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Drop your heels!

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Road Cycling It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle. -- Ernest Hemingway

Drop your heels!

Old 05-08-22, 02:17 PM
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Originally Posted by timtak
The current pro peloton (first side on shot on Google images searching for Tour de France)

Grand Fondue
seem to have rather "endurance" set up because, I still think, they have turned the tour into a serial sprint relay where power is more important than being aero.
I've read that it's not unusual for riders to drop their saddle height 10+ mm during the course of a Grand Tour as the fatigue sets in. It's not that surprising that they favour a more "endurance" fit considering the event. Obviously their TT stage positions will be completely different.
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Old 05-08-22, 10:24 PM
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Originally Posted by PeteHski
I've read that it's not unusual for riders to drop their saddle height 10+ mm during the course of a Grand Tour as the fatigue sets in. It's not that surprising that they favour a more "endurance" fit considering the event. Obviously their TT stage positions will be completely different.
It tends to happen more during alpine stages.

And pro fitter Steve Hogg explains why and it's because the riders are subconsciously dropping their heels in difficult climbs. He even goes to recommend to adjust the saddle height based on the amount you're dropping your heel on a hard climb and if he's accurate about that statement, that means the majority of recreational riders have set their saddles too high - that might explain why many recreational riders develop knee issues after many years of riding.

https://www.stevehoggbikefitting.com...ard-can-it-be/

To avoid reading the entire page, the topic is found in the middle paragraphs under the title heading "How to set seat height accurately if you are a bike fitter"


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Last edited by couldwheels; 05-08-22 at 10:29 PM.
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Old 05-09-22, 04:11 AM
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Originally Posted by couldwheels
It tends to happen more during alpine stages.

And pro fitter Steve Hogg explains why and it's because the riders are subconsciously dropping their heels in difficult climbs. He even goes to recommend to adjust the saddle height based on the amount you're dropping your heel on a hard climb and if he's accurate about that statement, that means the majority of recreational riders have set their saddles too high - that might explain why many recreational riders develop knee issues after many years of riding.

https://www.stevehoggbikefitting.com...ard-can-it-be/

To avoid reading the entire page, the topic is found in the middle paragraphs under the title heading "How to set seat height accurately if you are a bike fitter"


.
This renowned London based bike fitter agrees that most recreational riders have their saddle set too high. He reckons about 90% of the "men" that come to him for a pro bike fit have their saddle way too high. He goes on to say that he typically lowers their saddles by on average 20 mm, so there is obviously quite a culture (at least in London!) of riding with a high saddle. I strongly suspect it's a macho "pro look" thing, as with slammed stems.

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Old 05-09-22, 10:39 AM
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Originally Posted by PeteHski
This renowned London based bike fitter agrees that most recreational riders have their saddle set too high. He reckons about 90% of the "men" that come to him for a pro bike fit have their saddle way too high. He goes on to say that he typically lowers their saddles by on average 20 mm, so there is obviously quite a culture (at least in London!) of riding with a high saddle. I strongly suspect it's a macho "pro look" thing, as with slammed stems.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GJDeVD5YTo0
Apparently, it's a huge problem according to that video!

Coincidentally, my previous saddle adjustment was 25 mm higher. It was also 25 mm lower before that. I raised it because I felt like I'm not stretching my legs enough. Then it caused saddle discomfort. Worse than the problems it solved. So I lowered it again and discomfort problems went away.
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Old 05-09-22, 01:51 PM
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Originally Posted by couldwheels
Apparently, it's a huge problem according to that video!

