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Pedaling technique (2 ?s in 1)

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Pedaling technique (2 ?s in 1)

Old 05-12-05, 08:35 AM
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Hoping Ken Cox sees this one.

So I saw some young lady pedaling down Grand last night on a track bike, and as I watched her from behind (just her technique, mind you, nothing else--though she did have some lovely short curls on her head), I noticed that she pedaled not only gracefully but with her knees in, her feet out. I'm still new to fixed riding, and biking in general, and I'm just wondering if this is the appropriate model to follow? Knees in, heels out, maybe toes pointed slightly in? I'd like to get this right, so any links or suggestions would be much appreciated.

Also, wanted to know from y'all who ride those tight-geometry frames: My knees come very close to my elbows when pedaling; in fact, they could hit when I'm in the drops if I pulled my elbows in toward the frame or stuck my knees out. It's a road conversion, with 27" wheels. Could we consider this too small a frame?


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Old 05-12-05, 08:51 AM
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if you feel comfortable then it aint too small... i ride with my feet more or less parallel to the front of the bikes... i dont think any clipless system will leave your feet pointing inwards naturally
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Old 05-12-05, 09:02 AM
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some people are aligned differently, so you can't really follow that girls example. generally with knees in and heals out you'll put stress on the knee and lower leg at an angle - which could quickly lead to an injury.
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Old 05-12-05, 09:08 AM
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Okay,

So natural/neutral is probably best, in that order. And use my hips/glutes more than my thighs. So far, everything feels good.

Thanks


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Old 05-12-05, 09:21 AM
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i ride with my knees in, and feet close to neutral.
back when i was racing our coach always yelled at us if our knees came out; he said it wasn't a very aero pedalling position.

now it just feels natural to me.
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Old 05-12-05, 09:34 AM
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Originally Posted by dolface
back when i was racing our coach always yelled at us if our knees came out; he said it wasn't a very aero pedalling position.
Also, having your knees out looks way fugly to me. You wind up looking like a two year old on a tricycle.

Having your toes in and heels out during cycling is called, I believe, pigeon-toe pedaling. It is not good technique. Its sloppy. NOT elegant. Do not try to emulate.

Greg Lemond, early on in his career, had this problem. Cyril Guimard, his coach, spent a good deal of time trying to get him to pedal properly in a neutral cleat/foot position. With the advent of clipless pedals and fixed cleats, it became easier to achieve a neutral foot position. Although, using fixed cleats caused people knee problems, because of their natural tendency not to remain neutral during the pedal stroke.

If you have proper pedaling technique with knees parallel/in to the TT and feet properly aligned, fore and aft, then it should not matter whether you use fixed or floating cleats/ or clips and straps.
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Old 05-12-05, 09:55 AM
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Okay, so another question: I recently discovered when running that I have a tendency to curl some of my toes under, as if gripping hard at the ground, when my feet hit the ground. Once I corrected this, a chronic IT Band problem that I was having instantly diminished. And then a few days ago, I realized that I was doing something similar when I pedaled. So what's the best thing to be doing with your toes when you pedal? Curl them up a bit, keep them loose and floppy, or flat and firm?

And you guys are basically saying that while the feet should remain neutral--not pigeon-toed or duck-footed--the knees could be in a neutral OR inward-placed position? Inward is more 'aerodynamic?' (Like this is such a big issue for me...NOT.)

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Old 05-12-05, 10:26 AM
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Originally Posted by peripatetic
Okay, so another question: I recently discovered when running that I have a tendency to curl some of my toes under, as if gripping hard at the ground, when my feet hit the ground. Once I corrected this, a chronic IT Band problem that I was having instantly diminished. And then a few days ago, I realized that I was doing something similar when I pedaled. So what's the best thing to be doing with your toes when you pedal? Curl them up a bit, keep them loose and floppy, or flat and firm?
I noticed a long time ago that I was doing the same weird thing with my toes. I wasn't sure why I was doing it and I couldn't imagine it offered any advantage, so I stopped.
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Old 05-12-05, 10:27 AM
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Originally Posted by peripatetic
And you guys are basically saying that while the feet should remain neutral--not pigeon-toed or duck-footed--the knees could be in a neutral OR inward-placed position? Inward is more 'aerodynamic?' (Like this is such a big issue for me...NOT.)
Its not just about being aero. Its about proper alignment for maximum efficiency and power output. Its best not to waste any energy by having sloppy technique. Also, you do not want to place undo stresses on your knee ligaments during the pedal stroke. Nice, clean, neat stroke equals power and healthy knees.

