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  1. #1
    kamikaze college commuter
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    Proper Start/Stop Techniques?

    Hi all,

    I was starting off at an intersection with my Rockhopper. As I was starting off with my feet on the ground, I felt a sudden pulling followed by an intense pain in my left calf. What I would like to know is how to avoid such pain (especially as I had to bike the rest of the .75ish miles) in the future. Is it because the saddle is too high? I set it up according to REI's youtube video - tiptoes when standing over the saddle.

    Or am I doing it properly and I should stretch? It was a spur of the moment ride to drop off some stuff at the library when I decided to go do some extra riding.

    Much thanks for your wisdom.
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  2. #2
    Bike addict, dreamer AdamDZ's Avatar
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    I'm a little confused as to the nature of your problem and what it is exactly you're asking about. Was it a cramp? Was the pain momentary or lasted for some time? How do you feel otherwise when riding your bike? How do your legs, arms and back feel when you're riding? What happened after this pain occurred? This could have been just an isolated incident: maybe you were not warmed up or stretched yet?

    If the saddle was too high you'd normally experience pain on the back side of the knee(s) - the soft parts - since the tendons will be pulled excessively, but that pain would start while pedaling. The proper way to set up a saddle: when the pedal is all the way down (6 o'clock position) your leg needs to be comfortably straight with some natural bend at the knee, NOT stretched. So the best way to adjust a seat is to ride a little and stop a few times to make adjustments.

    Generally stretching isn't necessary for moderate biking. You start slow and easy and you warm up and stretch as you move. Often excessive stretching before riding can have a totally opposite and undesired effect But there is really no rule. Some people stretch some don't. I don't.

  3. #3
    Senior Member EKW in DC's Avatar
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    +1 to everything AdamDZ said.

    Not sure of your experience level, but this may prove helpful.
    http://www.sheldonbrown.com/starting.html

    That site generally is a treasure trove of information for cyclists and mechanics of all levels. The linked article happens to be from a series of articles designed for beginning cyclists. Hope it helps!

  4. #4
    kamikaze college commuter
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    I felt some sort of pain, as though a muscle in the back of the calf was bulging out when the rest of the leg was relaxed. It continued to hurt for the rest of the evening, night, but not so much this morning. Walking is/was a bit difficult. Normally this doesn't happen. The seat position does make it a bit hard at times, but overall, it's quite comfortable as I try to adjust it. I just rode a combination of flats and hills and it didn't show any signs of weakness, but it was standing there on my toes and starting off that it happened.

    What I really want to know is if you guys stay in the saddle whenever you stop for brief periods (red lights/intersections) or if you hop off the saddle.
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  5. #5
    Senior Member canyoneagle's Avatar
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    I usue clipless pedals, and when I stop at a light, I release my left foot, complete, my stop, put my left foot down, and if the light looks like it will be more than 5-10 seconds, I slide forward off the saddle and stand on my left foot (flat on the ground).
    My right foot is on the pedal while I'm stopped, and I keep the crank at the 1 O'clock to 2 O'clock position, ready to initiate the roll once the light changes.

    Some people prefer to start out with their left foot, so reverse all of that if that suits you better.
    Currently one bike: Singular Gryphon do-it all bike with Nuvinci N360
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  6. #6
    Senior Member groovestew's Avatar
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    I stay on the saddle, left foot unclipped and tippy toe on the ground, right foot clipped in with the pedal at 2 o'clock. I'm leaning slightly to the left. When it's time to go, I give a gentle push with the left foot and bear down on the pedal with my right.

    Actually, I do the same with platform pedals, so the bits about what's clipped in or not are irrelevant.

  7. #7
    Packfodding 3 caloso's Avatar
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    If your saddle height is correct, I'm not sure how you can stay on the saddle and comfortably touch the ground with your foot. If I'm straddling my bike, I unclip one foot and scoot my butt forward so I'm straddling the top tube. Then rotate the still-clipped pedal to the 2 o'clock position so that when you start all you have to do is stand up, put your butt on the saddle and away you go.

    But personally, I prefer to trackstand.
    Cyclists of the world, unite! You have nothing to lube but your chains!

  8. #8
    Sumerian Street Rider khutch's Avatar
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    There are many possibilities, in this hot weather one is that you got a "charley horse", a severe muscle cramp, from being dehydrated. It has happened to me on occasion and if that is your trouble the solution is simple, drink more in weather like this! Any of the things mentioned above could trigger the cramp, dehydration could be responsible for making it so severe and long lasting.

    Ken

  9. #9
    Senior Member groovestew's Avatar
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    caloso, not sure who you were responding to, but I'll say for the record that my saddle is the right height for me, arrived at through much tweaking and trial and error. I can't comfortably put my foot on the ground and stay on the saddle; I have to get off the saddle to put my foot flat (like canyoneagle). And I'm not 100% sure (I'll check later) but I don't think I can touch both toes to the ground at the same time while still on the saddle. I have to lean a bit one way or the other.

