Making the most of your pedal stroke

April 30, 2012 at 10:04 p.m.
Updated April 29, 2012 at 11:30 p.m.

Efficiency in all three disciplines of the sport of triathlon is essential to maintaining form and pace, while conserving energy and, ultimately, finishing with a good performance.

The first step in efficient cycling is to purchase the correct size bike and then visiting a certified "fit specialist" to make sure that your position in the saddle in relation to the handlebars and pedals is not only correct in terms of body placement, but is in a position you can generate the most power while remaining as comfortable as possible.

Once you are properly fitted, turn your attention to generating the most power output and speed on the bike.

Strengthen pedal stroke

Just as in the pull portion of the swim, cyclists need to make the most of the push and pull of the pedal stroke.

Typically, the weakest part of the pedal stroke is at the top and bottom, where the crank arms are straight up and down.

At the bottom portion of the pedal stroke, you will feel the most force directed backward. This should feel like you are scraping mud off your shoe.

At the top part of the pedal stroke, the heel should move from a raised position to a lowered position as it moves as if it is moving over a barrel.

Make sure to not tense up the feet by wiggling the toes periodically.

Keep upper body steady

When cyclists first start out, they typically move their upper body more, trying to gain more power on the bike.

Unfortunately, when the upper body moves more, power loss is generated. All energy output should be directed down through the hips and quadriceps and ending at the crankset.

Cyclists should focus on relaxing their upper body and keeping it steady, limiting any side-to-side movement.

The key leg strengthening exercises to target leg muscles needed on the bike are squats, hamstring curls and lunges.

Strengthening the supporting muscles of the shoulders, forearms and triceps can also help to prevent upper body fatigue which can lead to poor upper body form.

Stay aerodynamic

In many races, drafting is not legal. The best way to gain speed on the bike is by becoming more aerodynamic, and one of the best ways is by investing in a good pair of aerobars.

Once the purchase is made, training in the aero position needs to a part of your program.

If you are unable to stay in aero position for at least 20 to 30 minutes on rolling terrain, there may be an issue with your bike fit or possibly more core strengthening is needed.

Hill work

We don't have a large number of hills to choose from in our area.

The wind is a fairly good substitute as it mimics the same muscle fatigue felt when riding up hills. There is no substitute for hill climbing when it comes to learning how to gear up and down, however.

The best areas to do some hill climbs in our area are hitting the rollers located out in Mission Valley, off Upper and Lower Mission Valley Rd., or hitting the big hill on Thomaston River Rd. for hill repeats.

Practice makes perfect, and, in the majority of triathlon races, the biking segment makes up the largest portion of the race.

Spending additional time in the saddle, as well as hitting the weights, can go a long way in making you successful when it comes to the bike leg.

Missy Janzow received her B.S. in Dietetics from Southeast Missouri State University and owns Fit4U, a personalized coaching and nutrition business that serves to train the novice or sea soned triathlete or runner. You can reach her with your questions at



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