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Pedal Power: How to Maximize Your Stroke

One thing I like about biking is that it feels easy — you know "just like riding a bike." Even though it seems pretty simple there is technique to riding. Pedaling for instance should feel like you are making smooth circles through out the entire revolution of the pedal. Most of us, myself included, tend to just focus on pushing the pedal down, which is where the majority of your pedal power comes from. This works the quads, the muscle on the front of the thigh. Using clipless pedals, cycling shoes that clip into the pedals, you can maximize your pedal stroke and distribute the work through out your leg.

It helps to think of the circular pedaling motion being broken into four parts. To find out what they are,


  1. First, you push the pedal down, working your quad. Here, your heel should be lower than your toes to get the most power out of your legs.
  2. At the bottom of your stroke, actively pull your foot back like you're scraping muck off your shoe. This phase engages your hamstring, the muscle on the back of your thigh.
  3. Next, pull the pedal up working your hip flexors.
  4. The last part of the circular stroke is the top; you want to kick your foot forward and feel like you're pushing the pedal, which sets up your down stroke, or the first phase.

This dissection of your pedal stroke is great to practice in a spin class when you don't have the distraction of the road, and it helps fight the mind numbing boredom that can accompany exercising indoors.


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