I’ve finally been out on the bike, twice last weekend (13 miles on Sat., 20 on Sunday), and then another 20-miler today. My cycling mentor at work has been giving me tips on pedaling technique which seems to be helping with increasing speed and stamina.
I noticed one day a couple weeks ago when I was out riding that when I pedal, I have a tendency to be too far forward on the ball of my foot, almost on my toes, so to speak. By accident I started digging down with my heel as I pushed on the downstroke and noticed an immediate difference. I got a much stronger push, and could feel I was using more of the muscles in my legs. When I do this, I can stay in a higher gear for a lot longer, with less fatigue.
Mentor also commented to me one day as he was prepping for his ride home (and busting my chops for not riding to work yet: “You’re running out of excuses! It’s getting lighter, and it’s getting warmer!” Yeah, yeah, it was 35 degrees at my house that morning…) that I need to watch my pedaling to see if it’s a circle or a square. It took me a minute to visual this, but as he explained, we tend to apply force at certain points as our feet go around, as if we create a square. What we want to do is keep consistent pressure, pushing, pulling, using the whole stroke. One way to check yourself is to find a flat stretch, or even a slight downgrade for a ways, and take one foot off the pedal, and just pedal with one foot. This is really awkward, and potentially dangerous, it can be hard to maintain your balance while you do it so be careful. You won’t be able to do this unless you have clipless pedals, or at least toe clips. Mentor assures me if I can master this I will fly up the hills. We shall see.
Now I’m much more conscious of my pedaling, and try to work the whole circle around. I think I’m making progress, I feel like I can sustain a faster pace in a higher gear, when last year I would be downshifting to my lowest gears to get up some hills. I’m not doing that anymore. I really need to get a cyclocomputer so I can see how fast I’m going. Right now I can only estimate by how long it takes to complete a known route compared to previous rides.
I totally missed Bike to Work Week last week, but I’m hoping to ride in at least twice this coming week. It’s still National Bike Month so I’ll do what I can. I am seeing more girls out there riding now, too, which is cool. I still can’t make it up Iowa Hill, in fact I’m not getting as far as I was able to last year, but hope in time to get some strength back after a long winter and crappy spring of not riding.