Winter is a great time to focus on pedaling form. When you are riding outside there are many other variables that you have to watch out for; cars, potholes, other cyclists, and so focusing on your pedaling form is much more difficult. Even though riding the stationary trainer may not be as much fun as flying down the road, it’s great for working on making your pedal stroke as smooth and efficient as possible.
One classic drill you can use to work on pedaling form is the single leg drill. You simply unclip one foot, move that foot back and out of the way and then pedal with just one leg. You can start out pedaling with each leg for just five to ten seconds and then work your way up to holding it for longer periods of time.
These drills can be difficult at first and may show you how uneven and rough your stroke actually is. When you are new to single leg drills, add them early on in your workout, after a warmup and before your legs are fatigued. Even if you have a tough time with these drills, spend a few minutes working on them a couple of times per week and you will begin to see the benefits. This drill is very challenging to do while riding outside so spend the time on them now when you may be forced to ride the trainer indoors anyway. The most difficult part of this drill is usually when your leg hits the top of the pedal stroke, or the twelve o’clock position. Concentrate on pulling smoothly up through the back of the stroke and then pushing over the top and back down again. When you get to the bottom of the pedal stroke, think about the motion of scraping something off of the bottom of your shoe and then at the top drive your toes forward before pushing back down.
Some benefits of single leg drills are:
- Smoother and more efficient pedal stroke (the more efficient you are the faster you can go without wasting excess energy)
- Discovering which leg is stronger or more dominant, then you can work on strengthening the weaker leg
- Shows you where the “dead” spots are in your pedal stroke and allows you to put effort into smoothing them out
Many of us just pedal our bikes without much thought about the actual mechanics of each stoke of those pedals. However, think about how much faster and stronger you could be if each of your many millions of pedal strokes were just a little bit more efficient.