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The pedal stroke

Improve your pedalling technique

Improving your pedalling technique is essential to becoming a faster, more efficient cyclist. To anybody new to cycling you would think you just jump on and turn the pedals round. Yes this is true but if you want to become faster and more efficient then mastering the pedalling technique will give you the edge.

Phases of the pedal stroke

The pedal stroke can basically be broken done into four zones although the exact start and end of each zone will vary upon who you talk to. Basically the downstroke is where most of the rider’s power is applied before it enters the upstroke where the leg is recovering.

The power phase

The easiest way to explain the movement is to think of it as the face of a clock, this phase begins anywhere from 12 to 1, and is generally over by 5. This is where you generate the power using the largest muscles in your legs, the quads and glutes. Dropping your heel at the beginning of this phase will engaged the hamstring muscles also.

The pull-back

This phase is more than just the link between the downstroke and upstroke, it is your chance to continue the energy of the stroke giving you that added power so don’t miss out. A good tip is to pretend you are trying to scrape something off the bottom of your shoe as you go through 5 to 7 on the clock.

The upstroke

In this part of your stroke it is important not to let your leg relax while you concentrate on the power phase of your other leg as this will just make your other leg work harder. Instead make a conscious effort to continue to pull right through the section from 7 to 11 so that your leg is lifting itself and not becoming a dead weight on the opposite side.

The set up

In this last section you are driving your foot forward to actively begin the power phase. Try not to extend this for too long like many riders do as the sooner you start the power phase the better. Some riders continue this for far too long taking them to around 3 on the clock when it can be over as early as 12 giving you longer in the power phase. A good tip to achieve this is to think about pushing your knee forward, toward the bar as you begin to come over the top of the stoke.


A proper bike fit is crucial for a smooth pedal stroke, without it you wont be as efficient as you could be. If your saddle is too high you will not be able to drive your heal down and if it is too low you are likely to experience knee pain which will limit your stroke.

The key is to put it all back together in one smooth motion which when you first start will take a large amount of concentration to begin with but over time this will become second nature to you. It is also important throughout the full stroke to keep your hip, knee and ankle all in a straight line.

James Walsgrove

My cycling career started in 2005 when I purchased my first road bike and I was immediately hooked. Since then I have completed numerous cycling challenges including Ironman, Lands’ End to John O Groats, Mt Ventoux (all 3 ascents), London to Paris, the BBAR challenge which included a 12hour TimeTrial, Ride London and the Mallorca 312 6 times now.