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Cycling workout: tips and tricks to avoid pedalling’s commonest mistakes

Whether you do it to go somewhere, to escape from reality or to hear the wind whistling between your ears, riding a bike and often evokes great emotions. From the first ride on a wheeled bike to the mistakes that inevitably made us fall ruinously, up to the climb that we used to go down from a young age pedalling as much as I can, cycling is really a congenital skill in us. So much that we associate it with something that we learn and never forget, regardless of the period of inactivity.

This is because pedalling is a simple, repetitive, immediate movement. An athletic gesture of a disarming spontaneity, which can be performed even by the laziest couch potato.

Yet, this does not mean no technique requires a specific cycling workout, or that the simplicity of movement does not hide a motor complexity to examine, investigate and improve. In this article, we try to explain how this movement is composed, what benefits can emerge from a correct pedalling and what advice can be followed to improve both style and efficiency of pedalling.

Down to the pedalling phases

Down to the pedalling phases

BREAKDOWN

As previously said, pedalling is a complex, yet very natural, movement. In it, muscles, joints and mechanical components act in symbiosis to allow the bike to move. After a careful analysis of the construction of the movement, it can be seen that the pedalling is composed of various levers and fulcrums that act in unison. The first lever is the thigh, whose fulcrum is in the pelvis, which, thanks to the larger muscles of the entire body, can release the necessary power.

The second lever is the tibia, with the fulcrum formed by the kneecap, which transmits the power it generates to the foot. Finally, there is the last lever, the pedal, which transmits the energy from the foot to the crankset, thus putting it in rotation and allowing it to pull the chain.

LEVERS

The whole work of the leg muscles is called the kinetic chain, while the transmission of energy from the pedal to the chain and the rear wheel is described as a kinematic chain. The combination of these two types of work (human and mechanical) gives life to the pedal stroke, which we can break down to four distinct phases.

These four phases are: one of Thrust, one of Traction and two of Transition.

In the thrust phase, most of the force released is transmitted to the pedal. In this phase, 65% of the cyclist’s muscular power is discharged. A tip for increasing pedalling efficiency is to keep the pedal horizontal for the duration of this phase; this is only possible by carefully adjusting the position of the saddle.

THRUST

In the transition phases, you switch from pushing to pulling and vice versa. The pedal tilts forward ready for the traction phase. In these phases, the maximum extension and contraction of the leg take place, made possible both by adequate saddle height and by muscular flexibility capable of supporting its action. The energy used in this phase is 12% (from thrust to traction) and 6% (from traction to thrust) of the total, respectively.

TRANSITION

In the traction phase (although it is better to talk about dynamic ascent), while one foot is pulling on the pedal, the other is “pushing” on the pedal, thus allowing the opposite pedal to rise.

The power used is 17% of the total, just a little higher than the first transition phase. The pedal tilts even further forward until it reaches 30° with the ground. Here the work of the calf, which has the task of extending the foot in the three phases analysed, ends. During the dynamic ascent, the upper part of the shoe deforms due to the efforts in progress. Therefore, the lower the rigidity of the shoe itself, the greater the dispersion of energy.

TRACTION
Learning to pedal well through a high-intensity cycling workout

Learning to pedal well through a high-intensity cycling workout

HIIT

That said, is it possible to learn to pedal well, avoiding complications to joints and muscles? Although pedalling is an extremely natural movement, that doesn’t mean that a cycling workout is not required to refine the movement, nor that some tips and tricks can be followed to improve your efficiency dramatically.

Correct height and positioning of the saddle

Correct height and positioning of the saddle

The height of the saddle allows the foot to maintain a correct position for the duration of the pedal stroke. It also influences the stability of the pelvis, and consequently complications in the lumbar area. As far as positioning is concerned, the value of the saddle retraction directly affects the cyclist’s aerodynamics, the work of the lumbar muscles and the biomechanics of pedalling, since it affects the work of the agonist and antagonist muscles of the thigh.

SADDLE

In this regard, having measuring instruments capable of correcting movement while pedalling can save a lot of time and lead to a more effective cycling workout. Thanks to its PEDAL PRINTING technology, SKILLBIKE offers continuous visual feedback on the roundness and symmetry of the pedal stroke for each different ratio, thus increasing your efficiency. This feat is particularly important when you’re in the middle of a Skillathletic class, so that you can achieve top quality cycling workout even in hectic HIIT workouts.

Foot positioning

Foot positioning

The foot must maintain a correct angle and position on the pedal throughout the movement of the pedal stroke. In fact, it is a common problem to pedal with the foot too far back or too far forward, with the heel resting on the pedal. This type of pedalling involves physical problems, with bone and muscle inflammation. In the same way, keeping the pedal at the correct angle allows effective pedalling, without inflammation of the joints, tendons and muscles of the knee, leg and ankle.

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FOOTING
Muscle flexibility

Muscle flexibility

Muscle flexibility is essential for improving sports performance and the well-being of the muscle groups under stress. To avoid an incorrect posture and muscle pain, it is always necessary to do stretching and yoga exercises, stretch the muscles and improve their elasticity.

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STRETCHING
Improve, improve and improve

Improve, improve and improve

Finally, no matter how trivial it may sound, doing a well-defined and targeted cycling workout is the best way to practice for cycling, both indoors and outdoors. In this case, the important thing is the goal you have set yourself. Depending on the goal, there are various cycling workout routines, which can either be mixed to high-intensity interval training session, or be performed only on the stationary bike.

TRAINING
  • To improve power, training with power intervals is particularly recommended. This training method can be associated with a more complete cyclists’ workout, especially within a SKILLATHETIC Brave or Mighty class. Otherwise, Skillbike offers specific cycling workout routines, aimed at improving either power or resistance.
  • To improve coordination and speed in pedalling, on the other hand, very fast, dynamic and low overload training is needed. In this sense, Skillathletic Boost classes are particularly recommended. Furthermore, Skillbike Agility cycling workout routine, with a progressive threshold that increases rpm, is perfect to test how fast you can pedal and keep coordination.

The benefits of a cycling workout

In short, a cycling workout is beneficial for several reasons:

  1. Reduced risks associated with joint and muscle exertion
  2. Improves Cadence efficiency and pedalling style, which allow for less effort at the same distance travelled
  3. It makes every cycling outdoor, regardless of its intrinsic goals, more effective, safer and more rewarding.
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