3 Drills to Improve Cycling Efficiency and Pedal Cadence

Below are three cadence drills that will improve your pedaling efficiency on the bike.

Drill #1: Spin-Ups

Find a moderate sized climb with a gradual descent. Once you're at the top, shift into a gear that puts you around 70 rpms. On the way down, don't shift gears, gradually letting your cadence rise until you get to the bottom. Shoot to be well above 100 rpms by the time you reach the bottom. Repeat 4 to 5 times.

Tip: When you get more comfortable with this drill, start at a higher cadence at the top of the descent. As with the other drills, make sure you are applying even pressure for the full rotation of the pedal stroke, avoiding dead spots where power isn't being produced.

More: Cycling Cadence 101

Drill #2: Single Leg Pedaling on Trainer

If you have an indoor cycling trainer, this is a great drill to improve pedaling efficiency. With one foot clipped into your pedal and the other leg free (either resting on the frame of your trainer or on a box next to the bike), shift to an easy gear and pedal for 20 to 30 seconds (or until fatigue). Repeat with the opposite leg. Start with five repetitions with each leg, increasing the duration of the drill as it becomes easier.

Tip: This drill will feel awkward at first, in part because you will likely have many spots along the course of one revolution where power isn't being produced. These are called dead spots, and are precisely the reason why this drill helps you to pedal in smooth circles. If you're having a hard time with this drill at first, clip both feet into the pedals. Do the drill the same, trying not to use one leg (even though its clipped in) and letting the other leg do all the work. Switch legs every five pedal strokes for about five minutes. This is also a good way to practice if you don't have an indoor trainer or for when you're riding on the road.

More: Stroke of Genuis: Refine Your Pedaling

Drill #3: Cadence Intervals

From your normal cadence and shift to an easier gear 2 to 3 above what you would normally ride at. Ride for five minutes at this new cadence (which should be between 90 and 120 rpms) and return to your normal cadence. Try this several times during your ride during long flat sections.

Tip: If you're using a speedometer or power meter, try to maintain your speed or power when you shift to the higher cadence. This is a good way to improve your cardio and give your muscles and joints a break from the big gears. Remember to try and keep a smooth pedaling rhythm even as you start to fatigue. If your hips start to bounce because your pedaling more quickly than you can keep up with, go to a slightly harder gear that you can more easily maintain.

Whether your looking to improve your efficiency for a cycling on the road or the dirt, these drills will help you become a better, more efficient cyclist no matter what your preferred cadence is.

More: A Breakdown of the Cycling Pedal Stroke

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