Any good tips to improve pedal action

General cycling advice ( NOT technical ! )
offroader
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Any good tips to improve pedal action

Postby offroader » 30 Jan 2019, 1:29pm

I've always suffered cold feet during winter rides and I've long suspected (/known deep down but denied) my pedalling action is to blame. No matter what kit I try, overshoes, wool socks, neoprene booties etc etc, my feet are painfully cold after a couple of hours in single digit ambient temperature. A 10 minute walking intermission brings them back to life but the time to painfully cold decreases each time. I've also always known that soft pedalling alleviates the symptoms and going hard exaggerates it.
I'm also aware that despite over 30 years of trying as soon as I stop consciously pedalling circles my legs revert to leading leg push trailing leg do nothing. This means there's constant pressure on the foot sole which in turn seems to cut circulation and give me cold feet.

Last ride I tried an experiment. Instead of walking I spent 5-10 minutes alternating single leg pedalling (other leg unclipped and dangling) and bingo! my feet warmed up nicely. Proof that warm feet are possible with decent pedal action

So finally to the question. How do I train my legs to at least lift their own weight on the upstroke when they apparently have the muscle memory of a goldfish? Should I be practicing single leg pedalling more? Is it a position thing (99.9% of my riding is on slack seat tubed MTBs so I tend towards rearward of knee over pedal spindle)? Is cadence a factor (I'm a grinder by nature but to date high cadence tests haven't resulted in warm feet)

I'll be experimenting on the next ride (this evening after work) and am willing to try most anything that may help keep my feet warm and Mr Grumpy locked up

Muito obrigado

peetee
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Re: Any good tips to improve pedal action

Postby peetee » 30 Jan 2019, 3:31pm

A static (fixed upright, not rollers) home trainer would help. It will allow you to concentrate completely on your pedalling action without worrying about traffic, your route or terrain-induced variations in power input.
Current status report:
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Too many bikes on pegs and too few miles in the legs.

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531colin
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Re: Any good tips to improve pedal action

Postby 531colin » 30 Jan 2019, 6:20pm

Not what you asked, but what shoes?
Cleats...toeclips....etc

offroader
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Re: Any good tips to improve pedal action

Postby offroader » 30 Jan 2019, 10:21pm

Brrrrrrrrr

Tonight nothing worked, soft pedalling, single leg pedalling and even walking failed to raise my feet above cold and normal cycling gave me painfully cold feet. However, it's quite nippy out tonight - Camelback bladder in my bar bag has ice crystals in it, water in the tube is frozen - Flapjacks in rear outer jacket frozen, front brake cable frozen which has never happened before, fleece hat is frozen on the outside and I had to close the underarm vents in my jacket which has also never happened before. Most of the serious freezing happened during the 3 hour ride back into a light head/cross nor'wester but my feet were cold before that (5 1/2 hours total). Significantly I also had cold legs (fleece lined tights of unknown manufacturer) which I imagine is a major factor in tonight's cold feet despite all efforts. Wish I'd taken my waterproof trousers!

Colin,
Shoes are elderly but not greatly used Shimano SH-M036 general purpose SPD MTB shoes
Pedals are PD-A515 SPD
I don't get any noticeable hotspots of discomfort using this combo in warmer weater

Shoes are worn in conjunction with SHIMANO S3100X overshoes in horrific neon yellow
And Aldi waterproof socks tonight but I get the same symptoms with wool socks too
Shoes are laced/velcro'd up tight enough to not fall off easily but I can with some effort remove them without undoing everything so I don't think I'm strangling the bloodflow
Shoe insoles (Specialized Body Geometry) have meen modified with a layer of reflective mylar top and bottom, shiney side up and the gaping hole in the front of the overshoe sole has been filled in by stitching an old innertube across the gap. Both these modifications made an improvement in the time to cold feet but didn't solve the problem

Brucey
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Re: Any good tips to improve pedal action

Postby Brucey » 30 Jan 2019, 10:31pm

if your legs are cold then cold feet are almost inevitable. Wind-fronted longs are very good in this sort of weather.

