Pedalling technique & the Force Curve

This month we spoke to Eddie Fletcher at Fletcher Sports Science (who developed the Wattbike in association with British Cycling) about one of its unique features – the ability to monitor your cycling technique as you ride.”This is shown as a ‘force curve’ on the Wattbike Performance Computer known as the Polar View. The Polar View shows the force applied to the pedals and the position of the pedals when applying this force.”

“When cycling, you can play around with the graph – pushing on the left leg will create a large force shape on the left, pushing hard on the right leg will enlarge the graph on the right. You see a percentage beneath each side, telling you how much power each leg is generating. Standing up and altering your cycling technique will produce a change in the graph.”

What your legs are doing:

  • Like the face of a compass, from point A (North) to point B (West) – as you start to drive with your left leg the graph moves anti-clockwise from A to B. The left leg begins to apply force to the pedals, the right leg is finishing the drive phase and beginning the recovery
  • Moving from point B (West) to point C (South) – the most powerful part of the left-leg drive. Most riders normally reach their most powerful point just after the horizontal. As the left leg gets towards vertical again (point C) the power normally starts to come off as the rider transitions from left-leg drive to right-leg.
  • Moving from point C (South) to point D (East) – the right leg begins to apply force to the pedals, the left leg is finishing the drive phase and beginning the recovery
  • Moving from point D (East) to point A (North) – The most powerful part of the right-leg drive. Most riders normally reach their most powerful point just after the horizontal. As the right leg gets towards vertical again (point A) the power normally starts to come off as the rider transitions from right-leg drive to left-leg.
Angle of peak force“The angle of peak force should be the same in each leg. However the actual angle of peak force is dependent upon a number of things – your cycling position, whether in a seated or standing position and whether using high/low resistance settings and/or high or low cadence. Typically, on a flat-course at a set cadence and gearing you would achieve an angle of between 105-115%.”

“Different combinations will have different physiological effects. Matching your heart rate and power training zones to the resistance and cadence levels is a key component of getting the best out of your Wattbike training.”

Here are some actual pro-athlete force curves:

Male Tour rider, 400w @90rpm, Level 10 on the Pro
Male Endurance rider at various levels and rpms on the Pro – showing perfect balance L/R leg and angle of peak force
Male sprinter, 200m – perfect balance – at Level 10 on the Pro @144rpm, average watts 1500
Female track pursuit rider – perfect balance – Level 4 on the Pro @96rpm, average watts 280
       

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