The proper pedaling technique improves cycling efficiency. It makes biking easier, allowing you to go fast without exerting too much effort on your leg muscles. The goal is to smoothly pedal in circles, allowing steady spin of the legs and without wasting upper body motion.
From correct foot positioning on the road bike pedals to working on your leg strength, we will be rounding up some of the most effective ways to improve pedaling cycling!
The Importance of Proper Pedaling Techniques
Before we talk about the specific steps on how to improve road bike pedaling, let’s first look at why it is important in the first place. Pedaling isn’t as simple as pushing your feet to make the pedals go in circles. It requires proper techniques, which will help make the most out of every stroke.
A proper pedaling technique is important to make sure that you will maximize power from each revolution. This will let you produce more power for the same or less energy output. As you become more efficient, you will feel less tired. This is important when you are riding long distances, such as in a 100-mile bike ride.
Another good reason to work on your pedaling technique is to avoid cycling injuries. With the right pedal strokes, you will be exerting gentler force on your muscles and joints, which will minimize stress.
With proper pedaling, you will also be more comfortable. You will learn the proper positioning of your feet, knees, and body in such a way that you can maximize every move. This way, you can sustain longer rides without easily getting tired. There’s a lesser chance that you will be complaining of body pain the next day.
You can also extend the lifespan of your pedals with the right technique. You will be putting lesser pressure on the moving parts, making them less susceptible to wear.
How to Improve Your Pedaling Cycling Techniques
Ready to work on your road bike pedaling skills? Below, we’ll talk about the most important things to do! These things will help you pedal like a pro and become more efficient in every ride.
1. Start with the Right Bike Fit
To improve road bike pedaling techniques, one of the most important is to ensure the right bike fit. In case you do not know how to do this, check out this quick guide on how to fit a bike without a calculator. The right fit can improve your performance, especially in terms of pedaling efficiency.
The way the saddle fits will largely impact your pedaling. The nose of the saddle should be slightly flat or slightly pointed upward. This will prevent you from sliding. This is vital in the even distribution of body weight. To add, it is effective in taking the weight off your hands, which will minimize stress on your body.
Saddle height will affect the ability of the muscles to contract in every stroke. If the saddle is too high, your body may end up rocking and will be using your weaker calf muscle to complete the rotation. On the other hand, when the saddle is too low, you will have a high knee lift, and this can result in breathing problems. Take the time to adjust the saddle in such a way that it will optimize your comfort.
If possible, book a session with a qualified bike fitter. This way, you can be confident that everything will be set-up according to your specifications. This is important since proper set-up matters more than technique when it comes to improving your pedaling efficiency.
2. Assume the Correct Body Position
The correct body position on a road bike is another crucial factor that will affect pedaling cycling efficiency. This is one thing that you need to work on if you want to generate optimal power without putting too much strain on your body. Even in long-distance rides, when your body is properly positioned, you won’t easily get tired and you will be more comfortable.
Take note that there is no universally accepted posture for biking. At the end of the day, this will vary from one person to another, so you might find the need to experiment with different positions to see which one works best for you.
When you are cycling, relax your shoulders and bring them down. Lower the shoulders and free your head while bending your elbows slightly. There should be a straight line from your elbows to your fingers. You also need to have a neutral spine and engage your core. With this position, you can generate more power so that you can pedal efficiently.
Do not stretch your legs fully, especially when your pedal is already at the bottom of the stroke. There should be a slight bend of about 25 degrees. This will allow the legs to operate at maximum extension for efficient pedaling.
Consider the position of the knee with the position of the pedals. Hold the pedals in a horizontal position. The plumb line at the center of your knee joint should be vertically above or just slightly behind the center of the crankarm. Otherwise, you will end up exerting more effort than what is necessary for every pedal stroke.
Keep your upper body as relaxed as possible. If you have tension in your muscles, it will affect the way you pedal and will make each stroke inefficient. Relax your back and lighten your grip. When your upper body is positioned correctly, it will be easier for your leg muscles to work.
