Pedaling Force

Cycling Pedaling Force

Cycling begins with the cyclist applying force to the pedals. But for modeling purposes, how should we quantify it? Two ways are to measure its instantaneous or raw value, and the second is to estimate an average value over a cycle.

Raw Pedaling Force

The raw pedal force varies throughout a pedal cycle. One estimate claimed the max possible Pedal Force is the cyclist’s weight, but a cyclist may be standing and pulling on the handle bars so we know they can exert more than their body weight. One estimated the max as three times the body weight but only for a brief period such as the start of a sprint.

Cyclists now have the option of attaching Direct Applied Force Meter which measures the raw pedal force. It is a relatively new device and not surprisingly expensive, starting at around $400 and going upwards of $2500. Here is an example of measurements made in the lab of a competitive cyclist with Pedal Force measured in Newtons.

Average Pedaling Force

While force is applied throughout the cycle, there are multiple pedaling styles which apply force differently during the cycle. For example, Greg LeMond emphasized pulling your feet through the bottom of the cycle like you were scrapping something off the bottom of your shoes.

Simulations can model these different pedaling motions, but an alternative is to compute the average pedal force over a cycle.  In the above diagram, that average would be somewhere around 200 nwts or around 45 lbs.

Carlos Betancur demonstrates a full-gas standing climb on the Mur du Huy

Pedaling Force vs. Pedaling Power

Given pedal force is the starting point for moving the cycle, you might be surprised to find that it is rarely discussed in cycling articles. Rather, it is pedaling power which includes pedal force, cadence, and gearing in its computation.

For example, you would not start off by asking what could I do with  35 lbs of pedal force. Instead, you would ask what power level would I need to ride a given scenario, and then ask what is the most effective combination of pedal force, cadence, and gearing to achieve it.

We will therefore defer estimates of average pedal force until we discuss Pedaling Power. These indicate average pedal force in the range of tens of pounds.

Next Topic:   Pedaling Motion




Cycling as seen through the eyes of elite cyclists.