Motion for Increased Power
by Bruce Hendler -
How would you like to:
- Increase your
power to the pedal stroke using the same amount of energy?
- Improve your
ability to accelerate and respond to a pack in a group ride or bike race
- Develop better control of the bike?
- Experience less
fatigue over longer rides?
Well now you can! Believe it or not,
pedaling a bicycle is a learned habit. Most people think you get on a bike and
the pedaling motion basically takes care of itself. Well, yes and no. It does
take care of itself, but you can also do a lot of things to improve the
efficiency of your pedal stroke. As a simplified analogy, think of a golf swing
and how people spend hours and hours and A LOT of money to improve their swing
efficiency. Fortunately in our sport, we really dont have to spend that kind of
cash and we can improve relatively easily by using a couple time tested
Lets start out with a definition of efficiency:
"...optimizing the energy output on the bike in such a manner as to derive the
maximum power into the drive train with the least amount of energy lost as a
result of engaging muscle groups that are not directly related to the pedal
Now in English:
Pedaling smoothly through the two dead
spots located at top and bottom of the pedal stroke.
Having a more supple
and less choppy rotation (i.e. no mashing), especially when you are tired at
the end of a long workout or race.
Learning to relax during the stroke
So what are the best ways to improve the pedaling action? I am a BIG fan
of setting up a fixed gear bike. Be careful, were not talking about the
increasingly popular single speed. We are basically talking about a track bike
for the road where there is no ability to freewheel. Using a fixed gear bike
forces you to learn how to pedal because you are at the mercy of the movement
of the bike and the fixed gear (i.e. 39x17) selection you make. Personally, in
the winter, I ride my fixed gear two to four times per week. I find that it
adds something different to my training program, where even the shortest and
easiest rides have a purpose constant pedaling action. Sure it took a while to
get used to not being able to stop pedaling, but just like everything else we
do; I got use to it and now can go out easily for 3+ hours in the hills!
Another major advantage of using a fixed gear is increases muscle endurance.
Think about it, pedaling for 3+ hours! Just a quick tip if you decide to set
one up. Think about purchasing a road bike Rock Shox seat post. It comes in
very handy! Trust me!
Another way to improve pedaling efficiency is to
take the extreme opposite approach. That is to pedal big gears slowly and
deliberately (i.e. slow motion). This also helps you concentrate on the
complete 360 degree while at the same time, increasing power. One of the
workouts we stress at AthletiCamps are called SFRs (Slow Frequency
Revolutions). SFRs are best done on a 3-5% grade with a 40-50 RPMs. They can
also be done on a trainer where you lift the front wheel up a few inches to
simulate climbing. Think of them as weight lifting on the bike. They are done
starting at 1-2 minutes in length with a very low heart rate. Then depending on
your goals, are increased in both distance and time.
So there you have
it in a nutshell. A couple effective ways to improve your pedaling efficiency.
Try adding both of them to your training program and you will see a big
improvement next year.
Bruce Handler created AthletiCamps to
provide cycling specific coaching and training to athletes and cyclists of all
levels. Find out more at www.athleticamps.com.