When it comes to cycling performance
does pedaling technique really matter?
Of course it does. To say otherwise (and some do) is like saying that cycling is the only sport in the world where the technique of the major component of the sport doesn’t matter. But this myth persists. It persists simply because pedaling technique has been almost impossible to measure (requiring expensive pressure plate pedals generally available only in university research labs) and pedaling technique is almost impossible to change (at least without PowerCranks) making it “impossible” to study any difference between two different techniques. If something is hard to measure and even harder to compare two groups it is easy to conclude it doesn’t matter.
So, what is the optimum pedaling technique?
Now, there may be many different techniques possible and no one knows for sure exactly what is optimum but the one technique that many coaches talk about as being “optimum” is “pedaling in circles”. But, what does “pedaling in circles” mean? It does not mean applying equal pressure around the entire circle, as is thought by many, as equal pressure around the circle is impossible because of the effects of gravity. What “pedaling in circles” really means is spreading the work out more evenly around the circle. To make this change in most people involves mostly increasing the power at the top and bottom of the stroke and minimizing or eliminating the losses on the upstroke. It is how the serious professional has tried to pedal forever. When Greg LeMond first got on the PowerCranks he told me "I spent years trying to learn how to pedal like this and now people can learn it in months." Not a gimmick, a serious training tool actually used by the last four Olympic road race champions and many other Olympic, World, and National champions in a wide variety of cycling disciplines including track, cyclocross, mountain biking, and triathlon. You may not have heard about this use as for most of these professionals PowerCranks is strictly a training tool (and they may already have a racing crank sponsor) and easily kept from others. Why would an athlete want to share a completely legal advantage with the competition unless they were paid well to do so?
What are the advantages of pedaling using this “full circle” pedaling technique?
1. It uses more muscle mass, increasing peak power potential.
2. It distributes the work around more of the pedal circle which means using more muscles, allowing any one muscle to be further away from its lactic threshold for any given power, keeping muscle use more efficient.
3. These changes together have the potential to greatly improve both pedaling efficiency, VO2max and sustainable power. Many studies support this approach.
The power any rider generates is actually the average of all of the instantaneous powers generated around the entire circle. If one wants to increase his wattage by 1 watt by "pushing harder" he has to push harder for an average of 10 watts through 10% of the circle (36 degrees). Or, one can increase the average wattage 1 watt around the entire circle. Which do you think is easier if one has been trained to use the entire circle? See the diagrams on the right comparing actual pedaling forces changes seen in a single rider between regular cranks and PowerCranks. It is clear the technique changes are relatively small and subtle but these small changes in the direction and magnitude of the applied force results in large changes in the resultant power to the wheel for any given muscular effort. Note that when on PowerCranks the negative forces are completely eliminated and the forces across the top and bottom of the stroke are substantially larger over regular cranks. With these changes this rider is actually “pushing” less hard to generate the same power despite the fact he is riding at a lower cadence. Can there be any doubt that as the rider changes their natural way of pedaling to thismore efficient and powerful technique that performance will improve?
Why should you, as a coach, care a lot about this now?
In the past (before PowerCranks) coaches and riders didn’t have to worry too much about pedaling technique because it was pretty much impossible to know how a rider was actually pedaling (you needed pressure plate pedals, only available in the research lab) and, even if you got that information there were not any good tools to effectively change pedaling technique. Ignorance was bliss. But, this is about to change. Soon, pedal force data will be affordable and available to everyone and your clients are going to be asking you for advice as to how to improve this aspect of their game. Better start planning how you are going to approach this now. Such changes do not come easily. You can set your clients on the multi year path of the pros like LeMond before PowerCranks or you can set them on the 6-9 month path allowed by integrating PowerCranks into their training. What are you going to choose? There is simply no more effective way than PowerCranks to effect this change.
In the near future, if you ignore this aspect of the cycling game we predict you will be seen by your ex-clients as “old fashioned” and “irrelevant”. Prepare now. PowerCranks will help you teach this skill to your clients with maximum efficiency