By Coach Greg Romero
I often get questions regarding how to smooth out one’s pedal stroke and while it’s either in the acceleration to the first jump phase or the top end leg speed needed for any straight away, I will share a few simple alterantive tips to get you pedaling more efficiently therefore getting the most out of your powerful legs.
THE FLAT PEDAL METHOD
The flat pedal method is a tool to improve the riders ability to apply power to the pedals. Since the shoe is not fixed to the pedals, the rider will need to focus first on keeping their foot engaged to the pedal throughout the entirety of the pedal stroke. As a result, this will require additional supporting muscles that are not being stimulated while using clipless pedals, therefore, this isn’t a method to use if you’re looking to improve leg speed, but it’s great for building specific down stroke pedal strength. In addition, it can also help smooth out a riders pedal stroke, improving efficiency. I would try it using the box sprint method on flat ground. For more off season strength building you can try these going uphill. I would not use flat pedals at the track as your gate start technique will be different and therefore potentially developing bad habits. When doing gates at the track always use your clips (unless of course you race with flat pedals).
THE STATIONARY ROLLER/TRAINER METHOD
The stationary roller method is a tool to improve high pedal cadence as the resistance is usually easier than the elements of ground and air resistance. Also, there is a huge benefit in developing a strong sprinting position that will in essence improve the riders pedal stroke as well.
There are two types of stationary rollers, one is the old fashion rollers where you place your front and rear wheel on top of the drums and the resistance is usually around the same as ground resistance (depending on the spacing of the drums). There is also a rear drum unit that many riders on the SX circuit use to warm up on. These have even less resistance as the front wheel is fixed and is not a factor in creating resistance. Then you have the stationary trainer where you lock your rear wheel via the axles onto a fixed bracket and there is a resistance drum at the bottom that rolls against the tire. You can adjust to make the resistance hard or easy.
All of the above stationary devices will work fine in an effort to program high cadence pedaling work. I would suggest using your clips (if you race in clips) and do sprints that range from 5-10 seconds long. BMXers are not use to sprinting more than 5 seconds before coasting, so sprinting longer than 10 seconds is unnecessary, and after 10 seconds the ability to explode through the pedals diminishes rapidly which will promote bad pedaling form. Again the idea is to improve pedaling form. Using light resistance, focus on pedaling as fast as you can keeping the core tight in an effort to prevent the upper body and hips wandering to the rear of the bike. I try to keep my shoulders right over the handlebar grips by using my core strength. This puts me in the correct position to deliver the best power possible to the pedals. Also, by keeping the core tight, I am allowing my hips and legs to deliver power straight down to the pedals, as oppose to my trunk and hips being all over the place therefore pedaling inefficiently and losing power as a result. The stationary rollers or trainers are a great benefit to get the rider to focus on practicing this technique.
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Coach Greg Romero is a Former Professional International Racer of 15 years-Winning over 100 pro races, and the only American BMX Coach to bring home Olympic Medals for the U.S.