WRT curling your toes. Isn't there a medical term for this: pronation. If you curl in you are an over-pronator, if you roll out, supinate, you are an under-pronator.

I try to keep my feet flat in relation to the pedal. Some people find it difficult to do this, so they wind up twisting their feet every which way to accomodate their natural tendencies to curl in or roll out.

Some have tried wedges to correct this problem. I tried these wedges many years ago, when they first came out, they worked ok, but over time I dropped them and no longer use them.
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Old 05-12-05, 10:43 AM
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Originally Posted by Jose R
WRT curling your toes. Isn't there a medical term for this: pronation. If you curl in you are an over-pronator, if you roll out, supinate, you are an under-pronator.

Actually, I think these terms, in running, apply to the way in which your feet hit the ground, and then your ankle rolls/moves over them. I was referring to a specific voluntary-but-unconscious movement I was making WITH my toes. IOW, it wasn't just a by-product of my stroke. I'm still wondering what the best thing is to do with one's toes. I have a strong suspicion that they can be used more efficiently--in cycling, running or even swimming, walking and other activities, for that matter. I don't think that they've been studied enough in bio-mechanics and physical training/therapy, either. I play tennis, and I'm sure I got this little 'hitch' in running from the constant back and forth on the court, where you actually do 'grab' the ground in order to change directions and push off quickly. But I know from many careful analyses (footprint/shoe-wear/etc.) that my particular stepping motion is very neutral. (Most people are actually slight-to-heavy pronators when they run.) I wonder more about pedaling, though, because the toes are relatively free to move during the stroke.


Originally Posted by Jose R
Some have tried wedges to correct this problem. I tried these wedges many years ago, when they first came out, they worked ok, but over time I dropped them and no longer use them.


Thanks for the info, Jose, and thanks for the link. Good to know about the explicit goal in terms of proper pedaling/stroking technique. I like to have specific points to run over in my mind when I'm riding.

I'll read up on these wedges.

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Old 05-12-05, 01:28 PM
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I found that I curl my toes under when my shoes are too big or my clips are too loose. its like a natural reaction to prevent pulling out (especially on the bottom of the stroke). I stopped doing it when I tightened my straps and learned to trust them to keep my feet in. When running, I would do it when my shoes were too loose.
Maybe not as technical an answer as the "pronator vs. under-pronator" explanation given above, but its what I've seen with myself.
And I keep my knees in when I ride.

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Old 05-12-05, 01:41 PM
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A lovely topic.
My favorite.

First of all, we have different bodies.
And yet, we have similar bodies.

If we had an X-ray photo or video clip of the typical human male standing and walking around, so that we could see his skeleton, it would surprise us to see the knock-kneed (knees towards the center of mass) nature of our body organization.

Something interesting to consider: our hip sockets, center to center, measure the same as the sockets of our jaw, center to center.
Unbelievable, eh?
But true.
However, we have much wider femurs (upper leg bone) than sockets, because the femur has a stem on the ball (that fits in the socket) that goes out to the wing or the horn of the femur, where many muscles attach.
We sometimes refer to these horns on our femur as our hip, as in "he fell and broke his hip."
Hardly anyone ever falls and breaks his hip; rather, he breaks the the horn or the stem of his femur.
Anyway, we have an unimagineably complex set of muscles in our hips, many of them attaching to the horn of the femur, thus creating the very beautiful and powerful movement of our hips and legs.
The horn stands so far out in order to make room for all those muscles and to give them some leverage.