In arctic conditions there is a fundamental problem in that if you work hard enough to sweat, your clothing gets wet and this is unsustainable. Most cyclists habitually ride hard enough that they sweat and this limits the time you can spend cycling in cold conditions; sooner or later you have to slow down, go down a long hill or stop and suddenly you find yourself wearing a load of slightly (or very) damp clothes that cannot keep you warm any more, once you are not working so hard.

If you ride without sweating it feels incredibly slow; it varies of course from one person to another (and how they are clothed) but for me it used to correspond with a pulse rate of about 125 to 130; any faster than that and I'd start to sweat too much.

cheers
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foxyrider
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Re: Any good tips to improve pedal action

Postby foxyrider » 30 Jan 2019, 11:03pm

Brucey wrote:if your legs are cold then cold feet are almost inevitable. Wind-fronted longs are very good in this sort of weather.

In arctic conditions there is a fundamental problem in that if you work hard enough to sweat, your clothing gets wet and this is unsustainable. Most cyclists habitually ride hard enough that they sweat and this limits the time you can spend cycling in cold conditions; sooner or later you have to slow down, go down a long hill or stop and suddenly you find yourself wearing a load of slightly (or very) damp clothes that cannot keep you warm any more, once you are not working so hard.

If you ride without sweating it feels incredibly slow; it varies of course from one person to another (and how they are clothed) but for me it used to correspond with a pulse rate of about 125 to 130; any faster than that and I'd start to sweat too much.

cheers


Which is why I take a change of upper layers - dry clothes at cafe stop and i'm good for another session! If it's sufficiently cold I sweat a lot less and could get away without the change.

Back to the OP's cold feet - it's a common problem and the walking is most people's solution. It's the sweaty socks which cause the ongoing reduction in effectiveness. In cold weather the body concentrates it's efforts on keeping the core warm over the extremities so keep the torso warm and it helps keep the rest of you warm without doing anything extra. If you can keep the motion wind off your feet/hands they will keep warmer - simply layering up can make things worse by restricting blood flow, my warmest gloves are actually a quite loose fit and thin socks in my bootees work better than thick.

Not sure that pedaling circles instead of squares makes any difference, pedalling action though may. Looking at photos, I have a quite extreme 'ankling' action which in turn is moving my feet quite a bit each stroke - inactive feet hands will be colder so maybe practice ankling? If you do it all the time it won't matter the geometry of your action.
Convention? what's that then?
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JohnW
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Re: Any good tips to improve pedal action

Postby JohnW » 30 Jan 2019, 11:13pm

Brucey wrote:if your legs are cold then cold feet are almost inevitable. Wind-fronted longs are very good in this sort of weather


From experience - +1 to that.

In much younger days, when the world was young, I learned to wear a larger sized shoe and all-wool thick socks - and don't fasten the shoes too tight; too tight will affect circulation. 65+ years later that still works. We all rode clips-n'-straps pedals of course, and just slacken the clips off a bit when it's cold.

That won't work with SPDs of course, but is your saddle position right? If your saddle position is too far forward it can cause too much pedalling down pressure on the balls of your feet, and I certainly knew one bloke who concluded that after solving the problem - it took him three or four winters.

But we're all different. For example, it has to be very, very cold before I ride in a long sleeved top - but I wear, shall we say "serious" gloves. A friend that I've ridden with for years always feels the cold, even in warm weather, in short sleeved cycling tops but he can ride without gloves when the temperature is down to zero. We're all different.

offroader
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Re: Any good tips to improve pedal action

Postby offroader » 31 Jan 2019, 12:23am

Interesting thoughts John. I'm just about to mess with fore-aft position but the other way. At the moment I feel like I'm pedalling with too much thigh and scooting to the front of the saddle engages more glute power even though the saddle then feels too low. This follows on from moving the cleats back 1/4" to (successfully) alleviate calf discomfort climbing out of the saddle. I will however give both directions a go for a week and see where I end up

I am a natural ankler so my foot gets plenty of flexing and even in thick socks I can wiggle my toes while pedalling which also slows the seemingly inevitable frozen foot endgame