Coincidentally, my previous saddle adjustment was 25 mm higher. It was also 25 mm lower before that. I raised it because I felt like I'm not stretching my legs enough. Then it caused saddle discomfort. Worse than the problems it solved. So I lowered it again and discomfort problems went away.
That's what I've found too if I go to the high end of my saddle height window. I think it's because I tend to put more pressure on the saddle at the bottom of the stroke when my legs are reaching their comfortable limit of extension. When I lower the saddle approx 10 mm from that point the saddle feels more comfortable with a more even saddle pressure throughout the stroke. Going too high on the saddle also starts to induce hip rocking, which can also manifest itself as saddle discomfort. I have a saddle height window of about 20 mm where I can get comfortable and not have any other issues, but I tend to favour the conservative end of that range. Experienced fitters I've spoken to and most that I've read about seem to agree that there is much less downside to having your saddle a little too low than a little too high.
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Old 05-09-22, 01:52 PM
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A couple of years ago, my coach had a 3 hour session at the track on pedaling technique on when and how to use it. We practiced different techniques doing efforts on the track. I use different foot positions as the situation lends itself. YMMV.
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Old 05-09-22, 05:11 PM
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My basic starting point for most things (pointed out by a fitter) is:

If, when someone follows you, your hips rock / dip, then the saddle is (probably) too high. Drop it 5mm and try again.

If, when you spin out past your highest rpm you bounce, then the saddle is (probably) too low. Raise it 5mm and try again.

Once you are within those limits, deal with joint pain and repetitive motion issues with a fitter. But stay between those limits unless there is a very good, and very unusual, reason for it.
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Old 05-12-22, 09:53 PM
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Whatever the reason for their being different styles of cycling I am not sure, but there seem to be different styles.

In my field of cultural psychology there is a theory (Tomasello, 1999) that there is a "ratchet effect" in cultural transmission and evolution such that once e.g. someone has worked out how to use a stone, then a stick with stone attached (i.e. hammer) to bash things with, these tools, or techniques tend not to be forgotten.

It seems to me that the "French" (ankling, cycling in circles, bunched up at the back, push pull, glute intensive) style of cycling is one which, despite the ratchet, I was in danger of never acquiring. The ratchet had, for me at least, slipped.

I am very grateful to say however that thanks to a few words by Greg LeMond, and some posts here by Carbonfibreboy (especially the one that suggesting using the glutes from the 5 O'clock position) however, the ratchet is working. Phew. Thank you!
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Old 03-01-23, 10:26 PM
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How to pedal a road bike using the reverse Trebuchet principle

I have had another eureka moment on my bike.
, I explain how I got the first step of traditional (old skool "French style" "bunched up at the back style" "ankling(?)", "glute intensive" style) by pushing forwards as if riding a go-cart ending my push at about 4 pm, and then whipping back with my glutes.

However, some days this really worked and other days it did not. Sometimes I could not get my glutes to engage. And when they did I could feel some leverage going on as if I were can-opening my bike using an old fashioned can-opener


Pedaling felt like opening a can

And then Eureka. I understood pedaling as being like an upside down trebuchet.This is a video of a trebuchet.

John Cobb, the saddle and pedaling guru mentions that one will eventually put ones femur on ones saddle. That seems strange from a modern toes-down and stomp kind of pedaling style.

Looking at photos of Moser, Merx and Anquetil they seem to be doing that, there femur pointing forward bunched over on the bike. What is going on?

If you put the base of your femur on the rear of your saddle you can use your short-pull but really strong glutes to catapult (or trebuchet) yourself forwards.I highly recommend especially to those who are not too fat (otherwise you can bunch yourself up) and not wildly strong since a more modern style of sprinty, time-trially, toes down pedaling may suit. I especially recommend it to old people like me since it is a great glute workout.

Personally I think that old style pedaling may be faster for everyone who is cycling alone on a road bike (unless they timtak-it a lot and make it into a funny bike), and that it is only the new, radio controlled lead line that made sprint relay style of modern pedaling effective but, I may be wrong!

Daub-whip-trebuchet technique? I explain in the video below. No adsense.
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Old 03-02-23, 11:57 AM
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Originally Posted by timtak
I have had another eureka moment on my bike. Above, I explain how I got the first step of traditional (old skool "French style" "bunched up at the back style" "ankling(?)", "glute intensive" style) by pushing forwards as if riding a go-cart ending my push at about 4 pm, and then whipping back with my glutes.

