I’m interested to know about the possible benefits of improving pedal technique. It’s clearly a focus of SUF plans however it’s hard to know: -
A) is my technique improving?
B) how many watts can I gain focusing on pedal technique?
Whilst I appreciate this topic is a bit like ‘how long is a piece of string?’, I’m interested to know if there’s any way to quantify power gains via improved technique. And in my training how much focus should be on pedal technique?
I’ve scanned the forum and seen lots about cadence, but not technique specifically.
Have you done the Elements of Style workout? It has a nine point checklist for pedal technique that you can do anytime you are on the bike. I run though it sometimes during recovery sections, and sometimes during the, ahem, more vigorous sections of a workout.
The problem with quantifying changes to power from technique is that you are not changing one thing at a time. You are doing workouts, perhaps strength training, learning how to control your breathing, etc. as well as pedal technique. It is a non-linear improvement progression where it is difficult to attribute changes to one particular modification.
I suppose you could try to improve pedal technique while keeping everything else constant, but I doubt that is a productive use of limited training time.
OK thanks for this. I have done Elements of Style a few times as per my plans since i started Sufferfest last March and it is a helpful workout. Prior to using Suf i used a Wattbike and also had some pedal technique sessions from a coach. WB has a pedal technique display on the headset that you probably are aware of. There were claims from my coach of a 10-30 watt potential FTP improvement due to technique. Whilst my FTP has increased from 255 - 259 using Suf I somehow doubt that (modest) gain is due purely to technique!
And you’re right, it’s almost impossible to isolate individual improvements if doing a full Suf plan including yoga, strength, MTP etc. and focussing exclusively on technique is most likely not the optimal prioritisation of training time available!
Improving technique can only benefit performance, however i guess it falls into the ‘marginal gains’ category rather than anything more significant.
You can think of technique as a necessary, but not sufficient condition for cycling success.
The benefits of technique depends on how bad your technique is to begin with. Somebody who has horrible technique (pedaling in squares, bouncing in the saddle, etc.) might find it difficult to achieve reasonable improvements as well as causing strain on the body. If your technique is good or has become good, the law of diminishing returns comes into play.
I find the cadence drills useful for improving technique. Also just simply pedalling 5-10 rpm above your comfort zone for a few minutes at a time helps too. Most SUF videos include those as a matter of course, which is great.
This week is recovery week in my all-Road plan so I had a Cadence Builds and Holds session yesterday and did elements of style today. This is my 4th sufferfest plan and I’m starting to get more familiar with the cadence drills. Certainly more focus on cadence changes using sufferfest than on my old Wattbike sessions.
Thanks for the comments !
Yeah SUF introduced me to a much wider range of cadence than I was previously using, especially at the higher end. I think it’s all good for building a better, smoother technique.
Yes - Looking back at my old Wattbike sessions, emphasis was on pedal smoothness, L/R balance etc rather than cadence. I get similar metrics from my power meter pedals out on the road - not something I take in too much though when I’m riding!
MAP, AC and NM seem to be improving using sufferfest so maybe cadence drills etc are better to focus on for improvements rather than all the pedal metrics. And simpler to get your head around!
My MAP and NM have certainly improved with SUF. Not sure about FTP yet, but have a FF coming up this weekend.
What I have noticed is that when doing group Zwift rides I now rarely get dropped with sudden surges in power like I used to. I now have a much wider power curve and can quickly recover from big efforts. I suspect my FTP is about the same, but that’s okay as I’ve only been using SUF for 3 months on the All-Purpose road plan.
I think my pedal technique has also improved and I’m now much more comfortable spinning at 100+ rpm without HR ramping up too much. Again I find this provides additional options when the going gets tough.
Interesting to hear about the Zwift rides. I haven’t tried zwift, just stuck with Suf so far. Should check it out I guess!
Good luck with the FF.
There is a setting on the Tacx Neo called ‘isotonic’ mode. Despite owning one for ages I’ve never used it. I think you have to access it from the Tacx Utility App. Never seen it elsewhere. Essentially you have to apply constant force around the stroke.
To do it I disconnected the computer from the trainer and just measured power and controlled the trainer with a phone. It’s just like cycling up a steep hill. Surprisingly useful though. Main benefit I can see so far is maintaining a smooth pedal stroke even when it is hard. Would be good paired up with GOAT or Power Station. Felt smoother cycling today in ERG.
I personally don’t think a smoother pedal stroke has boosted my power much, although it was combined with other stuff so can’t be sure. For running after I feel a benefit from a looser more fluid style though. I think there is also probably a benefit in really long sessions.
There is another mode (constant speed aka ‘isotonic’). May be better than slope mode for Violator etc. Haven’t tried it though. Full Frontal is another possibility.
Elements of Style for technique is hard to quantify as others have posted. For me, perhaps the benefit I perceive is mostly a mental placebo effect, but I certainly feel like my hill climbs outdoors are more efficient and tempo riding is more consistently on tempo. Not sure if this is an overall SUF effect or Elements in particular but I often think about pedaling circles when I’m exerting a lot of effort and when trying to hold a pace. I like feeling like I’m pedaling more smoothly. Even if I’m not, the mental focus and sense of accomplishment at keeping pedaling smooth seems to be of benefit on its own, regardless of whether there’s any measurable difference.
I’ve found that when I concentrate on a smooth pedal stroke that my efforts at Threshold and below feel easier.
However, when doing FF on Wednesday, it wasn’t helping during the 5 min effort and instead I felt I was putting out more power with an effort with most of my power pushing down on each stroke for a decidedly more wobbly and uneven effort.
But everything about that FF effort felt different. Before that, my best 5 min efforts were at a cadence around 98-100rpms and 85-90 for the 20 min effort. This time, my rpms were closer to 85 for the 5 min effort and 75-85 for the 20 minute.
I wonder if it was because of some lingering fatigue. That’s usually the biggest thing that affects my pedal speed & smoothness.
So happy to hear that Elements of Style has had a positive effect on you. I do think the psychological component of feeling strong and smooth has a positive effect on your riding, whether it be a placebo effect or not, if it’s positive for you, it doesn’t really matter!
The same goes for you- harder efforts feeling easier is a great thing! Full Frontal is a funny animal though…if you do have some lingering fatigue, it’s common to try and push a bigger gear at a lower cadence in order to take some stress/effort off of your cardiovascular system. And to be quite honest, you get the most power out of your pedal stroke on the downstroke, so when you’re hurting (which is completely the case in FF) you’re naturally going to put more effort into the downstroke, trying to get every ounce of power out of every pedal stroke. And when it comes to testing, we want you to perform your best. So don’t stress your smooth factor when it comes to FF- just do your best and if you don’t come away with improved numbers, try to figure out why and learn from it. If you know fatigue makes you drop your cadence and push bigger gears, then you can look back at your preparation for FF and see if something was a little off. Or was it just a bad day? How were your nutrition, hydration, sleep and cooling before and during the test? If you were at the end of a training plan, how was your compliance to the plan throughout the 12 weeks? There are so many factors that go into test results that sometimes you don’t even always know what was “off.” But if you start seeing trends in your daily training or on repeated tests, then you might be able to pinpoint something. So do what you can to analyze and learn from it, but don’t over-think it either…after all, this is supposed to be a fun hobby, not something that stresses you out!
Keep up the good work and pedal on!