More weight on the saddle = easier to pedal but why?

As you all know, putting more weight on the saddle and less strength on the pedals makes pedaling easier.

Since I am trying to find explanations and solutions to the ITB syndrome I have been suffering from for 6 weeks (too high seat -> lowering the seat, duck feet -> increasing Q-factor with pedal extenders, ride distances too fast increased -> going easy and stopping when the pain kicks in, using special knee brace, practicing specific stretching…) I am thinking about another additional possible cause : too much efforts on the pedals.

In order to improve this aspect of my unicycling practice I need to understand how it works.

During my very last 36er ride (yesterday) I observed what I felt when I was trying to decrease the energy spent in the pedaling process.
What I think I understood is this:

When I put more weight on the saddle instead of on the pedals my legs are more relaxed.

Lets focus on the right foot.
when the Right foot is at about the 0-1h position, it starts to push until it arrives to about the 5-6h position then it is the Left foot that starts to push, but if the right leg is not relaxed at this point, it will unconsciously provide some resisting power (like when you want to slow down the wheel) which will oppose the pushing power of the left foot.
This adds some unnecessary stress to the left pushing leg and makes the whole process less efficient.

I think that putting more body weight on the saddle lets the leg that is not pushing be more relaxed and keeps it from resisting to the pushing leg, avoiding this wast of energy and unnecessary stress.

Do you guys think this makes sens, or do you have another explanation of the famous “more weight on the saddle = easier to pedal” ?

To be purely symetrical, your right foot will be more in the 6-7h area when the left one starts pushing in the 0-1h :wink:

The “crank lift” back up is the worst case scenario for the knee because of the alignment between the upper-body/hip and the ankles (I don’t have bike related likes at hand).
When people are riding crazy short cranks (like 100mm on a 36"), they are pretty much pushing on the cranks to start and then they just follow the motion like a puppet on a bike :smiley: However, the only was not tu burst a kneecap in this scenario is to be well seated on the saddle and do most of the balancing with the upper-body & handlebar.

I am sure other riders with good PT knowledge will explain more what comes into play for riding long distances efficiently on a uni (other than being gifted with iron knees :stuck_out_tongue: ).

That’s the point, and nothing more.

A few days ago, I asked myself, why beginners allways put too less weight in the saddle and came to this conclusion:
When they feel, they fall to the front, they put more weight on the front pedal,when they feel they fall to the back, they put more weight on the back pedal. With every little adjustment they push a little bit more on one pedal, then on the other and so on. Allways more an more an more until there is no weight left in the saddle.
For beginners its easyer to adjust by putting more weight on a pedal than by putting less weight on a pedal. Just as it is hard at the first muni rides down hills (when you pedal forward but with the force on the back pedal) that one must decrease the foce on the pedal to get over a bump and not increase, as you would on flat ground.

… just a few thoughts … ignore it if it is too off-topic

You never know, how his cranks are mounted … ISIS has 10 splines and thus: 10 positions … :smiley:


I have always set my cranks like this: one at 3h and one at 6h, is that an problem? :stuck_out_tongue:

Putting more weight on the saddle is only possible when we are properly balanced on the saddle. Being balanced on the seat means that less balance adjustments are being made at the pedals. When totally balanced on the seat, the legs only have to lift their own weight and provide the minimal force to move forward. When you add a bunch of back-and-forth changes in pedal pressure for balance correction, however, this is where a lot more effort starts being used.

I’ve spent a lot of time practicing seat-out riding. With practice, it’s possible to become more efficient and ride longer distances even without a saddle on which to put weight, though it still takes more effort.

More-weight-in-the-saddle is an aspirational thing. I don’t think a rider can force it. They just need to be aware when they are putting more weight in the saddle, and try to continue doing so. The practice of weight-in-the-saddle should improve as the balance improves.

During my almost 2 years reading the forum, I’ve noticed (maybe incorrectly; someone please correct me if this is inaccurate) that most of the physical issues people bring up, in regard to unicycling, are related to riding distances. I think it’s normal for relative beginners to go through a phase obsessed with riding long distances or commuting. My suggestion to them is: if you want to keep riding, and if you want to continue enjoying riding, take a break from the distance and practice technique (mounts, idling, stalls, whatever) on a smaller wheel. You will learn things which will help you, later, on a longer ride. If there’s something slightly-off about your riding technique, I’m not sure that putting in more miles is going to change the problem, especially if that is a habit of riding; you may, instead, reinforce the problem. Learning a bunch of techniques, on the other hand, helps us discover how to express our balance in different parts of our body, and this is ultimately useful for any type of riding.

