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  1. #1
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    Learning be efficient when pedaling?

    Is the video spot on or not?

    Any additional suggestions?

    http://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=r...&v=AMHitTUnmZ4

  2. #2
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    Too much to think about. Just push down on the pedals. The more you ride the more efficient you will become.
    "I like to ride my bicycle." - Lance Armstrong -

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    Quote Originally Posted by brianmcg View Post
    Too much to think about. Just push down on the pedals. The more you ride the more efficient you will become.
    Sorry, but I don't agree and most efficient pedalers won't either.

    When you only push down you're not using many of your muscles. Finding the most efficient pedal stroke means getting all your muscles involved to spread the load.
    For example: when your legs start to get tired focus on just pulling up and relax each leg on the downstroke; you'll see that the muscles you're using now are totally fresh.

    Finding the best pedal stroke isn't intuitive; you have to learn it.
    "When you know absolutely nothing, anyone who knows 1% more than nothing sounds like an expert."

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Randy99CL View Post
    Sorry, but I don't agree and most efficient pedalers won't either.

    When you only push down you're not using many of your muscles. Finding the most efficient pedal stroke means getting all your muscles involved to spread the load.
    For example: when your legs start to get tired focus on just pulling up and relax each leg on the downstroke; you'll see that the muscles you're using now are totally fresh.

    Finding the best pedal stroke isn't intuitive; you have to learn it.
    Nobody in all the history of cycling does this. Even the "most efficient". They just pedal. Every study ever done on pedaling shows the most efficient pros don't pull up. Its wasted effort. "Finding the best pedal stroke isn't intuitive; you have to learn it" No you don't. My four year old daughter pedals perfectly. You should see it. The pedals go in perfect circles and all I did was stick her on her bike. Its amazing.
    "I like to ride my bicycle." - Lance Armstrong -

  5. #5
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    Not sure if there is one answer that wraps this up into a nice little box for each of us to use. If one maintains constant power the HR increases over time. If one maintain constant HR the power drops over time.

    If I TT for extended periods of time while maintaining target power I seem to periodically emphasize different muscle groups. I can't really explain it and I don't know if it's efficient but, I'm doing whatever feels right to maintain power. Maybe that means I'm not very efficient or maybe it simply means I'm really untrained? Not sure but the overwhelming feeling I have is when I want more power I push down harder. How effective I push down (for me) is really unknown.

    It would be fascinating to chat with Fabian Cancellara and other elite time trial cyclist about this.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by brianmcg View Post
    Nobody in all the history of cycling does this. Even the "most efficient". They just pedal. Every study ever done on pedaling shows the most efficient pros don't pull up. Its wasted effort. "Finding the best pedal stroke isn't intuitive; you have to learn it" No you don't. My four year old daughter pedals perfectly. You should see it. The pedals go in perfect circles and all I did was stick her on her bike. Its amazing.
    I'm really surprised that you're writing that.

    Have you ever read any of the books written by successful cyclists? All those I've read talk about ways to train yourself to pedal more efficiently.

    Efficiency means using more muscles than those used just for pushing down, and putting power into the pedals for more of their rotation.
    When I wrote of just pulling up I was using an example that I learned when I first started riding. When my legs got tired I would relax on the downstroke and focus on only pulling hard on the upstroke and discovered that I was using different muscles that were totally fresh because they are not used when you are pushing down. The key is using all of the different leg muscles as you apply power to as much of the circular stroke as you can.

    Have you ever heard of "scraping mud off your shoes" as a way of putting more power into the lower part of the stroke?

    Have you ever ridden rollers? You have to use a more circular stroke; just pushing down is jerky and usually doesn't work.

    What you have written is contrary to everything I've ever read from the successful pros and experts.

    Hopefully others will respond here and we'll get more opinions.
    Last edited by Randy99CL; 09-24-2013 at 08:39 AM.
    "When you know absolutely nothing, anyone who knows 1% more than nothing sounds like an expert."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Randy99CL View Post
    Efficiency means using more muscles than those used just for pushing down, and putting power into the pedals for more of their rotation.
    Efficiency is a very nice word with a clear, long established definition. What you wrote is not it. However, if you want to redefine words to mean whatever you want them to, go ahead, but don't be surprised when we can't communicate.

