle groups.
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Re: Pedalling Technique

Postby Toolish » Fri Jun 08, 2012 8:42 pm

foo on patrol wrote:You will not, develope the correct or close to correct pedalling style over night, it is something that takes time to develope correctly. :wink:

Foo


yep, totally understand that. I come from a golfing background and drilling in a swing change was a long process of 2 step forward 1 step back and I assume this wil be the same.

Alex, I thought you might have some input here as I have often seen you talk about pushing down harder rather than pedalling circles, do you think there are still elements of pedalling technique that are valid to work on. I must say working on keeping the hips and body more stable makes sense to me for sure.
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Re: Pedalling Technique

Postby Le Velo » Fri Jun 08, 2012 8:55 pm

Seat too wide for your pelvis causing the rocking?
One leg shorter than the other?
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Re: Pedalling Technique

Postby Baldy » Fri Jun 08, 2012 9:28 pm

It might not even matter anyway Toolish. Cris Anker Sorensen makes a living riding bikes and so does Dave Zabriskie.

As long as you end up with a skun cat 8)
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Re: Pedalling Technique

Postby cyclotaur » Fri Jun 08, 2012 11:13 pm

Why do you have the seat higher on one bike than the other? You look much better on the TT bike wrt to pedalling .... I think.

Are you long in the body and a bit short in the legs? Could make it awkward to get the right frame size and reach vs. leg length combo. That is, if your frame is sized for your reach it may be a bit big for your leg length ... or something... :?

As you can tell I'm no expert... but an interesting case study. :wink:
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Re: Pedalling Technique

Postby Alex Simmons/RST » Sat Jun 09, 2012 10:16 am

Toolish wrote:Alex, I thought you might have some input here as I have often seen you talk about pushing down harder rather than pedalling circles, do you think there are still elements of pedalling technique that are valid to work on. I must say working on keeping the hips and body more stable makes sense to me for sure.

I think people confuse smooth pedaling with an attempt to even out the force applied around the pedal stroke. They are not the same thing.

Smoothness is about the neuromuscular coordination of engaging and disengaging the right muscles at the right time. Pushing down more forcefully and more frequently is what generates increased power on a bike. "Pushing harder" does not imply "mashing" or doing so in a non-smooth coordinated manner.

Some things that help with pedaling:

- good bike set up (all facets - and there are many)

- time, it takes years for "souplesse", however new pedaling "techniques" can be learned in a matter of minutes (or less - e.g. Time Course of Learning to Produce Maximum Power Martin et al., 2000 IJSM showed that in untrained subjects maximal cycling power was attained with just 36 seconds of practice over three days!). Pedaling is not a very complex thing and people make an unnecessary mystery of it. I had some leg chopped off and use a prosthetic, yet my pedaling is as smooth as it ever was, despite an inability to pedal as if I "were scraping mud off my soles" or "pulling up" or "pushing across the top". All I can do is push down.

- ride on rollers

- ride a fixed gear (but only if you do so hard, as in racing)

- do some drills where you keep power high but pedal at higher cadences than normal (such that you begin to "bounce" in the saddle a little, for brief periods then increase those (e.g. 10-seconds through to a minute). A drill set once a week for 6 weeks and see how that goes.

- if you have some significant body functional issues, address those
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