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  1. #1
    Da Big Kahuna
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    Could someone test this?

    Okay, I know this will sound silly and contrary to what people teach about riding, but today I was experimenting with a technique which got me to wondering if it actually might be useful. Unfortunately, with varying winds and road conditions, I really couldn't tell clearly. I need it tested on a trainer (or rollers) where conditions are constant, but I don't have either.

    Anyway, this is what I was doing. Normally I find my foot on the pedal is fairly flat, with some flexing during the rotation - the toe pointing a little more down near the bottom of the stroke to pull back like scraping off mud, and pointed a little more up as I push over the top.

    But part of my ride today, since I had nothing special going on, I tried pointed my toe down for the entire stroke - just guessing, but maybe 45 degrees from horizontal (it feels more pointed than it actually is - I'm not trying to exaggerate it). As a result, the feeling on the down stroke was one of diving straight down (though obviously you still rotate). It struck me that it felt like I was able to drive all the way to the bottom better and, since my toe is pointed down, it isn't a bad position for pulling up (I didn't actually pull up though - just took the weight off on the upstroke).

    Several times when I tried this, I seemed to pick up speed. Other times it didn't seem to matter - which is why I need some people to try this on a trainer with unchanging conditions.

    There is one recently paved short stretch of road that I sometimes push myself on and time it. I'm not trying to kill myself, but just be aggressive. Today I did it in 92 seconds using this technique. The previous best that I REMEMBER was 95 seconds. Usually it has been 98-101. It is possible I have done it faster, but I don't remember.

    Oh, eventually I wore out doing this, but even if it was actually a good technique, I would expect that since I would be working the muscles in a way I'm not used to.

    Note I'm not mashing (as I understand the term). I'm still doing 90-100+ rpm.

    Bob

  2. #2
    Senior Member BlazingPedals's Avatar
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    Riding toe-down/pointed can make you feel more powerful in the short term. I can't explain why - foot position shouldnt matter since your power is coming from your quads/glutes, but a lot of people swear to the phenomenon. The thing is, don't do it! By keeping your Achilles tendon tight, you will make injuring it much more likely. Achilles tendon injuries can take a looooong time to heal, and may bother you for years afterward.

  3. #3
    Da Big Kahuna
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    Quote Originally Posted by BlazingPedals
    Riding toe-down/pointed can make you feel more powerful in the short term. I can't explain why - foot position shouldnt matter since your power is coming from your quads/glutes, but a lot of people swear to the phenomenon. The thing is, don't do it! By keeping your Achilles tendon tight, you will make injuring it much more likely. Achilles tendon injuries can take a looooong time to heal, and may bother you for years afterward.
    I don't think I have it tight, though I'll think about it next time I test it myself. I did make it a point to see if I could point it down more - and I can, quite a bit - so maybe this isn't a problem?

    There is also the possibility that this approach just won't work for long stretches, but still be useful for short ones - either for a burst of speed (assuming it actually does that) or just to use the muscles in a different way for short periods which may provide a respite.

    I'm just brainstorming this - I have no idea if it is actually worth something. But I still hope someone can get on their trainer and ride normally, then switch to this for maybe 15 seconds or so to see what happens (more speed, greater rpm, or what).

    Thanks for the feedback.

  4. #4
    cab horn
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    Ah, the toe down Lance Armstrong type pedalling

  5. #5
    52-week commuter DCCommuter's Avatar
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  6. #6
    Recumbent Evangelist
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    Quote Originally Posted by DCCommuter
    Ouch. Warning heeded!

  7. #7
    Da Big Kahuna
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    Quote Originally Posted by operator
    Ah, the toe down Lance Armstrong type pedalling
    ??? Does he actually do that or am I missing part of the joke?!

  8. #8
    Work hard, Play hard forum*rider's Avatar
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    I do the same thing.

    Seems to be more efficient.

  9. #9
    Da Big Kahuna
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    Quote Originally Posted by forum*rider
    I do the same thing.

    Seems to be more efficient.
    It seemed that way to me as well - except I'm not used to it yet so I can't do it real long.

    Oh, in case there isn't anything harmful about this, how much do you point downward?

  10. #10
    Da Big Kahuna
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    Quote Originally Posted by DCCommuter
    But what I tried doesn't fit the definition - I wasn't changing the angle as I pedalled. I just left it in one position and I didn't feel it was an extreme position (though I certainly am no expert).

    Oh, and if this does give more power, my theory would be that the pattern is simplified - basically you feel like you are pushing straight down and back up. With spinning the "normal" way, there are more changes and trying to get opposite feet to cooperate greatly magnifies the complication. But it is natural to push down on one side and pull up on the other (even though I wasn't actually "pulling").

    But even if there is something ultimately bad about this, I'm still curious as to what happens when people try it on a trainer (not long enough to cause any harm in case that is a possibility).