On the other end of our legs we have feet.
Most of us shoe-wearing Western folk stand with our feet turned slightly out and with our heels almost directly under our hip sockets.
Get up, walk around for a few seconds without thinking about it; stop and look down.
For most of us, a plumb line hanging from our jawbone sockets will pass through our hip sockets and pass through that big knob on the inside of our ankles, and touch the floor just inside of foot, maybe touching the foot.
However, as we walk, our feet come closer together, so that if we looked at our wet footprints after getting out of the pool, we would see that our feet have come closer together.
The faster we go, walking or running, the closer together we place our feet; until, running full out, our footprints would fall all on one line, directly under our bodies.

If we could look at a running skeleton from the front, we would see that the feet fall on line, with shins almost perpendicular to the ground.
The knees would almost hit each other in passing.
However, the horns of the hips would remain far apart.
Each leg, then, as it comes in contact with the ground and passes under the body, would look like the right or left half of an upper case letter "Y".
Yes, a little narrower "Y" than the one on this page, but a "Y" nonetheless.

OK.
Store that away.

Now, feet.

When we walk, or run with a heel strike, almost all of us strike a little on the outside of the heel.
As the foot rolls onto the ground, from the outside of the heel to the foot full on the ground, the load travels down or forward following that skinny outside part we see in our wet pool-side footprints.
As the load approaches the front of the foot and the pinky toe, in a perfectly healthy person, the foot then rolls inward, so that the load follows a line accross the front of the foot towards the ball of the foot, and then forward again and out the big toe, or the big toe and the index-finger toe.
So, the load enters the foot just on the outside of heel, travels forward on the outside of the foot until almost getting to the pinky toe, then accross the front of the foot to ball, and then foward and out of the big toe and index toe.
In order to do this, each foot has to roll inward with each forward step-off on the big toe.

Sitting at the computer, holding the knee still, roll the front of the foot in and out.
It takes a lot of foot muscles and the ankle moves left and right as the foot rolls in and out.

Alternatively, roll the foot in and out by moving the knee instead of the ankle.
Put a little pressure on the floor and feel the forefoot load travel from the pinky side to the big toe side, but do it by moving the knee side to side and keeping the ankle kinda stiff.

Let's add one more thing to this.
Push down on the floor with the front of the foot, roll the foot from outside to inside by using the knee, and, at the same time, think about turning the heel outward.
Don't actually turn the heel, but think about turning the heel, maybe even trying to turn the heel outward but not succeeding.

What has happened?
Two things.

First, the obvious one: the muscle which goes from the front of the thigh/hip and goes down the front of the thigh towards the inside of the knee will come more alive.
Secondly, the big hip muscle just above the glutes will come alive as the heel almost turns out.
In fact, a whole set of muscles which twist the thigh inward, and which we use when running full out with our feet falling on line, will come to life.

Thought experiment:

Imagine a bike with pedals two feet apart; and, contrastingly, imagine a bike with pedals four inches apart.
Do it sitting.

With feet two feet apart, try to push into the floor with the ball of the foot.
What does the knee of that foot do?
How strong does it feel?

Now, put the feet four inches apart and push with the ball of the foot into the floor.
Again, what does the knee of that foot do?
Think about turning the heel out while pushing into the floor with the ball of the foot.
What do the muscles on the inside the thigh and the outside of the hip do?
How strong does it feel?

So, when we pedal, we want the pedals as close together as possible, and our knees should very subtly follow this pattern, )(, up and down, only, not so exaggerated.
In fact, an observer shouldn't see it.
The rider should think it.
Additionally, the rider should imagine a rubber band between the heels of the feet, and, on the downward stroke pull on the rubber band with the descending heel, so that the heel almost goes out and the toe almost goes in.

The above will "wake up" the muscles of the inner thigh and the outer hips that we use in running but forget to use in riding.

Try it on the next hill.
Let the hill remind the rider to experiment with knees in and heels out, but not so much that anyone riding behind can see it.

After a year of concentrated practice, I remember to do the above about a third of the time and it makes a huge difference in power.

