Friday, May 29, 2009

Training - Pedal Speed

Recently a few sights made me realize that my pedal stroke needed a lot of work.

1. CRCA/Empire rider Eric Brownell demolishing the field at East Hartford. Although he may not have lapped everyone in the field twice, he lapped many of them individually more than twice, including me. I kept coming off the back, waiting a lap, jumping in, and then getting sawed off again. His fast, smooth pedaling style really impressed me.

2. Giro stage yesterday - I caught the last 5k or so on Universal Sports. I watched McCarthy and my favorite unheralded pro Danny Pate go after the stage. McCarthy had an even faster and smoother pedal stroke than Brownell, and that was after hours of racing. Very inspiring.

3. I also realized that, at the track, guys with much lower gears than my monster 90" were going much faster than me. Obviously their pedal strokes were much smoother, much faster than mine. I just watch in disbelief when they tear around the track in tiny gears.

Therefore I decided to work on my pedal stroke.

A day off the bike Wednesday, a pretty sorry day on Tuesday, and a day off Monday meant that I could relearn my pedal stroke. Usually I need a few days off, but today I felt motivated, and I figured I could start the process with just one day off.

Tricks to relearning how to pedal:
1. Use low gears. I used a 39x15 or 39x17 on my Cyclops Fluid trainer. This translated to 25 mph at 120 rpm or so, about 300 watts in the higher gear.

2. Work on smooth by using a combination of higher and lower pedal speeds. I bump my rpms up to some uncomfortable speed, try and keep my pedal stroke smooth, then drop back down 20-40 rpms to, say, 120 rpms. Suddenly 120 seems pretty slow, because I just did a stint at 140 or higher.

3. Whenever I felt like gearing up, I thought of the image of pedaling samples 1 or 2 above. This kept my motivation high, with an image of what I wanted my pedal stroke to look like in my head.

4. Play music that has a 120 beat-per-minute rhythm. For me it was my brothers' music (Shovel Full of Dirt) and Paul Oakenfold stuff. Pedal with the beat and you'll zone out for a while.

5. No visuals - I didn't watch a race tape or anything. I wanted to focus on form so I watched my body, my hips, my back, my legs, in the mirrors around me. I tried especially hard to keep my hips from moving too much, up/down as well as any kind of rocking. That is, I looked when I had my eyes open. Much of the time I wasn't seeing anything, just feeling the pedal stroke.

6. Experiment with fore/aft position on the saddle. I can spin much faster sitting forward in the saddle, and that's natural, but I tried to slide back a bit too, so I could practice technique while in a "sit in the field" position. I found that I could pedal quickly by altering my pedal stroke just a bit. Well, I re-found that little tidbit, I just had to rediscover it again.

Focusing on pedal stroke made the time go by quickly - suddenly I was tired, thirsty, and an hour had gone by. It felt good though, to pedal fast. With no races this weekend, I can continue this "form refresher" right up through till Tuesday. Then the crit in East Hartford Tuesday night. Then the track on Wednesday.

That's when I hope to see a difference.


Broerie said...

you forgot the one-legged drills, those work best for me. I try to do those at least once every week (on the trainer three 30sec intervals with each leg)

Unknown said...

good post. i don't know if this will make sense to anyone but it was one of those ah-ha moments when someone explained to me.

draw smaller circles -- imagine you are watching yourself pedal from the side. imagine a dot on your ankle bone and try to keep the circle of that dot going around the BB as close to the BB as possible.

but i think the best possible lesson for me was one winter several years ago. i've found the best spinner on my training ride (ron) and rode behind him for the entire winter trying to match his stroke in the same gear for the entire ride.

the next spring i remember doing the central park spring season race in the small ring just to see if i can stay with the pack for the whole race. i finished third in one of them.