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Teaching Kids the Proper Way to Pedal

Posted by Gav Grayston.
First Published Mar 2013; updated Apr 2023.

Most people don't pedal correctly. No one has every taught them since the jumped on a bike as kids. Here's a simple thought to get you and your kids better at cycling.

***If your kids find it hard to pedal, maybe they're doing it wrong.  ***

Maybe you are too.

Pedalling is easy right?

Just put your feet on those flappy things and push down. Right?.... Wrong.

I think most adults pedal without thinking about what their legs are actually doing, and have never been taught the proper technique, so what chance to their kids have?

What's going wrong?

Well, let's go through what's happening when you pedal.

You push forward and down on the pedal to move forward.

But while one leg is doing all the pushing, have you ever thought about what the other leg is doing?

If you're just resting it on the pedal, then part of the effort in the downstroke on one leg is going into raising the other leg, so not all of your effort is driving the bike forward.

Worse still, most people don't think about what there legs are doing and may even be exerting some slight downward pressure on the wrong leg.  If that is the case, you are working against yourself.

The correct pedalling technique

Anyone doing any serious road cycling soon learns to master the proper pedalling technique.

In fact there's a few different styles, along with the scientific studies and debates over which is best.

We're not going to cover that here (you'll be pleased to know), but simply put this thought in your head: concentrate on your pedalling and on the leg that isn't doing the downstroke. Try and lift it slightly so it's applying the littlest amount of pressure on the pedal when it doesn't need to.

This will feel very unnatural at first, but stick with it and you'll get a much more efficient pedalling technique.

What about the kids?

When many young kids first encounter pedals their instinct is to push down on both pedals.  Consequently they don't go anywhere.

As mums and dads we often give them a bit of a push to get them going.  This starts the motion and away they go.

However, they're still applying some pressure to both pedals.  This often goes unnoticed.  Proper pedal technique doesn't come naturally; it's one of those things you need to learn.

If you're now trying to go on family bike rides with the kids on their own bikes, make sure they are aware of the correct pedalling technique.

If one of them is struggling and finding it hard work, then perhaps they are applying force to the pedal doing the up stroke. (They may also have totally the wrong gear selected, but we'll leave that one for another day!).