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  1. #1
    Senior Member LeeRoySD's Avatar
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    Best method for smoothing stroke at higher cadences?

    I have been riding/racing for several months now at the velodrome. This is my first year riding and my stroke is still really choppy at higher cadences... My fitter suggested rollers and I have just started using them. I feel pretty smooth up to about 90 RPM - 105 is a little bouncy - 120 is really rough - 130 and I am giving myself a pretty hard spanking...

    My question about using the rollers to smooth things out...

    Should I...

    (A) ride at primarily 90-95 (the top end of my "reasonably smooth" range) until this gets really smooth?

    (B) ride at primarily at 105-110 until the bounce starts to go away?

    (C) Build up to whatever causes the bounce and then back off to a "smooth" RPM take a few breaths and increase again... then repeat over and over again?

    (D) Something else entirely?

    Thanks for the help... I am sure that all of these will help. I just want some advice on how to maximize my return/time spent (in terms of smoothness gained) from someone who has gone through or helped others through this.

    FYI: My seat height seems to be pretty good. Any lower and my knees are banging my chest when in the drops, any higher and the tendons in the back of my right knee get a little tweaky from being too close to straight-legged at the bottom of the stroke. I also ride a couple hundred miles a week on the road bike and/or stationary trainer if this matters. Road cranks are 172.5/Track are 167.5. Position on both bikes is similar (just a touch more saddle to bar drop but similar reach). Same shoes and pedals...

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    Elitist carleton's Avatar
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    The reason why rollers are commonly suggested is that they magnify everything. Every twitch is a big deal. This is because you have no momentum to overcome the imbalances as you do when riding down the road.

    If your knees are close to banging your chest, then consider raising your bars. Being low doesn't do anything for you if you can't ride over 120rpm. I would start there. Lower isn't always better.

    Would it be safe to assume that you don't spend much time over 100 RPM on the road bike?

    You have to teach your muscles to fire at those cadences. It's like learning a passage on the guitar. Gradually increase the tempo until it's smooth.

    There are several pedal strokes.

    Spend more time on the track bike on the rollers. You'll get to isolate so many things and realize what muscles you do and don't need to tense up to stay upright on the bike. This will also smooth things out.

  3. #3
    Senior Member LeeRoySD's Avatar
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    Unfortunately, my stroke is just as choppy when I am on the tops as it is in the drops. I wish it was as easy as raising the bars...

    So your advice is more time on the track bike on the rollers and option

    "(C) Build up to whatever causes the bounce and then back off to a "smooth" RPM take a few breaths and increase again... then repeat over and over again?"

    Thanks.

    edit- No. On the road bike I try to ride at 90-95 (but usually wind up closer to 83-84 when I look at post ride data). I spin up to 105-115 occasionally for a jump here or there but not very often or for very long.
    Last edited by LeeRoySD; 07-26-12 at 01:24 AM.

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    First find out which leg is the problem by riding upclipped on one side, then the other. Second do shallow grade hill repeats in as big a ring as you can smoothly stroke while seated. Keep increasing the grade and ring until you find you can apply power without any hitches in your stroke. One this is done do some intervals in as high a gear as you can spin without bouncing and keep increasing your cadence until you get the results you want. The hill repeats will expose your problem areas. Hope this helps.

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    Elitist carleton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LeeRoySD View Post
    Unfortunately, my stroke is just as choppy when I am on the tops as it is in the drops. I wish it was as easy as raising the bars...

    So your advice is more time on the track bike on the rollers and option

    "(C) Build up to whatever causes the bounce and then back off to a "smooth" RPM take a few breaths and increase again... then repeat over and over again?"

    Thanks.

    edit- No. On the road bike I try to ride at 90-95 (but usually wind up closer to 83-84 when I look at post ride data). I spin up to 105-115 occasionally for a jump here or there but not very often or for very long.
    To confuse matters, it could be other things, too. Your saddle could be too far back into a power position or your cranks could be too long. Track cranks come in 2.5mm increments for a reason. I've ridden 170, 167, and 165 and I love 165s even though I give up LOTS of torque as a trade-off.

    You really have to try moving the saddle around up, down, back, & forth during roller sessions till you find a sweet spot.

  6. #6
    Elitist carleton's Avatar
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    There are guys who are fast, then all of a sudden they ride terribly. Sometimes it's as simple as their saddle slipped down on them just 1cm or so.

    Little things make a big difference. This is why people say that track racers are really particular about their bikes.