  10. #10
    Senior Member travelmama's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by graytotoro View Post
    What I really want to know is if you guys stay in the saddle whenever you stop for brief periods (red lights/intersections) or if you hop off the saddle.
    Depends on where I am at a light. If I am close to the curb, I sit and relax on the saddle with my right foot on the concrete and left foot at the 12 o'clock position. If I am in between lanes, I either stand with one leg down and the other engaged or get off and stand with the bike between my legs then get back on when the light turns green.
    Two Wheels One Love

  11. #11
    Packfodding 3 caloso's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by groovestew View Post
    caloso, not sure who you were responding to, but I'll say for the record that my saddle is the right height for me, arrived at through much tweaking and trial and error. I can't comfortably put my foot on the ground and stay on the saddle; I have to get off the saddle to put my foot flat (like canyoneagle). And I'm not 100% sure (I'll check later) but I don't think I can touch both toes to the ground at the same time while still on the saddle. I have to lean a bit one way or the other.
    That's where I am too. But the question is then, what is the advantage of staying in the saddle and resting/leaning on one's tiptoes?
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  12. #12
    Senior Member groovestew's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by caloso View Post
    That's where I am too. But the question is then, what is the advantage of staying in the saddle and resting/leaning on one's tiptoes?
    Standing tip-toed makes my incredible calf muscles pop out for the enjoyment of motorists behind me, why else?

    Honestly, I couldn't tell you why. I will get off the saddle sometimes, but most times I'll stay put. Habit, I guess. Never said it was a good one.

  13. #13
    Bike addict, dreamer AdamDZ's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by graytotoro View Post
    I felt some sort of pain, as though a muscle in the back of the calf was bulging out when the rest of the leg was relaxed. It continued to hurt for the rest of the evening, night, but not so much this morning. Walking is/was a bit difficult. Normally this doesn't happen. The seat position does make it a bit hard at times, but overall, it's quite comfortable as I try to adjust it. I just rode a combination of flats and hills and it didn't show any signs of weakness, but it was standing there on my toes and starting off that it happened.

    What I really want to know is if you guys stay in the saddle whenever you stop for brief periods (red lights/intersections) or if you hop off the saddle.
    Was the bulge hard when you touched it? That sounds to me like good old muscle cramp and the location is a common one for cramps. It may be a little counterintitive but stretching a tired muscle may cause it to cramp when it suddenly contracts again. Sounds to me like that was it: you stretched your leg trying to remain in the saddle while touching the ground with your toes. Then you lifted the leg and it cramped.

    So, to answer your question, I get off the saddle when stopping. I would not even be able to touch the ground from my saddle. So I get my butt off the saddle and put one foot down while the other remains on the pedal ready to push off. If it's a long stop I put both feet on the ground, let both your legs relax, that's a great time to reach for your water bottle too. For brief stops I learned to do a near-trackstand. A real trackstand is impossible for longer time on a geared, freewheel bike, but I got to the point where I can balance for few good seconds without getting off the saddle and getting my feet off the pedals. My recommendation is though to put one foot down, relax, you're not losing much time by doing this.

    Also, keep in mind that dehydration is #1 reason why cyclists get cramps. Drink a lot of water during the day and during the ride.

    Quote Originally Posted by caloso View Post
    But the question is then, what is the advantage of staying in the saddle and resting/leaning on one's tiptoes?
    I like to get off the saddle and put my feet on the ground gives me a little break and the chance to gulp some water. It's a personal choice.

    Quote Originally Posted by travelmama View Post
    Depends on where I am at a light. If I am close to the curb, I sit and relax on the saddle with my right foot on the concrete and left foot at the 12 o'clock position. If I am in between lanes, I either stand with one leg down and the other engaged or get off and stand with the bike between my legs then get back on when the light turns green.
    Ditto. I don't think there is one right way to do this, it's your choice, whatever feels comfortable to you and fits your particular situation.

    Quote Originally Posted by EKW in DC View Post
    +1 to everything AdamDZ said.

    Not sure of your experience level, but this may prove helpful.
    http://www.sheldonbrown.com/starting.html

    That site generally is a treasure trove of information for cyclists and mechanics of all levels. The linked article happens to be from a series of articles designed for beginning cyclists. Hope it helps!
    Totally. Sheldon Brown was the uber guru of cycling, the man did more to cycling that almost anyone else on the planet. Read his stuff, you won't regret it.

    Quote Originally Posted by groovestew View Post
    Standing tip-toed makes my incredible calf muscles pop out for the enjoyment of motorists behind me, why else?.
    Another reason to stop and relax if there is a good looking woman, or a dude, on a bike ahead of ya

    BTW, LOL: kamikaze college commuter - I like that

    Adam
    Last edited by AdamDZ; 07-28-10 at 04:22 PM.

  14. #14
    Bike ≠ Car ≠ Ped. BarracksSi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by EKW in DC View Post
    Not sure of your experience level, but this may prove helpful.
    http://www.sheldonbrown.com/starting.html
    Beat me to posting the link. Do just like the little girl in the video.

    Quote Originally Posted by graytotoro View Post
    What I really want to know is if you guys stay in the saddle whenever you stop for brief periods (red lights/intersections) or if you hop off the saddle.
    Oh god, no, I don't stay in the saddle. It makes starting off too difficult.

