Pedaling Technique

The Sufferfest: Downloadable cycling workout videos.

There’s is more to pedaling than just turning them. This seemingly simple action has far more subtlety to it that you would expect if you’re just beginning. To be clear here we are talking clipped in pedaling with  cycling shoes and a cleat system – if you want to get the most out of those legs this is the only way to do it. [Read more…]

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How to crash – not

The Sufferfest: Downloadable cycling workout videos.

None of us want to crash but we have to face the odds – the more we ride the more chance there is. This short video outlines some things to be aware of to lower the risks and some tips on how to minimise the damage if the odds catch up with you.

Here’s a quick text run down for those of you who prefer to skim :)

  • Be aware ( yes, thank you Captain Obvious) – But really you need an awareness of  the wider environment – traffic and road conditions – as well as awareness of your immediate environment ( the riders around you, group communication etc). Take nothing for granted.
  • Avoid overlapping wheels and unfocused riders
  • Don’t rubber neck at a crash that happens behind you – you’ll end up crashing as well
  • Focus through the corner – look where you want to go
  • When cornering lean the bike beneath you to maintain traction
  • Brake before the corner not through it
  • Balance your braking between the front and back to maintain control
  • When wet lower your tyre ( tire for North Americans:) pressure and avoid white lines
  • Take up Yoga, Pilates or Feldenkrais to improve your balance and proprioception
  • When falling don’t throw out a limb – tuck and roll, tuck and roll, tuck and roll.
We hope these general points help out. If they help you avoid even one crash then it was all worth it 😉


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Gearing Basics

Arguable  your drive train is the most important part of your bike. It includes the crank, chain rings, the chain and the cluster of gears on your back wheel. To most beginners the ratios between the chain rings at the front and the cluster at the back sound like deeply geeky gobbledegook but it is vital to understand what’s going on down there.

Typically  road bikes have two  chain rings ( the larger cogs on the crank set). Each is referred to by the number of cogs it has on it – the larger  the ring the more  teeth.  So the front chain ring may be referred to as a 34/28 meaning the  larger ring has 34 teeth the smaller one 28.

At the back the cluster of gears on your back wheels will have a range of teeth from the largest to the smallest and the cluster is referred to by the largest and smallest  – a 12/25  for example.

The difference in effort it takes to turn the pedals in any particular gear is down to the ratio between the  chain ring chosen and the gear at the back  – put simply the higher the ratio ( the more difference between them) the more power it takes to turn the pedals and consequently the faster you’ll go. Low ratios are used for climbing hills and spinning, high ratios for speed, power and sprinting.

All simple enough but it is important to pay attention to how you’re changing up and down the gears. Generally you need to avoid having your chain forming an angle between the chain ring and cluster at the back. So when changing up through the gears you should avoid changing all the way to the smallest gear on the back and then changing up to the large chain ring. Conversely when changing down don’t change all the way down at the back and then drop down to the small chain ring. Doing this not only causes undue wear to the most commonly replaced part of  your bike  – it also represent a substantial loss in transferred power.

Instead you should be changing chain ring while in a middle gear – this will ensure less wear, better power transfer and lessen the chances of your losing your chain. If you’re new to riding you may have to pay closer attention to  which gear you’re in as you change up and down until yo develop a sense for when to change your chain ring. Using your gears like this man your combination of gears is effectively halved – but looking at the ratios that each combination represents you’ll find that there is the same spread – some of the inefficient gear combination have the same ratio as the  correct ones making them redundant and ineffective.

You may want or need to change your crankset and cluster dependant on the kind of riding you’re doing. Typically if you’re  riding a lot of hills you would opt for a more forgiving cluster with larger gears at the top end and possibly a compact crankset – with less teeth in the chain rings – this combination obviously lowers the possible gear ratios and will give you somewhere to go when the inclines start to bite.

Pay attention to your gear combinations and your drive train will last longer and work more efficiently for you.

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Cycling Training – Rolling Turns

In previous posts we’ve covered how much energy is saved when drafting behind another cyclist. It’s central to the whole sport and not surprising that ways of taking advantage of it are built into almost every aspect of road riding – it forms the core of any ride strategy.

One way of maximising this advantage across a group travelling at speed is rolling turns.This sharing of the load at the front effectively distributes the hard work across the whole group meaning everyone benefits and the group can travel at greater speed. The video here demonstrates this very clearly – riders are in two adjacent lines with the outside line riding faster than the inner line.As the lead cyclist on the outer line passes the lead on the inner line they pull off and ease off to fall back in to the slower line. At the back of the slower line the last cyclist will follow the wheel of the rider pulling past on the faster outer line.
In this way the group is constantly revolving and in motion meaning that each riders turn at the front is relatively short and the recovery time is extended. As you can guess rolling turns is usually used when travelling at higher speeds.

A few things to pay attention to are

  • Make sure you ease of as you pull out of the outer line. If you don’t you’ll screw it up for everyone. The whole group will have to increase its speed and it will throw the rhythm out – or you’ll just be left to hang out the front by yourself which no doubt won’t last long.
  • Make the transitions from one line to another as smooth as possible. Glancing down under your arm as you pull past a the front will enable you to place the wheel of the bike you’ll be moving in front of.
  • At the back the cyclist you need to follow into the fast line may change – some cyclist may be sitting out. If this is the case they’ll usually indicate with a “Yep!’ or something similar meaning you’re good to join the fast line.
  • Brake gently if necessary or use your body position to vary your speed. Braking suddenly is going to end badly. Small variations get magnified down a long line – keep everything as smooth as possible.

Finally just a quick word on jumping into a  riding group. If every rider is wearing the same team gear – you’re best to leave them to it. You can ask but usually a  team training group won’t want any unknown interlopers in there. If it looks more casual it’s still wise to ask before you just hammer in there. The group may have formed organically on the road, it may be a group who  are training together.

Have fun, stay safe. Rolling turns with a group who are disciplined and controlled is a great thing – usually very fast and  a lot of fun. Let us know any questions you have.

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