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  1. #1
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Pedalling circles.

    Something I got into many years ago after my first session of Spinning at the gym but just had to evaluate my pedalling technique.

    For those who are wondering what it is--It is aswell as pushing down on the pedals- you also pull up on the pedals to give a wider range of power going in on the bike. Yesterday at the gym we had a session where the instructor spend about 10 minutes explaining it and getting us to use it. And it is not very easy to do with ordinary platform pedals without toe clips and straps.

    When you push down on the pedals you effectively put in power between about 12 O-clock and 5 O-clock. With a bit of practice you can lengthen this power stroke to around 7. To do this- as you reach the bottom of the stroke you pull back on the foot to pull the pedal past 6. Takes some practice and is easier to do on a stationary bike where you can concentrate on how you are moving the feet without the worry of traffic or steering. It wasn't long before everyone was able to do it and we did a flat road (Moderate resistance at a cadence of 90ish) for about 10 minutes doing this. He then started on the next bit of instead of pushing down on the pedals- we were pulling up on the backstroke.This is an alien movement and takes a lot more thought initially. Movement on the pulling up comes in at about 7 up to around 11 and uses a different set of muscles. It also hurts after a while if you are not used to it. Took a while for everyone to get it but he got us doing a flat road again alternating between pulling up and pushing down. That is where another technique of pedalling circles came in called pedalling squares but most got it in the end. The next stage is to push on the pedals- pull back on the foot at the bottom of the stroke and then pull up on the foot to increase the length of time that power is going in to a full circle. That takes a lot of thought initially but after a while it becomes natural.

    It is not something that can be acquired easily and does take practice to perfect but it does add performance to your riding. It is not something that I do all the time either but once I hit that comfortable cadence - for me around 90 to 95- and no hills are involved then this is what I find I am doing. However slogging away up those steep hills at low cadence and I don't even think about doing it. I have enough problems just turning the pedals at this stage and to try to do it when out of the saddle and the legs are already screaming does not come into it.
    How long was I in the army? Five foot seven.


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  2. #2
    Senior Member bruce19's Avatar
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    I've concentrated on "pedaling circles" since I got into cycling about 30 yrs. ago and I find that the best way to do it is to ride rollers.

  3. #3
    Semper Fi, A way of life. qcpmsame's Avatar
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    I learned the technique in the late 70s using toe clips and straps, now it is easier with clipless pedals and cleats for me. We were taught that a smooth, complete power stroke, or a circle of putting in power, was the most efficient way to cycle by the older guys in our club then. Now I am one of those "Older guys" mind blowing concept that I am still alive.

    Bill
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    There is a spin class about a 1/4 mile away from me that a lady friend enjoys(married stewardess). She says I should "check it out." Now you post this stapfam.

    Yesterday was my first long ride since the shunt, 20 mile out & 20 mile back with 1 hour rest over looking the beach. A good day.

    One of the things I do with clipless is to propel myself just using an up-stoke. On the flat/windless road I can manage a couple miles at about 11mph. It sure does work a new set of muscles.
    A day of roller-blading will offer new meaning to inner thigh pain.

    Cheers!

  5. #5
    The Left Coast, USA FrenchFit's Avatar
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    That foot drag stroke technique has been around for a long time: [Greg LeMond, "Act like you're scraping mud off the bottom of your shoe."] But, pulling up on the backstroke seems to be more of a creature borne of spin classes and the clipless ferver. I recall reading some article researching the stroke characteristics of touring pros and using quads for up stroke power just wasn't happening. Perhaps sprinters, MTBers....

  6. #6
    Starting over CraigB's Avatar
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    I just concentrate on making complete circles with my feet. I don't consciously pull up on the back of the circle unless I'm climbing while standing, at a low cadence, and I need the last bit of power available (which doesn't last long).
    Craig in Indy

  7. #7
    Seat Sniffer Biker395's Avatar
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    I've noticed that if I spin and concentrate on just turning the pedals in a circle (that shoe-gum thing analogy never worked for me), two things happen:

    (1) On climbs, my speed goes up about 20% ... and with the same effort(!)
    (2) I don't get hotfoot.

    I focused on that this weekend, and had pretty good success all day. The trouble is, when I'm tired, the first thing that goes out the window is my pedaling technique.
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  8. #8
    Rolling along
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    When toe straps and nail on cleats became available the purpose was for the pull on the upstroke, why would someone wear cleats or toe straps without utilizing the purpose for which they were installed?
    40-50 years later
    And going uphill out of the saddle is the maximum time for their use.
    just 'sayin

  9. #9
    Bill Laine
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    If you are not, at least, "unweighting" the back foot then your off leg is dead weight that you are lifting with the downstroke. This makes pedaling a little more work and robs energy that could be going to the rear wheel.

