How to Pedal Like a Pro Cyclist

You’ve decided to take your bicycling seriously. Chances are you’ve been riding your bike between 10 and 15 miles per hour at about 60 revolutions per minute (also known as cadence). But Lance Armstrong figured out that bicycling at nearly twice that many revolutions per minute helped with his success in so many Tour de Frances. Pedaling right involves perfecting your form too. Whether your goal is to win a bicycle race or bike all day with your equipment while touring, getting your pedaling form and cadence right is the key.


    • 1

      Place the ball of your foot on the pedal. You can generate more force with the ball of your foot than the arch or heel.

    • 2

      Make sure your seat is at the right height. To do so, have someone hold up the bike while you pedal backward until one pedal is at the bottom. Your leg on that pedal should be just slightly bent, almost straight.

    • 3

      Drop your heel slightly as you pedal down.

    • 4

      Pedal in circles. In other words, don’t just push down on the pedals during the downstroke, neglecting the bottom of the stroke and the upstroke (cleated shoes are necessary to this well). Spread the energy your expend throughout the stroke.

    • 5

      Shoot for 80 to 90 revolutions per minute (RPM) once you’ve mastered basic form. This is also called “cadence”. If you don’t have a computer calculating your revolutions, count them for 6 seconds (a friend can help with this while you keep your eyes on the road) and then multiply that number by 10.

    • 6

      Adjust your gears to maintain your cadence while still putting pressure on your pedals. At the same time, make sure that you stay steady in your seat and don’t move around or side to side.

    • 7

      Continue to pedal even during descents. This will keep your legs from cooling down and seizing up.

Tips & Warnings

  • High-cadence pedaling improves the suppleness of you legs and reduces strain on your joints especially your knees.
  • The gear needed for your “ideal” cadence depends on the slope of the road, the wind conditions and your own condition at any given time.
  • While everyone has their own natural RPMs, you can train yourself over time to make your cadence as efficient as possible.
  • Pedal cadence is your key for knowing when to shift “up” into a “higher” (harder) or “down” into a “lower” (easier) gear.
  • Armstrong’s coach has said that Lance likes to train at 110 revolutions a minute.
  • On a long ride, maintain a comfortably fast cadence. However, if you are going to sprint or race for less than 30 minutes, ride faster by putting more pressure than usual on your pedals, which will slow your cadence by about 10%. This technique is also good when you want to pick up the pace to catch up with another rider. But don’t try to keep it up too long or your muscles will tire.
  • Try riding a fixed gear bike to improve the smoothness and circularity of your stroke.
  • As an exercise, pedal with one foot at the time. Try to keep your stroke consistent throughout the revolution. Once you’ve mastered this, your stoke should be dramatically smoother and more circular.
  • Fatigue comes from how hard you press on the pedals not how fast you turn them.
  • Don’t wear soft-soled shoes that allow the pedals to press against your feet to make them hurt.
  • Do not bounce up and down in the saddle.
  • Avoid coasting. Your legs should be moving at all times. Coasting breaks up your rhythm and allows your legs to stiffen up. Keeping your legs in motion keeps the muscles supple, and promotes good circulation.
  • Experienced riders know that you should not bend your foot up when you pedal up because it wastes energy and tires you earlier.
  • If you are spinning faster than 100 times a minute, you could lose coordination.
  • By Lilia Scott

About swimbikerun1
Devoted Father, Husband and Employee.Endurance sports fanatic (running,cycling,swimming).Triathlon athlete and coach.If only days had more than 24 hours.

2 Responses to How to Pedal Like a Pro Cyclist

  1. bgddyjim says:

    Great post. For seat height the pro at my LBS (he has his own bike line and the 24hr world record was broken on one of his – he is a pro) had me pedal backwards with my heals. He got me to where I was just barely bottoming out. When I clipped in it was perfect.

    Thanks for all of the info.

    One question… I’m fast on the flat – 22-23 mph on my own but hills – sometimes even smallish ones – just kick my butt. I have a tendency to shift down a gear or maybe two and muscle it out, but I’m usually spent by the time I hit the top so I have to take about 20 seconds to spin back up to my proper cadence. Going by what you wrote, I’d be better off gearing down one or two more and spinning faster, yes?

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