However, some days this really worked and other days it did not. Sometimes I could not get my glutes to engage. And when they did I could feel some leverage going on as if I were can-opening my bike using an old fashioned can-opener
Pedaling felt like opening a can

And then Eureka. I understood pedaling as being like an upside down trebuchet.

John Cobb, the saddle and pedaling guru mentions that one will eventually put ones femur on ones saddle. That seems strange from a modern toes-down and stomp kind of pedaling style.

Looking at photos of Moser, Merx and Anquetil they seem to be doing that, there femur pointing forward bunched over on the bike. What is going on?

If you put the base of your femur on the rear of your saddle you can use your short-pull but really strong glutes to catapult (or trebuchet) yourself forwards.I highly recommend especially to those who are not too fat (otherwise you can bunch yourself up) and not wildly strong since a more modern style of sprinty, time-trially, toes down pedaling may suit. I especially recommend it to old people like me since it is a great glute workout.

Personally I think that old style pedaling may be faster for everyone who is cycling alone on a road bike (unless they timtak-it a lot and make it into a funny bike), and that it is only the new, radio controlled lead line that made sprint relay style of modern pedaling effective but, I may be wrong!

Daub-whip-trebuchet technique?
Of course what you're describing is a catapult, as the line connecting the arm to the payload is missing, but the idea is the same. I once built about a 4' tall trebuchet. It tossed rocks maybe 100'. Very interesting devices.

I've watched that video of LA and Pantani playing on Mont Ventoux a zillion times, being fascinated by their foot action, both riders using the identical seated pedaling style. So, like that must work, eh? LA's "Accelerate, Marco!" is my favorite line. And then he lets Marco have the stage, thanks for the help and moral support in adding some more seconds to his lead.

Anyway, notice the dorsiflexion of their ankles on the backstroke. They come over the top with the ankle well dorsiflexed, pushing forward with the ball of the foot. Then as you say, the glutes kick in at about 5 o'clock, but the ball of the foot has been pushing forward and then down up to that point, the ankle relaxed. I have to do sets of tibialis raises (google) to be able to get that dorsiflexion working adequately.
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Old 03-02-23, 12:45 PM
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Originally Posted by ryan_rides
This is something I struggle with. Not sure why but I have to actively think about dropping my heels throughout my pedal strokes. I usually don’t do it. I have a bike fit. My bike is comfortable to me. I just know that you’re supposed to drop your heels and recently a rider last Saturday told me that I should drop my heels while riding. Is there a way to train myself to change my pedal strokes so that it becomes natural?
So I've been doing it all wrong the past 200,000 miles? Never got the word. Never paid attention to my heels. Most of the time my foot keeps a constant angle, toes down throughout the pedal stroke. I vary that angle and hence knee bend some as I ride but pay little attention. And it works.

If you look at the pro peloton, you will see many different foot angles. There is no one "correct" way to ride. Some of the most famous riders ever had very different styles. Our challenge is to find what works for us. If you have to work too hard at doing a particular style, it may not be the best for you.

Now, if you can find a pedal stroke that enables you to drop all the "heels" (undesireable riders) on your group ride - fine tune it!

Edit: Answering an old post. Guilty as charged.
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Old 03-02-23, 04:37 PM
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Thank you Carbon (if I may)

I am glad to hear from you especially since you alterted me to the existence of this style of pedaling.

I may give the Tibialis Raises a go.

Catapult may be more appropriate since it covers the use of elastic, and the glutes are more like elastic than a weight, but I wanted to emphasise the reverse lever effect shared with the trebuchet.

I still have not mastered ankling and keep my foot angle pretty much the same. Pedalling is so deep!

