– By Bruce Hendler –
How would you like to:
– Increase your power to the pedal stoke using the same amount of energy?
– Improve your ability to accelerate and respond to a pack in a group ride or bike race situation?
– Develop better control of the bike?
– Experience less fatigue over longer rides?
Well now you can! Believe it or not, pedaling a bicycle is a learned “habit”. Most people think you get on a bike and the pedaling motion basically takes care of itself. Well, yes and no. It does take care of itself, but you can also do a lot of things to improve the efficiency of your pedal stoke. As a simplified analogy, think of a golf swing and how people spend hours and hours and A LOT of money to improve their swing “efficiency”. Fortunately in our sport, we really don’t have to spend that kind of cash and we can improve relatively easily by using a couple time tested methods.
Let’s start out with a definition of efficiency:
“…optimizing the energy output on the bike in such a manner as to derive the maximum power into the drive train with the least amount of energy lost as a result of engaging muscle groups that are not directly related to the pedal stroke.”
Now in English:
So what are the best ways to improve the pedaling action? I am a BIG fan of setting up a “fixed gear” bike. Be careful, we’re not talking about the increasingly popular “single speed”. We are basically talking about a track bike for the road where there is no ability to freewheel. Using a fixed gear bike forces you to learn how to pedal because you are at the mercy of the movement of the bike and the fixed gear (i.e. 39×17) selection you make. Personally, in the winter, I ride my fixed gear two to four times per week. I find that it adds something different to my training program, where even the shortest and easiest rides have a purpose – constant pedaling action. Sure it took a while to get used to not being able to stop pedaling, but just like everything else we do; I got use to it and now can go out easily for 3+ hours in the hills! Another major advantage of using a fixed gear is increases muscle endurance. Think about it, pedaling for 3+ hours! Just a quick tip if you decide to set one up. Think about purchasing a road bike Rock Shox seat post. It comes in very handy! Trust me!
Another way to improve pedaling efficiency is to take the extreme opposite approach. That is to pedal big gears slowly and deliberately (i.e. slow motion). This also helps you concentrate on the complete 360 degree while at the same time, increasing power. One of the workouts we stress at AthletiCamps are called SFR’s (Slow Frequency Revolutions). SFR’s are best done on a 3-5% grade with a 40-50 RPM’s. They can also be done on a trainer where you lift the front wheel up a few inches to simulate climbing. Think of them as weight lifting on the bike. They are done starting at 1-2 minutes in length with a very low heart rate. Then depending on your goals, are increased in both distance and time.
So there you have it in a nutshell. A couple effective ways to improve your pedaling efficiency. Try adding both of them to your training program and you will see a big improvement next year.
Bruce Handler created AthletiCamps to provide cycling specific coaching and training to athletes and cyclists of all levels. Find out more at www.athleticamps.com.