Does my Peloton look different to you? I FINALLY got a proper bike fitting done with Team Wilpers and YOU GUYS it’s incredible. I feel so much more secure and comfortable on my bike now and my pedals glide in full circles like butter hah. PLUS, and I know some of you will be super proud of me, I learned how to make clipping out so much easier now!!
I know so many of you are probably curious about how my fitting went so I am going to summarize here. I scheduled online at teamwilpers.com. After you pay you can read the bios and availability of all the fitters and schedule. I went with @bikefitdwayne and he was amazing – he took lots of time with me was so helpful, knowledgable and patient. I did my fitting using ZOOM and it took just over an hour. After making sure my camera was in a good position my fitter asked me lots of questions about riding and injury history and then watched me perform stability exercises and assessed my feet for imbalances.
Next we adjusted my cleats. We adjusted them to use my metatarsal system better, we later readjusted the right side so that my knee would track over my feet on the bike.
We the raised my saddle so that more of my muscles would engage during rides and to keep my pelvis more stable too. We also pushed the saddle forward to get my knees over pedals better. We raised my handlebar a lot to make my reach more effective and comfortable.
Then we worked on pedal technique to involve my glutes, hamstrings, calves and core better. We also discussed positioning cues and drills to engage more muscles, increase my power and keep me injury free.
The result? I feel so much more in control of my ride on the bike now- with these adjustments I honestly feel like this machine was custom built for me, which is pretty cool. I have been in a PR rut for quite some time and I’m sure with this new positioning and cueing my output and love of the bike will continue to soar!
Have you gotten a TW Bike Fit? If so, what results have you seen?
As a cyclist and coach I have developed a love and appreciation for the finer details in cycling, including the pedal stroke. Having ridden with and/or coached riders from beginner to professional, I get excited when I see a cyclist with a beautiful pedal stroke. It looks so smooth and efficient that you start to question whether the rider has to exert any effort at all to turn the pedals over! On the flip side, some pedal strokes look very inefficient if not downright painful. This begs the question, how does one perfect their pedal stroke?
While I have done my fair share of research on this subject, the science and general consensus continually change. Nowadays, we know riders can achieve profound pedal stroke improvements from:
1) Understanding what constitutes an efficient pedal stroke.
2) Applying mental cues on how to move our bodies properly while on the bike.
3) Being set up properly on our bikes.
4) Continually working on improving our pedal stroke with drills and practice.
Let’s have a closer look!
So, What is the “perfect pedal stroke“? The overwhelming consensus is that there is no perfect pedal stroke that can be applied to every rider universally. Even the pros don’t have a perfect pedal stroke – and that’s okay! As a coach, I have often instructed riders to think of pedaling in circles, but it turns out this advice has some short comings. In fact, striving for a perfect circle is not sustainable, and over time will likely reduce one’s efficiency of movement. The best and most consistent advice I’ve found is to focus on optimizing your economy of movement and your economy of power.
Let’s discuss these last two points: “economy of movement” and “economy of power”. When we think of “economy” we think of total energy expenditure for a given effort. Thus, when one improves their economy, this means that they are spending less energy for a given effort. In the cyclist’s case, we are talking about optimizing movement between the body and the bike. For example, producing the same amount of power with less effort/energy (i.e. “economy of power”).
However, in order to get our bodies working more harmoniously with the bike, we need to start with how we think about moving our bodies while on the bike. Here are two mental cues that can help:
Imagine the motion of scraping mud or gum off from the bottom of your shoe. You will find that this specific movement begins with driving downward from the heel and following through at the bottom of the pedal stroke. This imagery works well for many riders.
Think about executing your pedal stroke the same as you would the front crawl (or freestyle) when swimming. In freestyle, we don’t actually scoop up water in the back of the stroke to propel ourselves forward, just like we should not think of pulling up on the backside of the pedal stroke to create power. Instead, think about initiating your pedal stroke earlier just like in freestyle when we bring the arm back up over the top to complete the stroke.
