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  1. #1
    Senior Member MinnMan's Avatar
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    learning to pedal circles without thinking about it....

    Of all the things I have worked on to try to increase my speed and power- interval training, hill repeats, dialing in my bike fit, and so on - the one that really makes a really big difference is making sure I am generating power throughout the pedal stroke.

    When I concentrate on my pedaling technique - making sure to push forward over the top and pull back at the bottom - there is a noticeable increase in speed without a large increase in perceived effort. My guess is it amounts to almost 2 MPH at the same effort at modest speeds (e.g., 21 MPH vs. 19). Maybe it's a little less.

    The trouble is that it only happens when I concentrate on it. If I am not paying attention, I revert to pedaling squares (power only on the up and down strokes) or even worse, mashing (power only on the down strokes).

    Yeah, I know that it takes time and that I just have to keep concentrating on the technique until it becomes instinctive. But it seems like it's taking a long time (almost a year?)

    People have recommended doing single leg drills to help the process, but they feel totally unnatural to me. I've done them (admittedly not too much), but then when I'm back to two legs, I don't feel like it's changed my unconscious pedaling style.

    So for those of you who have already developed perfect pedaling form, how long did it take?

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    When do you start doing squares, or mashing ? When climbing hills ? When riding into a headwind ? There's usually something that triggers that response. I know that I'll start doing things like that if my cadence starts slowing down which in my case means that I'm in the wrong gear.

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    Elite Rider Hermes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MinnMan View Post
    Of all the things I have worked on to try to increase my speed and power- interval training, hill repeats, dialing in my bike fit, and so on - the one that really makes a really big difference is making sure I am generating power throughout the pedal stroke.

    When I concentrate on my pedaling technique - making sure to push forward over the top and pull back at the bottom - there is a noticeable increase in speed without a large increase in perceived effort. My guess is it amounts to almost 2 MPH at the same effort at modest speeds (e.g., 21 MPH vs. 19). Maybe it's a little less.

    The trouble is that it only happens when I concentrate on it. If I am not paying attention, I revert to pedaling squares (power only on the up and down strokes) or even worse, mashing (power only on the down strokes).

    Yeah, I know that it takes time and that I just have to keep concentrating on the technique until it becomes instinctive. But it seems like it's taking a long time (almost a year?)

    People have recommended doing single leg drills to help the process, but they feel totally unnatural to me. I've done them (admittedly not too much), but then when I'm back to two legs, I don't feel like it's changed my unconscious pedaling style.


    So for those of you who have already developed perfect pedaling form, how long did it take?
    I am not there yet.
    "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Einstein

  4. #4
    Senior Member MinnMan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by alanknm View Post
    When do you start doing squares, or mashing ? When climbing hills ? When riding into a headwind ? There's usually something that triggers that response. I know that I'll start doing things like that if my cadence starts slowing down which in my case means that I'm in the wrong gear.
    No, that's not it. When I start laboring up a hill, that's when I concentrate on form. It's when I'm tooling along in the flats without much need for extra power that I'll realize that I'm pedaling squares. On a group ride I'll be doing fine somewhere in the pack and my form will stink. then I find myself at the front where I have to concentrate on my speed and my form improves. I guess it's ok in some ways - I have better form when I need the power - but unless I"m thinking about it, my form sucks.

  5. #5
    Senior Member MinnMan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hermes View Post
    I am not there yet.
    OK, so I worded that poorly. I"m sure I'd kill to have your imperfect form.
    Last edited by MinnMan; 06-16-11 at 10:08 PM.

  6. #6
    Let's do a Century jppe's Avatar
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    Pedaling in circles is the main thing I've been concentrating on at RtR-and I think big round circles for slower cadences.

    I also think about the dark beer at the finish!
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    Senior Member Allegheny Jet's Avatar
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    Rollers, overgear intervals and high cadence intervals will help in training the body to utilize the whole stroke. I've noticed myself when I'm doing TT intervals that if I concentrate on putting power into the whole pedal stroke the wattage jumps up considerably along with the speed. Lately I keep having to remind myself on rides to pedal in circles where a few months, after the indoor training season ago, I pedaled in circles as second nature.
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    Quote Originally Posted by MinnMan View Post
    It's when I'm tooling along in the flats without much need for extra power that I'll realize that I'm pedaling squares. On a group ride I'll be doing fine somewhere in the pack and my form will stink. then I find myself at the front where I have to concentrate on my speed and my form improves. .
    When riding in the pack your attention is on keeping position so it's not surprising that your form starts to change. It sounds like you're doing the right thing when it counts. I do the same thing as you do when I'm on the flats, especially if I'm pedaling at my usual 90 rpm and I'm not working very hard at 16-18mph . My mind will start to wander and I'll forget about pedaling circles. If I need to generate more power then I have to focus and then I start making an effort to get back in form. I find that shifting over to the big chainring and going at a higher gear that I normally ride in forces me to focus on my form since I have work harder to maintain the same cadence.

  9. #9
    Elite Rider Hermes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Allegheny Jet View Post
    Rollers, overgear intervals and high cadence intervals will help in training the body to utilize the whole stroke. I've noticed myself when I'm doing TT intervals that if I concentrate on putting power into the whole pedal stroke the wattage jumps up considerably along with the speed. Lately I keep having to remind myself on rides to pedal in circles where a few months, after the indoor training season ago, I pedaled in circles as second nature.
    +1 and... Pedaling drills... Here is a workout. 100 5 min, 105 4 min, 110 3 min, 115 2 min, 120 1 min, 130 30 sec, 140 30 sec repeat. This drill is best done on rollers or a trainer with minimal resistance. The visual I use is to keep my foot in the top of the shoe. When riding in a group or racing, I use 90 cadence off the front and 100 sitting in. The idea is to use the high cadence to clear lactic acid and the 90 for better muscle efficiency.