Tim
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Old 03-02-23, 05:33 PM
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Originally Posted by 79pmooney

If you look at the pro peloton, you will see many different foot angles. There is no one "correct" way to ride. Some of the most famous riders ever had very different styles. Our challenge is to find what works for us.
This ^ 100%
I don't even think about pedalling technique. I just do it naturally and that seems to work for me. I pay attention to saddle height and that's it.
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Old 03-03-23, 08:23 PM
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Originally Posted by 79pmooney
Most of the time my foot keeps a constant angle, toes down throughout the pedal stroke. I vary that angle and hence knee bend some as I ride but pay little attention. And it works. If you look at the pro peloton, you will see many different foot angles. There is no one "correct" way to ride. Some of the most famous riders ever had very different styles. Our challenge is to find what works for us. If you have to work too hard at doing a particular style, it may not be the best for you.
It is often said, but I am not sure that there are all that many styles of pedalling, toes down and heels down being the main two (flat midfoot may be another, especially useful for triathletes but I am not sure)

The toes down is the rage at the moment, using ones quads predominantly as if sprinting all the time. Predominantly using ones quads there is little need to change foot angle. And little need to think about it. I think that this is so fashionable now because the teams with radios have turned the sport into a sprint relay with such a well disciplined pace line, and so few breakaways.

The heel down style is where you push over the top forwards (rather than down) and pull back with your glutes using a "trebuchet" whip like action. The pro peloton proves that it is not as fast as the style you are using, when cycling in a peloton because it is possible to sprint all the time if you are only taking the front for 10% of the time (or if you are on a time trial bike).

However the old style has advantages in that it is
Less harsh on the knees because you are never pushing to the bottom nor likely to push too far (attempt to lengthen your crank)
A longer application of force using two muscle sets so better for longer distances (again if not in a peloton nor on a trial bike)
A longer application of force reducing maximum force and thus helpful in situations when the load is already high when climbing.
Appropriate to people who are riding a road bike on their own and have to be on the front all the time, and can't be sprinting all the time (unless perhaps they set up their road bike like a "funny" trial bike road bike).
A good glute workout which seems help older people

Last edited by Hermes; 03-04-23 at 07:56 AM. Reason: Deleted off topic
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Old 03-04-23, 03:09 AM
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Originally Posted by tomato coupe
Please stop.
Now that I am using the rear of my saddle to catapult / trebuchet my femur backwards in the glute part of the cycle, I am dropping my heels more. Until I started using leverage my pedal cycle was only as strong as the weakest (glute) part. There was no need to push forwards with dropped heel because my glutes without leverage could not drag the pedal back at that gear. Now I am using glute leverage I use a higher gear, and more heel drop to push my pedals forwards.

It feels like I am rocking my femur like a see-saw and that my feet are move around with the chain.
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Old 03-04-23, 03:56 AM
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I wish everyone I raced against back in the day had been obsessed with pedaling technique. The more they'd concentrated on pedaling just so, the more energy they'd have wasted.

This subject---"How can I best learn to pedal unnaturally?"---reminds me of a teammate I overheard complimenting a guy on a rival team for his smoothness during a race. When I asked why after the race, he said, "I could see he was trying to keep his upper body still on the bike. I figured I'd encourage him so he'd waste even more energy doing that!"
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Old 03-04-23, 08:02 AM
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Moderation note. We have done some cleanup in the thread. Please return to topic. As a reminder, disruption of a thread by irrelevant posts is against the BF rules. Thank you in advance for your compliance.
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Old 03-04-23, 12:30 PM
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I am by nature an experimenter. I experiment with everything, including my body and what it does. For guidance, I read a lot and for the physical side of things, I read studies. So of course I experiment with my bicycles and everything on them, including myself. I designed my own fit and in my early 70s decided to go and get a pro fit. And amazingly enough, my fit was correct by his numbers. Of course. Experimentation is where those numbers came from. How I and some others pedal is simply a result of that same mindset.

By its nature, this sort of experimentation is a slow process. It can't proceed any faster than our body's ability to adapt and our body's ability to sense such adaptation, neither of which as we all know by now, is particularly fast. One of the issues with setting up these sorts of experiments is feedback. Is our back pain due to bike fit or just a weak back? Do our hands hurt because of our saddle or gloves or something else? And why do my quads hurt?

