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Pedaling In Circles

Old 07-07-14, 04:08 PM
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curdog
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Pedaling In Circles

I've been working on raising my cadence over the past several weeks. A suggestion by my LBS was to work on pedaling in circles. How can I determine what a circular stroke feels like? I'm aware of the recommendation of utilizing the entire stroke by acting like you're scraping mud from your shoe. It would be extremely helpful if a clearer explanation could be provided.
Thanks.
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Old 07-07-14, 04:25 PM
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Not sure how to make it clearer, really. In the old days they called it "ankling", meaning that you used your ankles to try to maintain an even pressure on the pedals throughout the stroke. Thus the heel would be down before pushing through the top of the stroke, and up before the scraping motion you describe at the bottom.

A decent start is to try to get a feel for making a cicular motion rather than just stamping on the pedals on the downstroke. That's the best I can do, really, others may have more helpful imagery.
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Old 07-07-14, 04:52 PM
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Don't let it get too complicated. Push the top of the peddle stroke over, pull the bottom of the stroke through. Practice riding on level ground at a medium high cadance with only one foot clipped in, the other not touching the peddle. Once you can get a fairly smooth stroke, you will know what peddling in circles feels like.
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Old 07-07-14, 05:00 PM
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I know it when I am doing it. I don't do it enough, but things become noticeably easier when I do pedal in circles. One of my worst bicycling faults (among many) is stomping the pedals.
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Old 07-07-14, 05:05 PM
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Originally Posted by chasm54 View Post
Not sure how to make it clearer, really. In the old days they called it "ankling"....
I havent heard this term used anywhere since the mid-70s. Wow, had a trip and never left the farm.

Just unloading the upstroke pedal a little bit, especially when climbing can make a noticeable difference.

Last edited by OldsCOOL; 07-07-14 at 05:10 PM.
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Old 07-07-14, 06:15 PM
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If you try one legged cycling for a few minutes, you will quickly know whether you are making a smooth circle.
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Old 07-07-14, 06:59 PM
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Originally Posted by b2run View Post
If you try one legged cycling for a few minutes, you will quickly know whether you are making a smooth circle.
+1
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Old 07-07-14, 07:03 PM
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Ride either a fixed geared or track bike. It will make you spin pretty circles
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Old 07-07-14, 07:10 PM
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Buy rollers. If you can ride them smoothly you are pedaling circles.
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Old 07-07-14, 07:35 PM
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Originally Posted by OldsCOOL View Post
I havent heard this term used anywhere since the mid-70s. Wow, had a trip and never left the farm.

Just unloading the upstroke pedal a little bit, especially when climbing can make a noticeable difference.
I like that one, unloading the upstroke a little. Another feature of pedaling for me is to watch out for the feeling that my foot is hitting bottom as it goes down, and pushing too hard at the bottom of the stroke. I usually take that as a sign my saddle is a few mm too low - usually a very small rise relieves it. I can get knee pain if I don't.
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Old 07-07-14, 08:02 PM
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Originally Posted by tony2v View Post
Ride either a fixed geared or track bike. It will make you spin pretty circles
Originally Posted by bruce19 View Post
Buy rollers. If you can ride them smoothly you are pedaling circles.
Both these are true.
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Old 07-07-14, 08:29 PM
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Originally Posted by b2run View Post
If you try one legged cycling for a few minutes, you will quickly know whether you are making a smooth circle.
+1 These are good exercises regardless how long you've been riding. A trainer is also a good place to work on one-legged drills, if you have a trainer.
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Old 07-08-14, 04:14 PM
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Are you using clipless pedals or platform? It's MUCH easier and more natural with clipless/cleats.
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Old 07-08-14, 04:45 PM
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fwiw-using the full pedal stroke with both legs is something you learn and relearn. I work on it all the time, even though I've been riding quite a bit. I find it is most useful when doing Time Trials and also climbing. I find it helpful to concentrate on pedaling all the way around making sure both legs are distributing the work as evenly as possible. I think of pedaling in larger circles for a slower cadence and smaller circles for faster cadence situations. For me it's trying to improve my form which improves my efficiency. I can instantly see my cadence increase with the same effort while concentrating on it.
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Old 07-09-14, 12:30 PM
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Originally Posted by jppe View Post
fwiw-using the full pedal stroke with both legs is something you learn and relearn. I work on it all the time, even though I've been riding quite a bit. I find it is most useful when doing Time Trials and also climbing. I find it helpful to concentrate on pedaling all the way around making sure both legs are distributing the work as evenly as possible. I think of pedaling in larger circles for a slower cadence and smaller circles for faster cadence situations. For me it's trying to improve my form which improves my efficiency. I can instantly see my cadence increase with the same effort while concentrating on it.
Everything in this response rings home. When I'm concentrating the most, I can feel the pedaling on the upward stroke. Climbing seems to make my stroke more even throughout the stroke if I keep cadence relatively low, say 60 to 67. What I'm hearing is that it might not ever come automatically, but rather be something that I'll continue to need to work on.
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Old 07-09-14, 05:48 PM
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I think it will come naturally. Years ago, I rode with clip less pedals. I am not using them now but I still feel myself pulling up on the stroke.
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Old 07-09-14, 06:42 PM
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Basically you want to pedal (petal, peddle) in circles once you spend a lot of money on a system and cleats. That's when it hits home. Then it better feel different and you better spin faster and smoother.

