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Home / Training / Bike / Is there a ‘right’ way for triathletes to pedal?

Is there a ‘right’ way for triathletes to pedal?

From pedalling in circles to applying pressure at specific points, we look at whether there's an ideal approach when you need to run off the bike afterwards

Should you be pulling up on the pedals as well as pushing down? And if you do, will it affect your ability to run off the bike? Matt Brett, a former Editor of 220 Triathlon, explains all…

This is a great question – and by that I mean a difficult question. Even after many years of us having software that allows us to look at how we apply force throughout the pedal stroke, there’s no consensus on the ideal approach, especially not when you add running off the bike into the equation. The research really doesn’t point to a ‘right’ way to pedal.

You might have heard people talk about ‘pedalling in circles’ as the best approach, but this is a little confusing, because no one really applies force to bring the pedal up from the bottom of the stroke. The most that cyclists do is to unweight the pedal so that the other foot doesn’t have to lift it. Everyone puts the vast majority of their power in on the downstroke.

That said, it’s worth concentrating on the top and the bottom of your pedal stroke to make sure you’re pedalling effectively. US Tour de France winner Greg Lemond memorably advised us to pull the pedal through the bottom of the pedal stroke as if we were scraping mud from the soles of our shoes. Other people have disagreed, but it might help you to think about this image in training. Then, as your foot comes over the top of the pedal stroke you can think about pushing your knee towards the handlebar and starting the real power phase.

Everything happens so fast when you pedal that you might only be able to concentrate on one of these sections of movements at a time, but spend a few minutes on each during the warm up of every training ride over the winter.

The bottom line, though, is that whatever makes you faster is the right approach for you. Chances are that if you focus on developing your speed and power you’ll automatically smooth your pedalling technique to improve your efficiency over a triathlon bike leg. Focus too heavily on pedal technique and you’re allowing the tail to wag the dog.

(Main image: Jonny Gawler)

Head to our Training section for lots more bike-related advice!

Profile image of Jamie Beach Jamie Beach Former digital editor


Jamie was 220 Triathlon's digital editor between 2013 and 2015.