Coach's Corner:
Improve Pedaling Technique and Efficiency

By Chris Kostman

Originally published in The California Events Schedule, October 1993


To improve pedaling technique and efficiency. We asked Australian cycling coach Tracey Cheesemen for some of the advice she gives to her riders Down Under. Here are her thoughts and mine:


"Always start with a warmup, working your way up through the gears and varying the cadence and pedaling effort until your legs get warmed up. Then visualize pedaling in circles by getting a mental picture of a circle and then your legs emulating that. Do a couple of miles where you focus on pulling up and then a couple of miles where you only push down in order to isolate the two primary parts of the pedal stroke. After working on the different parts of the stroke, put it all together while keeping the circle in mind.

"It's also important to be aware of your foot position. For example, when sprinting, one tends to pedal like a ballerina, with the toes down and the ankle up. Other times you can alternate keeping your feet parallel to the ground or riding like a ballerina."

Other Methods

Riding a fixed gear bike, as used at the velodrome, is also a sure-fire way to dramatically improve technique, especially if ridden both at the track and on the open road. Having only one gear and not being able to coast will force you to develop a super wide power and cadence range. Also, the imperfections in your technique will be grossly apparent at higher cadences as you rock on the bike and find it difficult to stay smooth.

Similar to riding fixed gear for making your technical weaknesses obvious, riding rollers will also do wonders for your form. Rollers are three drums on which you balance and ride your bike without even leaving your home or office. (Unlike turbotrainers to which you attach your bike minus its front wheel.) If you're not smooth, you'll bounce or ride right off of the rollers, so beginners usually ride in a doorway in order to steady themselves against the doorjams with their arms. Do interval training and also work on top end speed in order to really maximize your technique work while on rollers.

Developing your pedaling technique will make you a more energy efficient cyclist, more comfortable on the bike, and more adaptable to changing cycling conditions. Work on it twice a week for several months at least. It's worth the investment for the dividends are huge. Best of luck!