Interesting info on pedal stroke Efficiency

Just found an article that may help explain a little of the difference in using flat pedals vs. clipped (I say a little as this test didn’t test flat pedals and does not take into all the goals of pedaling a mountain bike which include confidence and control).

The article is worth reading but here is what I found interesting:

“In a 2007 study, Korff et al, looked at the effectiveness/efficiency relationship of four different pedaling techniques: pedaling circles, “stomping,” the riders own self-selected style and the classic “pull up” through the bottom of the pedal stroke approach.

Their study established that mechanical effectiveness is greatly enhanced by using the “pull up” technique; it ranked higher on an effectiveness index than pedaling circles, self selected or ‘stomping’ the pedals. Gross efficiency, on the other hand, was significantly lower using this technique. It took more energy to use the ‘pull up’ technique than to simply pedal in circles or stomp. Unfortunately, Korff et al, didn’t delve into the efficacy of the trade off. Is it worth the decreased efficiency to get the greater effectiveness?”

Which to me means clipless pedals might be a huge advantage in loose and or steep climbing sections as you can produce more power.  The reason I mention loose conditions is often a hard downward pedal can cause you to spin out.  I tested this yesterday on some steep and loose sections of trail at Bootleg Canyon and realized that I use a completely different pedal stroke in those conditions than any where else.  When it is steep and loose (or just really steep) I use a lot of upward pulling that I don’t use any where else.

The article, which also backs up my theory that just because a high cadence works for Lance it might not be best for you can be found here:

Again, don’t just agree or disagree with the article, experiment, find out what works for you.

4 replies
  1. David Krycho
    David Krycho says:

    Thanks for sharing the outtake on the pedal types and techniques. I would agree that what works for different people is probably more dependent on riding style. For example, for a DH rider, the Lance high cadence approach probably doesn’t make much sense. For XC, I think Lance pretty well displayed at Leadville, CO last year that his high cadence approach, combined with his strength, is highly effective.

    • Gene
      Gene says:

      Hi David,

      You should read the article I linked to. High cadence is definitely the best way to climb, for Lance. Other people have different body types (upper leg length vs. lower leg length different muscle fibers, different patterns that their body is used to) and do much better with a lower cadence. From the article “Jan Ullrich exhibited the classic slow profile – powerful and efficient at lower cadences he could diesel his way up climbs.”

  2. David Krycho
    David Krycho says:

    Note to self: Read suggested links first – comment later.
    I’ve often been told that the high cadence approach was the way because it is more efficient, but I have had a difficult time achieving it. In steady state, 90-100 rpm is my comfortable range, so now it makes more sense that trying to achieve higher doesn’t feel right to me. Also, the slow profile “Jan Ullrich” approach to climbs has always been more my preference so it is good to know it’s okay.
    Thanks again.

  3. flugmann
    flugmann says:

    I started riding MTB in Germany in 91 after several years of BMX as a child and recreational road biking. When I first went to toe straps or cages it was for control and balance and allowed me to “cheat” while jumping over logs and etc. It was like wearing a lap belt while driving a car in a race. I later went to a pedal with shoe clips using the spd was much more efficient and was like going to a full five point seatbelt for my feet. I am a “Masher” and rarely use the upward motion but I won’t ride around the block without my feet being in my spd’s. It allows for even more control and balance on my full suspension bike.


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