Skills: Ride Out the Revolutions

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside magazine, October 1994

Skills: Ride Out the Revolutions
By Dana Sullivan

Titanium pedals are fine if you have the money, but there's a more basic way to improve your cycling stroke. According to Jeff Broker, a biomechanics expert with the U.S. Olympic Committee, most recreational cyclists undermine their ride by "mashing"--stomping down on the pedals and then passively riding them back up. The result is a lot of dead time in the pedaling cycle. "Think of a driver who floors the gas pedal and then takes his foot off, over and over," Broker explains. "His car gets terrible mileage."

Translated for two wheels, without constant force the bike is continually accelerating and decelerating. The rider is actually losing ground with each revolution and then struggling to catch up. Here's Broker's take on keeping the power to the pedals:

First make sure your saddle is at the right height. Your knee should be slightly bent when your foot is at the bottom of the pedal stroke. Now start with your right foot at the top of the pedaling cycle and push forward as though edging your toes into the front of your shoe. As the left pedal comes up, pull your left foot back and up as though trying to scrape mud off your cleat. The faster you're spinning, the easier it is to feel and practice the correct motion, so find a smooth, untrafficked road or trail where you can concentrate without obstacles. The technique applies both onand off-road, though Broker admits that it's tough on steep or bumpy terrain. But it does get easier, and with time, he promises, you'll have a cycle that's not so vicious. --D. S.

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