Cycling efficiency …🤔

I’m a deep thinker 😂

I have been thinking about this for awhile now.

I am preparing for several long, challenging events this year ranging in length from 100-150 kms. It’s important to pace myself, conserve energy whenever possible, and cycle efficiently.

What does that mean? Cycle efficiently 🤔

The French have a word for beautiful pedalling: souplesse. And it’s not just elegant, it’s usually more efficient too. However, it’s not the only consideration and pedalling efficiency is often guided by personal and physiological preference – what feels right is probably the most efficient.

Over the years, it has meant different things to me. I frequently train in Stanley Park, completing several laps around the road. Each lap is approximately 10 km and includes a 2 km climb, a 2 km descent, and 6 km of flat, and rolling terrain. Each lap provides an opportunity to practice climbing, descending, and sprinting skills.

This is what I think about, and work on, while circling the park with the goal of maintaining a consistent pace, and reducing lap times.

  • Pedal in circles. What does that mean? Well, it means engaging all legs muscles throughout the entire pedal stroke – quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves.  This sounds easy enough but requires concerted practice. Even after decades of cycling, I continue to practice, making the movement from the the top and back a powerful, seamless motion.

Best done on an indoor trainer for obvious safety reasons, single-legged drills are one of the most effective ways of improving your pedalling. After a warm-up, select a medium gear/resistance that is easy to turn smoothly at 90-100rpm without causing muscle fatigue.

  • Maintain a high cadence. There was a time when I thought I needed to push large gears to go fast, and have some of the largest chainrings ever made to prove it. Boy, was I wrong. It took me a long time to realize that if I pedal faster in a lower gear I not only go faster, but with less effort.

Higher cadences often yield better efficiency – look at Chris Froome’s unnaturally high looking cadence and it does no harm to practice riding at a higher RPM.

  • Pedal while descending. I used to stop pedalling, and rest when descending. Why not? I had worked hard getting to the top, and deserved a break. Right? Wrong! I learned if I shifted into a higher gear, and continued pedalling, even with modest effort, I descended faster, and still recovered.
  • Get on the handlebar drops while descending. Get out of the wind. Get more aerodynamic. Get on the drops, tuck elbows in, and lower the chest.

The rider’s body accounts for 70 to 80 percent of drag while cycling; the bike, clothing and helmet the remainder. So getting aero on the bike will dramatically improve efficiency.

  • Select the straightest line on the descent. The straighter the line, the faster the descent. When there is no traffic, I have the full width of the 2-lane road, so that I can pick a straighter line, and descend faster with less effort.

Though you may not get a chance for some really great descending too often, chances are your regular riding gives you an opportunity to practice the basics on familiar roads.  Simple things like disciplining yourself to descend on the drops and focus on control and body position should be well drilled on the small stuff before you hit the bigger challenges.

  • Get on the handlebar tops while climbing. When climbing, position hands on the handlebar tops. This opens the chest allowing me to breath more deeply, and positions me back on the saddle which engages the glutes more.

This position can allow you to ride a bit more upright taking more pressure off your back as well as hands. This position should only be used when you are on a straight, open stretch of road, or climb, where you most definitely won’t have to use the brakes quickly as your hands will be further from them. Also, never ride the tops in a group as again your hands are too far from the brake levers.

  • Shift early. Don’t wait until it is too late. Get in a lower gear before the climb begins, not when I’m when already on the hill.
  • Hydrate regularly. Take in fluid, once every lap, and usually before the start of the climb.

That’s what I think about.

Deep eh 😂


One thought on “Cycling efficiency …🤔

  1. What great advice about the pedaling! Thank you. This has reinforced what I’ve read and tried recently. I have “discovered” the higher cadence thing giving me similar speeds for less effort so going to translate that higher efficiency to longer distances in the summer.

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