Are you a peanut or a sausage? Analysing your pedal stroke can be an invaluable tool for improving your cycling technique, and knowing whether you're a 'peanut' or a 'sausage' can help. Read on to learn how to pedal better using the Wattbike to improve your efficiency and power output in order to improve overall performance on the bike.
Analysing pedal stroke using Polar View
The Polar View is a technique analysis tool by Wattbike which makes the invisible, visible. It displays an easily understood real-time graph which shows exactly where you are losing force through your pedal stroke, how much power you’re producing from each leg, and the angle of your peak force.
The Polar View Shapes
There are 3 main stages of pedal technique viewable in the Polar View: the figure of eight, the peanut, and the sausage.
The Figure of Eight - Beginner
The beginner cyclist is a stomper. At points one and two they lose momentum as they transition from leg to leg. This cyclist is quad dominant, meaning they’re pushing solely with the front of their leg without pulling up with the hamstrings.
Tip: Being properly secured in the toe cages or using cleats will help keep your power throughout the pedal stroke.
The Peanut - Intermediate
This cyclist has had a bit of practice, they maintain some pedal momentum between each leg drive, however, there is still a noticeable loss of momentum at point 1 and 2.
Tip: To improve your stride transition, imagine scraping mud off the ball of your foot, which helps engage the hamstrings fully.
The Sausage - Elite
This cyclist knows their stuff and probably isn’t short of practise. The sausage or cloud shape depicts a consistent leg balance and momentum. This is the typical shape of a cyclist with a strong drive and balanced recovery and can be achieved with practise. By achieving this level of technique, you will be able to improve your power output and by extension your speed and overall performance on the bike.
Leg Force %
Beneath these graphs, your Wattbike will display the percentage split of your power production between each leg. Your aim should be to stay as close to 50-50 as possible, but a fluctuation between 48-52% is still within the ideal range.
How to improve your cycling technique
- Check your cycling position - an incorrect cycling position can affect both the downstroke and upstroke phases.
- Try to ensure you apply force evenly with each leg - the left/right leg balance should be as close to 50/50 as possible, it will fluctuate however the ideal range is between 48%-52%.
- Invest in a good pair of cycling shoes - without cycling shoes you will find it difficult to implement the full power and recovery phases effectively.
- Try not to stand up - standing up in the pedals can compromise your pedalling technique, making it very difficult to maintain power through the top and bottom of each pedal turn. Only stand up if required by a specific session within your training plan.
- Get the right resistance setting - a ‘figure of eight’ shape may indicate your resistance is too high forcing you to concentrate solely on the downstroke. Lower the resistance level and concentrate on ‘scraping mud off the sole of your foot’ at the bottom of the revolution.
- Ensure Polar View is displayed on the Wattbike Performance Monitor - this will constantly remind you to focus on effective pedalling.
- Analyse your data in the powerhub - if you have a Bluetooth enabled monitor and Bluetooth smartphone you can analyse your Polar View data in the powerhub. You will be able to analyse your Polar View graph, angle of peak force and left/right leg balance throughout your entire session.
- Try a specific cycling effectiveness workout - during these sessions you should concentrate on smoothing out your Polar View shape. To start with this will require a lot of concentration, so focus on it for short periods of time and then relax. It is easier to hold a good shape on the harder gears, so begin with the lightest gear available and then only when you have mastered that move up to the next gear ie.:
- 1 minute focus on shape / 2 minutes easy pedalling x 6-10
- 2 minutes focus on shape / 2 minutes easy pedalling x 5-8
- 3 minutes focus on shape / 2 minutes easy pedalling x 4-6
An introduction to the Wattbike, an indoor bike trainer which replicates the feel of the road whilst providing cycle-specific performance data for serious cyclists and competitive athletes.
What is a Wattbike?
"The Wattbike is the best thing I have found in my long career that is so close to riding on the road." - Stephen Roche, Tour de France Winner.
If you are a keen cyclist, you will know how frustrating it is trying to get good training miles in over winter. You may try to make winter training more bearable by using a turbo trainer or even rollers, but it's just not the same as riding outdoors.
Athletes and amateurs alike were demanding an indoor bike that could make structured training easy and thus, the Wattbike was born. Wattbike was founded in 2000 and saw its founders seeking to create an indoor bike that accurately replicates the feel of cycling on the road whilst also providing cycle-specific performance data.
Wattbike engineers worked closely with Peter Keen (former performance director of British Cycling and UK Sport) and used athletes to test the bike throughout its eight-year development before publicly launching after the 2008 Olympics.
For most recreational gym-goers, a Wattbike will provide a lot of technical data that isn't needed. This is so much more than your average stationary bike or spin bike and is designed to get top results for serious cyclists and competitive athletes.