Why is a proper bike fit essential to developing a good pedal stroke? This is where things start to get personal. Often you’ll hear me talk about engaging the glutes, relaxing the shoulders and avoid solely relying on the quads for power. This is all much easier to accomplish when you are set up properly on your bike and vice versa. Without proper set up, you may never fully harness the compounding efficiencies that come from using all available muscle groups. For questions about your set up, contact a professional bike fitter in your area or schedule a virtual appointment with a Team Wilpers’ bike fit expert here.
What are some drills that riders can do to improve their pedal stroke? Drills help us reestablish, reinforce and refine proper movement. Here are some simple drills you can include in your training to help improve your pedal stroke:
Spin-ups: I know many of you won’t be surprised to learn that I love spin-ups. A ‘spin-up’ is where you pedal at a high cadence and low resistance for 30 sec to 1 min and focus on using your body to control the pedals and avoid bouncing. Spin-ups are great to do as a drill to get your mind, body and bike working together efficiently and 3-6 of them usually do the trick. I like these because the higher cadence efforts force your brain and body to communicate so that your legs find the path of least resistance to a smoother pedal stroke. I can always tell when my brain and body are not getting along because these will feel really rough haha!
Single-leg Pedal Strokes: If you have taken any of my Low Impact classes at Peloton, you’ve done these. Here you are just focusing on isolating one leg at a time to pedal with. Just like in weightlifting, isolating sides helps you uncover and correct any imbalances and inefficiencies that would otherwise remain muted or too subtle to notice when both sides are working together. You can keep both legs clipped in or even unclip the leg that you are not pedaling with. However, in both cases it is important to keep the hips level in the saddle as if both legs were clipped and being used. I like to do 2-4 sets of one minute or longer on each side. In terms of cadence, I recommend starting slow and then working your way up to higher cadences.
Practice Thoughtfully: Likely the best drill of all is just getting on the bike and riding more. Afterall, more pedal strokes = more practice! But, while you are getting after it, remember to keep working at smoothing out your pedal stroke, especially during warm-ups and cool-downs.
Team, I hope you enjoyed uncovering some of the nuances of pedal stroke! For more practice and tips on perfecting your pedal stroke, please check out my Low Impact classes at Peloton. And to get your fit dialed-in, schedule an appointment with a member of Team Wilpers Bike Fit. Until next time, remember to train hard, train smart and always have fun!
Most of us learned to ride a bike as a kid, when proper “form” meant you might get more airtime jumping off the sidewalk curb. Just me? 🙂
With the rise in popularity of spinning and cycling, many of us have found our way back to the bike and nowadays, there’s endless options to spend more time in the saddle. But, if we don’t pay attention to some of the details surrounding our posture and technique, we could end up stuck on the sidelines.
These ‘details’ can be easily addressed by working with a Bike Fit Specialist. I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Bike Fit expert, Jim Escobar. Jim is a member of Team Wilpers Virtual Bike Fitting. He works with riders on their stationary bikes (like Peloton) over a virtual platform (like FaceTime) to help cyclists find a more comfortable ride. Additionally, Jim is the owner of ProTriFit in St. Augustine, Florida where he performs in-person bike fittings.
Jim has over 20 years of industry experience. From his own triathlon and road racing days to covering the Tour de France as a reporter, Jim has seen it all. On top of that, he is a Certified Bike Fitter from Retül University, Guru Academy, F.I.S.T. Fitness Institute Slowtwitch, Certified USA Cycling Coach and Certified USA Triathlon Coach.
There are endless cycling topics that I’d love to nerd-out to with Jim, but for this Q & A we chose to look at proper positioning in the saddle. Whether you’re new to cycling or a well-oiled machine, I know you’ll find a few great take-aways in our discussion below. I personally learned a ton and couldn’t wait to share with all of you. Check out our interview on Instagram Live or read below for a synopsis.
Matt: How does one go about sitting on the saddle properly?
