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  1. #1
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    Mashing Vs Spinning

    I'm into my 3rd year of riding, and my first year of club-riding. I ride about 100 miles/week. I've gotten into the habit(?) of pushing a really big gear at a low cadence. I notice that I'm usually the only one in the group who does this. During sprints, I'll go 53x12, take my time to get up to speed, and then cruise past everyone else.

    I'm a solid 18-19 average mph rider on 3+ hour group rides and centuries. Obviously, I'd like to get faster and climb better.

    Whenever I try and match cadence with the other folks, I tire really quickly and wish I was pushing a bigger gear. My HR also skyrockets when I try and do low-gear/high cadence and keep my speed.

    Sooooooo, am I one of the lucky few who is better off mashing, or should I try and increase my cadence? I seem to fatigue a LOT quicker at a high cadence. Maybe I picked up the bad(?) idea of mashing early on?

    If it helps, I'm a fairly big guy and can resort to using a lot of power. I also seem to not be losing weight as quickly as others, I dont know if my pedaling style (anaerobic?) plays much of a factor in that department.

  2. #2
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    I did a recent cross country tour of 3000 miles in 25 biking days. There were a number of heavy guys and girls on that tour. One guy was over 250 lbs. BTW, I am 195 lbs. All the heavy bikers used slower cadence and so did some fitter bikers from Europa.
    That being said, at the end of the tour these bikers suffered from hurting feet, knees and other issues.
    I do my best to bike at 80 to 90 RPM. I was feeling great after 3000 miles so I am a believer in reasonably high cadence.
    I have biking friends who make money biking. One of these guys can sustain a cadence of 150 RPM. Watching him doing that is awesome. No chance to keep up with him with my 100 to 120 max.
    The moral of this story? One does what one can do.

  3. #3
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    Being able to ride at a higher cadence is a useful tool.

    Generally speaking, if you are riding at a lower cadence, you are using more of the strength of your muscles and taxing your aerobic system less. Higher cadence puts more load on your cardio system and less on your muscles.

    In other words, it's a tradeoff. Sometimes you want to conserve your leg strength for hills or later in the ride, and you can ride a higher cadence. Sometimes you want to use the leg strength now.

    Your experience just trying to ride higher cadence is the same thing that happened to me. The problem is that you're trying to increase your cadence while you're near your aerobic threshold, so when you try to ride faster, you quickly get out of breath.

    I suggest cadence intervals, otherwise known as "fast pedal". Find yourself a gentle grade - one to two percent. Start at your usual cadence, but in an easy gear. Increase your cadence slowly over about 30 seconds until you start to bounce, and then slow down until you no longer are bouncing. Keep that up for about a minute, then recover at a normal cadence for about two minutes. Repeat 3 or 4 times. If you get out of breath, you need to start in a lower gear.

    Do this once or twice a week for a few weeks, and you'll find that your cadence range has increased. I went from averaging about 90 RPM to being able to ride for hours at 100 RPM+.
    Eric

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    Read my cycling blog at http://riderx.info/blogs/riderx
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  4. #4
    Pat
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    People discuss this one from time to time. Gregg Lemond tended to ride at a low cadence, in the low 80s as I recall while Lance Armstrong rode a high cadence, low 100s or so. Obviously, both of these guys must have known what they were doing. I mean Lemond only won three tours. Are we going to say if he had learned to do a decent cadence then he might have gotten to be a good bike rider?

    I personally like to run a higher cadence.

    I would suggest that on slower rides and training rides that you practice running at a higher cadence then usual. There was an old coach I heard of who said "race your strengths and train your weaknesses". Training for a higher cadence might not help too much but you can try it. If it doesn't work, well you haven't lost anything have you?

    Pat

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    So I tried my usual 10-mile get-to-work quick ride using a higher cadence/lower gear this morning. A couple of observations from Garmin's training center

    I was :30/mile slower. However its tough to compare speeds because of traffic/school zones/red lights, etc.

    My HR wasn't as high as my mash-fests typically are but I did feel like I worked harder. A lot harder. Turning the pedals at a high RPM (I dont have a cadence sensor for the edge yet) seemed to be MUCH more work to get the same amount of speed.

    Here's my ride stats, including HR data for 2 very similar rides

    This morning's high-RPM-fest
    http://trail.motionbased.com/trail/e...kValue=1329992

    Last friday's personal best on this route
    http://trail.motionbased.com/trail/e...kValue=1296240

    Also, I did have to slow down and stop to take a phone call so that could have affected my speed.

    Finally, I'm having trouble dropping pounds considering how much I ride and the fact that I'm pretty careful about what I eat-Would a higher RPM lead to burning more calories over the same amount of time?

    Keep in mind that so far I'm finding 'spinning' to be much more of an effort than mashing. At times today I was jonesin' for my 12 or my 15 in the rear, but i stayed in the 25. I have a 53x19 and a 12x27.

  6. #6
    more ape than man timmhaan's Avatar
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    read this...it's very interesting:

    http://www.pezcyclingnews.com/defaul...lstory&id=4011

    i've cut and paste some of the more interesting parts:

    "
    In the end, it appears that you can be fairly similar in efficiency and performance between the range of 80 – 100 rpm, so a higher cadence may not be as big a deal as it seems.