How to use a Wattbike
There are two key features to the Wattbike which stand out as the largest contributors to its road-like feel: the resistance and the setup.
The Wattbike has two methods of resistance, air and magnetic, to create a real-ride feel.
The air-braking system recreates the feel of cycling on the flat using different gears. The ‘gear lever’ can be moved from ‘1’ through to ‘10’, where ‘1’ is the lightest and ‘10’ the highest gear. The lever regulates the flow of air entering the flywheel by increasing the hole through which air can flow and therefore increases the resistance.
For most situations, the rider will only need to apply the air-braking gear system. You can adjust the ‘gear’ during a workout, just as you would on a road cycle and the sensation is just the same (minus the gears being on the wheel itself and not the handlebar).
Magnetic Braking System
The magnetic braked flywheel is designed to recreate the feel of climbing. The magnetic lever twists between gears 1 - 7, 1 being a flat road and 7 being a steep hill. The combination of both allows the Wattbike the diversity of training to extremes, at either a high cadence with a low wattage or low cadence with a high wattage.
What makes the Wattbike different from any other indoor bike is the sheer volume of feedback the bike has to offer. Over 40 variables are monitored from basic power, heart rate, and cadence data to efficiency, time-to-force peak, angle-of-force peak, and left-right leg balance.
Previously unrecorded data can now be stored on the bike with the power being sampled 100 times per second and being revealed for permanent viewing throughout the workout on the bike's monitor. The monitor memory stores every workout so it is easy to recall previous data and work on your scores.
Why is accuracy important?
Without accurate data you cannot train precisely, enhance your performance, or optimise your time when training. How accurate is the Wattbike? The Wattbike is accurate to within 2% across the full range of Watts. This study has been independently verified by the South Australian Institute of Sport.
< 100 Watts
up to 6 % or 6 Watts
100 - 200 Watts
> 500 Watts
within 1 %
Over the full range
within 2 %
All data recorded on the Wattbike can also be transferred to your PC and uploaded to compatible apps such as Strava. Wattbike also have an app which provides real-time data feedback as well as data storage to keep track of your progress.
Wattbike: Trainer or Pro?
The Wattbike comes in two editions, Pro and Trainer, each tailored for their own specific audience. The Wattbike website explains:
“The simple fact is that the Wattbike Pro is exactly the same as the Wattbike Trainer in every respect except that the Wattbike Pro has a slightly higher resistance range. All other features are exactly the same, including the price.
What I would say initially is that the Wattbike Trainer is the preferred model for the majority of people as with a combination of the air brake and magnetic brake you can replicate a desired power output up to 1200W. The Trainer is great for high cadence, low intensity sessions and people who want to use a Wattbike for recovery and rehabilitation, not forgetting that with the adjustability of positions on the Wattbike, the entire family can use a Wattbike Trainer.
If you're wanting to do peak power tests it's still possible to produce in excess of 1200W on the Wattbike Trainer (using a combination of the air and magnetic brakes) while endurance cyclists can produce 220W at 90 cadence or 300W at 100 cadence with only the air brake at level 10.
What does all this mean for competitive cyclists/triathletes though? As a rule of thumb if you're a male Cat 4 cyclist or below, a female Cat 3 cyclist or below, your 10 mile TT takes longer than 25 minutes or as a triathlete your 40km ride time takes longer than 1h 10' then look towards the Wattbike Trainer.
If you're currently making significant gains on your performance then look towards a Wattbike Pro. The Wattbike Pro is suited to more powerful individuals and you'll find that there is an overlap of the resistance settings between the two models.
Level 5 air resistance on the Wattbike Trainer is equal to Level 1 air resistance on the Wattbike Pro - both of these settings produce 150W at 90 cadence which nicely illustrates why the Wattbike Pro is the choice of more powerful individuals.”
Claire Steels is a professional duathlete and has a World Champion title to her name. She gives Sundried a snapshot of a training session along with all the stats and data so you can see what it's really like to train as a pro.
2 x (10 x 10 seconds effort : 50 seconds recovery)
The majority of the training I have done on the bike is for TT (time trial) type efforts, however as I am looking to move into road racing I need to develop a bit more explosive power.
This sessions was aimed at developing such power and improving my sprint speed.
Short, sharp efforts with a longer recovery sounds okay, but by the end of the set the 50 seconds recovery feels far too short!
I did this session on the Wattbike and then uploaded the data to Strava.
The screenshots attached show my speed, heart rate and then the last shot shows speed, heart rate, power and cadence.
Speed, power and cadence are fairly consistent across all of the efforts, although they drop a little towards the end. Heart rate spikes for each of the efforts but also gradually increases across the whole session.
I find sessions like this challenging and frustrating but in a strange way it means I enjoy them more! Weird I know!