Push me, pull you
Either way, there’s no denying the simple physics. On average, your legs represent 35 percent of your total weight. So for a 76kg (168lbs) rider, each leg weighs around 13kg (29lbs). Even seated, a large proportion of that rests on the pedal. If you’re not lifting it on the upstroke, some of the power from your other leg is being cancelled out. This is known as ‘negative force’.
If you’re looking to tune your technique, a power meter is very useful – especially one that can measure each leg’s output separately.
More important still is good bike fit – for road, MTB, CX, TT and tri. If your saddle is too high, for instance, it will stop you getting your heel down and powering through the stroke. And that’s before you get to the discomfort and injury that poor fit can cause. It’s always the place to start when looking to improve. FSA has a range of stems, bars and seatposts to easily adjust your cockpit to the ideal fit.
But what if your bike fits perfectly? There are various ways of boosting your pedaling technique:
This can reveal a lot. Ride for 30 seconds with only one foot clipped in, concentrating on smoothness and silence. After a brief recovery with both legs, switch to the other. The parts of the stroke where you’re jerky are your weak points – isolating each leg makes it easier to see what needs work. This exercise isn’t easy, and can even be dangerous, so it’s best kept for the turbo trainer!
Find a suitable program of lunges and squats to strengthen your glutes.
This not only helps with power, but also with keeping your knees in line, reducing the chance of joint problems. You also should add core exercises to give your legs the best base to push against and revel in the difference. There are any number of regimes available online.
Studies have shown that cross-country mountain bikers show the least ‘negative force,’ where pressure on the rising pedal negates some of the output on the other side. Why? Steep, slippery climbs demand very smooth, even torque all the way around, forcing riders to concentrate on delicately balanced pedaling.
That makes mountain biking excellent practice for developing a naturally efficient technique.
For more information, check out our sister site Vision’s Perfect Crank Length feature.