Proper Pedaling

Pedaling is a very important and yet often overlooked aspect of cycling. Proper pedal strokes will ensure maximum efficiency and control. The most important aspect of the pedal stroke is to remember that it is a 360 degree procedure. This means the riders must not only concentrate on the down-stroke, but also on the up-stroke. By applying force to both the up and down motions, you create a smooth cadence and a powerful stroke. Cadence refers to the rate at which you spin your cranks. High cadence refers to when you're spinning very fast; low is when you're pedaling slower.

If you are using clip or clip-less pedals, practice circular pedaling by using the "one foot" method. Use one leg to generate power while your other hangs to one side, not engaged in its pedal. This exercise will develop the feel of a 360 rotation and you'll soon be on your way to developing an excellent and effective pedal stroke.

Changing Gears

Riders will have 2-3 large chain-rings on their front drive. Use your smallest chain-ring for steep climbs and technical terrain; your middle for single track and general terrain; and your biggest for roads, flatlands and down hills.

Rear drives vary by today's standards, but generally you will see 6, 7, 8, or 9 stack sprocket-sets (the sprockets are called cogs, instead of chain-rings). Here, the same rules apply, only in reverse. Your bigger cogs called low gears are used in technical terrain, while the smaller ones provide the cadence for flat, more general terrain.

Gears are shifted via front and rear changers called derailleurs. Your rear derailleur is used more frequently than the front. Front derailleurs are more often used in instances when you're going in and out of seriously technical terrain, and on flatlands when you're going into your big chain-ring. It's a safe bet to leave your chain in the middle ring on the front, and do most of the shifting with the rear drive. Your rear drive is the shifter on the right; the front is on the left.

When shifting, make sure the chain has room to change and is not under considerable pressure, and don't grind your gears. Give yourself time to gear down prior to a hill climb. Always maintain momentum while shifting, and shift as you are pedaling. Riders should always be looking ahead and planning gear changes before they are needed.

Trouble Shooting: Cables stretch with age and might cause a skipping phenomenon while changing gears. If this happens on the trail, and if you feel confident enough to try to resolve the problem yourself, use the barrel adjuster located where the cable enters your rear derailleur. Turn the barrel adjuster counter-clockwise in quarter-turn increments to remove the unwanted slack.