    Quote Originally Posted by Randy99CL View Post
    What you have written is contrary to everything I've ever read from the successful pros and experts.
    You're reading the wrong experts. Physiological and biomechanical factors... [Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1991] - PubMed - NCBI Alex's Cycle Blog: Looking under the hood

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    I think pedaling efficiency is a red herring. Yes you can become more efficient at pedaling, but as your level of effort increases I think the general control you have over your pedaling style diminishes to the point where it basically becomes involtunary. Becoming more efficient at an easy effort doesn't really matter when you can literally maintain that effort all day long. And if you pedal in a way that is more efficient at a higher effort, for example FTP, is that really more effective? Are you going to revert back to your previous pedaling style as soon as you stop focusing on it?

  9. #9
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    Some good reading: Perfect Pedal Strokes | Road Bike Rider "Martin cited 1991 research by Ed Coyle, et al, involving regional level competitors and elite racers -- pros and U.S. national team members. Coyle found that elite cyclists pushed down harder and pulled up less than the less-accomplished riders."
    "I like to ride my bicycle." - Lance Armstrong -

  10. #10
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    [QUOTE=Cableguy;4463485... as your level of effort increases I think the general control you have over your pedaling style diminishes to the point where it basically becomes involtunary...[/QUOTE]

    The effects of training and practice can become involuntary.
    ... 'cuz that's how I roll.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by brianmcg View Post
    Too much to think about. Just push down on the pedals. The more you ride the more efficient you will become.
    The more you ride.... the more you ride.... that's all. If you only repeat what you've learned in the first week of cycling you can only progress to that level.

    I am not sure the video is "spot on"... but most cyclist can improve... even the pros.
    If I didn't bicycle when the weather is bad... I wouldn't be a cyclist. I'd just be another old fat man... with a bicycle hanging in his garage.

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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by brianmcg View Post
    Coyle found that elite cyclists pushed down harder and pulled up less than the less-accomplished riders."
    Cavanagh published a finding very similar to this in the 1970s. He put it nicely when he said "if the benefits [of pulling back, pulling up and pushing forward] were real, elite cyclists would claim them."

    That's not saying that low-cadence touring cyclist and casual recreational riders couldn't benefit somewhat from these strokes at times. Cavanagh studied elite cyclist and most of his data came from ride segments during which the elite rider was generating a steady 400 watt or so.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by looigi View Post
    The effects of training and practice can become involuntary.
    Is that why studies of pro cyclists seem to indicate their pedaling stroke is "bad" compared to less accomplished cyclists? Did these pro cyclists "practice" this "bad" pedal stroke form intentionally?

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by wim View Post
    Cavanagh published a finding very similar to this in the 1970s. He put it nicely when he said "if the benefits [of pulling back, pulling up and pushing forward] were real, elite cyclists would claim them."

    That's not saying that low-cadence touring cyclist and casual recreational riders couldn't benefit somewhat from these strokes at times. Cavanagh studied elite cyclist and most of his data came from ride segments during which the elite rider was generating a steady 400 watt or so.
    Did the findings clarify what "pulled up less" was? My skepticism says that maybe something like "they push down with 30% more force but only pull up with 10% more force" could be stated but not "they don't pull up at all".

    I think the pedaling in squares, boxes, circles or whatever visualizer you use is designed to smooth out a pedal stroke more than create more power from the full circle away from the power stroke. Pedaling smoothly is more efficient; I would say that a lot of it would have to do with not wasting energy "chugging" that you see many low cadence, new riders do.. head bobbing, shoulders waving and all that.

    From personal experience, pedaling in circles or "scraping the mud off the heel" helps a lot with higher cadence riding as "chugging" with a high cadence is a disaster. Pretty sure higher cadence has been proven to be more efficient in many instances than lower cadences, low being 80rpm and higher being 100rpm. Of course it varies from rider to rider but generally speaking comfortably high cadences are efficient.

    Joe Friel mentions "ankling" in his "cycling bible" book (can't remember actual title). Supposed to be more efficient.

    Nobody in all the history of cycling does this. Even the "most efficient". They just pedal. Every study ever done on pedaling shows the most efficient pros don't pull up. Its wasted effort. "Finding the best pedal stroke isn't intuitive; you have to learn it" No you don't. My four year old daughter pedals perfectly. You should see it. The pedals go in perfect circles and all I did was stick her on her bike. Its amazing.
    If this were the case then clipless pedals would surely never have been invented since platforms are just as effective on the downstroke. (I interpreted "just pedal" = "just push down" by other posts)

    However, pulling up, as in actually not pushing down on the powerstroke and only pulling up, doesn't seem right either and I would agree that is wasted energy as the bike is ideally fitted to push downward most efficiently. Pulling through the bottom and pushing leading into the powerstroke I believe do increase efficiency, again as I think it smooths out pedaling. Pulling up some seems reasonable.