Good luck!

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It is all about balance in the seat. Develop this by rolling down a slight slope with your feet just following the pedals without pushing.

I also agree that simply increasing distance doesn’t improve technique but I wouldn’t suggest a small wheel is the best answer either.

My technique developed mostly by taking on more severe terrain, particularly steep paths and the ramps between the footpath and the road. Riding on a smooth road, even a hilly one can build stamina but not so much technique.

Thank you all for the answers posted so far.

It’s indeed a falsely naive question, cause I’m not a total newbie and I have my own way of understanding this phenomenon which is very close to what you all said.
I have made very much progress in my balance skill compared to 5 years ago, and especially during those 3-4 last months when I started to ride with others, and purchased other unis than my 26er (19" trial, 29" road and 36er).
Nonetheless I think I probably still have some progress to do with this “easy pedaling” skill when it is about riding more than 6-10 miles.
Because I am starting to like long distance rides, especially with the big wheels, I have to get my easy pedaling skill even better if I want to avoid this pain in the ass (which is the ITB tendinitis) coming after 6-10 miles of riding.
Edit: for those who don’t know what ITB tendinitis, it has nothing to do with the ass but with the knees :smiley:

The real goal of this thread is to read experimented guys talking about this simple but crucial subject.

The More-weight-in-the-saddle is only a secondary subject, the main subject is more something like How-to-make-the-pedaling-the-easiest-as-possible.

There are some riders here who are able to do 100-150 miles in a day, I’m thinking about terry Peterson for example, and others.
I’d also appreciate to read what they think about this aspect, how they achieved to practice so much unicycling without any trouble like knee pain, or anything like this.

What would be their better advices and what could they say about the easy-to-pedal stuff ?

(terry if you’re passing by feel free to participate) :smiley:

Lets focus on the right foot.
when the Right foot is at about the 0-1h position, it starts to push until it arrives to about the 5-6h position then it is the Left foot that starts to push, but if the right leg is not relaxed at this point, it will unconsciously provide some resisting power (like when you want to slow down the wheel) which will oppose the pushing power of the left foot.
This adds some unnecessary stress to the left pushing leg and makes the whole process less efficient.

It was explained to me to remember to pedal in a circle not up and down.
That’s what I was doing “Piston pedaling”. Once I started concentrating on making circles it started getting easier. More weight will naturally stay in the saddle because your not trying to lift yourself on the down stroke as much. You will pedal past the 6 o’clock position this way, almost to the 9 by pulling back rather than just riding the pedal to the top for another down stroke. I had to really think to get into circles and get out of “piston” but it was worth it. It’s made a world of difference on my knees and overall fatigue.

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You just summed it up in that sentence. A couple of years ago, when I was starting to ride, someone on the forum wrote that it’s about “spinning the pedals” and not “pushing on the pedals”.

It took me a while to fully grasp that sentence. One thing that helped is a ride with more experienced riders when one said to me: "think you’re trying to scrape the mud off your soles as you reach 5-6 o’clock on downstroke.
Unicycle is about re-wiring the brain, it’s about controlling a device in a way which is very counter intuitive to all that we do usually: with our bum. Why do you need to put all the weight on the saddle, I don’t know the physical explanation, yet it just works better that way.

I rode on my own for a long time, and mainly off-road (where you can get away with more weight on the feet as there are bumps and obstacles to deal with) and developed a bad riding habit from that. Years after starting, I had to retrain myself (and I’m still not 100% there yet) because I had reached my limits… by riding the wrong way. Riding on tarmac was just extremely unpleasant.

I also disagree (mildly) that riding too big a wheel is a problem. As long as there’s some thinking (no over-thinking though! it’s a thin line…) behind it, in order to analyse what you’re doing right and what you’re doing wrong. Yes, it’s saddle time that matters, not piling miles, and when it’s done right you make progress all the time. And let’s admit it, when you jump on your smaller wheel after time on the big one, you measure how much better a rider you’ve become!

remember to pedal in a circle not up and down

Yeah, I think this is exactly what I noticed on my last ride with the 36er when I focused on what I was feeling when I actually managed to make the pedaling easy.

