Pedaling "Squares" vs. "Circles"

Pedaling "Squares" vs. "Circles"

Post by BillLeo » Thu, 09 Jan 1997 04:00:00


After cycling seriously for the past year, my riding partner tells me I
pedal "squares".  So I am wondering, "So what?"  Does smooth technique
contribute to faster, longer rides?  Why should I strive to pedal
"circles?"  Please enlighten me.

 
 
 

Pedaling "Squares" vs. "Circles"

Post by Andrew R. Cogga » Thu, 09 Jan 1997 04:00:00

Despite the emphasis on cycling form among athletes, the scientific data
suggest that whether you or not "pedal circles" may not have a very big
impact on performance. Back in the early '90's, Ed Coyle at UT-Austin
tested a number of members of the US cycling team, including Kent
Bostick and other excellent TT'ers. Using an instrumented force pedal,
they found that the best performers (produced the most power) during a
one-hour simulated TT were simply those who stomped on the pedals the
hardest. They were apparently able to do so because of higher quality
muscle, i.e., greater mitochondrial enzyme activities, more capillaries,
more slow-twitch fibers. Thus, while "pedaling circles" may in fact be
advantageous, other factors appear to be more important in determining
TT performance.

 
 
 

Pedaling "Squares" vs. "Circles"

Post by MHAL » Thu, 09 Jan 1997 04:00:00

Smoother technique( I.E. spinning circles) makes you more efficient in the
long run. Theoretically by having better technique, you'll be better than
someone with bad pedaling style, especially at a stage when you're both
tired and flgging it up some hill or in some sprint. On the other hand I
have been clobbered many times in races by guys who pedaled big squares,
but were a hell of alot stronger than I.

For me I work very *** having a smooth style, since as a trackie
pedaling circles is very important for being fast on a fixed gear bike.

 
 
 

Pedaling "Squares" vs. "Circles"

Post by David Blak » Thu, 09 Jan 1997 04:00:00

Quote:

> After cycling seriously for the past year, my riding partner tells me I
> pedal "squares".  So I am wondering, "So what?"  Does smooth technique
> contribute to faster, longer rides?  Why should I strive to pedal
> "circles?"  Please enlighten me.

Circles will not make you more aerobically powerful. The
one real advantage to good pedalling technique in road
riding is sprinting. You will have difficulty hitting
the 150 rpms necessary for maximum power in a sprint.

For off-road riding circles can be a distict advantage on
technical climbs.

The best way I have found to improve my pedalling was riding
rollers, especially at high rpms (over 110).

--
Dave Blake

http://www.keck.ucsf.edu/~dblake

 
 
 

Pedaling "Squares" vs. "Circles"

Post by Sam Chu » Thu, 09 Jan 1997 04:00:00

Quote:

>pedal "squares".  So I am wondering, "So what?"  Does smooth technique
>contribute to faster, longer rides?  Why should I strive to pedal
>"circles?"  Please enlighten me.

If you consider geometry and physics, it does make quite a bit of
difference...  if you pedal in circles, the force you apply to the
pedals will always be at a tangent to the cranks... and therefore
will have a more efficient motion to them... but whatever is more
comfortable for you is fine...  the only question is efficiency in
the long run... as the more "squares" you make, the more  energy you
waste.

Sam

.

 
 
 

Pedaling "Squares" vs. "Circles"

Post by Chris Fisch » Thu, 09 Jan 1997 04:00:00



Quote:

>> After cycling seriously for the past year, my riding partner tells me I
>> pedal "squares".  So I am wondering, "So what?"  Does smooth technique
>> contribute to faster, longer rides?  Why should I strive to pedal
>> "circles?"  Please enlighten me.

>Circles will not make you more aerobically powerful. The

No, but it will make it possible to convert the aerobic power you do have
into making the bike go as quickly as possible.

Quote:
>one real advantage to good pedalling technique in road
>riding is sprinting. You will have difficulty hitting
>the 150 rpms necessary for maximum power in a sprint.

It is also very useful at 80rpm in a time trial -- someone once used the
anology of "scraping mud off the bottom of your shoes" as pull your
pedals across the top & bottom of the stroke.  Works.
Quote:
>For off-road riding circles can be a distict advantage on
>technical climbs.

>The best way I have found to improve my pedalling was riding
>rollers, especially at high rpms (over 110).

