One of the main cycling qualities you want to build for long course triathlon and XTERRA racing is strength endurance. This specific type of endurance is the ability to maintain tension in the muscle for long periods of time. It is key to fatigue resistance and being able to exert force continuously. Low cadence riding is how this is trained effectively. For athletes that want to increase the challenge can try single leg pedaling.
Riding with one leg on your bike outside is more challenging that indoors. When you ride the trainer and pedal with one leg, your bike is stable. This means the stabilizing muscles of the opposite (not pedaling) leg do not have to fire to keep your bike upright and heading forward. Similarly, a lot of upper body twisting and pulling is masked when the bike is bolted into a trainer. One of the training deliverables of low cadence riding is pedaling efficiency improvements. You will get more feedback and improvement if you do this type of drill outdoors or by switching to rollers. If you can ride outside, choose a hill of 5-8% or a big gear, and test your stability while pedaling one-legged. Both of these options create a more realistic instability on the bike to challenge your pedaling mechanics. You want to be able to one leg pedal as efficiently as you can with both. Using this drill, you will become much more aware of where you are inefficient in the pedalstroke.
Cues to think about when you do this drill:
- Watch your upper body for signs of rocking side to side or pulling on the bars so your front wheel is not rolling straight.
- Do you have inconsistent speed? If you aren’t pushing over the top and pulling along the bottom on the pedal with your leg you will lose momentum. Try to keep a very smooth and even production of force.
- To make #2 easier, focus the force on the pedal. Don’t collapse through the heel thinking that force is going into the pedal.
Incorporating one leg pedaling into your base season training, and combining with one leg OVERGEAR pedaling, will help improve your pedaling mechanics. The more efficient you are pedaling, the more comfortable and powerful you feel for longer on your bike.
Let me know how this drill works out for you!