Additionally, this will resolve most people's knee issues.
Painful knees?
Try the above when they hurt and the pain should go away in a few minutes.
If not, I'd like to hear about.
I find these body mechanics fascinating and I have lot to learn, so, if the above does not relieve knee pain in someone riding at or below 78 gear inches or so (48X16), I'd like to talk about it.
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Old 05-12-05, 02:39 PM
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I love it when Ken gets into these kinds of things.
Just wanted to point something out, though, as I've studied a bit of this in running, in case any of you run:

Originally Posted by Ken Cox
The above will "wake up" the muscles of the inner thigh and the outer hips that we use in running but forget to use in riding.

Actually, a LARGE number of runners, even good and great runners, don't learn to properly use their hips and TORSO muscles when they run, and rely only on the hamstrings, thigh muscles and smaller muscles round the knees. In fact, what they end up doing is using their strongest and most stable muscles (the stomach and hips) to keep their upper bodies 'tight', which in fact works against their own running. This actually slows a person down, and also leads to a great many of runners with knee and ankle problems of their own! Anyone ever noticed how labored and uncomfortable many people who run look while they're running? I took a workshop that used visualization techniques, much like some of Ken's here, to work on these things, and to learn to run more 'naturally'. Within a few weeks, I had quickly improved my speed like never before, as well as my form and balance. It was a wonder I didn't suffer more injuries from running in the first place.


Ken, thanks for the continued input, I'm going to keep working on this stuff myself. The last stuff you posted in another thread about using your hips and glutes, I've been working on quite a bit. This was just what I was looking for.


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Old 05-12-05, 02:52 PM
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Tim's right on, at least for me. When I find myself curling my toes, I know I need to tighten up my straps.
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Old 05-12-05, 03:05 PM
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Originally Posted by peripatetic




I love it when Ken gets into these kinds of things.
Just wanted to point something out, though, as I've studied a bit of this in running, in case any of you run:



Actually, a LARGE number of runners, even good and great runners, don't learn to properly use their hips and TORSO muscles when they run, and rely only on the hamstrings, thigh muscles and smaller muscles round the knees. In fact, what they end up doing is using their strongest and most stable muscles (the stomach and hips) to keep their upper bodies 'tight', which in fact works against their own running. This actually slows a person down, and also leads to a great many of runners with knee and ankle problems of their own! Anyone ever noticed how labored and uncomfortable many people who run look while they're running? I took a workshop that used visualization techniques, much like some of Ken's here, to work on these things, and to learn to run more 'naturally'. Within a few weeks, I had quickly improved my speed like never before, as well as my form and balance. It was a wonder I didn't suffer more injuries from running in the first place.


Ken, thanks for the continued input, I'm going to keep working on this stuff myself. The last stuff you posted in another thread about using your hips and glutes, I've been working on quite a bit. This was just what I was looking for.


that's an excellent point, the 'core' muscles (the whole complicated bit that includes your abs, as well as many of the pelvic attachment muscles) are arguably the most important group of muscles for any athletic activity.

having a strong core is key in maintaining good form, and allowing you to relax the parts of your body you're not using, which saves energy.
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Old 05-12-05, 03:08 PM
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I'm naturally pigeon-toed. When i lie flat with my feet straight up, my knees point outwards--likewise, if my knees are center, my feet point in.

When i ride, i cant get a good even spin with my knees stright/feet inward--i loose pressure on the pedals coming across the bottom and top. This results in a very jerky pull up/push down spin


However, if I i pedal with my knees outward and feet straight, i am able to do a smooth spin and go much faster.

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Old 05-12-05, 06:01 PM
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If you're curling anything, you need smaller shoes or cinch those straps tighter on your shoes. If you're pedalling like a duck really badly, your bikes q factor could be too big for you.
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Old 05-12-05, 07:41 PM
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Skanking biker wrote:

"However, if I i pedal with my knees outward and feet straight, i am able to do a smooth spin and go much faster."

We have the same and yet different bodies.
How cool that skanking biker has found what works for him.
I have one straight foot and one turned out.
The toe-in/heel-out twist really keeps the knee on the foot-turned-out side from hurting, most of the time.
Many riders have different body mechanics on the right and the left sides, as I do.
I wonder if anyone has different length cranks on the right and the left.
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