Your First Mountain Bike Moves

Pedaling Pointers

Pedaling is not a very sophisticated process. The force you create meets the pedals and is transferred by the chain to the sprockets on the freewheel, which turns the back tire in one direction only. The operation takes care of itself for the most part. The faster you pedal, the faster you go . . . up to a point. With proper foot position and seat height, rotating the crankarms becomes as easy as walking.

Head out to the level, empty parking lot to practice pedaling on a smooth surface first. Start off with one leg on the ground for balance (I mount from the left side — away from the sprockets and derailleur) and swing the other leg over the top tube onto the pedal. If the pedal isn't pointed toward the top of the front tire, move it to that position. You'll be generating critical take-off speed by pushing forward and down on this pedal, so it's important to begin the push as close as possible to the top, but not so close that the pedal rotates toward the back tire (a move called backpedaling).Your rhythm should have a cadence of approximately 90 revolutions per minute (rpms). This speed ensures that you will not be putting undue stress on your knees. If you find that your cadence falls below this rate, downshift into an easier gear combination (see the next section on shifting gears). When your cadence exceeds this rate, shift to the next higher gear. On steep hills, 90 rpms may not always be possible; however, if you stay planted on the saddle while you pedal, it is unlikely you will ever injure your legs due to overexertion.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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