    I once used shoes of two different brands (Bont and Shimano). I'd have to move my saddle up/down a few mm depending on which shoes I wore. Otherwise things were just off for me. Now I use shoes of the same brand to keep the stack height the same.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LAriverRat View Post
    First find out which leg is the problem by riding upclipped on one side, then the other.
    I've done that and it really helps since you can feel weaknesses in your stroke really easily. My left leg has a lot better stroke than my right.

    My pedal stroke is pretty ok to over 100rpm if I'm on power. If I'm trying to back off a bit or theres no resistance it all turns to **** though.

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    Elitist carleton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by McRussellPants View Post
    I've done that and it really helps since you can feel weaknesses in your stroke really easily. My left leg has a lot better stroke than my right.

    My pedal stroke is pretty ok to over 100rpm if I'm on power. If I'm trying to back off a bit or theres no resistance it all turns to **** though.
    This could be that one leg is longer than the other, either above or below the knee. Your saddle may be set at an optimal height for your left leg.

    That's the case with me. I used to use the "heel on the pedal" technique to set my saddle height and would get wacky height differences when I would periodocially check. I wasn't paying attention to which leg I was using for the test. I later found out that my left femur is 1cm longer than my right, making my left leg longer. I never understood why I liked having my saddle twisted to the left a bit. This was my way of shortening my left leg and lengthening the right in relation to the BB. I had a comprehensive bike fit and the fitter put me on a table and saw the discrepancy. This was remedied by adjusting my cleat on my left shoe. Now my saddle is back facing the center.

    I mentioned the 1cm difference between my two legs to a friend who is a Dr. of physical therapy, thinking that I was a freak of nature. She replied that 1cm is normal and she sees it all the time.

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    Senior Member kato7997's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LeeRoySD View Post
    Road cranks are 172.5/Track are 167.5. Position on both bikes is similar (just a touch more saddle to bar drop but similar reach). Same shoes and pedals...
    What about the saddle fore/aft position on each bike? The crank length difference will affect leg reach.

  10. #10
    Senior Member LeeRoySD's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kato7997 View Post
    What about the saddle fore/aft position on each bike? The crank length difference will affect leg reach.
    Similar. It is tough to really judge precisely as I suppose that where I actually sit on two different saddles probably varies more than the 5mm difference in cranks. I have a Romin on the Track bike as it better facilitates sliding around on it a bit and trying to share the load between my posterior chain and quads. I love the SMP on my road bike but it is much more of a "one position" saddle. I'll occasionally scooch forward on it for a sprint, but only for very short efforts as it is really hard on the junk and I can't really get all the way to the "rivet" on it.

  11. #11
    Senior Member LeeRoySD's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by carleton View Post
    This could be that one leg is longer than the other, either above or below the knee. Your saddle may be set at an optimal height for your left leg.

    That's the case with me. I used to use the "heel on the pedal" technique to set my saddle height and would get wacky height differences when I would periodocially check. I wasn't paying attention to which leg I was using for the test. I later found out that my left femur is 1cm longer than my right, making my left leg longer. I never understood why I liked having my saddle twisted to the left a bit. This was my way of shortening my left leg and lengthening the right in relation to the BB. I had a comprehensive bike fit and the fitter put me on a table and saw the discrepancy. This was remedied by adjusting my cleat on my left shoe. Now my saddle is back facing the center.

    I mentioned the 1cm difference between my two legs to a friend who is a Dr. of physical therapy, thinking that I was a freak of nature. She replied that 1cm is normal and she sees it all the time.
    My right femur is a little over a cm longer than my left. My fitter chose to shim the left a bit (about 5mm) instead of moving the right cleat. I also have six degress of varus wedges in my left and 4.5 degrees in the right. It has really fixed my knee tracking and loading but I wonder if my stroke is still somewhat adjusting to the change. I rode probably 3-4k miles before the change and have done maybe 1.2-1.5k since.

    When you say "too far back in a power position"... does more setback increase power? I feel more powerful forward as it is easier to get more weight on the pedals that way. I do ride with my knees a little behind KOPS to keep a little more balanced (my broad-ish chest and big head must weight a lot) and keep from putting so much weight on my hands. Would (or should) reducing setback a little help in smoothing out?

    I did three 30 minute sessions on the rollers this week. I am definitely feeling a little smoother at 100-105 rpm. Racing tonight though, I still got super bouncy at about 125ish and backed off the sprint both times that I was in contention for points...

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    Senior Member bitingduck's Avatar
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    More forward is easier to spin, so when the speed gets high you'll get more power due to more RPMs.