  11. #11
    Senior Member BlazingPedals's Avatar
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    I'm not a trainer, but I'll try to get this explanation as nearly right as I can. By pointing your toes, you are keeping the calf muscles that work the Achilles tendon, tight. Tight muscles are more suseptible to overuse injuries, and in this case the tendon is the weakest link in the system. The same thing happens if your saddle is too high and you have to point your toes to reach the bottom of the stroke. If you ride this way, you will be causing your tendon to get stiff, and possibly shortened, instead of long and limber. If you've been told that stretching is good, well, this is the opposite of stretching. A minor inflammation can go away in a few days, small tears can take months to heal. One friend of mine was on crutches for three months. Complete disconnections (rare for cyclists,) require surgery, and actually heal faster than smaller tears, although the repaired connection will never be as strong.

    As far as looking at pics of Lance and other pros, most of them ride with their toes a little lower than their heels. This is the natural position of the foot, which I suppose you could define as the position from which effort is required to point the toes further up or down.

  12. #12
    Toyota Racing Dev. PWRDbyTRD's Avatar
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    i'll sometimes point my toes down more when I am climbing, that's about the only time.
    Linkage...My 2004 Kona Hoss Dee-Lux My Mindless Banter
    Disclaimer: I'm 425lb...I put unnormal loads on my bike. This should help you in answering any of my questions.

  13. #13
    Da Big Kahuna
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    Quote Originally Posted by BlazingPedals
    As far as looking at pics of Lance and other pros, most of them ride with their toes a little lower than their heels. This is the natural position of the foot, which I suppose you could define as the position from which effort is required to point the toes further up or down.
    Ah, good info. Thanks.

    I've never really looked at pictures of how Lance or other ride and I have often wondered about my basic foot position. Basically, I've wondered if I have too much of a tendency to keep the foot flat.

    If so, and based on what you describe in what I quoted, I wonder if the amount I was pointing was normal for most people? It's kinda hard to tell when you are riding. I tried sitting on my bike where I could see my reflection, but I can't pedal that way (except backwards - which isn't the same thing so I can't be sure I was getting the same angle.

    Dang, I wish I had a trainer.

    Meanwhile, since I haven't watched Lance's pedal stroke, does he keep his toe at least a little down for the entire stroke? I had always thought it pivoted up a little at the top. I don't mean extremes, which I think is what ankling is about.

  14. #14
    Dog is my co-pilot 2manybikes's Avatar
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    When you were concentrating on your pedaling you were putting power to the pedals around more of the circle. This gives more power that's why you went faster. You can do this with other foot positions too. The key is just using more of the circular path as a power stroke.

  15. #15
    Da Big Kahuna
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    Quote Originally Posted by 2manybikes
    When you were concentrating on your pedaling you were putting power to the pedals around more of the circle. This gives more power that's why you went faster. You can do this with other foot positions too. The key is just using more of the circular path as a power stroke.
    Oh, I was concentrating on the stroke before and after that as well. In fact, it is the main thing I'm concentrating on lately.

    However, I have considered that I may have changed my effort for psychological reasons - much as when I try to do a whole trip with a certain level of effort, if I'm having a good day, I may automatically push a little harder if I notice my speed dropping.

    But that's just another reason I wanted some people to test this on a trainer or rollers - to see if there was a pattern to the results.

  16. #16
    Dog is my co-pilot 2manybikes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheRCF
    Oh, I was concentrating on the stroke before and after that as well. In fact, it is the main thing I'm concentrating on lately.

    However, I have considered that I may have changed my effort for psychological reasons - much as when I try to do a whole trip with a certain level of effort, if I'm having a good day, I may automatically push a little harder if I notice my speed dropping.

    But that's just another reason I wanted some people to test this on a trainer or rollers - to see if there was a pattern to the results.
    Did you try googling this already? It has been analyized and tested a lot. I have read about it in magazines, I don't know how much is on line.

  17. #17
    Da Big Kahuna
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    Quote Originally Posted by 2manybikes
    Did you try googling this already? It has been analyized and tested a lot. I have read about it in magazines, I don't know how much is on line.
    I had previously researched spinning, but never saw anything that seemed to describe what I'm talking about. Don't know how I would specify the technique to narrow down the search.

    Spinning typically seems to talk about "scraping mud off" and such things, and all seem to at least imply a foot that has the toe sometimes pointing up - or I'm misinterpreting things. Plus they all seem to talk about "pulling back" near the bottom of the stroke, but with what I was doing, it felt more like a piston - just up and down.

    I tested myself on that little smooth section again today. I was better rested and cut the time again down to 86 seconds. If my old record was 95 like I think it was, that's a pretty big difference using this technique. It was the only time I used it, just in case it is harmful.

    However, I also noticed today that it seemed my toe tended to just naturally point down more than it used to. As I mentioned before, I often felt like I was kinda flat-footed unless I really focused on pushing over the top by raising my toe an pointing it down a little as I begin to lift up to "scrape off mud". I'm assuming the little bit of toe pointing I deliberately did a couple days ago caused this change.

    Still hoping someone will test this on a trainer and still waiting for someone to clarify as to whether Lance does the entire stroke wth at least some downward tilt to the toes or not.

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