Good cycling shorts can help your muscles work better when cycling.
With cycling’s focus on aerobic capacity, metabolic capabilities, and ability to suffer, it can be easy to forget that all of these important aspects are what drive your muscles that power the bike. Boiled down, that is all pedaling a bike is – recruiting your body to produce energy to move muscles to move the bike forward. What muscles do you use when cycling though? And in which part of the pedal stroke do you use each one?
Between the knees and the hips is the seat of a cyclist’s power. That seat of power is most productive on the down stroke of the pedal stroke – from twelve to six o’clock. This is when your knee is extending and larger muscles put their effort into the pedals. This is different from six to twelve o’clock, when smaller muscles bring the pedals back up and around, providing little else other than reloading the crank for another go-around.
The muscles that keep you moving (in order of power produced) are the quadraceps at the front of your thighs, gluteals in your behind and hamstrings at the backs of your thighs. The quadraceps and gluteals extend your knee from its most bent to about four o’clock. Once the pedals get there, hamstrings take of the bulk of the workload bringing your pedals back towards six o’clock.
Having a well-rounded understanding of “what muscles do you use when cycling” can help you focus on a better pedal stroke, strengthen comparatively weak muscles and diagnose problems. A little foundational knowledge can make you a better cyclist because you know what your body is doing and how it makes your bike go.