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  1. #1
    Around now and then DnvrFox's Avatar
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    Food for thought for Cadence and Spinning Advocates

    This was posted today on USENET by Jobst Brandt, author of The Bicycle Wheel, and a well known (if cantankerous) and respected authority on the physics of biking.

    Here it is. Just another idea to stir the pot a bit.

    Yes. In days of yore, the cadence people were "ankling" folks who
    attributed great improvement in cycling speed, efficiency and
    enjoyment if one were to articulate the ankles suitably while
    pedaling. Ultimately, the whole idea was discredited by researchers
    who photographed the best professional bicyclists, who were often
    mentioned as having special talents in this respect. The outcome was
    that ankling is peculiar to individual people like walking styles,
    ones by which one can recognize people at a distance. It had nothing
    to do with the claimed advantages, especially since some of the best
    racers did not use much ankle motion.

    The same goes for the Spin-Coach folks who encourage uncomfortably
    high cadences for people who would be better served by choosing the
    gear in which they feel most comfortable.

    Ruining knees is the bugaboo that hides behind the admonition to keep
    cadence high. This ignores that when climbing hills, leg force
    (therefore, load on the knees), is far higher than on the flats in
    almost any gear. Adults who have not bicycled in many years may have
    atrophied knees that don't take kindly to articulation under load,
    seldom having bent the knee more than required when walking stairs.
    Pedaling a bicycle involves bending the knees under load, twice as
    much as for stairs. This can hurt, but has little to do with cadence.

    I've heard the horror stories of not keeping cadence high. No one has
    offered and proof or reason for doing so other than citing that racers
    use high cadence in racing... but they are also traveling about 30mph.

    Jobst Brandt
    jobst.brandt@stanfordalumni.org
    Palo Alto CA
    DnvrFox - still bicycling, swimming, walking and weight lifting at 74yo is participating a bit in BFN 50+.

  2. #2
    Da Big Kahuna
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    Originally posted by DnvrFox
    Ruining knees is the bugaboo that hides behind the admonition to keep cadence high. This ignores that when climbing hills, leg force (therefore, load on the knees), is far higher than on the flats in almost any gear.

    Jobst Brandt
    jobst.brandt@stanfordalumni.org
    Palo Alto CA
    Interesting report. I've heard various comments about spinning not being as important as some think. I'm certainly no expert on this, but the part I quoted caught my eye.

    That more force may occur on hills doesn't mean the load on the flats won't cause harm. For just one point, how much time do most riders spend on hills? Almost any reasonable force isn't going to be a problem if it doesn't last long. But that doesn't mean that a lesser (though still considerable) force over an extended period day after day won't cause harm.

    Also, while it may be true that pedaling really fast is not necessarily as appropriate as pedaling in a comfortable gear, there is the question of what is comfortable long term. I used to run at 60+ to 70+ when I started. That was comfortable. But then I did some work on spinning so now 70+ is more like my minimum and not particularly comfortable. So I figure there is a middle ground in all this - train some to spin faster, but don't think ever faster spinning is always a good thing.

    Bob

  3. #3
    Every lane is a bike lane Chris L's Avatar
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    The only comment I'll make here is that I'll keep on spinning as long as it works for me. Everyone's different. Some find spinning better than others.
    "I am never going to flirt with idleness again" - Roy Keane
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  4. #4
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    I'm agreeing with the article.

    I read about ankling when I began reading about biomechanics of the pedal stroke with the Ed Burke books. He gives examples and illustrations about ankling, but does add a warning at times that ankling may not be achieved by the everyday individual.

    I believe that ankling can be done by some of the elite athletes that practice using more power in their pedal stroke and less cadence- the Jan Ullrichs of cycling. Folks on the other extreme- like Lance Armstrong are the polar opposite of ankling. I remember reading somewhere that Lance's style of faster pedalling cadence causes his toes to look almost pointed (like a ballerina) at times while cycling. The faster you pedal, the less effective ankling will be for you.

    In spinning, it seems as though faster pedalling is often encouraged. For some instructor to encourage ankling during these high cadence drills, it would be of no advantage- ankling is much more effective at lower cadences, encouraging locking of the calves when the heel is in the down position in the pedal stroke (90- 180 degrees or the 3 o' clock to 6 o'clock position of the pedal stroke). With such a degree of flexion in the ankles, there's just not enough time when doing high speed cadence to pull the ankle out of that angle (like 20 degree angle, I believe). So I'd skip the ankling thing if you're working on higher speed cadence, but if you're working on building power, or if you're interested in pedalling more like Jan, then it could be something to work on.

    Even then, I know Ed Burke admitted that he'd only seen effective ankling techniques done with elite athletes- to me, that suggested that for the average individual, ankling may not be attainable. Fine with me- I prefer higher speed cadence training.

    As far as spinning classes, the author is correct- spin instructors should encourage using more resistance in class and working with slower cadences that they're more comfortable with. With the extra resistance, strength in the legs overall can be developed, and as the participant increases speed against the increased resistance, they will become much stronger cyclists. I absolutely do not allow people to pedal with high cadences in class with low resistance- I don't see the point, and I dont think it serves a purpose, other than to show off to everyone else that they can spin fast with little or no resistance. So what? I'm not impressed, and I don't see what the point is.


