Tips for Better Pedalling Technique

Because pedalling is such an intrinsic part of cycling, it is important to optimise and perfect our pedalling action. Especially for beginners it is important to work on our pedal action.
Nick O Pendle Hill Climb
These are some tips to Improving Our Pedalling Action

1. Make Sure the Saddle height is correct.

See: Correct saddle height and bike frame size

2. Make Sure You Pedal with the balls of your feet.

Beginners often make the mistake of pedalling with the middle of your foot (by the arch) or even their heel. This is an inefficient method of pedalling.

3. Watch the Pros pedalling.

It is a good idea to watch experienced professional cyclists pedal. You will get a feel for the fluidity of movement and correct position.

4. Pedal Both Down and Up.

It is important not just to pedal on the downstroke. It is also important to pedal on the upstroke. Thus ideally we will be pedalling for the 360 degrees of a pedal stroke and not just on the downward part. To do this we will need toe clips or the more popular clipless pedals.

5. Seek Professional Help.

A couple of years ago I paid about £130 to get a professional bike fit at cycle fit. As well as working on best position, they also took a video of my pedalling action and suggested a few minor changes.

6. Try Pedalling at A Higher Cadence.

Many beginners get used to pedalling at a low cadence, sometimes as low as 50 rpm. Try periods of pedalling at 100 rpm. In the beginning, it might feel difficult to maintain this high cadence if you are not used to it. But, you can gradually extend the time spent pedalling at this frequency. By pedalling at a higher frequency, you will be forced to give more attention to your pedalling action. It will help encourage a smoother pedalling action.

7. Try Pedalling with one Leg.

An effective way to develop the ability to pedal for 360 degrees of the pedal action is to pedal with one leg at a time; this action instinctively teaches you to pedal on the upstroke.

8. Ride Fixed.

When riding a fixed you cannot freewheel, but, have to keep the legs spinning all the time. It helps create a smooth continuous pedalling action.

9. Practise on Rollers

By practising on rollers, you can help improve your pedalling action.

10. Check your leg is moving in a straight line.

Watch your pedalling action. Do  your legs go straight up and down like pistons, or do they go inwards or outwards. In one season I developed knee problems because the outer part of my leg was weak causing a distorted pedal action. I went to a sports pysio-therapist and he suggested certain exercise to strengthen under utilised muscles. This enabled a stronger and more straight pedal action and the knee pain cleared up.

11. Different length legs?

Some riders can benefit from wedges in shows to equalise discrepancies in leg length.  cleats for cycling

Optimal Cadence?

There is a great debate amongst cyclists about the optimal cadence rate. Some point to Lance Armstrong as evidence that a high cadence rate >100 is the most efficient. Other cyclists, prefer to pedal at a lower cadence 80-90. To a large extent it depends on the type of cycling you are doing. Time triallists will generally choose a lower cadence as they can maintain a constant pace and effort. Road racers will tend to ride at a higher cadence to make it easier to deal with changes in pace that can occur. Track sprinters will need the ability to spin very quickly up to 150 rpm or higher.

Generally speaking, pedalling at a low cadence makes greater use of your leg muscles. Pedalling at a higher cadence makes greater use of you heart capacity.


6 Responses to Tips for Better Pedalling Technique

  1. Billy Richardson October 30, 2009 at 5:52 pm #

    I have to ride on a trainer in my shed in the winter becuase of my chest. any suggestions for style etc.

  2. Mick July 4, 2009 at 1:31 am #

    You paid £130 for a ‘bike fit’? Blimey. If you like, for the knock-down price of £95, I can measure your hands and then video you putting your gloves on? I could dispense useful advice, like “Wiggle your fingers!”, or “Try it the other way up!”

  3. greenjersey January 27, 2009 at 10:57 pm #

    You may care to read Steve Hogg’s article on “The anatomy of bike position” which could cause you to re-think the advice about foot position.
    I know it is heresy to any club cyclist to have the arch of the foot on the pedal but I pushed my “cleats” as far back as possible and it feels better.


  1. Tips to Increase Efficiency of Cycling | Cycling UK - May 31, 2011

    [...] Pedal all the way through a pedal stroke, don’t just pedal down, but keep the pressure on the upward stroke. For this you will need toeclips or clipless pedals. See: tips for better pedalling action. [...]

  2. My take in pedaling technique (with a little help from some others) « eliotreeves: my ride - December 13, 2009

    [...] Cycling info is a cool site provided 10 top tips to improve pedalling. My favourites: [...]

  3. Useful bicycle related help sites « Linux and Friends - February 12, 2009

    [...] – Has a nice write up on tips for better pedaling technique. [...]

Leave a Reply

+ 7 = 16