Here's the quickie method for pedaling: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles...013.00035/full
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Old 03-06-23, 09:42 AM
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Originally Posted by nycphotography
If your fit is good, you should be able to pedal either heel up, or heel down.
heels up uses the calves, you will feel the burn there.
heels down uses the quads and glutes. you will feel the burn there.
+1. And then the kicker: Physiologically speaking, the larger muscle groups -- so, in this case, the quads and glutes -- are able to tolerate more "burn". You can work them harder before they'll succumb to fatigue. Ergo, given the hypothetical choice between only riding heels up (toes down) or only riding heels down, if you want to ride longer or faster (or both) you should spend as much time as possible pedaling heels down.

But since (as nycphotography noted) it's not a binary choice, you should spend as much time as road conditions allow pedaling in the way that is appropriate for those conditions.
.
.
.

btw, here's a wonderful party trick for dropping a bomb into these Toe Down/Heel Down pedaling arguments:

Attach an assembly of three linked levers connected via pivots -- iow, your leg (!!!) -- to the pedals on a stationary bike. Bring one crank arm up to the 12 o'clock position. Put your foot in the toe-down position, and completely relax the rest of your body. See which way the crank arms fall.
Now repeat the experiment, only this time with your foot in the heel-down position. See which way the crank arms fall.

Physics and/or mechanical engineering says (and every time I've seen this experiment performed, empirical evidence confirms) that the crank will fall backwards with the foot in the toe-down position, and the crank will fall forwards in the heel-down position. Every. Single. Time.
So if gravity is going to impact your pedal stroke, wouldn't you rather it contribute to moving the chain and rear wheel in the same direction you're trying to get it to move?

You're welcome.
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Old 03-12-23, 01:01 AM
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Originally Posted by Trakhak
This subject---"How can I best learn to pedal unnaturally?"
Pedalling heel down, using your glutes and quads more equally, is unlikely to come naturally and it took me years.

It reminds me of juggling. If you attempt to juggle then most people will pass to their strong hand with their weaker hand, i.e. to their right hand from their left and throw upwards solely with their right. It is almost impossible to juggle three balls in this way, but it is the way that comes naturally. In order to be able to juggle with three balls, which is in fact quite easy, all you really need to do is unlearn the way that comes naturally and throw upwards with each hand to each hand. Once you have unlearnt the reliance of on your strong hand, learning to throw up alternately with each hand only takes an hour or so. And is it natural? It is certainly an easier way to juggle.

I think that cycling heel down is not nearly so effectively compared with toe down style but I think that the latter comes naturally, whereas the the former has a lot of merits. I would only really strongly recommend it to those who are getting old, or have sore knees.
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Old 03-12-23, 04:06 AM
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Interesting video on pedaling technique. Very little time is spent addressing heel-down versus heel-up pedaling, likely because the current thinking is that a correct fit on the bike obviates that aspect of pedaling technique as a concern.

Interesting: according to lab measurements, the cyclists with the most efficient pedaling motion are those with amputations below the knee and a well-designed prosthetic leg.

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Old 03-12-23, 09:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Trakhak
The more they'd concentrated on pedaling just so, the more energy they'd have wasted.

This subject---"How can I best learn to pedal unnaturally?"---reminds me of a teammate I overheard complimenting a guy on a rival team for his smoothness during a race. When I asked why after the race, he said, "I could see he was trying to keep his upper body still on the bike. I figured I'd encourage him so he'd waste even more energy doing that!"
I really agree with this, but I think that it make work in the opposite direction (i.e. in favor of heel down, circular, Frenchy, cycling of days past).

I agree that thinking about bodily movement tends to have a negative impact on bodily movement though their are exceptions. Dealing with the exceptions first:
1) It is easier to get the hang of a bodily movement initially if it is easy to conceptualise.
2) You can encourage yourself to "push harder" etc and self talk of this type has been shown to increase exertion.