    Short of a lot of track time, a lot of roller time is the best thing you can do to smooth out your stroke.

    Living in Minneapolis during grad school, I spent a *lot* of time on rollers over the winters, mostly on the road bike. We'd watch ST:NG and do intervals based on the commercials-- tempo during the show so you can hear, and as fast as you can go during the commercials, which get closer together and longer as the show progresses. We'd also do spin contests. I got to where I could tag 200 rpm without bouncing around, and to be pretty tolerant of bike adjustments and problems-- I borrowed a FG conversion for the 508 last year and found it was close enough that I just tilted the handlebars a bit and rode it as is, and had no trouble doing the rpms on descents (until near the end when my hip flexors just didn't want to keep moving, but even that was only limiting me to ~150 rpm instead of ~170)
    Track - the other off-road
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    Senior Member bitingduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LeeRoySD View Post
    I'll occasionally scooch forward on it for a sprint, but only for very short efforts as it is really hard on the junk and I can't really get all the way to the "rivet" on it.
    Is your saddle too high? Or are you putting a lot of weight on the saddle? You should be able to move around on the saddle and use different parts for different efforts-- back for tempo and climbing, forward for high rpm spinning. I find that the saddle is more for balance and steering than weight support- if you're going hard, your legs are supporting a good fraction of your weight. The most painful rides I've ever been on are mapless "c" rides where you're noodling at 10 mph for a long time and all your weight ends up on the saddle. On the track you need to be able to spend 10-20 minutes continuously on the rivet.
    Track - the other off-road
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  14. #14
    Senior Member LeeRoySD's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bitingduck View Post
    Is your saddle too high? Or are you putting a lot of weight on the saddle? You should be able to move around on the saddle and use different parts for different efforts-- back for tempo and climbing, forward for high rpm spinning. I find that the saddle is more for balance and steering than weight support- if you're going hard, your legs are supporting a good fraction of your weight. The most painful rides I've ever been on are mapless "c" rides where you're noodling at 10 mph for a long time and all your weight ends up on the saddle. On the track you need to be able to spend 10-20 minutes continuously on the rivet.
    I, at his point in my rambling, was actually referring to my SMP "road" bike saddle. It is very comfortable but its highly curved design limits fore and aft movement on it.

    The forward end of the Romin saddle on my track bike is much flatter in profile and I have no real issues moving all the way forward on it. I'll try spending more time all the way forward on it (or even bumping it forward a touch).

    I think I am going about this all wrong... I just need to go find the biggest mountain range I can, strap in tight, and if I'm still in one piece at the bottom, I'll be spinning better... 508 on a FG? You sir are NUTS. But wow. That's impressive.

    Thanks for the thoughts...

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    Elitist carleton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LeeRoySD View Post
    I, at his point in my rambling, was actually referring to my SMP "road" bike saddle. It is very comfortable but its highly curved design limits fore and aft movement on it.

    The forward end of the Romin saddle on my track bike is much flatter in profile and I have no real issues moving all the way forward on it. I'll try spending more time all the way forward on it (or even bumping it forward a touch).

    I think I am going about this all wrong... I just need to go find the biggest mountain range I can, strap in tight, and if I'm still in one piece at the bottom, I'll be spinning better... 508 on a FG? You sir are NUTS. But wow. That's impressive.

    Thanks for the thoughts...
    Less thinking, more testing.

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    Senior Member bitingduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LeeRoySD View Post
    I, at his point in my rambling, was actually referring to my SMP "road" bike saddle. It is very comfortable but its highly curved design limits fore and aft movement on it.
    I think I realized that at the time I posted, too. But you need to be able to move around on the saddle-- even on really long road rides I rarely put anywhere near my full weight on the saddle.

    The best track saddle I ever had was an old Viscount "Dominator" BMX saddle that came with my first track bike (a used Gitane). It was just a hard piece of plastic, but it was shaped just right, and had a little bit of spring. It eventually developed a crack down the middle, and they got hard to find. These days I ride a Flite for everything.

    I think I am going about this all wrong... I just need to go find the biggest mountain range I can, strap in tight, and if I'm still in one piece at the bottom, I'll be spinning better... 508 on a FG? You sir are NUTS. But wow. That's impressive.
    Motorpacing and rollers will probably help you more than barreling down Palomar on a FG, but you'll learn to relax and spin pretty quick headed down Palomar...

