Touring - Improving Cadence
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11-09-07, 10:57 AM
I got back from my last tour, which was also my longest, with some left knee pain, and I think it's caused by not spinning enough.
How do I train myself to increase cadence without bouncing up and down and feeling awkward and slow?
11-09-07, 04:09 PM
The causes of knee pain are many, and it is unlikely that you will pinpoint the cause (or causes) by consulting an on-line forum like this one.
Nevertheless, your question does make me think of one possible cause. If you are bouncing up and down while pedaling, your seat may be too high. I rode with my seat too high, until someone pointed out to me that my body rocked from side-to-side as I rode.
The first thing to do when experiencing pain from cycling, in my opinion, is to pay a visit to an expert fitter. Most of the bicycle shops I have dealt with over the years have at least one staff member who has a knack for fitting a person to a bike. The last time I did this, the fitter made a persistent knee pain disappear by lowering the seat height, changing the position of a cleat, and showing me a different pedaling technique (which took weeks to sort of master!)
acantor has given you excellent advice. It depends on the where the knee pain is... in front means the seat is too low, behind the knee means the seat is too high (and can lead to achilles tendon issues). Pain on the outside of the knee is not fit necessarily, but pedalling at too low a cadence up hills or with too heavy a load.
As to increasing cadence... again acantor's suggestion that your seat might be too high is sound, and your hips are rocking as you try to reach the bottom of the pedal stroke with your feet. Do your toes point down to the ground at the bottom of the stroke?
You do have to make a conscious effort to keep your pelvic/hips in a horiztonal plane. In addition, your heart rate will increase substantially as you increase your cadence.
Cadence increase comes through practice. Set a target of increasing your cadence by 5rpm a week or fortnight to allow your cardio-vascular system to acclimatise and get your body used to the motion.
But bike fit is an excellent starting point.
You might try this link at www.biketouringtips.com/Testing/showTipComments.php?tipID=398 (http://www.biketouringtips.com/Testing/showTipComments.php?tipID=398). One of the entries on the linked page talks about the causes of knee pain.
The linked page also contains other information about bike riding that you might find useful, as well.
All good advice.
I have IT band issues that cause pain on the outside/front part of my left knee--and I ride at high cadences. (I'm also pigeon-toed, so that makes matters worse.)
Stretches like this--before and after every ride, and usually at night before sleep--have helped me:
11-11-07, 07:20 PM
Pain on the outside of the knee is not fit necessarily, but pedalling at too low a cadence up hills or with too heavy a load
I can only comment from personal experience but I had pain on the outside of the knee and I resolved it by moving the cleat on my clipless pedals so my foot was slightly further away from the bike. I am talking just mm here. This was suggested in a number of postings to a forum as a possible fix and it worked.
11-13-07, 09:54 AM
thanks for the responses
my pain is just below the patella in the center
11-13-07, 12:10 PM
One reason riders rock up and down with increased cadence is weight distribution. If you're too upright without enough weight on your hands and too much of your weight supported by your butt, it is tougher to be smooth whilst pedaling higher cadence. Try stretch yourself out more to move the centre of your mass forward and let your hips relax
11-13-07, 03:09 PM
Neezy, as to your original question about increasing cadence, this is more a matter of instituting new patterns of neuro-muscular transmission than it is about improving cardio-vascular fitness. This retraining will only become permanent if constant attention is paid to the development of these new patterns. If you don't already have one, get a cyclometer with a cadence meter. This will allow you to focus on spinning at a faster cadence on every ride. Dedicate at least portions of some of your training rides to spinning at super-high cadences....120, 130 or better. This will train your body to become more efficient at cadences of 90-100 rpm. Another good way to rewrite those neuro-muscular patterns is to do some one-legged spinning. Simply clip out of one of your pedals and spin with one leg for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Switch legs and repeat x3. This will improve the efficiency of your stroke and make spinning much easier. With winter coming you're entering the perfect time of year to focus on making these changes as it gives you something to concentrate on during those long hours on the indoor trainer. Best of luck! CC
11-14-07, 12:47 PM
Increasing cadence is fairly simple to do (as opposed to diagnosing your dodgy knee).
You need some form of pedal retension system, toe clips or clipless, and your bike set up in a good position.
Lower your gear so you can pedal with quite low resistance. You need some but less than you would normally feel. Pedal in circles at normal cadence, feeling for the transition from vertical to horizontal. Make sure you have no downward force at the bottom and on the return upward phase.
Once you can pedal smoothly in a circle, start to wind up your cadence but dont get out of breath. Change your gear if you want but keep spinning freely. You should maintain a your highest cadence for about a minute at a maintainable work-rate, making sure your upper body is relaxed and not bouncing around.
If you do that everyday your legs will get used to spinning rapidly.
For learning better pedaling technique (spinning, thinking about pedaling in circles rather than mashing), I'd suggest building a fixed-gear with a low gearing. Brakes, of course, and it doesn't have to be very nice, just something to let you train on. It's helped me tremendously, and the knowledge carries over to a geared bike quite readily.
11-14-07, 02:03 PM
would a single speed be just as good for that purpose?
No -- with a single speed, you can still coast, which means you still have the dead spots at 12 and 6, and you can stop pedaling when going down a hill. That's the big deal, here, is going downhill with a low-ish gear ratio and having to keep your legs moving as fast as the pedals are -- creates supple legs and a smoother circle. Only attainable on a fixed.
11-14-07, 04:43 PM
My phys therapist was not in favor of pedalling in circles, rather, pedal back and forth, back and forth. It is kinda like circles but not quite.
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