Jim: To sit on the seat properly, the athlete must first engage their core, similar to the effort to sit up straight (i.e., think of having dinner with the Queen). Engaging the core lets the pelvis tilt rearward, then allowing the sit bones to become more prominent. Once the core is engaged, we want the athlete to roll their upper body forward to reach the bars (i.e., think ‘punch to the stomach’ or ‘belly-button on a string being pulled through the back of your shirt’), while keeping their weight on the sit bones, and not on the soft tissue.
Matt: Why is this important?
Jim: This is important as having the weight on the sit bones / sitz bones (ischial tuberosities) will allow the power to be successfully transferred to the feet and the pedals. It also allows the rider to not have too much pressure on the soft tissue area (perineum).
Matt: What are some simple ways to reinforce this during a ride?
Jim: To make sure the rider is engaged and has their weight on the sitz bones, they can check that they always have a bend in their elbow. This ensures that they are not leaning on the bars, but rather just resting on them. A light grip and a bend in the elbow is a great way to make sure a rider is sitting properly on the saddle.
Matt: How does being properly fitted for your bike play a role.
Jim: Once we have the ability to sit properly on the seat, we must then make sure our fit on the bike is correct to allow us to maximize our efficiency and comfort. With a bike fit, you can be assured that your seat is set at the correct height, allowing the most efficient leg and ankle extension. Each athlete will have a different point where they are efficient, i.e., some riders have a lower seat height/less leg extension, while others have a taller seat height/greater leg extension. The fore/aft position of the saddle is best adjusted by keeping the knee just behind the center of the pedal (just in front of the 5th metatarsal). The handlebar height will be set based on the riding style. For riding a Peloton bike, I suggest keeping the bars higher (as there is no aerodynamic penalty for higher bars), as it helps to open up the rider’s hip angle, which typically allows for more power. The Bike Fit Team at Team Wilpers can assuredly help all athletes find their most efficient and comfortable position.
Matt: What causes one’s hips to rock too much?
Jim: Typically, rocking of the hips is caused by the seat height being too tall. This causes the legs to overextend to reach the bottom of each pedal stroke, pulling the body from side to side.
Matt: What amount of pain is appropriate (and in what location ) vs. inappropriate and should be fixed?
Jim: A certain amount of ‘discomfort’ is normal as we acclimate to a proper seat position. We will feel sore or tender directly over the sitz bones. This discomfort will ease after several rides, until the body becomes accustomed to the pressure. Pain such as numbness or chafing is not acceptable and should be addressed. Numbness can be caused by too much pressure on the perineal (soft tissue) area. The saddle may be angled upward, or the athlete is not sitting properly; with their weight on the sitz bones. Chafing can be caused by the saddle being too wide for the rider, or just the rider’s legs are wide and rubbing against each other. To remedy this, a rider should use cycling shorts with a chamois, and apply chamois cream to the affected areas.
Matt: What should one look for in a good bike saddle?
Jim: A good saddle is one that supports the rider firmly, yet still offers a degree of cushioning. It should be the proper width to provide a foundation for the sitz bones. The best way to find a saddle, is to try many saddles, as our butts are the best judge of a good saddle.
Matt: Which is better, padded seat or padded shorts?
Jim: 100% – a good pair of cycling shorts are better than a padded seat. The cycling shorts move with your body and provide the support only in the areas that need it. A seat pad often has too much gel, which then moves away from the sitz bones (as these bones are pointy and seem to break down the gel at the point of contact), and allows too much motion on the saddle.
A good pair of shorts will fit snugly and provide compression for the muscles. Be aware that different manufacturers size their garments differently, so you may be a Medium in one brand and a Large in another.
I want to thank Jim for sharing his time and expertise with our community of riders. The importance of proper saddle positioning cannot be overstressed and could make all the difference in the comfort of your ride. Team, we’re on this journey together and I hope that by partnering up with experts like Jim, we can all keep riding together for years to come. There’s nothing I enjoy more than receiving your letters and feedback and hearing about your accomplishments both on and off the bike! Until next time, train hard, train smart, and alway have fun!