    I'm not versed on walking styles and ankling, so I can't comment on that- so in a way, I probably deviated a little from the topic. Sorry.

    I would love to see a discussion on the biomechanics of the pedal stroke- it's such a fascinating topic. I could spend hours in a lecture just on the anatomy of the leg and the biomechanics of the leg in relation to the different parts of the pedal stroke (well... alright, I have attended those lectures, but it's always fascinating to go back to those lectures and debate and talk through that stuff).

    Koffee

  5. #5
    don d.
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    High cadence in racing allows a rider to quickly adapt to changes in tempo in the race. That is it's primary purpose. The best example of this is in the mountains where the high rpm climbers can accelerate rapidly and spin/jump away from the low rpm sloggers. Sprinters usually spin pretty high because they must acelerate rapidly.

    The most famous recent example of this was when Lance gave Jan the "look" and jumped away from him while Jan slogged along at 80rpm. Jan was reputed to have changed his style this year, but it didn't appear that way at the TDF. Jan still can't win a sprint because he can't spin/accelerate quickly. But since forever, the majority of riders resort to large chainring, low rpm riding in the time trials, where a steady pace is employed.

    Ankling works best with a higher saddle height setting, forcing the rider to push through the bottom of the stroke with the tip of his foot using the calf muscles, since the quad is already fully extended.

    If you want to see a classic "ankler", get a video of Gianni Bugno, former 2x World Champion and Giro d' Italia winner. This guy was super smooth on the bike.

    There is conflicting evidence on the benefits of spinning or high rpm riding vs lower rpm riding. For someone who is never going to race in a mass start event, high rpm riding is not super relevant.

    What is clear though is that if you cannot spin smoothly at a high rpm, you probably will be unable to efficiently pedal a bigger gear at lower rpm. Muscle coordination and balance are learned/developed under lighter loads, then transfered gradually to higher loads. If you attempt to ride big gears at low rpm from the outset of your season, career, whatever, you are more likely to develop muscular imbalances and an inefficent stroke.

    So one can only benefit from a day a week spent in a low gear spinning like the Taz.

  6. #6
    Forum Admin lotek's Avatar
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    The same goes for the Spin-Coach folks who encourage uncomfortably
    high cadences for people who would be better served by choosing the
    gear in which they feel most comfortable.
    I totally agree with this statement, 90 - 100 RPM just doesn't work for alot of people (took me a long time getting to this point)
    I think the real key here is choosing a gear that is comfortable
    and spinning whatever RPM they can maintain, not some magic
    number that some guru came up with.

    Marty
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  7. #7
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    One thing I did notice the article doesn't get into is for spinning- why it's better (in a lot of people's opinions) to spin up a hill at a higher cadence than grind it out in higher gears and lower cadences.

    I do think if he'd went into that, it could have made for a much more exciting article.

    Koffee

  8. #8
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    I think the advice to increase cadence can be usefully applied to a lot of newbies who grind along the flat in a high gear at 30 RPM. Ive even seen people trying to climb in a high gear at 10 RPM when they have lots of lower gears availble.
    Once riders are using a sensible rpm (70-90), then the advice depends more on their physiology and build. Riders with long legs can't be expected to spin as fast as shorties, but can push longer cranks at higher gears. For short people, too often they are riding cranks which are too long for them, which prevent them riding at a comfortable cadence. A 170mm crank may be normal for average sized males, but for petite women riders, its long.

  9. #9
    Addicted to Tinkering NuTz4BiKeZ's Avatar
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    I find that on hills a higher cadence / lower gear approach does help me avoid knee pain.
    A friend would bail you out of jail... A good friend sits there beside you and says "Damn that was fun"

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  10. #10
    Senior Member late's Avatar
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    me too.
    We are as gods, we might as well get good at it.
    Stewart Brand

  11. #11
    Around now and then DnvrFox's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Koffee Brown
    One thing I did notice the article doesn't get into is for spinning- why it's better (in a lot of people's opinions) to spin up a hill at a higher cadence than grind it out in higher gears and lower cadences.

    I do think if he'd went into that, it could have made for a much more exciting article.

    Koffee
    It wasn't an article. It was a USENET posting in regards to a newbies cadence question.
    DnvrFox - still bicycling, swimming, walking and weight lifting at 74yo is participating a bit in BFN 50+.

  12. #12
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    Article, discussion, newspaper quote...

    Whichever it is, it's makes a good point. I don't think he's saying that we should be letting newbies grind up hills at 30 rpms, but I do think he's saying that encouraging newbies to spin up hills at 80- 90 rpms is not the way to go, especially since newbies tend to have weaker knees due to years of underuse, and encouraging them to use ankling while encouraging them to keep the higher cadence does not help them much.

    Koffee

  13. #13
    mousse de chocolat Moose's Avatar
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    Sometimes I'll articulate my ankles more just to stretch out my calves a little, and as far as spinning goes, it helps me tremendously with my knee pain too. I don't count my cadence I just find a comfortable gear, so maybe I am not really "spinning". When started to encounter some knee pain, I followed the advice of some here on this forum and began using lower gears and higher cadences. Low and behold my knee pain virtually disappeared and I also became a stronger all around rider.

    I will continue to encourage newbies struggling against the wind, uphill or with knee pain, to drop into a lower gear and spin because I know how much it has helped me tackle all those things.
    I feel more like I do now than when I first got here.

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