The type of pedaling technique you use during cycling can build different leg muscles. Different studies, such as one that originally appeared in the June 2007 issue of the journal "Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise", have been conducted to determine the best pedaling stroke for professional cyclists. However, these studies have shown the different pedaling techniques do not change the efficiency of the cyclist that much.
Preferred pedaling is a technique used by amateur cyclists and some professionals. The technique involves a smooth stroke with pressure that remains constant throughout. You use a moderate cadence throughout the stroke to ensure you maintain the same speed throughout the rotation of the pedals. A cadence in cycling refers to how hard you have to press on the pedals compared to how fast you have to rotate the pedals. Using a low cadence, rotating the pedals slower, will require you to press harder on the pedals. In order to get the same speed as a low cadence, the high cadence will make you rotate the pedals faster, but with lighter pressure.
Circle pedaling is a technique that applies pressure at certain angles of the stroke. If you imagine a clock, the circle pedaling technique has you placing more pressure at the pedals at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o'clock. This technique applies more power to the rear wheel, causing you to go faster. Using this technique does cause you to use more energy, but it is an effective technique to use on flat surfaces and build speed. The technique also strengthens all the muscles in your leg.
The push pedaling technique has you applying pressure on the down stroke of the pedal. Each time the pedal reaches the top part of the stroke, press hard on the pedal. Once the pedal reaches the bottom of the stroke, stop applying pressure. This technique causes you to apply pressure at different times with each leg. One pedal will be at the bottom of the stroke while the other pedal will is at the top of the stroke, so when one leg is applying pressure, the other leg is resting. You will not gain much speed using this technique, but your speed will remain constant. The technique primarily builds your quadriceps.
One of the hardest pedaling techniques to use as a cyclist is the pulling technique. This technique has you pulling up on the pedal from the bottom of the stroke to the top of the stroke. The technique causes your legs to fatigue rapidly, because it primarily uses your lower leg muscles. The stroke increases the mechanical effectiveness of the bike, increasing your speed, but it is not efficient in the long run because you have to use a lot of energy.
- Beginner Triathlete: Pedaling Technique and Drills Summary; Rich Strauss
- Cycling Analysis; Pedaling Technique; Brian Sather
- ""Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise"; Effect of Pedaling Technique on Mechanical Effectiveness and Efficiency in Cyclists; Thomas Korff, et al.; Brunel University; June 2007
- BikeRadar; Technique - Pedal Like a Pro; Joe Beer; November 2007
- Perfect Condition: Lift, Flick, Claw -- The Art of Smooth Pedalling; Tim Williams
- Beginner Triathlete; Cycling Cadence; Rich Strauss
- Photo Credit Ryan McVay/Digital Vision/Getty Images