You've been riding a bike since you were a kid. That puts 15 or more years of pedal experience under your belt. You must have it down at this point, right?
But, you turn on the latest stage of The Tour and see riders pedaling smoother than you could ever dream of. Here are my top tips for a perfect pedal stroke.
Tip #1: Let your body pick the cadence
This is a bit of a back-pedal from what was thought of before that you are most efficient around 90 cadence. But lots of recent studies have suggested that the ideal cadence varies a lot from rider to rider. My advice to you is to pick a cadence that works for you and the type of riding you do.
Tip #2: Set up your saddle height correctly
If you watch the pros ride, you'll see a variety of saddle heights. That is, some might have a ton of seatpost sticking out and others wont have much at all. But you will see one trend: when the leg is at the 6'o'clock position on the pedal stroke, their knee will make a 25-30 degree angle.
Tip #3: Keep your upper body stable
To do this, you will need to relax your arms and shoulders. Try incorporating some core exercises.
Tip #4: Increase your flexibility
This tip is a bit intuitive. If your muscles face less resistance through the range of motion used in cycling, you'll be more efficient. Meaning, a tight quad muscle won't be throwing off your stroke. The more flexible you are, the more aero you'll be able to be without tightening up.
Tip #5: Low cadence drills
I will preface this by saying that before you engage in any low cadence drills, consult a physician. Some folks are more predisposed to knee injuries and dropping the cadence will put more force on your joints. That being said, the common belief here is that increasing the tension on your legs will lead to more neuromuscular recruitment.
A typically low cadence drill might look something like 80% of FTP at 60RPM for 5 to 10 minutes. Again, consult a physician before taking on any new workout regiment.
Tip #6: Prepare your gear before you need it
Cycling is a sport that takes place on various terrain. If you are cresting a hill and going onto a short descent, be sure to shift into the appropriate gear before it's needed. If your riding with a group of people, they will thank you for not coasting on the front down the hills.
Alternatively, if you're coming into an uphill section, make sure the appropriate gear is selected before you try ad mash the 53x11 into a 8% grade.