By Tony Marchand

Quick, Safe, Efficient Starts

Sometimes you need a quick start when your stopped at a short light with a long way across several lanes or when the group of riders starts up and you notice them pulling away from you before you've had time to engage your pedaling. There are several things to keep in mind to start quickly and get across that intersection or back up to the group:
  1. You need to be in a gear that is high enough (small enough rear cog) to allow a single push on the crank by the foot that's engaged in the pedal to leverage enough force to propel you quickly ahead. Don't worry about clicking in the other foot. To low a gear (to large rear cog) will have you spinning at a slow speed while you engage your other foot and meander across the intersection. To high a gear (to small a rear cog) will take so much force that you may not get going or will become unstable and fall. You'll need to practice to figure out what gear that should be; so as you come to a stop sign or light, you'll be able to shift to that gear and be ready to start.
  2. While holding the brakes, place your engaged foot at a 45 degree (2 O'clock) position.
  3. Push down hard with the engaged pedal as you release the brakes. This will simultaneously: Let you use the pedal as a step to lift yourself high enough to get onto the saddle...and apply driving force to the chain, causing the bike to pick up speed.
  4. Ride the unengaged pedal on its surface with most of the continued pedaling being done with the foot that's click in. Click the other foot in when you have good momentum and/or you've crossed the intersection.
  5. Practice:
    • Find the gear for optimum quick start and practice shifting to it before you come to a halt.
    • When you stop, hold the brakes, straddle the bike with one foot engaged and the other on the ground. With the engaged pedal, bring it to 45 degrees forward of straight up.
    • With your clipped in foot on the high pedal, press down hard as you release the brakes.
    • Pedaling with one leg clicked in and the other riding the top of the pedal until you pick up enough speed or cross the intersection.
  6. Some more practice techniques.
    • Using a stationary bike, practice pedaling with only one foot to gain an even smooth stoke and cadence.
    • On the road, experiment with your gearing to find that optimal gear you'll need and remember to shift to it when you stop. Usually you'll be on a flat area of the road, however, the gear will differ if the stop is on an uphill or downhill.
  1. Starting and Stopping   by Sheldon "Fast Off The Line" Brown, Harris Cyclery
  2. How to Start and Stop Your Road Bike Video   by Broadband Sports
  3. Stopping and Starting   from The League of American Bicyclist
  4. Off to A Good Start   by Bicycling Street Smarts