Indoor Pedalling Technique

Interesting article on Joe Friel’s blog about pedalling technique on a indoor trainer.:

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Just started reading and I’m shocked by the second paragraph touching on the lack of movement as an energy waster.

I totally agree, but find most assume the opposite, especially in context to trainer motion like original Rock and Roll trainer and the newer rocker plates.

I feel it directly impacts pedaling motion as we adopt a slightly different stroke when fixed vs rigid.

Not wanting to drag this into a rocker thread, but I find his specific mention of motion quite interesting.

Yep it took me the better part of a build to realize the lack of inertia in my old mag trainer was making it incredibly harder…

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I’m pretty sure I experienced this same thing when I got my first cheap mag turbo. I always struggled to hold the same cadence indoors as I did outdoors


His comment about low inertia pedaling (cheap trainer/high resistance/slow speed):
“The good news is that this new adapted pedaling technique will also improve your road-riding energy economy.”

Wasn’t it Graeme Obree that suggested removing the flywheel altogether? Instead of only kicking the pedals at 3 o’clock, the kick is still there at 3 but you learn to also push from 12 all the way to 6.

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This all kind of rolls into the “Big vs Small Chainring - Same Power” discussion. There are pros and cons to having more and less flywheel inertia.

I think the core requirements will vary from person to person along with their equipment, personal preferences, and event needs. I think in general that the very low inertia in some low-cost trainers is not necessarily beneficial. But I can see the use of varied inertia as something very worthwhile for people to experiment with and consider for their particular needs.

As with nearly everything, there is not one perfect solution for all. The ideal will be different and require some work via testing and/or reading of others experience to make a decision for your own use.


@mcneese.chad Does this still apply for a Tacx Neo since it doesn’t have an actual flywheel?

Good question, and one I don’t have a firm answer. First, there is little if any quantifiable data on the topic. So most of what we discuss is purely anecdotal. Accepting that, I have done a limited set of rides on my Neo 2 and all I can say right now is that it feels “different” compared to my H2 and Kickr17.

I need more time on it to see how it handles the varied flywheel speeds. I do feel a difference in the high vs low on it, but can’t really say exactly what because it feels so unique. And with that lack, I don’t really know how it compares to real flywheels.


I just recently started using the small ring and a higher resistance setting on a cheapish trainer.

I had been doing most of my workouts big ring but after a couple outdoor rides with long and steep climbs I realized I could use some small ring, lower cadence, higher force work to simulate climbing. It seems to work well, at least based on the feel of it.

This will obviously vary based on outdoor gearing. I admittedly ride fairly tall gears due to my lack of willingness to upgrade anything that isn’t broken.

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Saw his tweet and read it yesterday, waiting for part 2.

Not sure why, but that’s how I started riding the trainer. Probably because it mimicked how I pedal outside on both flat and climbs.

And agree with @mcneese.chad about how this rolls into big vs small chainring discussion. As mentioned in that thread, I prefer using big chaining on Kickr 2017 direct-drive (wheel off). And then couple that with actively working on a smooth pedal stroke to eliminate dead spot which is something I do outside rides both climbing

I have also noticed that I develop knee pain for a few rides and then it goes away after while.

This chimes with my experience. I’ve done a lot more on the trainer this winter (Stac Halcyon) and predominantly use big gear at front small at rear with consequently high inertia. I’m cycling in Majorca at present and have found spinning along on the flat and on slight inclines I’m better than I have ever been, however a 90 minute+ climb at top zone 2 with low cadence almost killed me and I couldn’t even generate that power in the last 30 mins.

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that’s so weird, a year ago I did a 2.5 hour climb twice (Jan and April), and had zero problems after training in big ring on Kickr wheel-off. The climb in January was my best HC climbing effort ever, don at end of week 5 of SSB High Volume when I was carrying a lot of fatigue.

To clarify, I don’t think lower gradient climbs (4-5%) pose any additional challenge, it’s the steep stuff my legs weren’t prepared for.

On a 2+mi long section of a climb averaging 10% with pitches in the mid teens I needed to spin 350-360w in my lowest gear (39x28) to hold a comfortable cadence in the saddle similar to what I’d spin on the trainer. That’s the upper end of Z4 for me, and unless I invest in some lower gears I don’t expect to be spinning Z2 up double digit grades anytime soon.

Maybe next year if I can find another 50w:)

I think that it may be that because most of my riding/training is quite polarised and I find VO2max efforts relatively easy compared to Sweet Spot. In an attempt to improve my aerobic capacity I’ve been doing lots of of Mid/Upper Zone 2 riding with very little SS. I suspect therefore that I was probably lacking in muscle endurance particularly at low cadences. Lesson learnt - more SS at lower cadences is probably needed.

Is there any reason why you don’t have a compact front (50/34) and maybe even a 32 cog back when in Majorca?
I don’t understand peoples interest in big front rings. Unless you want to pedal at 70 km/h… why?

If I ever have to drop below 80 rpm seated while being close to threshold or above, my gearing is wrong. At Z1-Z2 70 rpm is fine and comfortable, but not above. That’s how I view it.

If I break my crankset or rear mech I’ll make a change, but until then I’m getting on just fine with my 39x28. I’m hoping to upgrade before next season (maybe even 11sp…) but for this year it wasn’t a priority with other items needed to pick up to get back into racing/training.

My post wasn’t a complaint, but an acknowledgement of the difference in feeling of my indoor vs outdoor training.

I think most people have gotten over the big chainring obsession but I agree the holdouts can be silly. Its painful riding with someone who’s grinding at a near standstill on every hill. I’m cheap and fortunately fit enough that it’s honestly just not an issue for me.

I totally agree. I’ve got a 46/30 upfront and an 11-32 at the back.

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You can change the chain rings only, and use your short cage rear derailleur in combination with a 11-32 cassette if you tighten the B screw as far as it’ll go. That shouldn’t be too expensive, and maybe the items are worn and need a change anyway.

Unfortunately I could only drop 1T up front, it’s 130mm BCD and the 28T doesn’t play nice without almost maxing the B screw to where shifting isn’t ideal.

Had to replace my frame and wheels this year, the gearing isn’t a limiter for me personally, and still functions so not a priority. It’s a 2009 SRAM Red group with an old 9sp Dura Ace FD, plenty light and gets the job done just fine. My next group will likely be 105/Ultegra.

I’ve ridden a 50/34 in the past and don’t think I’d go that low unless I was riding some very extreme climbs, or I lose a bunch of fitness and quit racing:). While you don’t need 53x11 every ride, there’s definitely times it keeps you from getting dropped on fast descents in racing something like Cascade or the old Mt Hood course.

Ideally I’d probably run a 52/36 and a long cage derailleur so I’d have options down to 36x32. I prefer a tight cassette so I swap between 11-23,25,28 depending on terrain for racing and train with an 11-28 most of the time.

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