Ever wonder why the pros are so fast? They pedal differently than you and me. World Tour professionals start applying power to their pedal stroke much earlier than the rest of us, and they also ‘power off’ much later than the rest of us do too. They don’t ‘stab’ at the pedals, they push a high power through the pedals for as long as they can. Whether on an indoor trainer or on a low-traffic road outdoors, you can practice drills that will help to strengthen your pedaling so that you’re ready to put your improved stroke to work at the start of next season and start pedaling like the pros.
What does that mean?
Looking at the table below, pros will start their pedal stroke around 1:30 and finish around 5:30. This equates to starting the pedal stroke at 45° and finishing at 165° which is a full 33% of the total pedaling circle. Most cyclists I have done analysis on, start applying power around 3:00 and end around 4:30 which nets only 45°, or 12.5% of the total pedaling circle.
Pros are pushing hard on their pedals for 120° of crank arc, a full 33% of the total pedaling circle. The rest of us only about 45° of crank arc. This does not even take into consideration that pros also pull up on the upstroke. In other words, pros are pushing on their pedals for an additional 75° which is about 167% more than the rest of us.
How Can I Do This Too?
There are lots of drills that the rest of us non-professionals can do to improve pedal stroke. I recommend starting off using one leg at a time. You will want to concentrate on one leg pedaling the whole 120°. Start by pedaling for 2-3 minutes – one leg at a time. Ramp up this drill to a full 5 minutes. During the initial phase, you are building muscle memory. Once you can do single-leg pedal stroke more easily, go back to pedaling 2-legged. Focus on integrating your single leg strokes into your full pedal motion. If you have a power meter, you should be able to see a higher number once you start pedaling smoothly for the entire 120°.
Start by pedaling for 2-3 minutes – one leg at a time. Ramp up this drill to a full 5 minutes.
When training outdoors, un-clip one foot from the pedal and pedal with the other foot. Switch by clipping in the foot/leg you were resting and un-clipping the foot/leg that was doing the work. Continue switching back and forth. When training indoors, set a step stool up next to your trainer so that you can easily rest your “off leg” on the stool, out of the way of the crank-arm and pedal. This will allow you to concentrate on the leg that you are training. Once you have mastered this, it will be time to concentrate on the back or up stroke, where you can gain even more free wattage.