OCD: Face of the Clock

When pedaling technique drills are regularly incorporated into training, performance will improve. The goal of pedal stroke drills is to improve the economy and efficiency of the pedal stroke. An excellent time to work on pedal stroke is when the goal is less on intensity and more on technique and mind-body focus.

The Face of the Clock is the foundation of all pedal stroke drills. Dividing up the pedal stroke into a clock face is an effective visual aid and will help your riders understand how their muscles work throughout the 360 degrees of the circle.

Most pedal technique drills should be done seated. This is where you develop the coordination in the leg muscles to fire at the precise moments required. While seated, you don’t have to attend to gravity and body weight; the weight is supported by the saddle and your focus can be channeled to the movement of the legs.


  1. Question about this drill- I see that you recommend songs about 80-85 bpm for this, but what resistance would you tell them to pedal? Moderate, slightly above a flat road? Seems like if it were at a flat road, they might get bored doing this for 12 minutes.

  2. I’m a relatively new member to ICA and am going through all this great information. I was wondering how frequently you would do a drill like this. Like Deborah, I find my riders are all strictly indoor cyclist who are there for the exercise only. This drill will assuredly make the exercise more efficient, so I see the value, but would not want to overuse it with my riders who just want to sweat a lot!

  3. Hey Jennifer, any suggestions on where to have the resistance or the cadence?

    1. Author

      Good question Joe. I usually settle into an easy flat road cadence of 80-85 for starters, especially early on in the session, and with riders who are new to this drill. After they’re more experienced at these drills, I will try them faster (90-100 rpm) and occasionally with more resistance on a hill (65-70 rpm).

  4. This is great information for a newbie like me! I look forward to using this once I have a class to teach : )

    1. I hope you get one soon !

  5. I once used a chart, then the dry erase board and now one of those mega clocks from the hobby store marked by colors and parts.. It’s kind of the “in your face” so to speak theory and no way of forgetting or getting lazy. I can’t just give verbal cues or my visual people are lost and the the rest tend to lose track. Just used this last night in my climbing primer profile. The back room of our cycling room is starting to look like I own it. Wonder if I’ll get a time to de-clutter note .

    1. I was just thinking about bringing in a big ass clock (I double checked and triple checked my spelling on that,could have been embarrassing, lol) to use as a visual aid.

  6. It’s good stuff! I would prefer to condense the explanation (use less words), and smaller word phrases for actual cuing. Could you provide us with some quick powerful cues related to these drills?

    My participant’s purposes seem to be exercise related as opposed to actual training, therefore I touch briefly on the purpose of our intervals and drills.

    1. Author

      Deborah, good point when you’ve been doing this with your riders.

      But realize that those are actually very few words over a period of ~12 minutes from beginning to end. There is lots of time in between each one, allowing riders to focus on and feel each leg.

      Nevertheless, shortening the cues is easy to do. I don’t always say each cue in full, especially once my riders know what I mean—I just wanted to make sure instructors reading this would understand fully what was going on during each phase of the pedal stroke, and what each cue was asking of riders. Unless you spend some time explaining to your riders what you mean the first few times, it will be lost on a lot of them, whether they are there for “training” or for “exercise”.

      As an example of shortening the cues for my veteran riders, for the first cue, I’ll just say, “make sure not to push or pull any faster, just bring it to your conscious attention.”

      Then I give them time to work on each leg.

      When it’s time to switch legs, I only say, “now let’s move to the left. See if you can detect any difference in your legs.”

      On the upstroke, I might say,”it’s time to unweight….
      remember to bring the knee to the bar…
      make sure not to pull the pedal up, simply stay ahead of the moving pedal.”

      If I’m talking about the downstroke, I might just say, “can you find the push point? Can you feel the power at 3:00?”

      The final one, after we’ve gone through all phases and are focusing on the complete circle I might say, “it’s yin and yang time” (silence)…
      “can you feel the give and take?” (silence)…
      “breathe…..relax…..let the legs do their work… unencumbered”

      All of these cues can be reduced to a minimal number of words once they understand the drill.

      Hope that helps!

  7. I love the cues. I teach with similar cues. Thanks for the emphasis on the 2:00-4:00. I overlook that putting most of my emphasis on the 12 and 3. I can see how that can add to the power of the rotation.

  8. Don’t you mean quads from 2:00 to 4:00, not glutes: knee extension?

    1. Author

      hip extension powered by the glutes. Yes, quads are still working, I should add them to the mix (thanks for pointing that out), but the powerful mover in this phase is the glutes extending the hip.

      1. In your reply to Christine’s question, I think you mean to state the powerful movers in this phase are the “glutes” extending the hip.

        1. Author

          yes, thank you Stacy! I must have been writing too fast…I fixed it. We would look pretty funny if our quads were on our butts powering the hips! 😉

  9. Author

    This is a foundational drill, regardless of the program with which you are certified. It applies to all bikes, all programs…because everyone pedals!  

    So if you’re a new instructor make sure you understand how to coach this. If you’ve been teaching a while and never did these before, it can be a game changer. And if you’re a veteran, hopefully these cues will help you teach this drill more effectively.

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