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I live near the top of a mountain. It’s about 1,200 vertical feet from downtown Boulder to my house, with a peak grade of 17% and a whole lot of painful memories strewn about.

Overall I climb it faster and easier than ever. Some days … some days I fly! It’s so easy.

Other days … many days … I suck.

The suck factor is not influenced by the weight of my bike or the rolling resistance of my tires. That variable is controlled internally.

The bike is not the issue: S-Works Stumpjumper hardtail with carbon wheels, FOX Terralogic fork and cyclocross tires.

Yesterday was on the far end of the suck spectrum. Kids and wife have been sick, I’ve been training hard, heavy backpack, whatever. Fact is I was working pretty hard and not getting much out of my body. When. Is. This. Going. To. End?

I dunno where new ideas come from, but I put my hand on my right butt cheek, expecting it to fire when that pedal passed through 12 o’clock. Wait a sec … huh? … the glute wasn’t firing until 3 o’clock.

A hah. No wonder I’m working so hard for little gain. The most badass muscle in my body is tardy man, it’s late to the game, and my power stroke is short and not powerful.

So I focused on firing my glutes by 12 o’clock. In theory this drives the pedal across the top of the stroke and greatly improves power and efficiency. You can learn all about the skill of pedaling at

But—dude—it wasn’t working. At 12 I’d say “Go Butt!” and it still wouldn’t fire until 3 o/clock. No amount of effort made this better.


Then I remembered that the average reaction time is about 1/4 second. At 60 rpm, that quarter second is 90 degrees … so if I think “Go Butt!” when I see my pedal pass 12 o’clock, maybe my butt doesn’t fire until 3 o’clock.

So, with my hand in the EMG position, I tried to fire my butt at 9 o’clock—just as the pedal starts moving forward … and you know what? It worked!

My pedal stroke got smoother, and my speed increased significantly. All of a sudden I was flying! And I was bummed when I got to the top.

Next time you’re sucking uphill, feel your butt. Is it doing it’s job?

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March 31, 2017 : Posted In: Skills/training : Comments (2)


  1. Scott Says March 31, 2017 @ 4:38 pm

    What’s EMG?

  2. leelikesbikes Says March 31, 2017 @ 4:51 pm

    Electromyography : those wires they put on your body that detect when a muscle is working. When you get an EMG a line in a screen moves when that muscle is firing.

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