    The only time I bother staying in the saddle is if I'm next to the curb. Most of the curbs around my neighborhood are fairly high and 90-degrees sharp, though, so they can interfere with the free pedal if I'm too close, making it hard to spin the crank to prepare for a good takeoff (like the girl in the video demonstrates).

    The rest of the time, it's simply a lot easier to slow down, stand up off the saddle, dangle one foot down, and put it on the ground when I stop.

  15. #15
    Senior Member tligman's Avatar
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    My seat is considerably higher than I could possibly touch the ground from... I slide one foot out of my clips (platform pedals with toe clips while I try to decide about investing in shoes/clipless pedals), slide forward out of my seat, and keep one foot in the pedal, one foot on the ground. If I know I have to stop ahead of time, instead of that I'll slow waaaay down and approach the intersection barely moving, hoping for the light to change before I have to actually stop.

  16. #16
    Senior Member EKW in DC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by caloso View Post
    If your saddle height is correct, I'm not sure how you can stay on the saddle and comfortably touch the ground with your foot. If I'm straddling my bike, I unclip one foot and scoot my butt forward so I'm straddling the top tube. Then rotate the still-clipped pedal to the 2 o'clock position so that when you start all you have to do is stand up, put your butt on the saddle and away you go.
    Quote Originally Posted by BarracksSi View Post
    The rest of the time, it's simply a lot easier to slow down, stand up off the saddle, dangle one foot down, and put it on the ground when I stop.
    That's pretty much what I do, too, minus the unclipping part - sort of. I'm still using toe clips and straps, so I guess actually I'm unclipping while you guys are (un)cliplessing???

    Quote Originally Posted by BarracksSi View Post
    Beat me to posting the link.
    Sorry!

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by graytotoro View Post
    ...As I was starting off with my feet on the ground...
    That right there sounds like you're starting off the wrong way -- starting by pushing on the ground, rather than on a pedal -- and could be part of the cause of your painful experience.

    You should be starting off with "foot", not "feet" on the ground.

    Check out the Sheldon Brown link.

  18. #18
    imi
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    Interesting that some people put their left foot down, others the right... I do exactly as travelmama...

    Is this VERY IMPORTANT cycling technique worthy of a poll?

  19. #19
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    advantage to IG rear hubs is you can shift down to a lower gear to start out in,
    even after you have already stopped for the red light.

  20. #20
    Bike ≠ Car ≠ Ped. BarracksSi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
    advantage to IG rear hubs is you can shift down to a lower gear to start out in,
    even after you have already stopped for the red light.
    You can do that with a derailleur bike, too, although you'd have to lift the back wheel and pedal through a stroke or two to move the chain. It's a lot easier when using toeclips or clipless pedals, though.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by caloso View Post
    That's where I am too. But the question is then, what is the advantage of staying in the saddle and resting/leaning on one's tiptoes?
    For me, nothing. But even on something like an Electra Townie, if the saddle height is right I can just barely touch a toe down and stay in the saddle. I have pretty short legs, so it ends up that popping off the saddle gives me a more stable stopping position.

    The exact stopping position/style doesn't matter tons. Pushing off by using the pedals vs shuffling your feet matters a lot more, since the pedals allow you to accelerate faster.

  22. #22
    Senior Member Lot's Knife's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AdamDZ View Post
    Was the bulge hard when you touched it?
    Heh.

  23. #23
    Born Again Pagan irclean's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by EKW in DC View Post
    +1 to everything AdamDZ said.

    Not sure of your experience level, but this may prove helpful.
    http://www.sheldonbrown.com/starting.html

    That site generally is a treasure trove of information for cyclists and mechanics of all levels. The linked article happens to be from a series of articles designed for beginning cyclists. Hope it helps!
    As a kid I tried hard to master the (as Sheldon describes them) Cowboy and Shuffle Mounts, to some degree of success. When I took up cycling again some 20 years later, the method had escaped me. So much for the "Once you learn to ride a bicycle you never forget how" theory. Every time I tried I would be full of anxiety and if my foot was strapped in the toe clip... forget it. I was happy to read this cycling guru's suggestion that straddling the frame and simply taking off as I had learned the first time I rode a bike was the proper, safe way to do it.

    Quote Originally Posted by travelmama View Post
    Depends on where I am at a light. If I am close to the curb, I sit and relax on the saddle with my right foot on the concrete and left foot at the 12 o'clock position. If I am in between lanes, I either stand with one leg down and the other engaged or get off and stand with the bike between my legs then get back on when the light turns green.
    Ditto - me too.
    Gettin' my Fred on.

  24. #24
    Allez means go. bengreen79's Avatar
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    As AdamDZ said, it was just a cramp. Many people would say just drink more water and eat a banana or something. Personally I hate bananas but i find drinking water and especially milk prevents them.

  25. #25
    Support JDRF b_young's Avatar
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    If you bought the Rockhopper new, Specialized dealers will give you a free fit. It would be worth asking.
    "Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift that is why it is called the present." - Kung Fu Panda

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