3. Work on Your Lower Body Strength
This is perhaps the most important for better efficiency in pedaling cycling. Your power will be largely determined by how hard your legs work. Your legs won’t be able to exert enough power if it is weak. So, you need a couple of exercises to strengthen your legs. You can also consider using equipment like bike rollers or turbo trainers to have more explosive leg power.
Your workouts should also focus on how to improve your cycling endurance. When you have better endurance, your legs can handle more demanding rides and terrains.
Below, we’ll quickly talk about some of the best exercises for better leg strength, which will be crucial in improving road bike pedaling techniques.
This is one of the best exercises for strength training for cyclists. It will improve lean muscles, and as a result, you will be able to pedal with less effort without compromising power in every stroke.
- Start by standing straight with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Shift your weight to your right leg.
- Slightly lift your left leg in front of you while you bend. Go as low as possible. While doing this, your arms should be straight in front of you.
- Return to the original position while keeping your back straight. Repeat on the other leg.
Even with only a few minutes of sprints, it can yield maximum benefits, which include improvement of cardiovascular health and strengthening your leg muscles. When we talk about sprints for cyclists, we are not talking about running. Instead, we are talking about sprints on a bike, which you can do by following the steps below.
- Start by warming up for 15 to 20 minutes. You can also do a couple of cycling stretches.
- Position your body properly on the bike. Your hands should be on the drops and you should be standing out of the saddle, which will let you draw more energy. Bend your elbows slightly and keep your back flat.
- Sprint 30 seconds up to six times. Go as hard as you can. Do another 30 seconds of easy spinning while you are sitting.
- To cool down, finish with 10 to 15 minutes of cycling, which will help your body to recover effectively.
4. Experiment with Your Cadence
Cycling cadence is one of the most important concepts that you should understand when it comes to improving your pedaling technique. It is your pedaling rate or the number of revolutions per minute in pedaling cycling. Meaning, if your foot creates one full circle in one second, then your cadence is 60 rpm.
If you want to improve your pedaling, then you should know that there is no magic number when it comes to the cadence that works best. A typical cadence will be anywhere from 80 to 100 rpm. You need to find one that feels natural to you and more compatible for a given environment or situation.
For beginners, do not push your cadence too high. Keep it at a manageable and comfortable level. If you try to pedal too quickly, then you will get fatigued easily and you will be more prone to leg injuries. You will be unable to sustain long-distance rides. Forcing yourself to pedal faster will not improve results.
The best thing to do is to play with cadence. Start slow and steady. Go for light gear and pedal fast up to 30 seconds. Then go slow and try to recover. Try to improve your cadence with various exercises, including those mentioned above. Focus on leg exercises so that you will have the strength needed to pedal with more power.
5. Eat and Hydrate on the Road
Food and hydration will have massive impacts on your pedaling performance. Especially if you plan to cover long distances, you will have a hard time if you do not eat or hydrate properly. Each stroke will be a struggle while also increasing the chances of an injury.
Especially if the ride will take two hours or more, you need to be on top of your nutrition and hydration. You need to have the fuel that you will need to go further. You will sweat a lot, so you need to replenish all the liquids that your body is losing.
Consider loading on carbs before you start your ride. These are your fuel sources, providing the energy that you will need for efficient road bike pedals. It is good to have an energy bar handy, or any other food that you can easily eat on the go.
Cycling hydration will be affected by several factors, such as the weather and how much you are sweating. If it is hot, then you should be drinking more water. One bottle of water per hour is a good practice. Electrolyte drinks are good to have, especially if it is hot. Always have a cycling water bottle within easy reach so that you can stay hydrated. Drink before you become thirsty.
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Improving the pedaling cycling technique does not happen overnight. It is a long-term goal, which is possible by doing the things mentioned above, such as having the right bike fit, working on your leg strength, and experimenting with cadence, among other things.