  10. #10
    Senior Member David Bierbaum's Avatar
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    I used to worry more about that than I do now. I pedal in "semi-circles", where I just put emphasis on a different part of the stroke as my legs start feeling the previous emphasis. I could doubtless learn to do much better if I took a class like yours, and I probably need to learn much better, if I ever get to doing longer trips like my planned excursion down to the St. Louis Arch-grounds.

    Till then I'm just going to use my inefficient method of alternating between "kick-out" at the top of the stroke, the down stroke, the "shoe-scrape" at the bottom of the stroke, and the "leg-lift" at the back of the stroke. That, plus keeping my maximum speed down to a speed that I can maintain at high cadence, just shy of bouncing in the saddle, seems to serve me well enough for my typical riding habits at present.

    Edit: For the most part, since those muscles in my legs, abs, and groin<-(where I feel it, when I try) aren't well trained, rather than "pull up", I mostly just take my weight off the pedal on the up-stroke, so my power-stroking leg isn't doing double-duty of propelling me forward and lifting the dead weight of my other leg!
    Last edited by David Bierbaum; 03-25-13 at 09:25 AM.

  11. #11
    Senior Member bruce19's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by David Bierbaum View Post



    Edit: .............. rather than "pull up", I mostly just take my weight off the pedal on the up-stroke, so my power-stroking leg isn't doing double-duty of propelling me forward and lifting the dead weight of my other leg!
    I have seen videos that describe this as the proper technique. One thing I've noticed about my own pedaling is that when I concentrate on bringing my knees up my perceived effort seems to go down but my rpm's go up. Still the best thing I've ever done is to use rollers. I don't know what a good standard is for my age (67) but I can do 130 rpm's without bouncing.

  12. #12
    Senior Member rydabent's Avatar
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    Just my opinion, so dont get all huffy about it. For the most part I think that "pedaling in circles" is kind of like a biking old wives tail. While if you really concentrate on it you can for a while, but then you just go back to pushing down on the pedals. The new book "Just ride" pretty much concludes this is what happens too.

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    Senior Member flan48's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rydabent View Post
    Just my opinion, so dont get all huffy about it. For the most part I think that "pedaling in circles" is kind of like a biking old wives tail. While if you really concentrate on it you can for a while, but then you just go back to pushing down on the pedals. The new book "Just ride" pretty much concludes this is what happens too.
    That is my opinion as well, and that is simply anecdotal as I don't claim to be an expert.
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  14. #14
    Seat Sniffer Biker395's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rydabent View Post
    Just my opinion, so dont get all huffy about it. For the most part I think that "pedaling in circles" is kind of like a biking old wives tail. While if you really concentrate on it you can for a while, but then you just go back to pushing down on the pedals. The new book "Just ride" pretty much concludes this is what happens too.
    Hey, I'll get a huffy if I want to!



    FWIW ... I've been able to focus on the right pedaling technique on climbs ... not so much on the flats. And only when I'm not tired.
    Last edited by Biker395; 03-25-13 at 10:28 AM.
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  15. #15
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    I'm in about the same place as most of you. I try to apply power to as much of the peddle stroke as possible by emphasis on pulling back at the bottom and unloading the weight of the rising leg off the pedal by pushing the knee over the top. Driving the knee over the top of the stroke immediately ups the speed.

  16. #16
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    Hi,

    Some research was done regarding a "bike" you could
    also pedal with your arms. Net result was no real help,
    your legs are fine on their own over longer periods.

    The muscles that lift you legs (thigh) are relatively
    (they swing the leg forward from the hip running)
    tiny and other research indicates even professionals
    don't "pull up" on the pedals, they just push down
    a lot less than most on the upstroke, rather than pull.

    I'd guess it might feel like "pulling" even when it isn't.

    "Dancing" on the pedals seems a good term.

    Some other research I read indicates doing what comes
    naturally is generally the best. The human nervous system
    is a learning system. Use muscles a lot, the control of them
    develops, to an extent you can gain conscious control of them,
    e.g. "the flexing muscles to music musclemen".

    I've been trying some homemade "powergrip" style toestraps.
    I like them but also like not using them, mixing up pedalling.
    They are good for a long slog into a headwind. They seem
    to use the leg muscles somewhat differently to pedalling.

    When you consciously affect you pedalling action you feel
    the difference, and you may be just changing the emphasis
    on each phase your legs have decided is "automatic".

    In my case I know "automatic" for short sharp hills
    is very different to generally bowling along at pace.
    A slog into a headwind or small hill, different again.

    I'm all for going with what your body decides in old age.
    (Given you help it as much as possible, right fit etc.)

    rgds, sreten.
    Last edited by sreten; 03-25-13 at 12:53 PM.

