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  Last updated: 1/15/2016

Form and Technique

This page will compile a number of comments on form and technique.

Position on the Bike - think aero

Consider this reader's question: "I am a 5'3" female and have been told that when I pull I do not block much wind. I can hold 19-21 ave speed for a short distance. Is this true? How can I be a stronger person up front when most of the people in the paceline are taller then me."

The answer, as you might expect, is complex. This article is packed with pictures and data on the aero profile and its impact on your riding. The answer to the reader's question is that it is not height but the cross sectional of shoulders, head, legs, and part of the torso as seen from the front of the bike that is important. And of course this is dependent on whether one is sitting upright, is slightly aero, or is very aero. Height is not as big a deal as total body "bulk". Look at image 1.5 to see what I am trying to convey.

Here is a nice article from that demonstrates five tried-and-true cycling positions optimized to give you the best speed and endurance during specific portions of a road race.


Smooth pedal stroke

Cadence - If you're relatively new to cycling, you are probably riding at a cadence that is below your optimum. Most new riders think they are getting a better workout if every pedal stoke is a strain and the quads are burning. Although there's a place for low-cadence workouts, during a normal ride, aim for a smooth spin at between 85-100 rpm (pedal revolutions per minute) which is much more efficient -- and easier on the legs, especially the knees.

Lance Armstrong has popularized high-cadence pedaling. He spins at about 90 rpm on even the steepest climbs, and he's regularly over 100 rpm in time trials. Does this mean you should be pedaling at a high cadence as well? Although your cadence can be increased through training, it may not fit with your personal physiology and biomechanics.

The make-up of your leg muscles (the ratio of fast-twitch to slow-twitch fibers), combined with your fitness, will self-select your cadence. For most experienced riders, ideal cadence is in the range of 80-100 rpm - and most tend to automatically pedal at around 90 rpm in normal condition . Non-cyclists tend to spin a bit lower at around 60-70 rpm.

Try this to see what cadence may be the best target for you.

  1. Locate a protected 2-mile stretch of road (without significant cross streets or traffic). Ideally slightly rolling.
  2. After you warm up for 15 minutes, ride the route hard in your biggest gear. Note your finish time and your heart rate if you have a monitor.
  3. Recover for 15 to 20 minutes with easy spinning.
  4. Ride the course again at the same heart rate (or perceived exertion if you don't have a monitor). But this time choose a rear cog that's one or two steps larger and allows you to keep your cadence about 100 rpm. Note your time for the same course.
  5. After a day or two of rest, do the test in reverse - larger rear cog (lower gear ratio) first.
  6. Compare your times. For most riders, the lower gear and higher cadence will produce faster times for less perceived effort.

Here are two drills that may be helpful in increasing your cadence and maintaining the smooth spin of a veteran.

How do you estimate your cadence if you don't have a cadence function on your computer? Set your computer display to show seconds. Using your right foot, count how many times it is at the bottom of the stroke during a 15 (or 30) second interval. Then then multiply by 4 (or 2). That will help you develop a sense of what 90-100 rpm feels like.


The secret to smooth shifting, especially on hills, lies in planning. Anticipate you'll need an easier gear and shift a few seconds ahead of time - including shifting to an easier gear at the bottom of the hill while you still have momentum.

Just as you move the lever, ease up pedal pressure. The shift will occur during one crank revolution. If you time it right, you won't lose significant speed. And if you are worried, push a bit harder for several strokes before lightening the pressure on the shift stroke.

Bottom line: Any time you shift either derailleur, be conscious of your pedal pressure. Shifts made during a moderate application of power have the best chance of being smooth and quick.

Paceline Training

Paceline Skills. A great way to improve paceline skills while limiting risks. Excerpted from

"With a few friends, find a hill several hundred yards long. It doesn't have to be steep. Ride up in a paceline. Work on pedaling smoothly and maintaining 12-18 > inches between bikes. Here's the key to this drill: Keep the speed low. Around 5-7 mph is perfect. Everyone should be pedaling with the same cadence. No one should be struggling to keep the pace. Low speed ingrains smooth technique. In a normal paceline, if you speed up, you quickly overrun the next wheel. If you let a gap open, it takes effort to close and this messes up riders behind. But at slow speed on a gradual hill, there's less penalty for mistakes -- and you can simply put a foot down if you make one. Trade the front position after short pulls. Just 20-30 minutes of this slow-motion drill will make you and your friends noticeably better when you're in a paceline that's traveling 3 times faster."

And a second article, same e-zine (

"Catch a draft! The best way to learn good drafting technique is to pair up with an experienced rider. So if you're an old hand, help a new rider learn. If you're a newbie, find a grizzled vet who's willing to help. In this example, we'll assume you're the rookie.


There are two challenges in cornering technique. The first is avoiding a loss of momentum when you are in a competitive situation and the other is just the opposite with too mush speed going into the corner and the edge of the road rapidly approaching.

A. Slowing too much

The secret here is to keep your momentum during turns. Novice riders will waste their momentum when cornering, while the more experienced will sweep through the curve and open a gap that costs others precious energy to close. Corner after corner, this efficiency really adds up.

A few tips:

B. Going too fast

C. Eye On Your Line

Use your eyes to corner better. The next time you take a corner at speed, concentrate on eying your line. Don't stare directly in front of your wheel, watching for debris, cracks or potholes. You won't notice even more dangerous obstacles farther ahead. Instead, "sweep" the whole corner with your eyes before you enter.

Then, just before you begin the turn, look through it to visualize the correct line. The trick is to visualize your line just before you begin to lean the bike. Then you can spot hazards and make adjustments without risking control. Remember, the bike goes where you look. Focus on the best line all the way through the turn and that's the path your wheels will take.

It always helps to have another point of view. Here are a few tips sent to me by a coach in Malaysia, Nick Flyger. (Thanks Nick)

"For fast, accurate and safe cornering I teach people the following (most to least important)..."

Precision Steering (look where you want to go)

Ever want to ride on a narrow strip - white line at the edge of the road or a surface with the grooves running the direction you are going? For example a bridge with a surface of flat timbers going the direction of the road? Or avoid a pothole or wet manhole cover (which can be as slippery as ice)?

Here are two secrets that might help:

The common factor is to look where you want to go as staring at an obstacle makes you track to it. Your body (and bike) follows your eyes. First look at the obstacle to remember where it is, but then train your eyes on the best line around it. Let your peripheral vision, keep tabs on what you want to miss.

Questions on content or suggestions to improve this page are appreciated.

Cycling Performance Tips
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