I know I'm genetically disadvantaged. I've inherited mum's permanently cold feet along with a predisposition for warmer climes. Living in Australia, California and most recently the Algarve I'm quite happy cycling in 40+ temps providing I've got head protection (of a cap/buff variety) and gallons of water. However back home in Blighty I'm in a light jumper below 18-20
I'm also a profuse sweater. Even tonight my base layers and fleece are pretty soggy although my trunk never felt cold and my gloves are damp. I never knew hands sweated so much until the neoprene glove test turned boil in the bag

I'm now thinking that maybe sweating is a contributing factor. While I almost never feel cold in the core I'm usually pretty soggy when I stop so I wonder if I'm using more heat to keep a soggy core toasty and depriving my feet. It also ties in with what I do know - my feet stay warmer when soft pedalling. I linked this to pressure on the foot but maybe I'm barking up the wrong tree there. Maybe the reduced sweat of lower intensity means more spare heat for the feet

More experimenting required I feel. Still looks like good testing weather for a few days yet even if I have to break out the knobbly tires for the snow

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NATURAL ANKLING
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Re: Any good tips to improve pedal action

Postby NATURAL ANKLING » 31 Jan 2019, 1:31am

Hi,
Age
Circulation
Nerve problems
See GP?

I have circulation problem with my lower leg resulting in a numb cold foot.
Its more noticeable in walking / running for me, my walking would be 5mph on the flat and 4mph up gradients.
Both feet could be a general central narrowing of the aorta or both femoral arteries, former would affect upper leg muscles.
You have problematic pains upper and lower, your post.
There are other conditions which bring on circulation problems

Slow cycling bringing relieve could be the giveaway of circulation problems.
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shadwellrhino
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Re: Any good tips to improve pedal action

Postby shadwellrhino » 31 Jan 2019, 8:59am

Have you tried ski socks? They’re not necessarily thick but I find them warmer than eg merino.

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531colin
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Re: Any good tips to improve pedal action

Postby 531colin » 31 Jan 2019, 9:44am

I think there is a difference between getting cold in extreme weather (like now) and getting cold any time the temperature is in single figures.
However, if your socks are damp with sweat, I think you have found the problem.
I have old Shimano MTB boots, which are great for keeping my feet warm. The toe box is bigger than similar size shoes, which means my toes wiggle about easily. That's another thing, if you pull back on the cleats at the bottom, your toes will automatically work just like they do running. The MTB boots are Goretex lined, which is sweaty for me in summer, but I have thrown away the sweaty plastic insoles and substituted thick leather insoles. The boots also have a fixed layer of sole between your foot and the metal plate the cleats screw to, I'm sure this helps keep the cold out. Some of the more expensive shoes have this also. Keep the cleat screws greased, because you can't easily replace the plate, its built into the shoe/boot.
I also have a jacket that's only windproof on the front, this is a very good idea.
Below my signature is a link to my guide to DIY bike setup.
Briefly, saddle height set to pedal efficiently, but low enough so you can pedal through the bumps with no real weight on the saddle......always needed off road, increasingly needed with the current state of the roads. Saddle back and forward for balance on the bike (ie how much weight on your hands). Cleats fixed so the ball of your foot is a bit in front of the pedal spindle.
My best tip for avoiding cold feet is to avoid beta blockers.

Brucey
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Re: Any good tips to improve pedal action

Postby Brucey » 31 Jan 2019, 10:21am

To my mind there are two main factors which predispose folk to having various temperature related issues in their extremities.

a) Circulation; some folk very easily get cold hands and feet; often this goes with being female rather than male (and there are reasons why this might be advantageous in evolutionary terms) but not always. [Basically your body has to make a choice between keeping a core temperature going -which might kill you otherwise- and retaining blood flow into your extremities, which might be terribly inefficient, but will at least mean that you are more able to do stuff in the short term and in extremis you might not get frostbite so quickly either.]

b) Where you sweat from. Some folk have hands and feet that have x10 or x100 more active sweat pores in than others. It seems to me that if you have 'dry skin' then you are more likely not to have hands and feet that can sweat profusely. [Some folk genuinely cannot sweat from their palms, fingers, soles of their feet etc. and their socks -bafflingly if you are not like this- stay bone-dry even in the hottest weather. ]

It seems to me that most often a) and b) go together, i.e. if you have hands and feet that can sweat then you are less likely to have hands and feet that get cold very easily too, but there are bound to be some folk that are unlucky enough to have hands and feet that are sweating one minute and have no circulation in them the next. If you are like that then probably it is best if you don't work so hard that you sweat and make your clothes damp to start with. Obviously clever technical fabrics can help enormously but they don't (IME) offer a complete solution.