  17. #17
    Senior Member David Bierbaum's Avatar
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    Has anyone tried different techniques for the "lift up" part of the stroke? I've tried the classic "lift the leg" technique, which seems to put much strain where my leg attaches to my groinal area, and I've tried the "scissors" method which is sort of a continuation of the "shoe-scrape movement, and focuses on the movement of "closing the scissors" by bringing your foot up to your buttockal regions, if you get what I mean. It's kind of the natural companion move to the "kick out" that pretty much does the reverse.

    What movement conceptions do you folks use to "visualize" how you pedal, and which muscles/joints you use in each phase of the pedal stroke?
    Last edited by David Bierbaum; 03-25-13 at 01:23 PM.

  18. #18
    Senior Member BlazingPedals's Avatar
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    I think I remember reading from some 'reputable' sources that pulling on the upstroke really didn't provide much extra usable power. Mostly, you should worry about being smooth through the stroke so that you can spin at the higher cadences that are popular these days, without bouncing.

    When you think about it, your leg-lifting muscles aren't very big or strong compared to the muscles used to push down, or IOW to lift your body.

  19. #19
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    running on the pedals?

  20. #20
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    I do not consciously pull up on the pedals but a few years ago I used an old pair of pedals and I constantly had to tighten the tension to stop pulling out of the pedals on the upstroke so I know that I am doing it. Bought new shoes and fitted new cleats and it was not worn pedals- as I found out the first time i went to stop and could not release with maximum tension on the pedals.

    But long rides and a hill coming up and I do make the effort to only use the upstroke before the hill. Gives the normal cycling muscles a break before they get pushed to the limit. However once on that hill- technique goes out of the window when the cadence drops. I don't care what the legs are doing as Long as they don't start walking.
    How long was I in the army? Five foot seven.


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  21. #21
    Seat Sniffer Biker395's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BlazingPedals View Post
    I think I remember reading from some 'reputable' sources that pulling on the upstroke really didn't provide much extra usable power. Mostly, you should worry about being smooth through the stroke so that you can spin at the higher cadences that are popular these days, without bouncing.

    When you think about it, your leg-lifting muscles aren't very big or strong compared to the muscles used to push down, or IOW to lift your body.
    Yea, I agree.

    I don't think it's so much that you get a lot of power by pulling up on the pedals. As a matter of fact, I don't think many people truly pull up on them for any distance at all (except sprinters, perhaps). For me at least, the real value is that when I concentrate on turning the pedals in a circle, I stop the bad habit of pushing down on both pedals at the same time ... essentially working them to cross purposes. I think that's why I also get less hotfoot.
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  22. #22
    Old fart JohnDThompson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stapfam View Post
    For those who are wondering what it is--It is aswell as pushing down on the pedals- you also pull up on the pedals to give a wider range of power going in on the bike. Yesterday at the gym we had a session where the instructor spend about 10 minutes explaining it and getting us to use it. And it is not very easy to do with ordinary platform pedals without toe clips and straps.
    Indeed. But the best way I've found to practice it is using toeclips and straps (and preferably slotted cleats or even clipless pedals) and a fixed gear bike.

  23. #23
    Senior Member NOS88's Avatar
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    I don't know what the actual mechanics are, or the terms people use. I tend, however, to try and pedal so that there are no dead spots, and that I'm not favoring one leg over another. I was first taught how to do this by unclipping and using just one leg with the intent to be as smooth as possible. Then switch to the other, and finally incorporate both legs. What I do know is that it feels different when I do this. Is it more efficient? I have no evidence or data that would suggest so. Does it feel more efficient? Yes. Why? Once again, I have no clue.
    A conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking. - S. Wright

  24. #24
    A might bewildered... Dudelsack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lenA View Post
    running on the pedals?
    Dancing on the pedals.....in a most immodest way.

    So pedal in circles, not squares.

    Work smarter, not harder.

    Wherever the hell you go, you'll be there when you get there.

    I guess that's about it.
    Last edited by Dudelsack; 03-25-13 at 03:16 PM.

  25. #25
    Semper Fi, A way of life. qcpmsame's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rydabent View Post
    Just my opinion, so dont get all huffy about it. For the most part I think that "pedaling in circles" is kind of like a biking old wives tail. While if you really concentrate on it you can for a while, but then you just go back to pushing down on the pedals. The new book "Just ride" pretty much concludes this is what happens too.
    I respect your right to have an opinion but the strain gauge data taken has shown that power is being applied in the circle when done correctly. I can feel the "pressure" of applying power full circle if I think about it, but it is pretty much ingrained and automatic for me after so many years. YMMV and not feeling the least bit huffy.

    Bill
    "I Can Do All Things Through Christ Who Strengthens Me" Philippians 4:13

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