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How to do the right cycling cadence

I was browsing through the search terms that people had used to arrive at my road bike cycling blog, when I came across this interesting query: how to do the right cycling cadence.

It’s a good question.  I have mentioned frequently about the importance of cadence and losing weight,  even what that cadence should be (90 – 120 rpm) and that Lance Armstrong uses/used a high cadence to great effect.  But I haven’t actually said how I do it.

Firstly it’s easier to get a high cadence if you have clipless pedals, or toe clips.  Platforms make it tricky but not impossible!

With clips or clipless

You can get used to doing the right mechanical movement by doing short stretches of a minute simply by unclipping one shoe and moving the other round.  Choose a flat and quiet road to do this.  This means that you will have to pull up on the pedal as much as pushing down.  The next point to recognise is that at the bottom of your rotation give your toe a flick down and pull back using your rear thigh muscles (a great resource of what that means is here), then once you get past the 9 o’clock mark is to use your hip flexors to bring the pedal up and over the top.  Another analogy frequently used by cyclists is at the bottom of the stroke to imagine you are scraping something unpleasant off the toe of your shoe when it goes through the bottom phase.

Obviously, you then need to practice the same action with the other shoe.

When you have both feet on the pedals I find it also helps to imagine that you are drawing a circle with each foot, and I also try to get a sense of pressure on the upper part of my foot on the lift phase, and much less pressure than usual on the push or mash phase of the cycle.

Platform pedals (without clips)

It’s not possible for you to practice with just one foot.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t do this.  There will be no lift phase to the action but that doesn’t mean you can’t have the up/down technique.

DSC_6652You can complete the mash, and the stroke back with ankle flex, but then continue the movement by simply lifting your leg and following the movement of the pedal round.  Again, get a sense of less pressure on the ball of your foot.  I’ve been working on a way of getting the technique right without clips, and I have found that a good way of practicing is to actually follow the line of the pedal, but to lift your foot so that momentarily your foot is off the pedal.  Whilst that is an impractical way of cycling, it certainly gets you used to the movement.  You can also practice with both legs at the same time unlike with clips.  It’s then just a matter of letting your feet rest a bit more on the pedals with a kind of feather touch on the upward part of the phase.


What it feels like

When you start doing this technique it can feel a bit odd, especially with platform pedals.  But what you find is that the mash phase is lighter because you aren’t also lifting the weight of the other leg.  And because of that you get more for your buck in terms of expended energy – further, faster, in other words.  It’s even more effective with clipless and clips pedals because you are reducing that mass energy level even more.
Creative Commons License photo credit: Neilmandude

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