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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 02-16-14, 03:29 AM   #1
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Back to the beginning again

I want to learn how to pedal again. My history with pedaling is to mash down on the front side of the stroke, no experience with spinning the gears to bring up the horsepower. I guess I'm more of a torquey pedaler. I'm thinking about how to change to a new way. Do you sit on the seat and use your legs to spin the gears, or do you more kind of stand on the pedals with most of your weight and pump?

I don't know if that question is going to mean anything. Still, I remember when the light went on with rollerblading. I went from swinging my legs around to standing on top of the floorplate of the blades and squat-pushing. It was completely night and day. Much more power and control. I just wonder whether cycling is the same way. Am I relying too much on the saddle?

Any suggestions are welcome.
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Old 02-16-14, 09:08 AM   #2
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Pedal in a circle, if your gear is to high you will feel like your pedaling I. A square.
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Old 02-16-14, 10:48 AM   #3
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Get a cadence sensor and make an effort to keep your cadence at 80+ You can't mash at 80 and it's better for your knees. I don't know that you need to do anything magic.
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Old 02-16-14, 02:02 PM   #4
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My history with pedaling is to mash down on the front side of the stroke, no experience with spinning the gears to bring up the horsepower. I guess I'm more of a torquey pedaler.
Good luck. I believe my technique is similar to yours and I suspect you have the same experiences as I do.

My knees do not hurt from my average 59 cadence and actually feel better than they did before I started cycling 5 years ago. My surgically reconstructed knee has had terrific improvements with the strength increases.

I also found big improvements in my average and top-end speed when I learned to take advantage of the high force I can apply on the downstroke and begin mashing. It was the "night and day" difference for me. During the dead spots, my muscles get time to fully relax and reoxygenate, reducing buildup of lactic acid. My cardiorespiratory system still limits me, not leg fatigue.

BUT...
The combination of slow cadence and dead spots in the pedal stroke result in inordinately slow speeds on uphills and especially on rough road surfaces despite high exertion.
In those situations you lose too much momentum in the prolonged dead spots where you're not applying any force.

A preference towards a slow cadence will limit you at the high end. (I effectively run out of gears (53/12) before I get to 30mph.)
Downshifting to an easier gear just means going slower and blowing up your cardio system if you can't increase cadence.

Ability to ride effectively in a larger range of cadences AND ability to pedal in circles provides a rider with a variety of tools to tap in various conditions.

I'm still working on it, but the temptations are strong to ride with your strengths not work on your weaknesses.
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Old 02-17-14, 12:06 AM   #5
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Wikipedia says the pros have like a 70-90 cadence on the flats. So what the heck, I gave that a shot. I kept it around 60 for a five minute warmup, then two minutes of 90 followed by one minute of >60, rinse and repeat, three minute cooldown <60, and off to lift. It kind of felt like running in midair, and I thought about a hamster wheel a couple of times.
That's tiring! I'm not used to riding that way, so even just fifteen minutes of it is mentally tiring as well as physically tiring. I feel fine now, though.
I really hear what you're saying about mashing your way up a hill. Hills have always been a bear for me. Maybe spinning the gears will change that for me a little. We'll see.
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Old 02-17-14, 12:31 AM   #6
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You are obviously accustomed to pedaling at a slower RPM, so pedaling faster will feel unnatural. There's no reason to do what the pros do simply because the pros do it but there are a lot of strong arguments in favor of not mashing, so give it some time and see how it works for you. My natural cadence has slowed as I get older but I generally feel comfortable around 80 on the flats, 70 on hills and 90 when I'm getting busy with the pedals. Much more than 110 and I feel like I'm in a bounce house.