But wait. Someone might have forgotten to tell you that the high cadence makes your heart rate goes up, compared to a low cadence.
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Old 07-09-14, 09:10 PM
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Technically, what one tries to do is to keep a constant torque on the bottom bracket. Thus the rear wheel pushes the bike forward at a constant rate with no little accelerations and decelerations. This seems to be easier on the legs. So the force that both feet make, added together, stays constant. When one foot is in a weak position, the other foot is in a dominant position.

Most new riders find that their maximum cadence is limited because they start to bounce in the saddle. This is a more subtle thing than just pedaling circles, because the downward force of the leg needs to be arrested and converted into a rear-ward force at the bottom of the stroke. Otherwise, it forces the butt off the saddle.

You need to establish new patterns of neuromuscular coordination. The nerves have to learn to fire the right muscles in exactly the correct amount at exactly the right time. So here's what you do to learn both to pedal circles and learn to increase your comfortable cadence: pedal way outside your envelope. If you don't have a trainer or rollers, on a flat road with a lot of room in front of you, gear down to a very low gear, say 39 X 25 or even lower. So low that you are pedaling with almost no force on the pedals. Now accelerate until you begin to bounce on the saddle, then slow down just enough so that you stop bouncing. Hold that cadence for as long as you can or have road room. At least 15 minutes is best. You shouldn't be working hard aerobically, though your legs may complain. If you are breathing hard, gear down even more. It should be a moderate effort aerobically. Now while you're doing that, concentrate on the fact that there is a cushion of air under your foot, all the way around the stroke. Feel the upper, not the sole. And your chain should never go slack. Constant force on the chain.

This little exercise, done for 15 to 45 minutes once a week accomplishes all your goals for pedaling technique. Your natural cadence will go up and you'll be pedaling circles without even thinking about how you're doing it. I've been doing this on my rollers in the winter for many years, every winter. It's a big help.
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Old 07-09-14, 09:52 PM
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+1 on one legged pedaling. I started doing it for rehab for an overuse injury a couple of years ago and still do it at least 1x/week for 4-10 miles on a flat course. I spin 40-50 revolutions with one leg, switch legs and repeat. It has really helped me be smoother and develop leg, glute, back and abdominal muscles that I never used correctly and efficiently.
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Old 07-10-14, 07:07 AM
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Or--------------------you could just pedal your bike in a manner that feels good, and try not to over think the whole process. Ride for fun and enjoyment.
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Old 07-10-14, 07:29 AM
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many years ago when I raced on the track I rode my track bike drafting behind tandems on the bike trail. Kind of like motor pacing. I cruised along at 110-120 rpm. If you are not bouncing on your saddle you are pedaling in circles, Another drill i did was to put my road bike in a very low gear and do downhill sprints at very high rpm. I would take it up as high as possible while out of the saddle and then sit down and spin up to 200 rpm. It trained the muscle firing sequence to go in a perfect circle even at the top end of my initial jump. It It makes your sprint very smooth and powerful. I could only reach 200 rpm about three times in a session. Once I could not make 200 I stopped the drill. I found I could ride around for hours at 110 rpm with ease. Unfortunately I no longer have that ability. That was over 20 years ago.
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Old 07-10-14, 10:31 AM
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You can listen to your tires. A steady "whirrrrrr" indicates a smooth circle. A series of "whir, whir, whir, whir," would tell you you're applying power in pulses. Easier to tell with knobbies, but even road tires make a sound you can listen for.
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Old 07-12-14, 05:20 PM
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Originally Posted by rydabent View Post
Or--------------------you could just pedal your bike in a manner that feels good, and try not to over think the whole process. Ride for fun and enjoyment.
Totally unhelpful and arrogant. The guy is looking for advice on technique, not attitude.

You ride for fun and enjoyment the way you please. Don't tell other people how they should seek their own pleasure.
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Old 07-12-14, 05:30 PM
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As others have said, learning to pedal circles takes a long time - you do it better and better with time. You probably do it better when you are thinking about it, but eventually you do a fair bit of it without thinking about it.

I think of a few things - first, I think not so much about getting power on the upstroke, but more about getting that back foot up quickly so that it's ready to come over the top a little faster. Second, I don't want to feel that my foot is always pressing down on the bottom of my shoe - I want the foot/shoe pressure to be moving about as I pedal. Third, I don't really want any power on the upstroke (except for standing/strong accelerations/steep hills), but I do want power coming over the top and moving the foot backwards at the bottom of the stroke. That's the hardest part and I've made progress, but I don't do it well unless I think about it.

When I was a beginner my average cadences were around 60-70. When I got in good shape but was first trying to pedal circles I had average cadences around 70-80. Now they are 85-100, depending on the ride. Partly this is because I am more comfortable in an easier gear, and partly it's because I am now more of a spinner than a masher.
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Old 07-12-14, 08:16 PM
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I saw a TdF rider bouncing off his saddle. No circles for him. I guess doing proper form goes to the sidelines now and then.
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