Make your next ride or race more fun with these expert tips.
Set the bike up right
“Comfort is the No.1 driver of cycling performance—if you’re not comfortable on the bike, you’ll ride less and won’t improve,” says cycling expert Mat Steinmetz, founder of 51 Speedshop in Boulder, CO.
That means adjusting the saddle so your knees and ankles can move within an optimal range—too high, and you’ll be reaching for the pedals; too low and you’ll drop your heel.
Serious cyclists should have a pro at a bike shop set up their ride. The rest of us can use these guidelines:
1. Knee angle
Set the saddle so there’s a 35°—40° (slight-to-moderate) bend in your knee at the bottom of the pedal stroke.
2. Ankle angle
Aim for a 90°—100° angle so the ankle appears to be in a slightly toe-down position.
3. Foot placement
The pedal axle should bisect the heads of the first and fifth metatarsal bones of your foot, or the true ball of the foot—a bit farther back than most people think.
Pedal by the clock
Power phase: 1 to 6 o’clock
This is where the magic happens, where you pedal hardest. For max power, stabilize the angle of your ankle and push through your foot using all your lower-body strength.
Bottom transition: 6 to 7 o’clock
Move through the bottom and top “dead zones” as fast as possible to get back to forcefully pedaling. Momentum will carry you, so don’t overthink it.
Backstroke: 7 to 12 o’clock
Don’t pull up on the backstroke—it can lead to posterior pain or overuse injuries. Work on getting “up and over,” not generating power.
Top transition: 12 to 1 o’clock
Again, get through transitions as fast as you can. Remember: When one leg is at the top transition, the other’s at the bottom—they assist each other through these phases.