Road Cycling Skills

How to Perfect your Pedal Stroke

Here are the four stages of the perfect stroke technique

Most of us have wondered, at one point or another, if we’re pedalling correctly. It’s also easy to get into bad habits on the bike, and how you pedal is important to your comfort and performance.

Ideally, you’ll want to practice the perfect stroke on a turbo trainer so you can really concentrate on what you’re doing. There are four main stages of a pedal stroke – hint: it’s all about clocks!

If you imagine the entire movement as a clock face, the first phase is from 12 o’clock to 5 o’clock. In this downstroke, you should be aiming to push down, but also using your hamstrings to extend your foot forwards, so that you create an even circle, not a line from top to bottom.

Allowing your heel to drop as you pass over the 12 o’clock point will help you to use these large muscles at the back of your thigh.


The next stage, from 5 o’clock to 7 o’clock, sees you prepare for the backstroke. Here, you want to engage your calf muscles, slightly pointing your toe downwards. Greg LeMond described this as “like scraping mud off the bottom of your shoe”.

Pull up

When you begin to move from 7 o’clock to 9 o’clock, your other leg is producing more power as it is on the downstroke. If you let the 7-9 o’clock leg hang limp, you’re forcing the driving leg to work harder. At this point try to focus on pulling up.

Around we go again…

From 9 o’clock, through to 12 o’clock, you’re working towards starting a new downstroke. Remember that you want to be pedalling in even circles, so imagine you are pulling your knee towards the handlebars, and raise your heel slightly.

And that’s it!

Pedalling slowly might seem counterproductive to improvement, but doing just a few minutes at the beginning of a training session or ride will help reinforce muscle memory, encouraging you to pedal efficiently during your ride.

You may also enjoy:

How to cycle in a crosswind

How to cycle on winter roads

How to choose the right road bike gear set up

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