Backpedalling - Please explain, what am I missing here


I use a dumb trainer (virtual power) etc. Cycleops Magento Pro.

I keep hearing about backpedalling in the podcasts.

What is this meant to achieve?

Is it meant to trigger something in TrainerRoad software? Is it only for smart trainers or is it just to take a break? Why not just slow down if it is?

On my dumb trainer nothing happens as the wheel is still spinning forwards etc…


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On a smart trainer it’s a method of pausing the workout whilst keeping your legs moving.

Hmm it doesn’t pause when I back pedal… :thinking: If you stop pedaling the workout pauses but if you backpedal you get a break but the workout keeps going. This is what happens for me at least… Maybe my trainer isn’t set up correctly (I’m using a Direto smart trainer)

On a smart trainer in ERG mode if you slow your cadence the resistance will increase so you maintain the same power. So, slowing down actually makes it’s harder. Back pedaling allows you a mini break (10-15 secs), in the middle of an interval generally, so you can continue without reducing the intensity of the workout or stopping altogether. It’s the preferred method if you’re really struggling in a workout.


Yes, it’s just to take a break. If you can’t get through the interval, a quick 10 second backpedal to recover might get you through. A 10 second backpedal won’t be enough to bring down your aerobic stress, but might be enough to clear some lactate and keep you going. That way you’ll still get most of the benefit from the workout.


I’m on a Kickr Snap. Because it’s a wheel-on trainer, back pedalling is detected only as “not pedalling” by the TR app, as the rear wheel slows down, so it just pauses the workout while I keep my legs moving.

I assume that a wheel-off trainer has a sensor that tells the TR app that you’re pedalling backwards?

No, not on Kickr direct drive.

On TR app you can disable “Pedal to Resume/Pause” if you want to continue recording during back-pedaling.


In Trainer Road you have the option to “auto-pause” the workout when you stop pedaling. If you need a brief rest during the workout, you can backpedal and the workout will not stop. This takes the load off your legs obviously. You can turn this option off under settings.


Thought it was power drops to zero? Seem to recall doing right leg pedaling drill on TR workout with left-only crankarm PM and the power dropped to zero but the PM was still sending cadence data.

Not sure.
You’re probably right; if you operate without a cadence sensor then it would never start !

Exactly! TrainerRoad works without cadence sensor, so I think that confirms auto-pause “Pedal to Resume/Pause” is activated when power drops to zero.


I’m pretty sure another benefit of backpedaling to take a quick break from an interval is that you keep your legs moving the whole time. If you’re dying in a tough interval and just stop pedaling outright, then you’re probably in for a much tougher time getting back up to intensity.

I use a dumb fluid trainer and backpedals, when really needed, do work to get through tough spots.


If you have a cadence sensor, and you have “Pedal to Resume/Pause” checked in Settings, it will not auto pause when power drops to zero, but when cadence drops to zero. So backpedaling with a cadence sensor advances the workout while recording 0 power for that time. No cadence sensor, then it uses power.

To go a little deeper… it will continue when any sensor reports nonzero cadence, but not all sensors that report cadence can detect backpedaling. The PowerTap G3/GS, for example, estimates it based off of power fluctuations on hub, so it doesn’t. Some smart trainers like the Tacx Neo and STACZero Halcyon do the same thing, so have the same problem; others like the Wahoo KICKR don’t even try (new top-line models come with Wahoo’s RPM sensor to compensate). Per DC Rainmaker the Tacx Neo 2 has a new approach that actually detects the crank arms passing the trainer, so in theory it should correctly identify backpedaling.

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Hmm, then for clarification cadence sensor as opposed to power meter w/cadence because my workouts pause when left-only power meter reports say 72rpm cadence but 0W power during a single leg drill.

Or maybe I’m not remembering what happened exactly…


I don’t have one for reference, but since you mention it I have heard that before. I know I got a cadence sensor because I was tired of not being able to take advantage of backpedaling using a dumb trainer and a PowerTap hub, and I’ve continued to use it with a smart trainer.

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Thanks for all the replies.

I have no idea how various “smart” trainers work or don’t with backpedalling. I use a dumb trainer so I am still confused.

Nothing happens when I back pedal. The forward momentum of the wheel continues going forwards and slowly comes to a stop after about 15 seconds when I back pedal. The power on the screen reduces slowly down to zero over this 15 seconds or so until the wheel finally comes to a stop, caused by the friction of the wheel-on roller of the dumb trainer.

So backpedalling for me does nothing.

Would it be different if I fitted a cadence sensor onto the pedal?

I use a garmin speed and cadence sensor attached to the rear wheel chain stays in the usual manner, but haven’t attached a cadence sensor to the pedal.

I have a spare cadence sensor but havn’t bothered attaching it to the indoor bike i use.

Will this recognise backpedalling? Or is it for “smart” trainers only?


Back peddling does the same for you as it does for everyone. It allows you a short rest with your legs still moving to clear some lactate. This is more affective than simply not pedaling at all.


To you, or your trainer and app?

  • You: I can assure you that if you backpedal in the middle of a hard interval, you are getting worthwhile rest and recovery, even if it’s only 5-15 seconds. That amounts to a noticeable relief and can make the difference for passing or failing an interval set.

  • Your trainer and app: With VP, your power comes from the wheel speed. It will show a power value anytime the wheel is moving, even if you are coasting. Despite that, the above about your physical relief will happen even if there is “power” showing.

  • I don’t have VP experience and don’t know if adding a cadence sensor will alter the experience, but I don’t think it will. It might if the cadence sensor can differentiate between forward pedaling and backwards. A power meter in the pedal or crank can do this. Maybe some pure cadence ones will too? I know the simple magnetic ones can’t, but it is possible that the accelerometer base one can.

  • In either case, the only possible impact is whether it can auto Pause or not. So I wouldn’t worry about it. Learn how your system works when you backpedal and apply them if and when you need to do so.

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Thank you once again for your answers.

Unless a cadence sensor does something to pause the interval somehow, then I don’t see the point of backpedalling for me (unless I am still missing something).

If I need a little less intensity, then I simply change to a lower gear and perhaps reduce my cadence from about 90 rpm to 75-80 rpm. Then after a brief recovery moment I can continue.

Backpedalling is not a natural motion, unless it triggers something in the software when using a cadence sensor/dumb trainer why do it? So unless there is a physiological reason to backpedal instead of slowing down and/or going to an easier gear etc what is the point?

Chad, Nate, Jonathan or tech, can you shed any further light on this?


The biggest difference (other than the direction itself) is that the backpedal is effectively zero resistance. Even on a low gear, most trainers pedaled forward will have some resistance (50-75w minimum?).

So if you want to absolutely maximize the rest and keep your legs moving (which is very beneficial), nothing beats a backpedal.

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