Pedaling Perfect Circles:
An important aspect of cycling is being able to pedal perfectly round circles. This is assuming a clip-less pedal system and shoes are being used. If you are able to pedal on the up and down stroke you can gain efficiencies and have less fatigue on your legs over the same distance over just simply “stomping” like you did when you were 8 years old.
The perfect circle consists of four components:
These are described as follows:
The “Stomp” is simply the down stroke where you PUSH your foot downward as if you were stomping on an aluminum coke can for recycling.
The “Scrape” is where you PULL your foot backward as if you were scraping mud off of your shoe.
The “Kick” is where you PULL the foot upwards as if you were trying to kick yourself in the butt.
The “Slide” is where you are pretending to PUSH your foot across the floor like sliding or skating.
These movements are not down in a separate square shape, but rather in a seamless circle. I have highlighted the above words of PUSH and PULL to emphasize the movements. While your right leg is pulling your left leg will be pushing. If you concentrate on the pulling aspect, the pushing comes naturally. Sometimes it helps to think that your crank arm length is getting smaller and you are pedaling tiny little circles real smooth.
An exercise for improving this is called “one-legers”. While sitting on a trainer you can take one leg off of the bike and pedal with the other in a difficult gear, but not one that gives a twinge in the knee. Start off pedaling perfect circles (pushing and pulling) for 30 seconds and then do a PULL only for 30 seconds, return to the perfect circles for 30 seconds, and then PUSH for 30 seconds, pedal circles again, and then switch legs.
30 Second intervals:
Repeat other leg.
As you are pedaling the circles, notice where you are choppy on the stroke and concentrate on these areas. If you had a trainer that made some noise when you pedal, then the noise level or sound would be exactly even the entire time not changing pitch, if you were pedaling a perfect circle. The idea is smoothing out the rough spots which is usually when you transition between “Stomp”, “Scrape”, “Kick”, and “Slide”. These components should transition between the steps and not a definite change to smooth out the pedal stroke.
While on a ride, especially up an incline, mentally think or repeat as your mantra, “push-push, pull-pull” or “Skate, Stomp, Scrape, Kick”. If you think it a few times now and again while pedaling and concentrate on it, you will start to smooth out the pedal stroke and gain efficiencies and decrease fatigue.