The old adage is that slower cadence strains your legs and faster cadence strains your cardio vascular system, so you may feel tired when you ramp up the cadence. At first.
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Old 02-17-14, 09:14 AM   #7
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Wikipedia says the pros have like a 70-90 cadence on the flats. So what the heck, I gave that a shot. I kept it around 60 for a five minute warmup, then two minutes of 90 followed by one minute of >60, rinse and repeat, three minute cooldown <60, and off to lift. It kind of felt like running in midair, and I thought about a hamster wheel a couple of times.
That's tiring! I'm not used to riding that way, so even just fifteen minutes of it is mentally tiring as well as physically tiring. I feel fine now, though.
I really hear what you're saying about mashing your way up a hill. Hills have always been a bear for me. Maybe spinning the gears will change that for me a little. We'll see.
I forget exactly how it was told to me, but basically, your bike has gears to serve you ... not the other way around.

Find a gear you can comfortably spin between 70-80 with to start with, and focus on keeping your cadence in that neighborhood. If the road tilts up, shift to an easier gear and keep spinning at that cadence. If the road tilts down, shift to a harder gear and spin at the same cadence.

It's an entirely different way of cycling than you're used to ... but the change from mashing to spinning is so worth it.
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Old 02-17-14, 09:44 AM   #8
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One approach is riding rollers, not a trainer, but rollers. You pedal in a circle at a decent cadence or they provide negative reinforcement by throwing you off I do 2 - 30 minute sessions a week and then back it up by riding a fixed gear bike. When I get on my geared bike it feels like I'm floating on the pedals. My friend/coach reminds me rollers are a skill drill and not an exercise.

I've picked myself up off the garage floor 3 times in 2 months courtesy of the rollers. Be careful if you go this route. There's plenty of advice on the net about how to use rollers safely.
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Old 02-17-14, 12:12 PM   #9
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Buy an old bike and change it into a singlespeed, one with gearing much lower than where you tend to mash. Ride it around the neighborhood (some place fairly flat where you don't/won't have to shift) and get use to spinning. Eventually spinning will become natural and you won't remmeber when you were a masher. You can do this with a geared bike as well, just set it in at the gear when you are spinning and don't shift.

BTW for those that "mash" you get no benefit from cycling which is intended as an aerobic sport. If you want to weight lift (which mashing is akin to) then go in a gym - its more efficient. Spinning is essential to cycling efficiently and keeping one heart healthy...
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Old 02-17-14, 08:28 PM   #10
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BTW for those that "mash" you get no benefit from cycling which is intended as an aerobic sport.
We may have to agree to disagree.
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Old 02-18-14, 12:40 PM   #11
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We may have to agree to disagree.
Not certain why we would... why do you believe mashing is beneficial? Again cycling is intended as an aerobic sport. In order to get an aerobic benefit, you need to spin at a cadence of say 80 rpms - that will increase lung capacity and skill/speed on a bike. Mashing does nothing but create large calf muscles and fatiques the rider quickly. You can't do a century mashing all the way... now don't get me wrong, there are times I mash too... say climbing a hill at 8 - 10% percent for 13 miles (which I did two weeks ago)... I will tend to mash to keep the bike moving forward... but my body then goes anaerobic and can cause cramping and fatique..

Also hopefully we have the same notion of what spinning means... there is still a reasonable load on the pedal, I don't mean someone is thrashing legs out of control and bouncing on the saddle... a good spin will increase the heart rate, blood flow to muscles etc. You could do some reserach on the benefits but bottom line, do what you want. I was responding to the poster.

An explanation obtained from online:

While riding your bicycle, you are utilizing two principle physiological systems: MUSCULAR and CARDIOVASCULAR. Cyclists train BOTH systems during a season: the muscular system by performing resistance workouts in the gym and/or on the bike, and the cardiovascular system by putting in miles on the trainer and/or on the road. However, when you think about it, an endurance athlete leans far more to the cardiovascular than the muscular side of the equation (say compared to a football player): we spend about 80 - 90% of our time honing our cardiovascular system by riding and racing our bicycles. So, it seems logical that cyclists would try to maximize the utilization of their cardiovascular system compared to their muscular system when riding, which is EXACTLY what spinning does!

