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Clydesdales/Athenas (200+ lb / 91+ kg) Looking to lose that spare tire? Ideal weight 200+? Frustrated being a large cyclist in a sport geared for the ultra-light? Learn about the bikes and parts that can take the abuse of a heavier cyclist, how to keep your body going while losing the weight, and get support from others who've been successful.

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Old 08-24-11, 07:39 PM   #1
DaHaMac
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Question about Cycling Technique

The good news, tonight for the first time I hit a 15mph average moving speed on the Schwinn Voyaguer 7.

Of course it was just for 19 minutes on the commute back from Church but its another milestone for me.

On to the question. I have noticed especially when climbing the hills that I am pulling back hard on the handlebars. So hard that I almost pull myself out of the saddle when I am trying pedal. Is this because of the relaxed geometry of the Voyaguer?

I know that I am guilty of a little mashing but my average cadence on the way back tonight was 80 RPM and still when I need more power I was doing Lat Pulls with the handlebars. The only way I do not pull on the handlebars is when I let my cadence slow down to about 60 when climbing in low gear or when I stand to pedal. Yet, I also find it hard to stand on the Voyaguer.

Any tips on my technique to continuing improving my spinning ability and average moving speed or am I reaching the limits of the comfort bike geometry?

Thanks in advance.
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Old 08-24-11, 07:44 PM   #2
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I only find myself pulling on the bars when I'm climbing at low cadence, whether seated or standing. The rest of the time I have a relaxed grip on the bars and support myself with my core, and use the legs and glutes for power.

You might try loosening your grip on the bars. If you ride with a light grip you won't be able to pull on the bars and may force yourself to develop whatever aspect of your technique that needs work.

Last edited by CraigB; 08-25-11 at 09:00 AM.
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Old 08-24-11, 07:57 PM   #3
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There are times you want to pull on the bars, to increase the amount of force you are applying to the pedals: sprinting, or accelerating up a hill. Short hills that you are blasting over it is probably no problem. But on long hills, you want to relax your upper body, so you aren't wasting energy and restricting your breathing.

I notice if I am trying to really push a hill, I'm pulling on the bars and closing in my shoulders. When I notice this, I force myself to push my shoulders back and release the grip on the bars. Pedaling always becomes easier once I relax my upper body. It is immediately noticeable.
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Old 08-24-11, 08:02 PM   #4
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Do you have SPD or other pedals/shoes or at least cages? I was amazed at how much easier it was to put the power down when I went to a SPD pedal and shoe. Using the upstroke leg to lift the upstroke pedal instead of moving that dead weight with the downstroke leg is huge.... think about it

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Old 08-25-11, 06:51 AM   #5
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CraigB, I have tried to make myself relax the grip when climbing but its an ongoing battle. Now I know relaxing the grip is the best thing to do.

RollCNY, You described exactly what I am doing and helped me understand why I hate long hills. The short hills with which I am familiar I will stand on entry in my highest gear until cadence slows then quickly downshift to lowest gear and spin the rest of the way. The long hills are killing me though and it is mainly my breathing that it hurting so bad. I imagine that is because I am restricting my breathing by pulling so hard.

Biggziff, thanks for the link because I am currently using the stock pedals on the bike so I have no assistance on the upstroke. I asked at the LBS this weekend about cages but was not shown any. I'm not sure if I want to clipless on this bike but know I will on my next bike which will be more of a road bike.
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Old 08-25-11, 08:10 AM   #6
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CraigB, I have tried to make myself relax the grip when climbing but its an ongoing battle. Now I know relaxing the grip is the best thing to do.

RollCNY, You described exactly what I am doing and helped me understand why I hate long hills. The short hills with which I am familiar I will stand on entry in my highest gear until cadence slows then quickly downshift to lowest gear and spin the rest of the way. The long hills are killing me though and it is mainly my breathing that it hurting so bad. I imagine that is because I am restricting my breathing by pulling so hard.

Biggziff, thanks for the link because I am currently using the stock pedals on the bike so I have no assistance on the upstroke. I asked at the LBS this weekend about cages but was not shown any. I'm not sure if I want to clipless on this bike but know I will on my next bike which will be more of a road bike.
Pulling while climbing is a natural response and there's really nothing wrong with it. Having a death grip while riding on level roads for very long periods isn't a good idea but when climbing, do what seems natural.

Pulling on the bars, as RollCNY, says has an advantage while climbing. We can only exert a force equal to our weight when pedaling if you have a relaxed grip on the bars. Pulling upwards on the bars in climbing situations actually lets us increase the downward force slightly. Since the bike is such a light vehicle even a slight increase in pedal force has a good effect on the power transfer. For short bursts, the stress this puts on your body is inconsequential. Don't do it all the time - the dreaded 'death grip' - but for short intense efforts, it does help.

