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When riding with clipless pedals and road bike shoes is it possible that the legs work asymmetrically?

I biked for some years with normal shoes but I started with new pedals and shoes a month ago. It seems to me that now my right leg does more work than the left because with the shoe hooked into the pedal I now both push down and pull up with more effort than before. Is this possible?

  • I find my right leg/knee gets tired first while riding, unless its a climb in which case the left one aches first. – Criggie May 29 '16 at 7:54
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Bilateral asymmetry in pedaling is well-known and long-studied. You can see the abstract of a review of what is known about bilateral asymmetry in running and cycling here. During cycling, bilateral pedaling asymmetry is common, and not fixed at a particular split: it varies with cadence, power, duration, and your ride goals. Another article that is highly cited is Smak et al. (1999), which found that bilateral asymmetry varies with cadence. The asymmetry appeared to decrease within increasing cadence, though the power was held constant so it could as easily have been a story about crank torque.

In summary bilateral asymmetry appears to vary for each individual depending on his or her cadence, power, crank torque, and level of fatigue. This appears to be normal. It is unclear that one can easily alter one's pedaling symmetry or asymmetry, nor is it clear in cycling that small amounts of pedaling asymmetry lead to injury (since the asymmetry is so common).

As an aside, non-constant asymmetry has the potential to affect measurements from "single-sided" power meters.

  • I use a pedal based powermeter.For short periods the one side may go 60 or 70% of the power. But on average it shows a 52%-48% or 48%-52% left right balance for a longer ride. I think that having the power displayed may help to keep it balanced. – Carel May 29 '16 at 8:01

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