Pedaling technique has long been my favorite thing to ignore while on the bike, but recently I have been giving it a bit more thought. Should I be pulling more, should I be trying to pedal circles, what cadence should I be at etc etc etc.
The questions are infinite, so let’s ignore cadence and only discuss the pedal stroke for now. I like to break the pedal stroke into two parts: the push, and the pull. Many cyclists talk about “circling” which adds in an extra gliding portion to the stroke, but I think that is just a bit too much to be thinking about when you should be riding your bike instead.
So, you can push and pull – how much of each is the best? Well, in my tradition of never giving a yes or no answer, it depends on what you are trying to achieve. It turns out that focusing on the pull portion of the stroke increases your torque production, and evens out the torque distribution throughout your pedal stroke at the expense of decreasing your overall efficiency. Focusing on pushing is the most efficient way to pedal, but you do not get the benefits mentioned from the pulling focused pedal stroke. Trying to focus on both will make your brain explode, do avoid that if you can.
What do you focus on? Focusing on the push should be your default mode, so when you turn your brain off you eventually pedal this way naturally. I think most guys ride like this anyway, but I do know some cyclists who are really pulling hard every single pedal stroke. The bottom line is you want to be as efficient as possible at all times, so push those pedals. If you need some extra juice, then start really pulling hard for a few seconds, but there is no reason to ride like that all of the time.
Disclaimer | Studies I have seen are showing differences in the range of 1-2% for gross efficiency results for pushing, pulling and circling focused pedal strokes so it is not a huge deal. But then again, every little bit counts.
The boys at GCN just chimed in on this debate as well. Check out their video below.