Skills for Efficient Cycling Performance
Skills for Efficient Cycling Performance
by USA Cycling Coach Gary G.
The temperature is dropping and its time to change our cycling focus to building a more efficiency. The off season is our best chance to make a change in our pedal cadence and improve our overall performance. Every time we hop on the bike we enter into battle between aerodynamics and power delivery to the pedals. The more aerodynamic we are, the less power we can apply to the pedals, while a bike position which allows for greater power ultimately reduces our aerodynamics. Finding the right balance between aerodynamics and power is a tricky task, since that balance can vary widely between athletes. A bike set-up that works great for one rider might be detrimental to another. I want to take the bike set-up out of the equation for this article and focus on pedal efficiency or maximizing our power out put through more efficient pedaling.
Efficiency drives cycling. Cycling is endurance sport and the more efficient an athlete we become, the better our overall performance will be. The more efficient we become the less energy is needed to produce the same results. The less energy we use to cover the same distance translates into extra energy for those hard efforts or higher average speed over the same distance.
So where can we gain efficiency on the bike? Pedaling technique! Pedaling technique allows us to accelerate the pedals quickly with the minimal effort. To develop an efficient pedal cadence there are a couple of things we will need to focus on: leg speed and reducing fatigue in upper body. Below are a couple drills that will help you increase your pedal efficiency.
One Leg Pedaling
This is a great drill that can be done either with a trainer or on the road. The concept is as easy as the title indicates. Take one foot off the pedal and maintain your forward momentum with the other leg. If you are using a trainer you might get a box or chair to place you loose foot on. The goal of this exercise is to maintain a smooth constant cadence. You will want to change legs every 10 to 15 revolutions.
While pedaling with one leg you will want to force on moving the pedal in a complete circle and not a push down only down pedal stroke. By forcing yourself lift your leg through the dead zone of the pedal stroke you end up engaging a wider set of muscles, specifically we are focusing on the hip flexors. The hip flexors are one of the muscles used to raise your leg towards you upper body. If you have done the sit-ups where you raised you upper body more than 20 or 30 degrees from the ground you were engaging the hip flexors.
You can gauge you improvement by the feel of the bikes movement on the road or the sound of your trainer indoors. The more efficient you become, the less yo-yoing or surging you will feel. On a trainer you would hear less of the whirl?whirl?whirl and instead hear a more consistent spinning of the fan or resistant unit.
Light pedaling is a trick I learned a long time ago. On long rides or even long climbs you can save energy and rest your legs by utilizing light pedaling. So, what is light pedaling? It is a technique in which a rider will rest one leg at a time for a half dozen pedal strokes. Think of it as a one leg pedaling with both feet attached to the pedals. You will be amazed at how good it feels to light pedal with one leg for a few strokes with one leg and then the other.
Fixed Gear Bike
If you?re not familiar with fixed gear bikes, they can be an excellent tool for improving you pedaling efficiency. On a fixed gear bike the rear cog is ?fixed? to the hub so that there is no coasting. If the rear wheel of the bike is moving so are the pedals. If the wheel is moving forward, the pedals are moving forward. If the wheel is moving backward so are the pedals! If you have watch any track cycling then you have seen a track or fixed gear bike.
Since the pedals are locked into constant motion while your moving you will feel more of the pedal stroke as it moves through it complete 360-degree rotation. Riding a fixed gear bike will build muscle memory and help develop a more efficient pedal cadence. Again, we need to be aware of how smooth we are pedaling and the amount of force we are applying to every pedal stroke.
Take a page out of Lance Armstrong?s book and focus on improving your pedal efficiency. Getting more out of every pedal stroke will allow you to go farther and faster than ever before.