How would an engineer approach solving the problem of creating a strong pedal stroke? The answer may surprise you…

2 thoughts on “Applying Engineering to the Pedal Stroke

  1. Oriol says:

    Hi James! I like a lot your interesting videos and thoughts about bikes, mtb and pedalling. In this case, nevertheless, I think your analysis is not complete. When you are pedalling, you are not pushing a platform down or up as a lift. This only happens in let’s say one out of the 360º of a full rotation. If you consider the other positions, is when a clipp pedal plays a role and brings some gains, calculated up to 30% for a very good professional biker, specially when rolling smoothly. At given positions, you are pulling the pedal up, or pushing it forwards or backwards, not necessarily only down. You are right on the other hand that the better the force is applied on to the center of the axis, less energy is wasted to stabilize the pedal (as a platform). Clip pedals are good for rolling for these reasons. For DownHill, FreeStyle and many other categories where pedals are used for many other important features as controlling your bike, pushing it up or sideways or similar, clipless pedals are the kings, obsviouly! Do you agree? Thanks

    • James Wilson says:

      Thank you for the support and great to hear that you’ve enjoyed what I have to share. Regarding your post, I’ve often heard claims of 30-50% improvements of clipless pedals over flats, but have never seen a single study that actually proved it. If you have anything that you can point to, outside of “well, everyone knows”, please point me towards it because I have been looking for it for my entire career. This mysterious 30-50%, I’ve never found it. In fact, there are plenty of anecdotal videos out there that have tested flats vs clipless and we have never seen this vaunted 30-50%. In fact, oftentimes, flats match or beat the clipless pedal performance. This is one of these things that people say, but it’s not necessarily true unless you have some other proof. If you don’t, you have to take this off the table. You can’t claim that clipless pedals are 30-50% more efficient than flats.

      You also seem to be contradicting yourself. Changing your pedal angle changes your ability to apply forces straight down. Clipless pedals are a rotating platform. Even though a small spd pedal doesn’t look like a platform, it is still a platform. It is something that you are standing on and applying pressure into. That is a platform. It is not just flats that are platforms.

      Clipless pedals are only one answer to dealing with the rotating platform problem, but they are not the only answer. The other answer is to extend the platform and even out the forces going out into the pedal, then you’ll take care of that problem as well. You can’t have it where you agree that applying forces into a rotating platform is going to be the most efficient way to apply force, but then say that clipless pedals are somehow more efficient because they actually do the opposite, they rotate and move and don’t apply force straight down. Those are two contradictory things to say. In short, I don’t agree.

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