Your wide bars should negate any problems with restricted breathing due to pulling on the bars but there is a technique to pulling on the bars. Don't try to push off the back of the saddle. Pull your upper body towards the handlebars. You can even slide a little forward on the saddle. Use your arms to pull yourself down but resist with your abdominals. This will result in your arms being bent at the elbows and your chest area should be wide open as if you were in the middle of doing a push up...think about half way down. This has the added benefit of centering your weight over the bike where it needs to be to get the best power. When you ride mountain bikes uphill, you use this technique to balance between keeping the front wheel on the ground and keeping the back wheel from losing traction. But it works well on road too.
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Old 08-25-11, 09:02 AM   #7
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CraigB, I have tried to make myself relax the grip when climbing but its an ongoing battle. Now I know relaxing the grip is the best thing to do.
I could have been more clear - I meant to suggest you loosen up when on level terrain. As cyccommute said, pulling on the bars is a natural response when climbing. I took your OP to say that you're pulling on the bars pretty much all the time.
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Old 08-25-11, 09:54 AM   #8
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Hills seem to be a love 'em or hate 'em kind of thing. I absolutely love climbing, because for me it is an exercise in making a snap plan and executing it. I operate on two rules: stand only once on a hill, and don't shift the front ring mid-hill (I had a road crank with a mountain FD and it liked to throw chains).

So as I approach every hill, I make a snap decision of whether I want to power over it in the big ring, or spin up it in the small (53/39 crank). Some hills I will stand early on, but if I do, I'm committed, and won't sit til the hill breaks. You have to be careful not to waste too much energy too early doing this.

If I start seated, I usually plan to finish seated, and only stand to regain some momentum. Drop a gear or two smaller in the rear as you're standing, as your weight transfer will be wasted if you don't. Hammer your cadence and speed higher, sit, and shed a gear.

Don't dread hills. They are the biggest challenge on bikes, and are 93% of the fun (realizing that 90% of statistics are made up on the spot).
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Old 08-25-11, 10:32 AM   #9
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Do you have SPD or other pedals/shoes or at least cages? I was amazed at how much easier it was to put the power down when I went to a SPD pedal and shoe.
I agree with Biggziff, SPD pedals make a huge difference climbing. Right now you are only using half the power in your legs. I'd recommend MB Pedals and shoes for now, they are more simple to use and you can walk in the shoes if you have too. You can buy them now because your road bike is not going to come with any pedals.That's what I did.
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Old 08-25-11, 12:14 PM   #10
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Looking at the pic of that bike, it's not fit for climbing. Yeah, you can get your exercise out of it but no way is it efficient on the climbs. Pedal position, handebar position, made for cruising, not climbing.

Roadbike handlebars are not placed like that of your bike, big tall fulcrum lever looking set up. The design of a road bike is such that it allows you to place your hands near the stem so that you get some leverage.

As far as technique, don't pull back to much. I remind myself while doing a long climb that relaxing the upper body consevers energy for the legs. When I find myself pulling too much, wasting energy, I remind myself to relax. I place my hands near the stem in a hook position with thumbs on top of bars as well in order to avoid over working my upper body too much, avoid the death grip. Save that wasted energy for the legs. Concentrate on spinning the pdals , not pulling on the bars. Good form, hooked hands and allowing your body a natural pull on the bars is more efficient than pulling back like a mad man.

Pulling back on the bars is great for sprinting but as far as climbing, too much pulling is over working the upperbody and a waste of energy. If you notice the TDF rider, the good climbers are sitting up, hands near the stem to open the chest for breathing.
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Old 08-25-11, 12:31 PM   #11
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I almost always start hills sitting down, shifting to an easier gear, and keep my spinning cadence. I'll often go to the drops (well, what operates as drops on my trekker bars) even if I weren't in them before, to force myself to use that lower gear and higher cadence.

If I start slowing, after dropping a couple of gears and am spinning 10 rpm lower than normal, then I'll shift my weight to the rear of my saddle, reach for the hoods (well, you know...), and by doing so, stretch out my legs more and power some up the hill, in a semi-seated position. I do some pulling on the bars at this point.

If I'm gonna stand, I'll move to a harder gear so my cadence is maybe 50-60% of my normal spin.
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Old 08-25-11, 02:10 PM   #12
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Looking at the pic of that bike, it's not fit for climbing. Yeah, you can get your exercise out of it but no way is it efficient on the climbs. Pedal position, handebar position, made for cruising, not climbing.
I'd have to agree. My cousin came to visit a couple of weeks ago and brought her bike and was excited about going on a ride with me and my wife. Turned out her bike was a Schwinn cruiser, and even though my wife and I were riding as slowly as we could, my cousin was hurting big time climbing what I would say was something less than "gently rolling" terrain.
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Old 08-26-11, 06:37 PM   #13
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I'd have to agree. My cousin came to visit a couple of weeks ago and brought her bike and was excited about going on a ride with me and my wife. Turned out her bike was a Schwinn cruiser, and even though my wife and I were riding as slowly as we could, my cousin was hurting big time climbing what I would say was something less than "gently rolling" terrain.
I kinda had a feeling that I am quickly reaching the limits of my cruiser bike. I do have the '83 Schwinn World Tourist that is not such a relaxed frame. Since my OP, I have move the saddle closer to the stem on both bikes. I rode the WT and instead of pushing it felt like someone had lit a fire behind me. I did a 21 mile this morning on the Voyaguer and experienced much less pulling on the handle bars and much, much less stress on my quads even though there were some long climbs. Still working on the lungs though!

The World Tourist is a bit big for me at 33.5" standover with my 32" leg length. I have moved the saddle forward as far as possible but still find myself pushing to sit full in the saddle. However, I experience a lot of hand numbness on the WT. I assume that means that I need to raise the handles bars a bit more but the stem is already full extended. Is my assumption that raising the handle bars will help alleviate hand numbness correct?

Thanks guys and gals for the feedback
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