Mastering the Pedal Stroke

Improving your pedaling efficiency will increase your power output with less energy expenditure and allow you to ride more relaxed and with more confidence.  To become more efficient you must PRACTICE!  The more you practice a skill the more automatic it will become.  With each pedal stroke there is a downstroke and an upstroke.  A “dead spot” is created as the rider transitions from pushing to pulling.  The object of these drills is to minimize this “dead spot”, smooth out the pedal stroke, and ultimately increase power and speed.  Generally pick one or two drills to perform during a ride whether on the flats or climbs.


This drill will teach you to engage your hamstrings, gluts, and calf muscles.  Imagine scraping mud from the bottom of your shoe as you bring your foot from the 3 o’clock position to the 9 o’clock position of the pedal stroke.  As you reach the 6 o’clock position, think about kicking your heel your heel into your butt.  Keep your upper body still and engage your core muscles.  Concentrate on the “pulling” phase of the pedal stroke for each leg.


This drill will teach you to engage your hip flexors, quadriceps, and anterior tibialis.  Imagine lifting your knee towards the handlebar from the 6 o’clock position to the 12 o’clock position of the pedal stroke. Again, keep our upper body still and engage your core muscles.


This drill combines both of the above techniques.  Focus on pushing earlier on the downstroke, pull through the bottom of the pedal stroke, and unweight the pedal as it is coming up. Think about pedaling forward and backward rather than up and down.


This drill is best performed on a trainer with one leg unclipped and supported on a chair or milk crate.  Use the above techniques to move the pedal through the entire rotation.  Use a variety of cadences and aim for 2-3min on each leg without “cluncking”.

Jill Gass