However, as you say, e.g. (another example) if you ask a tennis player how come they do such a great serve they will become worse at it due to the additional cognitive load of having to describe and think about the motion of their racket (Eagleman, 2012, p. 74).

Japanese martial arts are big on this and there are all sorts of Zen influenced schools of martial arts that emphasize "no thought"(no sword even), because the body moves best and fastest when it does it on its own without being disrupted by thought, or any cognitive objectification.

But this is precisely why I prefer the "heel down" "French" "bunched up at the back" style of cycling (and both-hands-throwing juggling).

In the case of both juggling and cycling, there is a style which we can think of easily, and could be said to come naturally, at least to me:
Give people two balls and they will pass the balls around in a circle with one hand throwing, the other passing.
Put someone on a bike and they will run on the pedals, push right, push left, push right.

I think that both of these styles are "natural" in so far as their are easier to conceive, or think about. And it is in large part this ease of conception (ease of being able to think about the style) that encourages us to keep doing it.

On the other hand
It is more difficult to see how throwing balls up in the air from both hands should result in their circulation.
It is more difficult to see how pushing forwards (eh? I want to go forwards!), resting ones femur on the saddle (eh? I want to push down!), and rocking ones femur like a catapult, should result in effective pedaling.

In both cases, the cognitive strange-ness makes it difficult to start doing this latter style. But, once you have the knack, both (juggling by throwing with both hands, cycling by pushing forwards and catapulting back) imho result in something in another sense more natural, in the sense of being more bodily integrated, and has (after initial difficulty) advantages.

That said, toe-down, running on the bike is faster in the current radio-controlled pace-line that is the large part of the Tour de France. And there are some, e.g. in the above video that came from mountain biking, that use a style like that mentioned here, I think.

Eagleman, D. (2012). Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain (Reprint edition). New York: Vintage.

Last edited by timtak; 03-13-23 at 12:15 AM. Reason: Added book citation, and reference to mountain bikers
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Old 03-13-23, 04:08 PM
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Originally Posted by ryan_rides
This is something I struggle with. Not sure why but I have to actively think about dropping my heels throughout my pedal strokes. I usually don’t do it. I have a bike fit. My bike is comfortable to me. I just know that you’re supposed to drop your heels and recently a rider last Saturday told me that I should drop my heels while riding. Is there a way to train myself to change my pedal strokes so that it becomes natural?
If you were under the impression that "dropping your heels" means riding with your heels below the ball of your foot, I think you see from the other posts and videos that is not usually a thing (although some people may do that).

You see from the videos posted that there is a wide variety of pedaling technique, but it almost universally involves flexion and extension of your ankles to one degree or another and getting different and additional muscles involved in the pedal stroke. While its wrong to thing that there is only one "correct" way, it's also wrong to just not worry about it. Otherwise you develop bad habits which become muscle memory, and then that feels more natural to you. So it does pay off in the long run to experiment and develop a smooth "ankling" technique that is right for you. Nobody is going to recommend that you just keep your ankles fixed and just stomp the pedals.

As with anything else in sports, it pays to practice and find your best technique, then practice until muscle memory takes over. A trainer is particularly good for that when it comes to developing a more efficient pedal stroke that's right for you. I increased my pedaling efficiency a lot that way. If you don't have a trainer, just ride on nice flat ground. Experiment and practice.

Last edited by Jeff Neese; 03-13-23 at 04:14 PM.
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Old 03-16-23, 06:53 AM
  #99  
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Originally Posted by timtak

And then Eureka. I understood pedaling as being like an upside down trebuchet.This is a video of a trebuchet.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v
https://youtu.be/XodJzegYOTw
all this talk of trebuchets raises the obvious question: What the heck happened to the Punkin Chunkin show?

Back on topic, this is not rocket surgery; it’s like pedaling a bicycle, oh yeah it is pedaling a bicycle. It doesn’t need to be over thought.
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Old 03-16-23, 10:00 AM
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Originally Posted by merlinextraligh
all this talk of trebuchets raises the obvious question.
Thank you so much for not using "begs."
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