Put simply, SPINNING is directly associated with the CARDIOVASCULAR system, while MASHING is directly associated with the MUSCULAR system. When you’re pushing big gears while climbing, you’re primarily utilizing your muscular system to get you to the top of the hill (i.e. climbing en force). Mashing is associated with increased heart rate, decreased pedal cadence, an inability to quickly respond to changes in speed and grade, increased anaerobic metabolism, and most importantly, INCREASED LACTIC ACID ACCUMULATION. On the contrary, while spinning using smaller gears, you’re primarily utilizing your cardiovascular system. Spinning is associated with a lower/more controlled heart rate, increased pedal cadence, the ability to quickly respond to changes in speed and grade, a larger aerobic metabolism component, and most importantly, INCREASED LACTIC ACID CLEARANCE compared to mashing.


A rider’s muscular system, even a rider who possesses an extremely well trained muscular system, is far more susceptible to fatigue than their cardiovascular system. You’re spending between 80 – 90% of your time teaching your mind, body and heart how to handle the rigors of endurance training/performance, so why not utilize them to their fullest capacity!?
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Old 02-18-14, 02:04 PM   #12
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BTW for those that "mash" you get no benefit from cycling which is intended as an aerobic sport. If you want to weight lift (which mashing is akin to) then go in a gym - its more efficient. Spinning is essential to cycling efficiently and keeping one heart healthy...
THIS! A thousand times this.
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Old 02-19-14, 12:14 AM   #13
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my suggestion is to agree that a cadence monitor will help a -lot-. Find what cadence is comfortable on flat ground. Then do some time at 5-10 above that. Just a few minutes at a time. It will be tiring. Also do a few minutes...maybe a minute...at a really fast cadence. As fast as you can in the span of a minute. Then go back to riding. Toss in these exercises regularly and try to up your cadence just a bit every other ride or so. A change of even 5 is pretty significant. It may take a season or two in order to bump it up ten rpm but it will come. Clipless pedals are also key. You don't pull up, you simply lift in order to unweight the lifting leg. If you are sprinting for your life you will lift with power but that can't be sustained.
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Old 02-24-14, 11:39 AM   #14
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Spinning takes practice, lots of it. Spend a couple of weeks riding in only in the small ring if you are riding a double or the middle ring if a triple. Go a gear easier than comfortable. Spin until you bounce in the saddle then back off 10 rpm. Over time you will get faster and fitter.

I have found having a HRM and cadence to help me a bunch.
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Old 02-24-14, 12:44 PM   #15
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Exactly what I have been focusing on this winter.......cadence. I am not sure what my average cadence was before, but while working on a trainer at the gym that measures cadence, I have been noticing a slow increase as I practice from week to week. I also change intensity from time to time to give me a variety of 'hill' like conditions. Time will tell this spring how much help this will be. Looking forward to finding out.

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Old 02-24-14, 08:13 PM   #16
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Spinning at a high cadence takes practice, but I much prefer it. I find I can go farther, and faster at high cadence.

I started by getting a computer with a cadence sensor, then just gradually worked my way up. It WILL feel strange at first, because what you'll be doing is the same square pedal stroke at high speed, so you'll bounce like mad above a certain speed. But, as you smooth out your spin, the 'bounce threshold' will increase. When I started riding seriously again last summer, I could just manage 90 rpm, and if I went above 95 I was bouncing around. Now I can spin smoothly to 110 with no problems.

You don't need to start by trying to lift your back foot. Imagine wiping something off your show as it comes around the bottom of the stroke, while pushing forward with your other foot coming over the top.
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Old 03-04-14, 12:40 AM   #17
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I heard about that "wiping your foot" thing and gave that a trial last week. It seems like I can get two beats in on each leg in one 360, so the square thing kind of makes sense to me from that perspective. One push at the top, a pull at the bottom, then a push at the top and a pull at the bottom with the other leg. That's four in one turn. Not four synchronized movements with each leg. L-L-R-R, repeat. 90-95 seemed fairly comfortable as a beginner on a low enough resistance that I wasn't bouncing around.

Maybe that's dumbing it down too much for your average cyclist, but I'm not your average cyclist.
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Old 03-04-14, 07:42 PM   #18
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Funny thing.

