Learning How To Pedal In Clips

Tonight was an unusual ride.

After climbing the Alpe Du Zwift over the weekend as part of the final stage of the Tour of Watopia 2019, I intended to have a fairly easy ride. In my head, pre-ride, it was about putting some distance on the week and getting some time in the saddle.

However, almost as soon as I clipped in, I went a bit silly.

My legs were not feeling particularly strong. My body was saying: “Chris, what you are about to do is a stupid idea”, but I did it anyway.

With next to no warm up (see the ride graph below), I went predominantly into the red for the first proper lap.

Great stuff! Woo. A new personal record. What a winner!

Except: no.

Very shortly after completing this lap I came to a complete stand still, had to get off the bike, and was very nearly sick.

Bad stuff! Boo. What an idiot.

As can be seen, my next lap was an absolute shambles.

Now, it didn’t take me 18 minutes to ride the lap. That was the time to complete the circuit.

Whilst I was off the bike, coughing up my guts, I did also take the time to do two other things:

  1. Adjust my biggest fan
  2. Adjust my saddle.

Ok, so the fan – normally it remains fairly stationairy. However, lately, my wife has been “enjoying” Zwift, and she doesn’t like the fan position I prefer. So now that’s another thing to remember to check pre-ride.

Secondly though, the saddle. This was a much bigger deal.

I have been doing lots of reading (and watching, thanks YouTube!) on how to pedal properly when in clips. And by clips, I mean road shoes with cleats.

It turns out I have not been pedaling properly.

I pushed the saddle as forward as it would go, so that when my leg was at the very bottom of the stroke, my knee was just a tad in front of my tip toes.

I think this is somewhere close to what I saw in a GCN video on the subject.

This may need some further adjustment, but I did find the seating position immediately more comfortable.

With that change in place, I tried a variety of different things such as fast pedaling, slower pedaling, and then more specifically, trying to pull up as well as the usual push down on each rotation.

As you can see from the power graphs, this had a major impact on my ride.

However, as I have seemingly never used these muscles before in my entire life, I could only manage to sustain any power for about 3-5 seconds before my legs just gave in.

I’d then need about 10-15 seconds recovery before I’d try again. And again. And again.

Now this lap felt like it could be a good one. But it was 20 seconds slower than my earlier silly effort which was predominantly push down only.

So, in theory, the next time I have fresh(er) legs, and I use this new technique, I should be able to put in an even better time. In theory.

It’s strange to think that 12 weeks ago now, my push down muscles were likely in a similar shonky state to how my pull up muscles are at this point.

It also means I have a long, knackering few months ahead as I bring them into something resembling parity.

However, it also means that – potentially – I have unlocked a bit of a boost to my overall performance levels over time.

This ride was a total mixed bag. I can’t say it was a good ride, but it was statistically better than some of my previous efforts.

Weirdly, it felt like it would be worse as I really was all over the joint.

I’m happy to have got 43 minutes on the board, and 22km. Burning 400 calories is also a decent effort for me.

Managing to put out 545w over 3/4 of the way through such a messy ride is a really promising achievement for me, and this gives me hope that on fresher legs, with a refined pedaling technique, I can start to push my sprint performances up.

It frustrates me that from having switched from OSX to Windows, some of my ride statistics seem to have been lost.

Of all the graphs that Zwift gives, I find the “critical power” one to be the most visually uninteresting, but it holds some really interesting information when you know what to look for.

What this says to me is that I have a very long way to go 😀

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