>--
>Dave Blake

>http://www.keck.ucsf.edu/~dblake

 
 
 

Pedaling "Squares" vs. "Circles"

Post by Wayne Pei » Thu, 09 Jan 1997 04:00:00

Quote:

> After cycling seriously for the past year, my riding partner tells me I
> pedal "squares".  So I am wondering, "So what?"  Does smooth technique
> contribute to faster, longer rides?  Why should I strive to pedal
> "circles?"  Please enlighten me.

Since the pedals are constrained to moving in a circle,
it seems as if you'd want your muscles to tell your feet
to move in a circle of the same diameter. Any deviation
from this would waste muscular energy.

Wayne

 
 
 

Pedaling "Squares" vs. "Circles"

Post by DANIEL » Fri, 10 Jan 1997 04:00:00

: the long run... as the more "squares" you make, the more  energy you
: waste.

Ok, so we all try to pedal more 'circle'-like, but it's like the above
comment that I can't understand.  If you pedal in circles, I assume that
to mean that you exert force throughout the pedal stroke, and that means
BOTH of your legs are expanding energy ALL of the time.  Let's face it,
during most riding situations, pulling back after the downstroke isn't
helping to propel all that much. So, how is it more energy effecient?  I
am assuming I am overlooking something here.  

Willis Su

--
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*Willis Su: student, cyclist.
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*   terms."  ------ Winston Churchill
******************************************************************************

 
 
 

Pedaling "Squares" vs. "Circles"

Post by Daniel Connel » Fri, 10 Jan 1997 04:00:00

Quote:

>If you consider geometry and physics, it does make quite a bit of
>difference...  if you pedal in circles, the force you apply to the
>pedals will always be at a tangent to the cranks... and therefore
>will have a more efficient motion to them... but whatever is more
>comfortable for you is fine...  the only question is efficiency in
>the long run... as the more "squares" you make, the more  energy you
>waste.

Actually, if you consider the simple physics, where work done is
proportional to the product of velocity magnitude and the component of
force applied in the direction of motion, no energy is wasted in
static force perpendicular to the direction of pedal motion.  The
problem is a biomechanical one, that work against a static load, while
it is powerless, is nevertheless fatigueing.

For what it's worth, my "guess" of an answer to the issue is that a
smooth pedal motion engages more muscles and reduces the
peak-to-valley load cycle on each muscle, allowing it to operate with
less fatigue.  However, the simple observation that the best cyclists
tend to have smooth pedal strokes should be justification enough to
seek to achieve similar smoothness.

Dan

 
 
 

Pedaling "Squares" vs. "Circles"

Post by David Blak » Fri, 10 Jan 1997 04:00:00

Quote:



> >> After cycling seriously for the past year, my riding partner tells me I
> >> pedal "squares".  So I am wondering, "So what?"  Does smooth technique
> >> contribute to faster, longer rides?  Why should I strive to pedal
> >> "circles?"  Please enlighten me.
> >Circles will not make you more aerobically powerful. The
> No, but it will make it possible to convert the aerobic power you do have
> into making the bike go as quickly as possible.

This specific question has been the basis of several exercise
physiology studies in the last decade. The result has been that
there is no evidence that pedalling technique has a large
effect on aerobic efficiency. In fact, as Andrew Coggan posted
recently, the riders pedalling squares tend to do better from
an aerobic efficiency point of view. Your view is deeply
embedded in cycling lore - it appears to be no more than a
complete myth when tested in a controlled fashion.

--
Dave Blake

http://www.keck.ucsf.edu/~dblake

 
 
 

Pedaling "Squares" vs. "Circles"

Post by Dan Arnol » Fri, 10 Jan 1997 04:00:00

Quote:
> Ok, so we all try to pedal more 'circle'-like, but it's like the above
> comment that I can't understand.  If you pedal in circles, I assume that
> to mean that you exert force throughout the pedal stroke, and that means
> BOTH of your legs are expanding energy ALL of the time.  Let's face it,
> during most riding situations, pulling back after the downstroke isn't
> helping to propel all that much. So, how is it more energy effecient?  I
> am assuming I am overlooking something here.

imo, the most important part of pedaling circles is the dead spot at the
top and bottom of the stroke.  my experience is that i can develope more
power (perceived) when i have the strength to pull through that dead
spot on the bottom of the stroke.  use the "scraping mud from the bottom
of your shoes" technique.  strangely enough, when doing this, i have
found that it also helps some knee problems that i have had in the
past.  (a more balanced pedal stroke helps keep the knee cap in proper
alignment.)

