How to Improve Pedaling Efficiency

Visualize how you should pedal during a race, then put it into practice.
Visualize how you should pedal during a race, then put it into practice.
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Pedaling a bicycle seems like one of those intuitive, uncomplicated things in life -- something you mastered as a kid. Why would you ever have to give it more thought or train to do it differently? Well, if all you ever plan to do on two wheels is coast along the shoreline on your beach cruiser, you're all set with the basic mechanics you learned when you were an 8-year-old. But if you plan to participate in a high-speed, long-distance bike race, such as the cycling leg of a triathlon, then you might want to take a closer look at your pedaling.

We've all heard the story of the tortoise and the hare, where slow and steady win the race. However, if that fable were to apply to a triathlon, the winner would be a hybrid of the two -- someone who could combine the hare's speed and the tortoise's endurance. When you're training for the cycling leg of your big race, keep that combination in mind. And if you work on pedaling your bike more efficiently -- using less energy to gain more distance -- you will ultimately be able to marry the two athletic ideals of speed and endurance. In cycling language, improving pedaling efficiency means you will need to overcome dead spots in your pedal rotation, have a smoother, steadier rotation and be able to relax through the rotation [source: PezCycling News].

To meet these goals, it's a good idea to first evaluate your current pedaling efficiency. Don't worry; you don't have to be a world-famous cyclist to have your pedal strokes analyzed. For the cycling perfectionist, there are a variety of computer-controlled indoor cycles available that provide biomechanical feedback on pedal strokes. But regardless of whether you choose to invest in such a machine, there are still some basic drills that will help you improve your pedaling efficiency. We'll cover those training exercises in the coming sections, so consider this article your first step -- er, make that your first "pedal stroke" -- in your triathlon training.