    I only did about half of the 508 on the FG. My girlfriend did the other half (and she had about 3K more climbing than me). It's not nearly as bad as it sounds. Doing the whole thing solo, with or without gears, is way more nuts than 2x fixed team.
    Track - the other off-road
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    Senior Member LeeRoySD's Avatar
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    Thanks to everyone for the good thoughts... After a solid week on the rollers (and some brief ILT drills on the stationary trainer), my maximum "sustainable smooth" has gone from 95-100 to about 108-112. My last session I stayed above 130 for about 10 seconds and even briefly hit 145 a couple of times without riding off the rollers. I know that I have a long ways to go but I am stoked to have made at least some measurable progress this week. I definitely agree at this point that the further forward I move, the easier higher cadences become. I am looking forward to seeing how this actually translates to the track tonight. Concentrating on putting as much of my weight as possible on my legs/feet and as little as possible on the saddle and bars seemed to help reinforce the "more forward" position image for me (Thanks BD).

  18. #18
    You gonna eat that? Doohickie's Avatar
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    Maybe you're way beyond this point, but when I start to bounce I concentrate more on the bottom of the stroke. In my mind I try to wipe my foot on a mat as if I was trying to get some mud off my shoe when I'm at the bottom of the stroke, pulling the pedal through the bottom of the stroke. The result is pretty much immediate, and as soon as I go back to simply hammering down it gets choppy again.
    I stop for people / whose right of way I honor / but not for no one.



    Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."

  19. #19
    Senior Member LeeRoySD's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doohickie View Post
    Maybe you're way beyond this point, but when I start to bounce I concentrate more on the bottom of the stroke. In my mind I try to wipe my foot on a mat as if I was trying to get some mud off my shoe when I'm at the bottom of the stroke, pulling the pedal through the bottom of the stroke. The result is pretty much immediate, and as soon as I go back to simply hammering down it gets choppy again.
    I think that Carleton hit the nail on the head when he suggested that I might be too far back. A lot of my bounce (It actually feels like the majority of it) is more "forward and back" than up and down. This is one thing that the rollers INSTANTLY highlighted. I think that my rearward position has caused me to over-emphasize the "scraping" part of my stroke (and its correlating yank backwards on the bars). My weakest point seems to be the transition from the lift at the back of the stroke to getting over the top. I guess this goes to show that we all struggle in different areas of the stroke...
    Last edited by LeeRoySD; 08-01-12 at 11:50 AM. Reason: sp

  20. #20
    Senior Member kato7997's Avatar
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    The only time I ever had a bouncing issue was resolved by raising the saddle. Moving the saddle further back can have the same effect.

  21. #21
    Senior Member LeeRoySD's Avatar
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    The rollers and a more forward position really seem to be helping. My limiters on the track last night were my legs and lungs and not my choppy stroke for once. My max cadence was 133 and "felt" fairly smooth. On the rollers today, I got up into the 150's a couple times and actually touched 160 once. I know I have a long way to go, but I'm just really excited about it at the moment. I am absolutely amazed at how much just six or seven hours on the rollers and a few hours on the track have done... Now to go put in the next hundred... Thanks guys.

  22. #22
    Elitist carleton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LeeRoySD View Post
    The rollers and a more forward position really seem to be helping. My limiters on the track last night were my legs and lungs and not my choppy stroke for once. My max cadence was 133 and "felt" fairly smooth. On the rollers today, I got up into the 150's a couple times and actually touched 160 once. I know I have a long way to go, but I'm just really excited about it at the moment. I am absolutely amazed at how much just six or seven hours on the rollers and a few hours on the track have done... Now to go put in the next hundred... Thanks guys.
    That's awesome, man.

    Now that you are more comfortable, focus on being smooth and holding your abs tight. That will lock your butt in place and not let movement transfer through your torso. Basically, the body is a 2-part system when you are seated on the bike...above and below the torso.

    Also, as I'm sure that you've noticed by now, you have to be smooth when you are revving down from high RPMs, too. Otherwise, you'll get bucked off of the rollers.

    Don't put too much stock into max RPMs on the rollers. Max sustained RPMs are better. I can touch over 225 on rollers without using a fork stand (250 with a fork stand). But, the max I'll ever see on the track is 165-170RPM during warmup jumps and 155 during races with a small gear (88" or so).

    Generally speaking, nothing happens on the track under 100RPM. Strive to be able to "rest" at 100RPM and sprint for sustained periods above that then, again, rest back at 100RPM.

    You'll get to the point where you don't notice RPMs when you are on the bike. Your legs will take care of themselves and you'll be focused on either chasing or getting away.

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