    I only know that I pull up when I'm sprinting, but that's a far from efficient pedaling style.
    Last edited by bikerector; 09-25-2013 at 12:08 PM.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by wim View Post
    Cavanagh published a finding very similar to this in the 1970s.
    That's weird. I just happen to be (re)reading his book "The Physiology and Biomechanics of Cycling" at this moment. Written 1978.
    .
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  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Randy99CL View Post
    Sorry, but I don't agree and most efficient pedalers won't either.

    When you only push down you're not using many of your muscles. Finding the most efficient pedal stroke means getting all your muscles involved to spread the load.
    For example: when your legs start to get tired focus on just pulling up and relax each leg on the downstroke; you'll see that the muscles you're using now are totally fresh.

    Finding the best pedal stroke isn't intuitive; you have to learn it.
    Efficiency is a measure of energy out as a proportion of energy in. In the case of cycling, it's a ratio of the energy delivered to the cranks (power x time) to total energy metabolised.

    There is plenty of established science on pedalling, and there will be more as the years roll on. What we know so far is that attempts to change a rider's natural/preferred pedalling action reduces efficiency, and that pedalling actions that involve a greater level of "pulling up" are the least efficient, which should come as no surprise once one understands the make up of the muscles involved.

    But it's all moot, since efficiency isn't really the aim of the exercise, it's improved power output that we are after.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by bikerector View Post
    Did the findings clarify what "pulled up less" was? My skepticism says that maybe something like "they push down with 30% more force but only pull up with 10% more force" could be stated but not "they don't pull up at all".
    Well read the paper and you'll find out ;) They used sophisticated force measurement pedals to record the forces on each pedal. The faster more powerful national elite level cyclist simply pushed down harder than their slightly slower elite state level cyclists.

    Indeed the national level cyclists even displayed some small negative torque on the upstroke, whereas the state level had some positive torque.

    here's the average pedal forces for each group:

    Learning be efficient when pedaling?-2009-01-23_coyle.jpg

    Quote Originally Posted by bikerector View Post
    I think the pedaling in squares, boxes, circles or whatever visualizer you use is designed to smooth out a pedal stroke more than create more power from the full circle away from the power stroke. Pedaling smoothly is more efficient; I would say that a lot of it would have to do with not wasting energy "chugging" that you see many low cadence, new riders do.. head bobbing, shoulders waving and all that.
    Yes, I'm basically in line with this. Smooth pedalling is a function of firing the most powerful muscles of the body with regular effectiveness and coordination and has very little to do with where one applies torque arounf the pedal stroke.

    As an example, I am considered an exceptionally smooth pedaller, however I ride with a prosthetic lower leg and can only push down, it is impossible for me to pull, scrap, flick, ankle etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by bikerector View Post
    From personal experience, pedaling in circles or "scraping the mud off the heel" helps a lot with higher cadence riding as "chugging" with a high cadence is a disaster. Pretty sure higher cadence has been proven to be more efficient in many instances than lower cadences, low being 80rpm and higher being 100rpm. Of course it varies from rider to rider but generally speaking comfortably high cadences are efficient.
    Well indeed it's just the opposite, lower cadences in general have a lower metabolic cost and higher efficiency level than higher cadences. That's very well established science.

    Higher cadences are a natural consequence of riding at higher power outputs, and power is what matters, not efficiency.

    Quote Originally Posted by bikerector View Post
    Joe Friel mentions "ankling" in his "cycling bible" book (can't remember actual title). Supposed to be more efficient.

    If this were the case then clipless pedals would surely never have been invented since platforms are just as effective on the downstroke. (I interpreted "just pedal" = "just push down" by other posts)
    All clipless do is make sure the foot is securely in place to permit powerful downstroke under all sorts of conditions, and reduce the chance of foot slipping which aids in using the muscles in a consistent manner. Testing of athletes (e.g. Maximal Aerobic Power) shows no performance difference in MAP when using clipless / cleated shoes/pedals to when they are riding flat bed pedals and have no physical pedal restraint.

