“It’s not the will to win, but the will to prepare to win that makes the difference.”
– Bear Bryant
In addition to obtaining a proper bike fit, a more efficient pedal stroke is also something that can be improved up by incorporating a few techniques into your existing workouts.
What does an efficient pedal stroke look and feel like?
If you visualize a clock with the 12 at the top of the pedal stroke and the foot pedaling around the clock, the greatest amount of torque (power) is generated on the down stroke at the 3 o’clock position. The simplest action that you can take to maximize your power on the down stroke is to initiate the down stroke from the top with your heel down. When I underwent my fit at Elite Bicycles a few weeks back, David Greenfield taped a small piece of paper as a reminder to the top of my aerobars: “Heels down.” Try it. The reminder works!
In addition, there are two cycling drills that I give my coaching clients to improve cycling efficiency: single leg drill and high cadence spinning drill. Both are best done on trainers or indoor Spinning bikes but can also be done outdoors if needed.
Single leg drills isolate each leg and teach your body to fully utilize both legs evenly to smooth out your pedal stroke. To perform the drill, remove one leg from the pedal (or relax that leg so that its passive) and pedal with the other leg for 30 seconds. Alternate sides and repeat. Over time increase both the duration from 30 seconds to 60 seconds and the number of intervals you do from 2 to 4. You can also play around with adding a little resistance but keep the resistance at a moderate level at most.
High cadence spinning teaches your leg muscles to fire more efficiently and quickly, which also helps improve economy. To perform the drill, start at a normal riding cadence (typically 70-90 rpm) then slowly increase your leg turnover to the maximum cadence that you can maintain without causing your hips to bounce. Hold for 20 seconds. Relax and spin at a normal cadence for 30 seconds then repeat. Over time increase both the duration from 20 seconds to 60 seconds and the number of intervals you do from 2 to 4.
I would recommend doing the drills 1-2x per week. At the very least they will help break up the monotony of a steady aerobic trainer ride!
Safe and happy training!