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Achieve a Smooth Pedal Stroke

By Mickey Cassu and Jason Norman | April 14, 2009, 12 a.m. (ET)

These two tips can help you to smooth your pedal stroke.

Fixed Gear Bikes
Use of a fixed gear bike will focus you on your pedaling technique as well as increasing leg speed and strength. The mechanics of a fixed-gear bike require you to pedal as long as the bike is moving forward. Inexperienced riders should consider using a fixed-gear bike on a stationary trainer for the first couple of rides.

Pedaling continuously will develop a smooth pedal stroke as you spin down hills and increases leg strength as you climb the hills. Generally, gearing for a fixed-gear bike will be light (42x19, or about 60 gear inches), which is a nice balance for various types of terrain.

You might consider using an old road bike, adding a fixed-gear rear wheel from a used bike shop. Unthread your chain from the rear derailleur, shorten it, and place it around the small chainring in front and the single rear cog, and you're done. You can also use a track bike for this purpose. You will need to install at least one brake before you go out on the road.

One-Leg Pedaling

One-leg pedaling is another approach to adding strength (and variety to your indoor training at the same time). Normally, when you pedal with both legs, the leg that pulls the foot through the bottom of the stroke and back up to the top of the 360 degree "cycle" is under used (as the other leg, when pushing the crank through the downstroke has significantly more power and thus allows a bit of slacking).

Learning to pedal a complete, 360-degree circle with both legs working together will make you a better rider. Practicing with one legged drills will embed this idea into your pedaling style.
  1. Warm up on the trainer for 20 minutes while pedaling with both legs.
  2. Unclip one foot from the pedal. Rest it on a chair or stool just outside the left pedal circle.
  3. Pedal at 90 rpm using your right leg, using an easy gear until you get accustomed to the feeling of one-leg pedaling. The muscles that lift your thigh and push the pedal over the top will fatigue quickly at first, but you'll improve rapidly.
  4. After a few minutes, switch to the other leg.

Mickey Cassu and Jason Norman are USAT Level I Certified Coaches. Visit their website at