Pedaling technique- what should the heels do?

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Pedaling technique- what should the heels do?

Postby Arlberg » Wed Oct 10, 2012 10:10 pm

When cycling along and pulling up on the upstroke (especially when going uphill but generally in all situations) should I relax the heel so that it lifts and is higher than the toe or should I aim to lock the heel down to keep the foot flat through the upstroke?

If keeping the foot flat is the correct technique, that seems a bit unnatural and puts a lot of strain on the calf muscle, and in my case the calves tire quite quickly.
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by BNA » Wed Oct 10, 2012 10:23 pm

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Re: Pedaling technique- what should the heels do?

Postby toolonglegs » Wed Oct 10, 2012 10:23 pm

All your power is made on the down stroke...full stop.
Push down hard, fast and often... let the rest of the rotation take care of itself.
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Re: Pedaling technique- what should the heels do?

Postby Arlberg » Wed Oct 10, 2012 10:32 pm

toolonglegs wrote:All your power is made on the down stroke...full stop.
Push down hard, fast and often... let the rest of the rotation take care of itself.


Thanks, but I'm very surprised at your answer! I realise most of the power comes from the downstroke, through a combination of pushing down and body weight, but what is the point of having cleats and fixing the feet to the pedals if it is not to be able to pull back at the bottom and then up on the upstroke? I find pulling back and then up on the pedals gives me considerably more power and speed, especially going uphill.
Last edited by Arlberg on Wed Oct 10, 2012 10:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Pedaling technique- what should the heels do?

Postby toolonglegs » Wed Oct 10, 2012 10:34 pm

Cleats are to hold your foot in the right position and to stop them flying off at the top of the stroke... a good smooth circular motion is important but all the power is made on the down stroke.
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Re: Pedaling technique- what should the heels do?

Postby Tornado » Wed Oct 10, 2012 10:50 pm

Toolonlegs is spot on from what I have read. With power meters and the like these days they can measure pretty much everything and I think they have found that lifting on the upstroke is of little to no use.
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Re: Pedaling technique- what should the heels do?

Postby MarkG » Wed Oct 10, 2012 11:34 pm

Avoid toe pointing as it forces the quads to do the bulk of the work.
Heel down, this brings in the quads , hamstrings and calves and helps distribution of the work.

Think of if as scraping crap off your shoe as you bring the heel up on the start of the up stroke.
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Re: Pedaling technique- what should the heels do?

Postby gururug » Wed Oct 10, 2012 11:44 pm

I read a lot about this and felt very uncomfortable when I started. In hindsight, unless you are problematic ankles, it's no biggie, pretty much like MrTLL says. My issues were largely crank length / saddle height related.

What is important is a circular motion, think of even, smooth effort rather than the circle itself.

I have found a lot of "untrained riders" can gain a lot from 6.30o'clock to 10o'clock.

If you calves are tiring, you *may* benefit from a lower seat / shorter cranks.
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Re: Pedaling technique- what should the heels do?

Postby vander » Thu Oct 11, 2012 12:47 am

scraping the bottom apparently helps but I dont do it and I cope fine. Not sure how much of it is red herrings but I am of the same opinion pulling up is a waste of energy unless sprinting.
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Re: Pedaling technique- what should the heels do?

Postby toolonglegs » Thu Oct 11, 2012 1:06 am

MarkG wrote:Avoid toe pointing as it forces the quads to do the bulk of the work.
Heel down, this brings in the quads , hamstrings and calves and helps distribution of the work.

Think of if as scraping crap off your shoe as you bring the heel up on the start of the up stroke.


There is a reason the quads and butt are the biggest muscle groups... they should be doing the bulk of the work.
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Re: Pedaling technique- what should the heels do?

Postby AndrewBurns » Thu Oct 11, 2012 5:33 am

I once thought that I should be actively pulling on the up-stroke too but after trying it and realising how weak and tiring it was I stopped. That's not to say that the cleats do nothing though, I can't ride a bike without them anymore because my feet slip and slide forwards and backwards and lift off at the top of the stroke. As has been mentioned the pedal stroke should be a circle, power generated through the down stroke but you should also be controlling your leg so it's not dragging on the pedal and robbing power through the up stroke.

They're also invaluable for when you're up out of the saddle sprinting, I often pull up hard when starting from stopped out of the saddle just to get that extra bit of power and to smooth out my pedaling so that the bike isn't flopping everywhere.
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Re: Pedaling technique- what should the heels do?

Postby Carriage » Thu Oct 11, 2012 7:15 am

Should you be taking the weight of your leg off the pedal when it's going up? As in, not wrenching it up but just enough so your front leg is only worried about moving you forward not lifting another leg.
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Re: Pedaling technique- what should the heels do?

Postby foo on patrol » Fri Oct 12, 2012 7:46 pm

Try going up a hill with the intent of pulling away or off the mark with pushing and pulling and then do it without the pulling included. That is all! :wink:

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Re: Pedaling technique- what should the heels do?

Postby orbeas » Fri Oct 12, 2012 7:59 pm

toolonglegs wrote:
MarkG wrote:Avoid toe pointing as it forces the quads to do the bulk of the work.
Heel down, this brings in the quads , hamstrings and calves and helps distribution of the work.

Think of if as scraping crap off your shoe as you bring the heel up on the start of the up stroke.


