Let me get this straight -- pushing down on the pedal is useful effort, but pulling up, pushing forward and pulling back on the pedal are wasted effort? How did you come up with that? Using the same logic, you could argue that pushing down is wasted effort, and we should all just give up riding.
Effort is "wasted" if it isn't translating into the action you desire. Here, pulling up, etc. are translating directly into rotation of the rear wheel, which is pretty much what I look for. You?
Wool is real, maaaaaan.
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In this day and age when a sprinter dons an aero helmet two thirds of a way through a Grand Tour stage in anticipation of a fast sprint finish, there is recognition that fractions of a second count. Those fractions convert to fractions of a mph in speed, and fractions of effort to gain an advantage over the next guy.
If you can recruit those calf muscles in the lift-up action while pedalling, and the next guy can't, that might just give you the edge you need, even over long distances.
I always remember seeing for the first time the calf muscles of one of the world's most respected randonneurs, Ken Bonner. They were large and had a very defined split down the middle. Another cyclist friend who was a state champion back in the 1970s when old-style pedalling technique was the go, also had split calves like that.
If you look carefully at the pedalling style of the Grand Tour riders in the peloton, you will see the majority have a smooth, circles motion. They don't have to think about it... they've been trained to do it since they were kids.
The finish of the one the TdF sprints showed the contrast between a smooth pedal stroke and a jerky one that relied at the time almost entirely on his downstroke for power. Guess who finished second.
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When you push down, you have both the force of your strongest and most efficient leg muscles, and the dead weight of your leg pushing down. On the upstroke, you may have some slightly less efficient muscles pulling up and one of their chores is to lift the dead weight of that leg.
Most riders probably pull up to some degree, but most of the time, as all those charts have shown, the muscles pulling up only serve to partially lift that leg. Any extra force needed to lift that leg, and all the force going into propelling the bike, comes from the downward pushing leg. Nevertheless, pulling up does contribute to propulsion, since more of the downward leg’s effort goes into propelling the bike and less into assisting in lifting the other leg. So lifting up is not wasted effort.
If you deliberately concentrate on extra pulling up, you can ride a little faster, but it is not as efficient as concentrating most of your efforts on pushing down, so you won't sustain it as long. You get more miles per breath if your ride in your preferred style, or concentrate on pushing down, and don't deliberately try to pull up harder. As I said, you probably are pulling up a bit anyway, but only enough to assist in lifting that leg, and much less than you are pushing down.
Last edited by cooker; 07-11-13 at 08:08 PM.