Do you find getting up that hill or a short sharp rise a little challenging? Do you get tired when biking distance? How you pedal can influence how hard or easy these types of activities on your bike can be. So there is a lot to be gained from thinking about your pedal action on the bike and making that action more efficient.
Efficient pedaling helps you get up a hill
Efficient pedaling helps you ride distance
Lets look at ways to make your pedaling efficient
Seat Height: The first thing you need to do is make sure that the height of your seat is correct. This will allow you the optimal bend and straightening of the hip, knee and ankle to give you the maximum transfer of power and strength to your pedal. See 3 Simple Bike Seat Adjustments – Height, Tilt and Reach for information on your correct seat height.
Foot Placement on the Pedal: If you are not wearing clip in shoes we need to consider placement of your foot on the pedal. The ball of your foot needs to make contact with the pedal. Close to the arch of your foot.
Foot Alignment: The heel position relative to your toes should be similar to when you stand. Basically your heel should not point excessively out or in.
This position will give you the most efficient transfer of energy from those large powerful leg muscles through the foot then to the pedal. It will also help you to maintain a position of stability so it reduces the chances of your foot slipping or getting thrown from the pedal.
Foot placement on the pedal
Foot Alignment: General rule = similar to how you stand. Your heel too far out or in is incorrect alignment
The Pedal Action: There is a lot of information out there about what is the most efficient pedal stroke. We are going to keep it really simple and our focus is pedaling while seated for the recreation, everyday rider.
A pedal stroke refers to a full revolution of the pedal that is going from 12 to 12 on a clock face. However both the left and right leg contribute to this revolution, to a pedal stroke.
- Push Phase – The most powerful part of your pedal stroke is the push part, between 12 and 5 o’clock for both legs. This is also the easiest and most natural part of the stroke. We have big muscles that are designed to do that push, pushing down at all 3 joints the hip, knee and ankle and it is easy for them.
- Momentum Phase – With a good efficient push phase you will have momentum to carry you through from 5-6 o’clock
- Recovery Phase – (Note the opposite leg is in the Push Phase during the Recovery Phase) the leg is light on the pedal during this phase, so as not to provide any resistance to the push from the other leg and allows this leg to come around to prepare to repeat its push phase
Pedaling is continuous from one side to the other, a complete pedal stroke (from 12 to 12 on the clock face) comprises
- L leg push and momentum while R leg recovery
- R leg push and momentum while L leg recovery
and so on. Often we can have a dominant leg, so be aware of both legs being even? Are your left and right legs contributing equally?
As long as we keep the whole action smooth, continuous and rhythmical, not jerky, and we can keep the momentum between the push and non push phases then the result will be efficient pedaling.
Push through the heel and have loose ankles: As you do your push phase on either leg you want to focus on pushing down through the heel not the ball of the foot. Your ankle should be loose and as you push down there should be a slight drop in the heel. I often see bikers pushing through the ball of the foot and this is a big contributor to getting what we call anterior knee pain – pain at the front of the knee….so focus on pushing through the heel.
Knee alignment: The knee position relative to your toes. When you pedal your knee should be in line with your toes. When viewed from the front, your hip, knee and ankle should all line up. As you look down during a pedal stroke there should be times when you can’t see your toes because your knee should block your vision.
Alignment of knee over the toes
Looking down – as I go through the pedal stroke I won’t be able to see my foot due to correct alignment
Core control: The message is you need to engage your core when you bike. You drive your pedal action with the large powerful muscles of the leg. For these muscles to work well and give you good strength and power your mid region needs to be stable. In fact if your large powerful leg muscles work without that stable mid region they produce all sorts of horrible shearing forces on your low back and pelvis that can potentially lead to pain and dysfunction! Read more at Tip 2 – Core Control.
get Better and goRide – Make biking easier with good efficient pedaling.
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