Ask the Expert (Follow-Up): Healing the Pedal Stroke—Ankling

It is always great to see the response of our cycling instructor and coach community. A number of questions arose after I published the last Ask the Expert article on “Healing the Pedal Stroke.” The focus was solely on the practice of pushing down or dropping the heel below horizontal during the pedal stroke. In addition to my response to questions and feedback, I created a video using footage from the 2013 USA Cycling Pro Challenge to demonstrate the technique. Hey, pictures are worth a thousand words, right?


  1. i am new and have been trying to read as much as i can, I came across this article today and it was exactly what i was looking for. After class a member and I were talking one of my Gyms other instructors joined in the conversation and the topic of pedal stroke came up. The more experienced instructor mentioned pushing down with the heal. I am happy that I found the proper way as I am so concerned with proper technique and form..

  2. I’m a little late in viewing this and it was great!
    Would it be possible to get a printable version of the pedal stoke circle graphic in the video to share with classes?
    A picture is worth a thousand words!!


  3. Love the video, thank you so much ( nice music too). I also love the science theory you guys provide , though I was freaking out a little as having been Spin trained I have often referred to the parallel foot aswell as mud scraping! I thought I might need to go back to college and take a PhD in biomechanics …that was before I watched the video!! As you say a picture does paint a thousand words!!

  4. Wow! what a great article and so well explained. It is articles like these that makes me a better more confident instructor. Not just in cycling but other disciplines I teach as well. I look forward reading more articles like these. Thank you so much – Elsie from Australia

  5. Mark, look at the angle of the foot/ankle relative to the tibia. What looks like a “toe down” position is actually still pretty much a 90 degree angle relative to the lower leg.

    If any of you were taught to keep the foot parallel to the ground (as Spinning used to teach) imagine the dorsi-flexion that would be required over the top of the pedal stroke in order to maintain that position. That’s a lot of wasted energy!

  6. When I climb, which I love to do, I use a different pedal technique than when I’m on a flatter course. On hills/hard climbs, I schooch the butt back in the saddle to engage the glutes–and drop the heel a bit at the 12 o’clock position–which sure seems to give me more power at the top of the stroke–I then adhere to the principles Tom has set forth here and keep the foot flatter through the rest of the stroke. I’ve looked at video of several pros during climbs, and they generally seem to drop the heel as they come over the top at 12. Im not sure why this is contraindicated for climbs. But my TT coach this summer taught me about actually lifting near 12 so it appears toes are pointed down at the top and the foot levels out through rest of the stroke–no heel dropping here at all. So it seems the stroke technique depends on the situation.

  7. Well written and respectful to fellow colleagues as always. Great article Tom!

  8. Great explanation! This is why ICA is an excellent resource of education for all of us interested in making indoor cycling not only fun, but also as real and safe as we can make it!

  9. Great article, cleared some things for me, thanks for making me a much better instructor, here on the other side of the earth 🙂

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