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  Latest update: 6/29/2022

Form and Technique

Position on the Bike - think aero

Consider this reader's question: "I am a 5'3" female and have been told that when I pull I do not block much wind. I can hold 19-21 ave speed for a short distance. Is this true? How can I be a stronger person up front when most of the people in the paceline are taller then me."

This article is packed with pictures and data on the aero profile and its impact on your riding. It isn't height but the cross sectional of shoulders, head, legs, and part of the torso that is important. And as you'd suspect, this is dependent on whether one is sitting upright, is slightly aero, or is very aero. Height is not as big a factor as total body "bulk". Go to image 1.5 for visuals.

This article from that demonstrates five tried-and-true cycling positions optimized to give you the best speed and endurance during specific portions of a road race.



If you're relatively new to cycling, you are probably riding at a cadence below your optimum. Most new riders think they are getting a better workout if every pedal stoke is a strain and the quads are burning. Lance Armstrong popularized high-cadence pedaling. He'd spin at about 90 rpm on even the steepest climbs and regularly over 100 rpm in time trials. Does this mean you should be pedaling at a high cadence as well? Cadence can be increased through training but yours will have to fit with your personal biomechanics.

The make-up of your leg muscles (the ratio of fast-twitch to slow-twitch fibers), combined with your fitness, will self-select your cadence. For most experienced riders, ideal cadence is in the range of 80-100 rpm - and most tend to automatically pedal at around 90 rpm in normal condition . Non-cyclists tend to spin a bit lower at around 60-70 rpm.

More details on cadence plus a few tips to help you find and fine tune yours.

Smooth pedal stroke.

A smooth pedal stroke is essential for a high cadence and wii more efficiently transfer energy from your leg muscles to the bike. And it just feels better when you are out on a ride. Here are a couple exercises that may help:


The secret to smooth shifting, especially on hills, lies in planning. Anticipate you'll need an easier gear and shift a few seconds ahead of time - including shifting to an easier gear at the bottom of the hill while you still have momentum.

Just as you move the lever, ease up pedal pressure. The shift will occur during one crank revolution. If you time it right, you won't lose significant speed. And if you are worried, push a bit harder for several strokes before lightening the pressure on the shift stroke.

Bottom line: Any time you shift either derailleur, be conscious of your pedal pressure. Shifts made during a moderate application of power have the best chance of being smooth and quick.


Precision Steering (look where you want to go)

Ever want to ride on a narrow strip - white line at the edge of the road or a surface with the grooves running the direction you are going? For example a bridge with a surface of flat timbers going the direction of the road? Or avoid a pothole or wet manhole cover (which can be as slippery as ice)?

Here are two secrets that might help:

The common factor is to look where you want to go as staring at an obstacle makes you track to it. Your body (and bike) follows your eyes. First look at the obstacle to remember where it is, but then train your eyes on the best line around it. Let your peripheral vision, keep tabs on what you want to miss.


There are two challenges in cornering technique. The first is avoiding a loss of momentum when you are in a competitive situation and the other is just the opposite with too muuch speed going into the corner with the edge of the road rapidly approaching.

It always helps to have another point of view. Here are a few tips sent to me by a coach in Malaysia, Nick Flyger. (Thanks Nick)

"For fast, accurate and safe cornering I teach people the following (most to least important)..."

Paceline Training

Paceline Skills. A great way to improve paceline skills while limiting risks. Excerpted from

"With a few friends, find a hill several hundred yards long. It doesn't have to be steep. Ride up in a paceline. Work on pedaling smoothly and maintaining 12-18 > inches between bikes. Here's the key to this drill: Keep the speed low. Around 5-7 mph is perfect. Everyone should be pedaling with the same cadence. No one should be struggling to keep the pace. Low speed ingrains smooth technique. In a normal paceline, if you speed up, you quickly overrun the next wheel. If you let a gap open, it takes effort to close and this messes up riders behind. But at slow speed on a gradual hill, there's less penalty for mistakes -- and you can simply put a foot down if you make one. Trade the front position after short pulls. Just 20-30 minutes of this slow-motion drill will make you and your friends noticeably better when you're in a paceline that's traveling 3 times faster."

And a second article, same e-zine (

"Catch a draft! The best way to learn good drafting technique is to pair up with an experienced rider. So if you're an old hand, help a new rider learn. If you're a newbie, find a grizzled vet who's willing to help. In this example, we'll assume you're the rookie.

All questions and suggestions are appreciated and will be answered.

Cycling Performance Tips
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