An excellent way to become a better pedaler is to practice a shuffle-like pedal action. This resembles the motion used to scrape mud off the bottoms of your shoes.
Do The Pull-And-Push Each time a pedal reaches 3 o'clock, pull straight back (parallel to the ground) with the front foot (illustration) and simultaneously push straight forward with the trailing foot. This action feels funny at first but if you work at it a bit, you'll find that it helps a lot, especially on hills. And, after a while you'll pedal smoother than ever because you're able to apply power through more of the stroke. This happens because the natural up-and-down pedal action is complemented by the new fore-and-aft motion.
Go Single There are other drills for improving pedaling. A fantastic one is doing single-leg workouts on an indoor trainer. Here's how: Warm up for a while with the bike in an easy-to-spin gear. When you're feeling warm and loose, pull one foot out of the pedal and rest it on the trainer or on a stool next to the bike. Then, pedal for thirty seconds to a minute trying to be as efficient as possible with your one foot. Pedal easily with both legs for one minute. Then, repeat the drill with the other leg.
You never realized how little you were pulling, did you? Almost immediately it becomes easier to pedal smoothly during normal pedaling, because you are essentially teaching each leg to pedal in perfect circles. Practice the single-leg drill two to three times a week and you'll soon have a silky smooth spin and more pedaling power when you hit the road and trail.
Rev It Up Another great technique can be performed on the road and on a trainer. A cyclo-computer with cadence helps with this drill but if you don't have one, just count how many complete revolutions you make with one foot in ten seconds, and then multiply by six to get your rpm (revolutions per minute). Put your bike in a low gear and take your cadence up to 120 rpm (or a 20 count for 10 seconds) and hold for 30 to 45 seconds.
Try hard not to bounce and concentrate on staying smooth and supple. Give yourself a few minutes rest and repeat between four and six times during your ride. Keep in mind this a technique drill and not an interval, so be sure to gear down enough that you aren't straining to hold your target cadence. Doing one or two reps is a great way to complete a warm up as well (you can also do this drill on a downhill trying to spin as fast as possible without bouncing).