I also think that since the big (and heavy) wheel makes it very much harder to pedal when you do it the wrong way than with a light and smaller wheel, 36er is more likely to teach you how to do it well. you just feel it when you do it wrong.
With my nimbus 29 road which has got a very light schwalbe supermoto tyre and a light foss tube, it’s not easy to notice if I push/resist too much on the pedals cause however I do it, it feels light and I can wast some unneeded energy without noticing it (before it’s too late and the pain goes off)

In the other hand, with smaller and lighter wheel, if you push/resist too much the front/rear balance is more unstable, and the ride will be less smooth/regular.

The better is probably to be conscious of how we ride, and having different unicycles to be aware of it on each wheel size.

Pedals: I’m wondering if pinned vs. smoother pedals…has anything to do with knee pain. I recently removed the Nimbus pinned pedals from my 20" and replaced them with Odyssey Twisted PC pedals; the interface between my worn-out shoes and the plastic pedals is much more slippery (the plastic studs on the pedals have also worn down). With these pedals, I’m in a more constant state of repositioning my feet. I’m pretty happy with the results, and am going to stick with plastics on my 20" for the time being, though I still think pins are great for mUni (though they’re the reason the soles of my shoes look like oatmeal).

I wonder if this is better for my knees. On pinned pedals, the foot is pretty much stuck to the pedals in the same position throughout the 360 degrees of the pedal stroke. At different points in the stroke, there could be extra stress, in the form of torsion, on the knees. A subtle shifting of the feet, made possible by smooth pedals, might be better for the knees. (I’m not referring to sliding forward or backward, or left or right on the pedals, but rather a twisting motion of the feet as they’re centered on the pedals.) It might help avoid a RSI type of situation. I don’t know…there are more experienced riders on the forum with more experience playing around with pedals.

I expect that this would be an issue for riders who have habitually walked with their feet turned either in or out. Definitely also potential problems with the hips because it is generally there that the problem starts.

I have done a fair bit of yoga over the years and developed a body consciousness that keeps my legs running true so I haven’t have this kind of problem.

I find pinned pedals far superior because it helps extends the power arc.

I rode for a while in hard soled motorcycle boots which were terrible at gripping the pedals. It led me to be much more conscious of how I applied forces to the pedals instead of relying on the grip to keep them in place.

This really developed my sense of rotating rather than pushing and also my ability to reposition my feet at will. These skills transferred over when I moved on to grippy soles again.

I think it is easier to get used to spin idea if you tried riding clipless, at least on a bike. On my bike I feel that my feet are working on much bigger part of the spin when clipped in. Then I try to mimic that while riding platform pedals both on bike and uni.

And regarding the initial topic question. If you ride more on legs, they do not only need to push pedals, they also support your weight, so they have more work to do.

That’s funny you’re talking about that cause I was planing to try my former plastic pedals (without metal pins) on the 36er, to make it easier to replace my foot while riding.
Since I use pedal extenders, jump mount (and even free mount for the second foot) doesn’t make it easy to land on the pedals with the feet in the position I want.
I am using the nimbus pined plastic pedals and the metal pins makes the repositioning very hazardous.
my other plastic pedals are clones of the nimbus but without the metal band that contains the metal pins.

I don’t know if it is possible to really have a twisting liberty for the feet at each crank revolution even on pedals without grip, but I have done some research to look for plateform pedals that have pins but with both the surfaces able to rotate a bit, like clipless pedals, but didn’t find anything like this.
I agree It would be good for knees to have few degrees of liberty even with plateform pedals, but it seams that it doesn’t exist.

I’m thinking about giving the plastic pedals without metal pins a try since I also believe that it could force me to be more conscious of the circle motion instead of pushing on the pedals.

It’s hard to move the foot on the way down, but in other positions you should be able to make slight adjustments even with pinned pedals.
Consider that people riding geared need to move their ankle towards the button and it is doable even with really sticky pinned pedals + 5.10 combo.

yeah, at each crank rotation there is a window where you can do it, but if you miss, it can finish in an front UPD

Here is an interesting article about a different way of pedaling:

I didn’t take the time to read it completely cause I have something else to do but it seams to bring interesting things to the conversation

In summary it talks about :
instead of

It doesn’t matter about grip once the precision technique of pedalling in a circle is mastered. Simply lift the foot just off the pedal in the middle of the upstroke to move it.

I prefer the sharply defined change from strong grip of pins to nothing in a few millimetres over the gradual transition of removing pressure and trying to slide the foot.

Some days I do it better than others.

Try riding in hard slippery soles for a while and it forces you to become more precise because you can’t rely on the grip.