Getting some mileage

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.


About D. D. Syrdal

Writer of vampire stories and science fiction. First novel, "Revenants Abroad", available now at Amazon,,, Smashwords. If you like a vampire you can go out drinking with and still respect yourself in the morning, I think you'd like Andrej.
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2 Responses to Getting some mileage

  1. I’ve heard of that method of pedaling with one foot before, but I’ve never tried it. I just imagine it as being so awkward that it would be difficult to perceive the improper pedal stroke… but people say it works, so I’m sure it’s worth trying.

    I missed bike to work week too. I’ve also missed our moderate temperature spring time for the most part, and have managed to begin my riding season at the beginning of the sweltering heat that has already arrived in TX. My problem with getting started earlier in the year is that the spring is terribly windy, and I HATE wind on a ride. I would rather endure freezing temps or extreme heat than get knocked around by the wind.

    Another pedaling tip that I believe increases your efficiency and strength (and also makes you look more like you know what you’re doing) is to keep your knees going straight up and down so that your entire leg is on the same plane as the pedal crank. A lot of people that don’t ride much or haven’t had a mentor probably don’t realize they are doing it so when they have to push harder or are getting tired, they flare one or both knees out at the top of the pedal stroke. Take notice the next time you’re behind someone (the ones doing this remind me of a kid on a big wheel). It means they need to work out their hip flexor muscles, and their thigh adductors are probably underdeveloped compared to their abductors… Something Suzanne Somers’ Thigh Master would have been good for afterall =)

    Ride on!

  2. Digital Dame says:

    Hey McB! Good to hear from you.

    I can’t stand riding into the wind either. It’s been pretty windy here lately, too, which is annoying, although probably not as bad as what you have to deal with. Spring and fall tend to be very windy here. My mentor was on a long ride with a group out in the Columbia River Gorge a couple weekends ago, and he said they were into a headwind the whole way. Luckily he’s a strong rider, but even he felt it. The Gorge is famous for being windy, windsurfing is a huge sport out there. I think they hold national competitions in windsurfing there, but I’m not really plugged into that scene.

    I don’t envy you riding in that heat. Anything over 80 degrees and I pretty much wilt 😉 We are finally, just this weekend, seeing 80-degrees, and it will be dropping back to the upper 60s and low 70s most of the coming week.

    I think I would pull my knees if I pedaled with my knees sticking out like that, that sounds very awkward.

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