Note that it often takes about ten or fifteen minutes (at a certain workrate) for your body to sort itself out so that you start to sweat noticeably or not. By contrast your pulse rate is a pretty good indicator of workrate (= chances of sweating) and responds more or less immediately, so you can use this as a better guide.

cheers
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peetee
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Re: Any good tips to improve pedal action

Postby peetee » 31 Jan 2019, 11:14am

I find that after a few minutes pedalling I have to loosen off my shoes (or leave them a bit loose when fitting them) as my feet swell. I do tend to feel the cold so I guess my resting circulation is poor. Perhaps you are the same and your feet are swelling more than you anticipate when excercising? Also, if you are that way, don't underestimate the insulation needed for your legs. You talk about layering up your torso but not your legs which have a very large surface area for their mass in comparison to your torso. My leg muscles have a hard time keeping warm and ready for action below 18°c.
Current status report:
Latter side of fifty and feeling less than nifty.
Too many bikes on pegs and too few miles in the legs.

Marcus Aurelius
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Re: Any good tips to improve pedal action

Postby Marcus Aurelius » 31 Jan 2019, 11:20am

Try riding a fixed gear bike ( on a track, or road ) you’ll pedal properly, or you’ll have a nightmare. It’s a very digital way of riding, by necessity.

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NATURAL ANKLING
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Re: Any good tips to improve pedal action

Postby NATURAL ANKLING » 31 Jan 2019, 11:58am

Hi,
From early days 46 years ago when a sewing machine was a necessity.
I was making shoe covers and sewing arm extensions on my out door jacket, wind and rain will chill, water has a high latent heat capacity.
So sweat, I always tend to wear zipped tops, allows instant on bike ventilation, also Velcro closure of cuffs and hems, where elastic with toggle.
So I set off with minimum clothing and at first hill I ventilate when warm and close up on downhill's.
Lightweight wind proofs are better than woollies as you can cool off quick and restore the fire in a jiffy.
BUT always carry spare warm gear for that unexpected change.
Like sleeping bags where one size is never enough warmer / cooler garb can be carried like gloves, I carry four sets of gloves long top long bottoms spare socks and pants and extra waterproof top always in training, its not racing so what's the hurry.
Keep core warm always, its easy to follow habits and fashion against best advice, especially on cycle garb.
I tend not to use base layers, If you don't warm up within say fifteen minutes from start you have wrong gear and or not enough.
Like wearing clothes in sleeping bag and sweating in sleep to wake in a chill, bag not warm enough!
Cold feet and hands can be age / a underlying condition, and as said sweat rate.
I sweat profusely but I hit the bike always running at avg 80% of my max HR so I am a boiler on wheels :mrgreen:
If your clothes are damp you need to sway away from sweat holding clothes and use a wind blocker more.
If you suffer cold feet then after advice of many here about non tight foot wear socks etc as said, look to the legs and wind block.
Motorcycling all year is classic cold legs, I ended up with longs made from a sleeping bag :lol: But worked despite my mates not wanting to know me.
Also warm yourself before exiting house especially your gear, hand in lounge shoes etc,
Despite being an eskimo I have with age 60 found I have to wear longs in house to keep feet warm, fleecy thickish cheap sports £6 leggings in bland colours do the trick at home, wearing some charity shop ones at the mo :)
Been out twice recently at 4C finish at 2C 2.5 hrs, at one point only my knees were warm even in shorts, but I am lucky like that, only a vented helmet for head :P
Best advice is as said keep legs warm and loose footwear, I wear shoe covers all year except heatwave, keeps shoes clean and wear free, ventilate when sweat comes on.
My shoe covers are still modified by me on the sewing machine same model I started on.
They don't make shoe covers for cyclist do they, otherwise we would all use same model :?
Priority Is Still 500K In 24..Just Dreaming...Stay Focused Guys And Keep Sharp...
You'll Find Me At The Top Of A Hill...............Somewhere...After Dark..