    I find that after a motor pacing session at the track at high cadence, the next day on the road, I feel like anything is possible.
    Last edited by Hermes; 06-17-11 at 01:19 AM.
    "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Einstein

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    Senior Member SaiKaiTai's Avatar
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    Not that I'm necessarily one to go by, when I'm in the flats and I've got it going right, I feel like my feet are following the pedals around instead me pushing them.
    I glide almost effortlessly. It helps me to be in a bigger gear (now that I can sustain them... well, I *could* anyway. Now, I doubt it will be that easy)
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  11. #11
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    Form is something you have to think about a lot before it becomes natural. I do exactly as others do, and it is when climbing (and not necessarily at 4mph) that I concentrate the most. But I am getting a bit better at it on the flats and downhills.
    Dream. Dare. Do.

  12. #12
    Senior Member willb1046's Avatar
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    I'm very new to clippless pedals (3 months) so I almost never have good form for any length of time. Reading this I see it's going to take me a good bit of time to get anywhere near where I want to be as far as form and speed. I have noticed that when I concentrate on my stroke I do increase my speed. The key I guess is is like in anything else, practice and persistence.
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  13. #13
    Senior Member bruce19's Avatar
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    The thing that has helped me the most is spin ups on my rollers. That and the recent purchase of a computer with cadence has been very helpful. On the rollers I've been able to hit 105 rpm's without a lot of bouncing but on the road I'm pretty much in the 75-85 rpm range when cruising. Hills are really tough for me generally and depending on the grade I'm generally in the 40-65 rpm range. I have no idea if this is good or bad it's just what I do.
    Last edited by bruce19; 06-17-11 at 06:31 AM.

  14. #14
    Senior Member MinnMan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bruce19 View Post
    The thing that has helped me the most is spin ups on my rollers. That and the recent purchase of a computer with cadence has been very helpful. On the rollers I've been able to hit 105 rpm's without a lot of bouncing but on the road I'm pretty much in the 75-85 rpm range when cruising. Hills are really tough for me generally and depending on the grade I'm generally in the 40-65 rpm range. I have no idea if this is good or bad it's just what I do.
    Generally cadences on rollers are not a good measure of what you'll do on the road. As to your road cadences, aim for higher - 90 RPM on the flats. Consider gearing down one. On hills, you do what you can do, but higher is still better except for the steep hills that get you out of the saddle.

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    Take a spin class, is easier and safer to concentrate on your pedaling style than when riding on the road.
    I have found that pedaling circles isn't all it's cracked up to be. Try this; at the bottom of the stroke, act like your trying to scrape something off the bottom of your shoe, then drive your knee upwards into the handle bar. I have found that give more power, and one you get the muscle memory, more natural than trying to get your feet to move in a circle. I'ts more noticable when climbing.

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    Great discussion everyone. Like Minnman, when pedaling correctly, the speed goes up with little additional perceived effort. The pyramid drills Hermes suggests seem like a very good idea as your attention is brought directly to the pedal stroke, and brought to the pedal stroke again at each cadence change.

  17. #17
    Senior Member Philipaparker's Avatar
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    You should check out what they are using on tour to increase power http://www.rotorbikeusa.com/
    To me the life is a glass half full, I love optimism, life's better that way.
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  18. #18
    Senior Member bigbadwullf's Avatar
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    The way I look at it is the pedals(crank) go(es) in a circle. You don't have a choice....

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  19. #19
    Senior Member NOS88's Avatar
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    As a side note, I've found that in order to pedal circles one's seat height must be spot on. Too, high and your hips rock too much. Too low and you don't get the full use of muscles that make turning circles easier.
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  20. #20
    Senior Member bruce19's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Philipaparker View Post
    You should check out what they are using on tour to increase power http://www.rotorbikeusa.com/
    How is this different from Shimano's Biopace crankset from years ago?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biopace

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    Easy way to see if you are pedalling in circles-Go back to platform pedals.

    I cannot ride unless I am clipped in as I find that I pull the foot off the pedal at around the 8.0'clock position on platforms.
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  22. #22
    Senior Member Garfield Cat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bruce19 View Post
    How is this different from Shimano's Biopace crankset from years ago?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biopace
    Both Biopace and O Symetrics are fixed systems. Rotor is a "variable gear" chain ring.

    http://www.rotorbikeusa.com/images/s...valladolid.pdf

  23. #23
    Senior Member bruce19's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Garfield Cat View Post
    Both Biopace and O Symetrics are fixed systems. Rotor is a "variable gear" chain ring.

    http://www.rotorbikeusa.com/images/s...valladolid.pdf
    Not sure I know what that means.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by leob1 View Post
    Take a spin class, is easier and safer to concentrate on your pedaling style than when riding on the road.
    I have found that pedaling circles isn't all it's cracked up to be. Try this; at the bottom of the stroke, act like your trying to scrape something off the bottom of your shoe, then drive your knee upwards into the handle bar. I have found that give more power, and one you get the muscle memory, more natural than trying to get your feet to move in a circle. I'ts more noticable when climbing.
    Yes. In my book (but obviously not others') it is the traditional form of ankling... the version that has British cycling origins.

    If you really want to cultivate it, pedal one-legged for 20 or so revolutions (take the other foot off the pedal entirely), then pedal the other leg for 20 or so revolutions. It has to be done on a flat road or path. It really tells you in an instant whether the effort you are applying to the pedals is in fact circular or has a flat spot.

    As your strength and technique improve, up the ante with pedal strokes by 5 each set.
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  25. #25
    gone ride'n cyclinfool's Avatar
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    I find spin class on a spinning bike helps dramatically.
    I would imagine a fixie would do the same thing, you need to pedal w/o the freehub.
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