Question: I'm a "masher" when I pedal. I push down hard. My riding friends say I need to develop a smoother pedal stroke. Why? -- Bill B.

Coach Fred Matheny Replies: The short answer is, "Mashers" waste energy.

According to biomechanist Jeff Broker, Ph.D, there's a great deal of oscillation in the pedal stroke. A rider producing an average of 250 watts may have a maximum wattage of 500 during one part of the stroke and 0 in another part.

Smoother riders don't show as much variation, which is good.

It's better to be as close as possible to 250 watts all around the pedal circle than to generate less-efficient peaks and valleys. One-leg pedaling is a great way to improve smoothness. So is riding rollers.

My Basic Training for Roadies eBook describes ways to smooth the pedal stroke.

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