There is a reason the quads and butt are the biggest muscle groups... they should be doing the bulk of the work.

When my calf muscles feel like guitar strings, my techique may need adjustment? :)
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Re: Pedaling technique- what should the heels do?

Postby RobM » Sat Oct 13, 2012 11:29 am

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Re: Pedaling technique- what should the heels do?

Postby orbeas » Sat Oct 13, 2012 11:47 am

thanks for the link :)
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Re: Pedaling technique- what should the heels do?

Postby Alex Simmons/RST » Sat Oct 13, 2012 1:13 pm

vander wrote:Not sure how much of it is red herrings

Just about all of it.
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Re: Pedaling technique- what should the heels do?

Postby RobM » Sat Oct 13, 2012 2:02 pm

Alex Simmons/RST wrote:

What a load of crap.


Whats your take Alex?
I am by no means an expert, but i find altering the drop of my heel when climbing can help use some different muscles and stretch the calves abit.
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Re: Pedaling technique- what should the heels do?

Postby Alex Simmons/RST » Sat Oct 13, 2012 3:13 pm

punk_rob wrote:Whats your take Alex?

1. Get a good bike fit
2. Focus on effort and choose an appropriate gear
3. Hills naturally make us pedal a little differently
4. If you have to think about pedalling, you're probably doing it wrong
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Re: Pedaling technique- what should the heels do?

Postby Arlberg » Tue Oct 23, 2012 8:09 pm

Some interesting replies, thanks.

However I am convinced I get more power (and speed) when climbing by pulling up on the pedals on the upstrokes as well as pushing down on the downstrokes. I make sure I concentrate on pushing down from 12.00 until 06:30 on both sides, and that is my priority, but then I also pull up from 6:30 to 12:00 on both sides as much as possible.

Unfortunately I dont have a powermeter. Anyone with one care to perform a simple test? Do a couple of runs on a gentle hil, say 5-6% pedalling 'normally', then immediately afterwards a couple of runs with an active pull on the upstroke as well so we can compare speed and power over the set distance, then post on Strava for us to look at?
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Re: Pedaling technique- what should the heels do?

Postby Alex Simmons/RST » Tue Oct 23, 2012 9:42 pm

Arlberg wrote:Some interesting replies, thanks.

However I am convinced I get more power (and speed) when climbing by pulling up on the pedals on the upstrokes as well as pushing down on the downstrokes. I make sure I concentrate on pushing down from 12.00 until 06:30 on both sides, and that is my priority, but then I also pull up from 6:30 to 12:00 on both sides as much as possible.

Unfortunately I dont have a powermeter. Anyone with one care to perform a simple test? Do a couple of runs on a gentle hil, say 5-6% pedalling 'normally', then immediately afterwards a couple of runs with an active pull on the upstroke as well so we can compare speed and power over the set distance, then post on Strava for us to look at?

Here, read through this:
http://www.plan2peak.com/files/32_artic ... hnique.pdf
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Re: Pedaling technique- what should the heels do?

Postby Ken Ho » Wed Oct 24, 2012 6:07 am

Nice link , Alex.
If I ever decide to get serious, I know who I'm calling.

ALex, do you have any comment on people moving quickly to riding clipped in ?
My feeling is that a good period riding in flats, as we all did as children, will teach people to keep their feet on the pedals, developing a Magnificent Stroke, replete with souplesse.
THe commonest advice given to adult noobs is to go clipless ASAP. I'm not convinced this is always a great idea.
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Re: Pedaling technique- what should the heels do?

Postby winstonw » Wed Oct 24, 2012 7:30 am

Alex Simmons/RST wrote:Here, read through this:
http://www.plan2peak.com/files/32_artic ... hnique.pdf


Thanks for posting that. Comparisons against an undefined or variable 'preferred technique' clouds the issue somewhat.
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Re: Pedaling technique- what should the heels do?

Postby Alex Simmons/RST » Wed Oct 24, 2012 8:06 am

Ken Ho wrote:Nice link , Alex.
If I ever decide to get serious, I know who I'm calling.

ALex, do you have any comment on people moving quickly to riding clipped in ?
My feeling is that a good period riding in flats, as we all did as children, will teach people to keep their feet on the pedals, developing a Magnificent Stroke, replete with souplesse.
THe commonest advice given to adult noobs is to go clipless ASAP. I'm not convinced this is always a great idea.

If you intend to race, or ride in a manner that will involve simulated race like effort, then I suggest a move to clip in is important.

Otherwise, it's no big deal.

What matters more is good bike fit and doing enough training.
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Re: Pedaling technique- what should the heels do?

Postby clackers » Wed Oct 24, 2012 9:23 am

Arlberg wrote:Some interesting replies, thanks.

However I am convinced I get more power (and speed) when climbing by pulling up on the pedals on the upstrokes as well as pushing down on the downstrokes. I make sure I concentrate on pushing down from 12.00 until 06:30 on both sides, and that is my priority, but then I also pull up from 6:30 to 12:00 on both sides as much as possible.


Arlberg, I did a bike fit with the owner of an LBS (he'd been the Hong Kong national coach) and he said that method is great for track cyclists, but it consumes disproportionately more energy and is less suited for road cycling.

The bit more torque you get is offset by having to do more work kilometre after kilometre.
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