Improving your pedaling skills is an excellent way to become a better cyclist. The way to improve your pedaling skills is spin verses step.
One of the first things to consider is the fit of your bike. If your bike is too small, you will be crouched with your knees and other joints bent too much, which will wear you out. If your bike is too big, your hips will rock as you try to reach the pedal in it's lowest position. Whether you ride a mountain or road bike, your bike should be properly fitted so you don’t burn energy too fast or get sore too quick.
When one spins, even pressure is applied to both feet consistently as you pedal in a circular motion. Pushing down and forward, then back and up. The other foot has equal pressure and does the complementary opposite motion. This is demonstrated with the interactive animation on the right.
Also demonstrated is the act of stepping. All your weight is placed on one foot making the downward motion, usually followed by a brief pause. Then all your weight is shifted to the other foot and the process is repeated.
Spinning takes the least amount of energy of any form of pedaling. As you spin your back is kept straight, your body weight is evenly distributed throughout your body. If you’re stepping you’re using more energy by shifting your weight from side to side, which can be hard on your hips, pelvis and lower back.
Allow your pedal stroke to be smooth like a circle without any jerks or stops. There are three parts of smooth pedal stroke: push forward, bring foot back, this should feel like you are scraping mud off the bottom of your shoe, and then bring the knee up and over. Put all three pieces together and the triangle becomes a circle. This action may feel awkward at first but if you practice, you'll find that it helps a lot, especially on hills. And, after a while you'll pedal smoother than ever because you’re able to apply power through more of the stroke.
A great way to practice your spin is to train indoors on rollers. Rollers are three spinning drums (one for the front wheel, two for the rear), connected by rubber belt and held together by a frame. You put your bike on the rollers and start to pedal and ride just like you’re outside. Balance on rollers takes practice, but once you’ve got it you can turn on your TV and watch the TOUR and concentrate on your pedaling. With enough practice you'll ride faster with the same effort because your pedaling has become more efficient.
Another way to practice your pedaling is riding a fixed-gear bike. Constant pedaling is required because you can’t coast. You can’t shift, so you must accelerate pedal speed on downhills. These factors combine to smooth your pedal stroke and force you to spin complete circles. Another option with similar effects to your pedaling would be riding a track bike in a velodrome (a banked oval track).
If you don’t have the option to ride a fixed gear bike or a track bike, join a studio cycling class. A studio cycling class is a indoor class where everyone rides stationary bike that will have a weighted plate in front instead of wheel. this weighted plate makes the stationary bike act as a fixed gear bike.
Here are some studio cycling tips from our favorite instructor "Wildflower" AKA Heather.
1. Bike fit is essential. Ask the teacher to help you with bike fit. If she doesn’t know how to fit you, then skip the class.
2. Keep your knees right over your ankles. Don’t let the knees wobble side to side.
3. Push forward with the legs, not down. Push forward, Push forward.
4. Allow your pedal stroke to be like a circle without any jerks or stops. Smooth.
5. Three parts of smooth pedal stroke: push forward, bring foot back, and then bring the knee up and over. Put all three pieces together and the triangle becomes a circle.
6. Never spin without some resistance on the dial.
8. Drink water, drink water, drink water.
7. Within 30 minutes after class, be sure to eat something with some complex carbs and some protein.