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How to pedal perfectly, according to Wattbike

Indoor bike trainer now comes with Pedalling Effectiveness Score designed to help you optimise your pedal stroke

Wattbike has introduced an interesting new feature called the Pedalling Effecitveness Score that gives you a real-time visual measure of your pedal stroke, allowing you to adjust your technique as you ride.

Wattbike indoor bike trainers already have a Polar View feature that gives you a visual profile of the force you apply while pedalling. The Pedalling Effectiveness Score builds on that, the idea being that you can immediately assess the effect of changes in your pedalling technique.

Wattbike’s Pedalling Effectiveness Score is inspired by the index of force effectiveness (IFE) which is an existing way of expressing mechanical efficiency during pedalling. IFE compares the gross force – the total force applied to the pedal – and the net force – the component of force that is tangential to the chainset. In other words, it gives the proportion of force you put out that actually goes towards creating torque and turning the chainrings.

Pedalling Effectiveness Score is calculated from Wattbike’s 100Hz force data as you ride. After measuring your net force and predicting your gross force, the Pedal Effectiveness Score function displays a real-time pedal stroke graphic alongside a target score graphic, including a colour-coded breakdown for each leg. This information is intended to provide the basis for adjusting your pedal technique until you’re cycling efficiently.

Check out 15 of the best turbo trainers and rollers here. 

“The metric is based on understanding the relationship between gross and net force during pedalling,” says Wattbike. "The Pedalling Effectiveness Score maps changes in pedalling efficiency to provide a highly informative and useful measure that helps drive performance. The result: you see a visual representation of how adjustments in your pedalling can change your cycling efficiency in real-time.”

“Through spending a lot of time researching and understanding pedalling effectiveness and pedalling efficiency, we were able to create the Pedalling Effectiveness Score which enables us to bring a very complex value into very meaningful day-to-day number for use in training,” says Wattbike’s Dr Barney Wainwright.

“Results include people who have changed their Functional Threshold Power by 10/20/30 watts, or riders who can now go up a series of hills that they weren’t able to before, because now they have a more effective stroke. Pedalling efficiency is a very important aspect of cycling performance, which is often overlooked, and the Pedalling Effectiveness Score maps that and tracks it.”

So what’s the secret to the perfect pedal stroke?

“To pedal optimally, a different focus is placed on each portion of the pedal stroke,” says Barney. He breaks it down into four key stages (numbered in the graphics below).

Pedalling Technique.jpg

1: From the top of the pedal stroke the pedal is pushed forwards.
2: Shortly after this, a powerful downwards push starts through the middle part of the pedal stroke.
3: As the pedal approaches the bottom of the pedal stroke, the pedal is pulled backwards.
4: During the return part of the stroke there is a light upwards pull.

The “light upwards pull” is interesting in that some researchers have suggested this in the past while others have suggested simply unweighting the pedal and still others have said that pulling up on the pedals compromises the ability to maximise power at the 3 o’clock/ 9 o’clock position and have advised against it. 

“When executed well, each phase merges into the next, creating a powerful and efficient pedalling style,” says Barney.

Find out how we got on when we borrowed a Wattbike for a few weeks. 

How exactly do you transition from pushing forwards to driving downwards, to pulling backwards and finally to pulling upwards? We guess that’s where hiring/buying a Wattbike comes in. There’s always a catch, huh?

With the capabilities that many power meters have, you can expect more developments in pedal stroke analysis in the near future.

Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now over 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.

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