Friday, November 12, 2010

Training - Pulling Up During Pedal Stroke

After reading a lot in BikeForums about how "pulling up" is a myth, I did some low gear work on the trainer and tried to observe what happened without consciously changing my pedal stroke.

I pedaled at 19-21 mph on my Cyclops Fluid2 in a 39x15? - I kept it in the same gear on purpose, in case my legs acted differently once I warmed up. Cadence ranged from zero, if I coasted, to a consistent 100-120+ rpm. 20.8 mph counted out to be about 120 rpm.

I wasn't consciously trying to pull up. If I "try" my shins get tired and my shins didn't get tired.

I noticed my foot lifts slightly off the sole of the shoe consistently, every revolution, from about the 3 o'clock pointing back (9 AM if looking at crank from right side, maybe a touch earlier) to the top of the stroke. I remember this as helping with hot spots when I started riding (no socks, hardwood sole, no insole).

I think I pull forward past the top of the pedal stroke. If nothing else, I pull up into the top of the pedal stroke, i.e. an inefficiency. My foot goes near vertical at the top of the stroke and then flips down. It's unconscious now but could have been something I purposely developed.

I can see my hamstrings tense to help my leg pull up. It's more substantial in bigger gears but I didn't use bigger gears in my "test". I do see the same kind of contraction on other riders' legs, typically when I watch better racers race out of turns.

I first noticed this after seeing some pictures/video of Jan Ullrich - he has incredibly muscular hamstrings, and hamstrings contract only when you lift your leg. Therefore he must pull up very hard. I have to admit the pictures were posted as "proof" Ullrich doped, but still, I've seen similar hamstring development in more "normal" riders.

Of course I'm not sure how much power I have here. Pulling up that hard may be worth, what, like 100w? It's not a lot, not at the cadence I was holding. At lower rpm it could be worth a lot more - it's how I survived for many accelerations in my last 2010 Rent race. I couldn't push down due to cramping so I had to pull up. Then I had to just push down because my hamstrings got really twingy and couldn't pull up any more. Etc etc.

I know that when I pedal a BMX bike with no clips, I lift my shoe off the pedal consistently. I have to focus on keeping my shoes on the pedal on the upstroke.

I can feel the shoe push into the top of my foot. I have Sidis with a main strap and two turn buckles (so they are very consistent - ratchets for all three devices and I don't loosen the turn buckles when I take the shoes off).

My current shoes, from this post.
They aren't as pretty now, and they're on their third set of cleats.

The main strap is as tight as I can get without discomfort, the middle buckle is moderately tight, the lower buckle is kind of loose (else my foot hurts after a while). I feel the movement/pressure between the middle buckle through the main strap.

Interestingly enough I definitely don't pull through the bottom of the pedal stroke, at least not so I can feel it. I tried this when I first read about "scraping the mud off the bottom of the shoe" thing by Lemond but, after a bit of trying, I gave up on it. I think it made my hamstrings cramp too easily (this was when I cramped a lot, about 20 years ago).

I did my "pulling up observation" exercise for 1+ hours and it felt normal the whole time. I remembered a lot of what I felt as being "normal", i.e. all the sensations are familiar, I just didn't notice it recently.

No power, cadence, or HR data other than manually calculated stuff. I did have speed. 20.8 mph was about 120 rpm.

Open for discussion.


Anonymous said...

I am not doubting you if you say that you pull up on the pedal on the upstroke of the crank . But your statement : "Jan Ullrich - he has incredibly muscular hamstrings, and hamstrings contract only when you lift your leg. Therefore he must pull up very hard" is incorrect and does nothing to prove your point.
Your logic is undone by the fact that the function of the "hamstring" group of muscles is not solely isolated knee flexion. These muscles cross 2 joints, the knee and the hip. And they function both in knee flexion and hip extension as well as firing during eccentric knee extension and eccentric hip flexion.

Thom Kneeland said...

I've been using the mental trick of thinking about moving my feet more quickly from front to back instead of up and down. I imagine my feet at the same level (3:00 and 9:00) through the pedal stroke and focus on switching their positions as quickly as possible. I've found it helps me really me work my hip and glutes. I don't have a power meter, but on the cross bike going over slick and "heavy" mud, the power stays super smooth and even and I'm able to get on top of the gear.