Turns out there is a lot of benefit to cardio vascular systems by weight lifting (or mashing) but it is quite a different positive effect.

The massive spikes in heart rate and pressure, then the sudden fall off. This develops flexibility in the veins and arteries... Also develops heart rate recovery. The rate that the pulse declines after use.

New studies show that the recovery rate is one of the most important indicators for negative events. Basically,. the faster your pulse recovers the less likely are heart attacks and strokes. The correlation was the stronger then any other suspected data point, such as resting heart rate...

So yes there is a positive benefit to mashing...

But on the one hand mashing seriously restricts how fast and far you can go...

On the other hand if you watch people who use bicycles for daily transport in say, china... You'll see they run at very low cadence and keep it up all day...


Cycling is an activity, it doesn't have "intentions"...

But if I would strongly suggest that everyone develop both types of cardiac capabilities. Both what we think of traditional aerobic capabilities and those cardiac capabilities developed by what is currently thought of as anaerobic activities... They are both associated with lower risk of negative effects and even better, it looks like the positive effects are independent. So they both improve health and it may be a case that 1+1>2...

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Old 03-12-14, 03:28 PM   #19
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Funny thing.
New studies show that the recovery rate is one of the most important indicators for negative events.The correlation was the stronger then any other suspected data point, such as resting heart rate...
could you point me to those studies? I'd like to see them.
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Old 03-13-14, 06:07 AM   #20
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could you point me to those studies? I'd like to see them.
Sorry,
I read a lot. Too much to keep references on hand.
I believe I saw them in LEF.org and Muscular Development (magazine).

Here's 2 different ones.

10 seconds on google.
I find the idea (or question) you're interested in the key acquisition, finding the data is now far easier.

Heart rate recovery after treadmill exercise te... [Am J Cardiol. 2002] - PubMed - NCBI
https://circ.ahajournals.org/content/104/16/1911.full

now on general RHR, this one seems interesting.
http://eurheartj.oxfordjournals.org/.../2387.full.pdf

I think the 2 above are particularly cool, as they are both different studies, though one relies on the Farmingham studies population... Being replications, they support the ideas reported in the earlier studies.
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Old 03-13-14, 07:45 AM   #21
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All good thoughts by people. I'm also a masher by nature. All sports I've played it's always been from a power perspective.

I'll add two things that helped me.
- At the bottom of a stroke learn to use your hamstrings by mimicking a "wiping off the foot" motion.
- Do one-legged spins. First time you do this don't be around people if you are the kind that can't laugh at yourself or stand others to laugh at you. The first time I did it I said out loud "I suck" to whomever wanted to hear.

Also make sure your bike is fitted so you can better take advantage of what you are learning.
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Old 03-17-14, 03:52 PM   #22
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i run a 42-19 on a single speed and average 80 RPM on my mostly flat commutes along PCH.

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Old 03-17-14, 03:57 PM   #23
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I have found having a HRM and cadence to help me a bunch.
Speaking of HRM's what % of max are most shooting for?

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Old 03-17-14, 04:22 PM   #24
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There are times I want to mash, and yet others I want to spin... I say let your own physiology and desires determine how you enjoy your bike. There are definitely times when I need to spin, but I also enjoy the low, rhythmic cadence of a large gear at speed--and my legs are definitely not spinning at the same rate they might up an incline, for example.

I have single speeds with granny gears, and a cool fixie with gearing that would make Merckx cringe--okay, maybe not him, but me for sure

I tend to side with the bike as an object of my pleasure, with the "intent" of cycling a distant second to this. But then again, I'm an overweight 40-something, so what do I know about this? Just my .02. Enjoy the ride!
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Old 03-17-14, 04:59 PM   #25
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Speaking of HRM's what % of max are most shooting for?

ML
It really depends on the purpose of the ride. If it is an all out training ride I try to increase my max. If it is a hard training ride I try to keep it near my FTHR. If it is a long ride I try to keep it below threshold. Recovery ride 60-70 % I don't really go for a % of max as much as how close or far I am from my threshold.
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