Quick Tips for Efficient Outdoor Biking

CrossFitters have lots of experience on bikes – the Assault bike, which is known for leaving most athletes unable to walk or laying on the floor gasping for air, and the C2 bike, which requires a continuous source of energy output in order to accumulate any distance. But, how often do CrossFitters (besides the elite athletes, of course) spend time on a mountain bike, road bike, or hybrid bike? Each of these options is a little different than sitting on a stationary bike where there are no hills, no potholes, no downhills, etc. In order to be successful out on the trails/roads, here are several quick tips you can use to get the most out of your bike rides.

Being efficient on a bike all starts with the proper set up. If your bike isn’t fit for your needs, then you will not be able to use the appropriate muscles. One of the main, and probably most important, pieces that needs to be adjusted is the seat. When seated on your bike, you want to make sure that your leg is fully extended when the pedal is at the bottom of its rotation. Not making this adjustment can lead to an exaggerated bend in the knee when you pedal, which not only compromises the integrity of the knee joint but also sacrifices power, making for a less-efficient pedal stroke. 

One of the toughest parts of biking outside is the potential for changes in elevation. When it comes to biking uphill, there are several tips you can use to improve your efficiency during the climb. To get a “head start” on the climb, start accelerating at the base of the climb. This will allow inertia to carry you up the first part of the climb. Then, continue biking at a fast cadence to help get you through the rest of the climb. Try lightly resting your palms about 4 to 6 inches apart on the handlebars. This will help you relax and stay focused on establishing a rhythm. Finally, for climbs where there are occasional lulls or less-steep sections, try keeping your bike on a higher gear on the climb, instead of trying to re-shift multiple times. This saves time on the climb. 

Finally, having an efficient pedal stroke can go a long way in making a ride more enjoyable and decreasing the time it takes to cover more ground. If you watch an experienced rider, it looks like they are almost floating in space. Their legs fire like pistons and the stroke is perfectly circular, fluid, and rhythmic. This is because in order to maximize power, you have to minimize movement, develop a circular rhythm, and engage the pedal system with proper technique. To do this, you need to work with nature and use physics to support your movement.

To understand proper pedaling mechanics, think of the pedal stroke as a clock. To generate the most power, you want to strike into the pedal system at the power phase, which is at three or four o’clock. Many people believe that you should push down on one side of the pedal and then pull up on the opposite side. However, this is actually not the case. Using the clock analogy, you want to preload at about one o’clock, start engaging at about two o’clock, and then exert the most drive through three and four o’clock. You want to continue to drive down as you pass through the power phase, begin to ease off through five and six o’clock and then completely disengage at about seven o’clock. At this point, the opposite leg is starting its preload phase and the cycle is repeated on the other side.


Power, Speed, Endurance: A Skill-Based Approach to Endurance Training by Brian Mackenzie with Glen Cordoza