• Country

How to Improve Your Pedal Stroke

By Christopher Ashley

Your nickname in the cycle club is “Guns” on account of your huge thighs. So why do you keep getting dropped on the club ride? Maybe it’s time you looked at your technique.

Knees pointing forward

The biggest indicator that you’re not pedalling properly is that your knees point outwards at the top of each stroke. If you look like Charlie Chaplin when you ride your road bike, your saddle is probably too low. You’re losing watts because your muscles aren’t being used efficiently. Here’s how to fix it.

If your knees still point out when you’re out-of-the-saddle climbing, or if you’re doing a lot of BMX or MTB riding, you may need to work on strengthening your glutes and lower back muscles, as these aren’t worked so hard if you spend a lot of time in the saddle. Work on your floor bridge exercise.

Strengthen your arches

Sure, we all want thunder thighs, but they could be the result of your foot not carrying all the power they generate into the pedals. In other words, your thighs may be every cyclist’s worst nightmare – excess baggage. This video shows you one exercise to improve your power-to-pedal transfer.

Exercising your tibialis posterior helps those of us with flat-feet. But, even those blessed with a healthy arch will be surprised at the performance increases after doing this exercise.

Invite your long-suffering partner to hold the band while they catch up on their favourite tv show.

Use cleats

Pretty much every cyclist who starts using cleats wonders why they didn’t do it sooner. You’ll go through a period of adjusting them so your feet are comfortable – but it’s time well spent. Nothing teaches you about pedalling like cleats – and nothing improves your efficiency.

Suddenly you understand how your legs work together in one circular motion, rather than firing off like pistons one after the other. I use them on my road bike, but I still prefer flat top pedals on my off-road and Brompton commuter. My road bike cleats have improved my pedalling on all bikes.

Scrape and point technique

Assuming your connection to the pedals is sufficient, either because you’re using cleats, or a grippy shoe/pedal combination, you can focus on how your power is transferred throughout the stroke. As soon as your foot hits the top of the stroke, put as much energy into pushing your foot forward as you do in pushing it down.

This applies force through the first 180 degrees of your stroke. At the bottom of your stroke, jut your ankle down and pull your heel back as if scraping something off the bottom of your shoe. If you’re wearing cleats you can actually pull upwards continuing to apply power through all 360 degrees. Now go practice!