    Quote Originally Posted by bikerector View Post
    However, pulling up, as in actually not pushing down on the powerstroke and only pulling up, doesn't seem right either and I would agree that is wasted energy as the bike is ideally fitted to push downward most efficiently. Pulling through the bottom and pushing leading into the powerstroke I believe do increase efficiency, again as I think it smooths out pedaling. Pulling up some seems reasonable.
    Again such actions have not been demonstrated to actually improve efficiency, let alone improve performance (power).

    Quote Originally Posted by bikerector View Post
    I only know that I pull up when I'm sprinting, but that's a far from efficient pedaling style.
    That's correct, and just empahsises that cycling performance isn't about efficiency, it's about power output.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by bikerector View Post
    Did the findings clarify what "pulled up less" was?
    There was no "pulling up less" in the Cavanagh study I referred to. Both clock- and criterion diagrams were different for each elite cyclist, with some (world-class!) riders actually working against themselves (pushing down) during the recovery segment of the crank circle.

    To make sense of this, it's helpful to know how the study defines "pulling up." In the Cavanagh study mentioned, "pulling up" is defined as the rider overcoming two forces and adding a third one:
    (1) overcoming the weight of the leg pulled against the pedal by gravity,
    (2) overcoming the inertial effect resulting from the limb mass resisting the moving pedal, and
    (3) applying an additional force so that an upward force is actually acting on the pedal.

    How elite cyclists actually pedal is shown clearly by the clock diagrams. The criterion diagrams showing percentages of effective force per crank circle segment over time are even more revealing.

    As said, take a look at Cavanagh's (et al.) stuff if this interests you. It debunks popular cycling literature myths in a clear and straightforward manner with the help of good illustrations. And it definitely has stood the test of time.

  19. #19
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    Coyle 1991

    Whoops, didnt see Alex Simmons' post above!
    I'm just duplicating what he said ;-)
    Quote Originally Posted by brianmcg View Post
    Nobody in all the history of cycling does this. Even the "most efficient". They just pedal. Every study ever done on pedaling shows the most efficient pros don't pull up. Its wasted effort. "Finding the best pedal stroke isn't intuitive; you have to learn it" No you don't. My four year old daughter pedals perfectly. You should see it. The pedals go in perfect circles and all I did was stick her on her bike. Its amazing.
    Agreed!

    Classic 1991 lab study by Coyle, measured power & torques applied to pedals by elite State & National caliber time trial cyclists.

    There was negligible torque applied during the "up stroke" phase. In fact, the higher performing national level TTers were a little negative -- ie, they allowed some weight on the "upstroke" leg. The best TTers simply push down harder. See solid black line in chart below.

    Learning be efficient when pedaling?-pedal-coyle-1991.jpg

  20. #20
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    Minor note: Total work done over a rev of the cranks is proportional the area under the curves above. Group 2 contributes area after 180, whereas Group 1 does not. Still looks like 2 does less work per rev than 1, but not as much less as the difference in peak at 90 might suggest.
    ... 'cuz that's how I roll.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by looigi View Post
    Minor note: Total work done over a rev of the cranks is proportional the area under the curves above. Group 2 contributes area after 180, whereas Group 1 does not. Still looks like 2 does less work per rev than 1, but not as much less as the difference in peak at 90 might suggest.
    I misplaced my copy of Coyle's article, & don't recall if the data is somehow adjusted for cadence.

    Since power = cadence x torque x constants, the elite "national" caliber might also have been spinning faster in addition to their higher torque.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by tom_h View Post
    I misplaced my copy of Coyle's article, & don't recall if the data is somehow adjusted for cadence.

    Since power = cadence x torque x constants, the elite "national" caliber might also have been spinning faster in addition to their higher torque.
    Group 1 produced 11% more power on average than group 2.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Alex_Simmons/RST View Post
    As an example, I am considered an exceptionally smooth pedaller, however I ride with a prosthetic lower leg and can only push down, it is impossible for me to pull, scrap, flick, ankle etc.
    Not to derail the thread but for what it's worth you are on my A list, I saw a gentlemen in my area tooling along on his bike with a lower prosthetic, this is up there with guys I've seen parking in the far end of the parking lots getting out of their vehicles with a lower leg prosthetic (Vets) and walking to the store. Seeing this now and then, gives me a small bit of hope, as I see folks with the blue hang tags, getting out of sporty cars, getting into the electric courtesy cart, and load up on the junk food.

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  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Creakyknees View Post
    "12%-20% increase in power expected!" , eh?

    Do I get a free set of Ginsu knives, or a ShamWow, with that? ;-)

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