DO work on individual legs. Unclipping one foot at a time and working on each respective side is a very good idea. It trains the brain and the leg muscles required for a smooth pedal stroke. I recommend a few minutes each side 2-3 x week. No more. Any more than that tends to overtrain the “upstroke” which will be discussed next.
DON’T pull up on the pedals. Yes, controversial I know. Despite many other cycling experts recommending this to extract more power from the stroke, I actively talk clients out of it. Why? Countless EMG studies show maximum torque is produced between 1 and 3 (some variances) O’clock or the early push down phase. More often than not, pulling up on one side compromises the push down on the other. Further to this, the muscles capable of pulling up are moving into a compromised position or non-optimal length-tension relationship. The hip flexors and hamstrings are increasingly ineffective as the pedal stroke goes around. Lastly, consider the other parts of the stroke, the top and the bottom. Smooth those parts out (the pros do) and you will gain more power and a smoother stroke anyway.
DO ride a fixed wheel bike. Continuing on from the previous point, riding a fixed gear bike forces you to smooth out the pedal stroke. The best proponents of “spinning” are track cyclists. Make your own “fixie” or check in with your bike store to do it for you. Spend 20-30 minutes each week on it and watch your pedalling technique improve!
DON’T grip the handlebars too tight! Over-gripping causes increased tension through the hand, forearms and shoulders, sometimes even giving upper back and neck pain. As a test, you should be able to control your bike without hands (only do this on a safe stretch of road or even grass!). A strong core should provide the stability on the bike and hands are then free for steering, braking and gear changes.
Good luck with these tips and enjoy the summer of cycling.
Photo Credit: Graham Cook