Pedal in a circle

I’ve been hearing this advice ever since I got back on the bike — but it never really made much sense, even after I got my first set of clipless pedals.

But on one of my weekend rides, it all came together.

I rode a route with long hills, and tried to make more of an effort to attack them than I usually do. As part of that, I pulled up on the pedals rather than pushing down. No, I’m not a complete idiot — I’ve been pulling up on the pedals since I went clipless, but in a jerky manner. This time though, everything seemed smoother. Suddenly, it occurred to me: “This is what they mean by pedaling in a circle.”

I could feel the pedals move in a circular motion, with constant pressure throughout the entire revolution. I could feel the bike surge forward a bit. The cyclocomputer had the speed rocket up from 5.6 mph to 6.2, to 6.8, to 7-point-something. I could feel my thighs burn.

On the way back, there is one longish hill that has been my nemesis since my first time on this route. I’ve always been able to pedal all the way to the top, but it’s been a struggle — pushing down hard in 34 x 28 — the lowest gear combination I have.

This day, I started two gears higher, and made an effort to pedal in a circle. I could feel the difference. I eventually had to shift down to 34 x 28, but maintained cadence as well as I could. I got to the top of the hill in better time than I have yet, and less winded.

Pedaling in a circle. A simple concept, and once I got it figured out, one that really helps.


  1. says

    Hey, It makes such a difference to do this, I have also found that rotating my foot adds extra too! Lift the toes on the upwards part of the stroke and then rotate as you push to so you are pointing you toes to the ground by the bottom of the stroke.

    It is hard but certainly adds the extra oomph!

  2. Black Pearl says

    I would not point your toes, I have found that visualizing the circle but keeping my foot flat works the best for me, and keeps my coach off my back.

    Best thing I ever did was spent a winter riding on a fixed speed bike on a flat 8 mile course with only one foot at a time. Built leg strength and smoothness and gave me a reason to buy a beautiful old steel frame.

  3. says

    I also found that long hills was the key to learning the pedal in a circle technique.

    Although now I kind of vary the pedaling technique when climbing long hills – between pushing, pulling and circles.

    I am sure it is not the most efficient but it feels as though some of the muscles are getting a break.

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