I use clipless pedal so when I ride my feet are attached to the pedal – I am one with the bike. Being locked to the crank allows a rider to exert force to pedal throughout the entire rotation of pedal stroke. You are able to pull up on the back leg while pressing down with the front one channeling more force to chain and the wheels. They make you a more efficient and powerful rider.
I’ve been riding with clipless pedals for the last 7 years and each year I get better at feeling the circular drive force. At the end of last season I was able to feel it consistently when I was sitting – it feels like my butt sinks an inch into the seat and there is a noticeable increase in the power output.
This year it feels like that, but after I learned to lock my lower abs I’m able to feel the power coming from my hips as opposed to my legs. I get the same hip stability that I have on the saddle by really locking my core. As a result, I’m able to get that same increase in power when I stand or hover and have found that my max output comes right when my butt seems to just float above the saddle – there is no real space between my body and the seat but there is no real contact either. It feels like I’m floating and there is the sensation of my femurs powering away from my body. Like many body sensations, it is hard to put into words, but I know immediately if I am completely recovered from the last workout or ride because I am unable to get this feeling if I do not have enough energy or power.
With my lower abs locked tight, I feel the bulk of the effort of the pedal stroke coming from my hips, then my upper leg and finally my lower leg – from the big muscles to the small ones. Given the relative strength of my glutes, I’m really happy that I’ve learned to engage them when I’m riding as opposed to relying exclusively on my quad strength and their associated knee extension to power the pedals forward and slightly down. A tight core also helps to facilitate hit flexion on the back part of the stroke.
I know that I’m going to continue to improve, but after 7 years of practice I’m starting to drive more power to the pedals throughout the entire 360 degrees of the crank rotation and the result is longer faster rides and an increase in intensity.