--
dan arnold                                     fort lewis college

http://www.fortlewis.edu/~danarno/             durango, co 81301
system manager/dba                             (970) 247-7137

                                               (*)
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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 
 
 

Pedaling "Squares" vs. "Circles"

Post by a.k. » Fri, 10 Jan 1997 04:00:00

Quote:


> >If you consider geometry and physics, it does make quite a bit of
> >difference...  if you pedal in circles, the force you apply to the
> >pedals will always be at a tangent to the cranks... and therefore
> >will have a more efficient motion to them... but whatever is more
> >comfortable for you is fine...  the only question is efficiency in
> >the long run... as the more "squares" you make, the more  energy you
> >waste.

> Actually, if you consider the simple physics, where work done is
> proportional to the product of velocity magnitude and the component of
> force applied in the direction of motion, no energy is wasted in
> static force perpendicular to the direction of pedal motion.  The
> problem is a biomechanical one, that work against a static load, while
> it is powerless, is nevertheless fatigueing.

> For what it's worth, my "guess" of an answer to the issue is that a
> smooth pedal motion engages more muscles and reduces the
> peak-to-valley load cycle on each muscle, allowing it to operate with
> less fatigue.  However, the simple observation that the best cyclists
> tend to have smooth pedal strokes should be justification enough to
> seek to achieve similar smoothness.

> Dan

Well said.
-Chris
 
 
 

Pedaling "Squares" vs. "Circles"

Post by PAUL ST » Fri, 10 Jan 1997 04:00:00

so do any of you have any proof that "pedalling circles"
makes an improvement?  The only national class rider I've
had the chance to ride with regularly has the worst spin I have
ever seen.  The lower run of her chain is always bouncing
around.  

If I think about pedaling circles, I do bring some other muscles into
play.  Hamstrings in particular.  But I find I fatigue
very quickly when I do use them though.  

Paul Stek

 
 
 

Pedaling "Squares" vs. "Circles"

Post by Chris Fisch » Fri, 10 Jan 1997 04:00:00


Quote:

>so do any of you have any proof that "pedalling circles"
>makes an improvement?  The only national class rider I've
>had the chance to ride with regularly has the worst spin I have
>ever seen.  The lower run of her chain is always bouncing
>around.  

Check Scientific American from about the middle of last year.  They had
an article on the technology of the Olympics.  One of the featured
athletes was lance, and they had force vector vs. crank angle plots from
before and after he had worked on smoothing out his stroke.  I don't
remember what conclusions were drawn.

Chris Fischer

Quote:
>If I think about pedaling circles, I do bring some other muscles into
>play.  Hamstrings in particular.  But I find I fatigue
>very quickly when I do use them though.  

>Paul Stek


 
 
 

Pedaling "Squares" vs. "Circles"

Post by Jobst Bran » Fri, 10 Jan 1997 04:00:00

Quote:
Paul Stek writes:
> so do any of you have any proof that "pedaling circles" makes an
> improvement?  The only national class rider I've had the chance to
> ride with regularly has the worst spin I have ever seen.  The lower
> run of her chain is always bouncing around.

The lower run of a bicycle is slack and serves as the return path, it
has no connection with propulsion forces.  If the rider in question
were not rotating the pedals at a constant rate, the freewheel on his
road bike would emit a continuous klunk.  Even on a track bike, the
sprocket teeth have clearance to the chain rollers and can also give
audible proof of backpedaling at higher speeds.  I don't believe you
can tell anything about a rider's torque distribution from the slack
run of the chain.

Quote:
> If I think about pedaling circles, I do bring some other muscles
> into play.  Hamstrings in particular.  But I find I fatigue very
> quickly when I do use them though.

The concept of "round pedaling" has appeal to the same riders who
cruise down the expressway here while maintaining the well oiled
machine posture of "nothing moves but my legs" syndrome.  To "round
pedal" as those who believe in this method practice it, muscles other
than the hams get involved to absorb aerobic effort, the limiting
factor for a healthy athlete.  It is similar to adding hand cranks to
a bicycle to increase speed.  Engaging additional muscles with "round
pedaling" does not enhance aerobic performance.

...but it's nice to talk about it.