    • If you do attempt to change your typical cadence, it will require a long-term commitment and cannot be a one-month or even possibly a one-year affair. Regardless of how efficient your current cadence is, your body’s system: neural, muscular, cardiovascular metabolic, etc. has become adapted to it through continous training. Therefore, it takes an enormous amount of time for all of your body’s system to re-adapt and become as efficient as possible at a new typical cadence. This is the fundamental difficulty of research into this area! "

  7. #7
    Faster but still slow slowandsteady's Avatar
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    Generally speaking it takes far longer to tire out your cardiovascular system than your muscles. Once the glycogen is gone from your muscles or there is a significant lactic acid buildup, you are done. But, on the other hand your heart will keep beating until you die. It was meant to go on and on and on and on. Your legs were not. Yes I am over simplifying this greatly to illustrate a point.

    If you are doing endurance rides, i.e. anything longer than 1 hour or so, you should be focusing on using your CV system more so than your legs. Doing a higher cadence saves your legs for when you really need them, like during a standing hill climb or a sprint.

    Yes, a higher cadence will seem very difficult and tiring at first, but it will pay off in the end. The best bet to increase your cadence is to do a sort of interval training where you push a higher cadence for a short time, then recover with your normal cadence. Gradually increase the frequency of those cadence bursts and the duration. Eventually you will just start doing that higher cadence as your norm.

    The other advantage of doing a higher cadence is that there is less strain on your knees as each pedal revolution at a given speed is less force at 100 rpms in a low gear vs. 70 rpms in a higher gear.
    "Ride lots." -- Eddy Merckx

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    Senior Member DannoXYZ's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nkodner
    Finally, I'm having trouble dropping pounds considering how much I ride and the fact that I'm pretty careful about what I eat-Would a higher RPM lead to burning more calories over the same amount of time?

    Keep in mind that so far I'm finding 'spinning' to be much more of an effort than mashing. At times today I was jonesin' for my 12 or my 15 in the rear, but i stayed in the 25. I have a 53x19 and a 12x27.
    Well, you'll find with more experience that higher-cadence will allow you to ride faster for a longer time-period. That is how you'll be able to burn more calories/hr, because you'll be able to ride 20mph for 4-5 hours at a time using low gears and spinning. Whereas mashing big gears will tend to wear out the muscles much faster, and the fatigue and cramping will have you stop after 2-3 hours at 18mph.

    And don't worry about spinning so fast, just shift down one lower gear for now, not the 2-3 that you're doing, that's much too drastic of a change and that's why it feels like such hard work for you. Part of the problem is the inefficient pedal-stroke, your leg on the downstroke actually has to waste energy in pushing up the opposite dead leg that's on the upstroke. Doing this up-down pumping even faster just wastes more energy faster and that's why you feel it's so hard to pedal fast.

    Instead, practice a smooth spinning circular pedal-motion instead. Practice riding one-legged for 20-30 seconds (downshift first), then the other leg. You'll learn the mental coordination needed to activate unused muscles. You'll end up more efficient with more of your leg muscle's force going into driving the bike forwards rather than pushing up dead weight. Once you're pedaling smoothly, the faster cadence becomes automatic, along with faster average speeds.

    If you have a HRM, you'll find that once you start focusing on smooth pedaling motions, your HR will decrease and speeds will increase... close to instantly.
    Last edited by DannoXYZ; 09-07-06 at 08:18 PM.

  9. #9
    Realist Greg180's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DannoXYZ
    Instead, practice a smooth spinning circular pedal-motion instead. Practice riding one-legged for 20-30 seconds (downshift first), then the other leg. You'll learn the mental coordination needed to activate unused muscles. You'll end up more efficient with more of your leg muscle's force going into driving the bike forwards rather than pushing up dead weight. Once you're pedaling smoothly, the faster cadence becomes automatic, along with faster average speeds.
    Danno, can you, (or anyone), describe the perfect pedal motion? Or will doing one legged riding only teach me the "perfect circle"?

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    Quote Originally Posted by DannoXYZ
    If you have a HRM, you'll find that once you start focusing on smooth pedaling motions, your HR will decrease and speeds will increase... close to instantly.
    Thanks Danno-If it helps, I also have a set of rollers to work on the pedal stroke. I haven't really used them much because the outdoor riding has been terrific this year.
    Last edited by nkodner; 09-07-06 at 04:04 PM.

  11. #11
    Just shy of 400W ranger5oh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Greg200
    Danno, can you, (or anyone), describe the perfect pedal motion? Or will doing one legged riding only teach me the "perfect circle"?
    Ahhhhh! No, don't do it! The one legged riding is not the "perfect circle". There are MANY documented studies showing that trying to pull up actually reduces your overall output. You should focus on pushing on the downstroke, and through the downstroke to about the 200 degree point. In fact, if you are really interested you should read this white paper "Physiological and biomechanical factors associated with elite endurance cycling performance", written by E. F. COYLE, M, E. FELTNER, S, A. KAUTZ,
    M. T. HAMILTON, S. J. MONTAIN, A. M. BAYLOR,
    L. D. ABRAHAM, and G. W. PETREK"

    You can find the article here : http://www.edb.utexas.edu/coyle/pdf%...performance%22

    Hope this helps ya.

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    60% of the time, it works everytime.

  12. #12
    Senior Member DannoXYZ's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Greg200
    Danno, can you, (or anyone), describe the perfect pedal motion? Or will doing one legged riding only teach me the "perfect circle"?
    I don't know if it's possible to have a "perfect" stroke, but more efficient is certainly possible in most cases.

    Imagine a pedal without a body, just a bare round spindle. You'll see these on a lot of beach-cruisers at universities. Imagine tying a rubber-band to this pedal-spindle and the other end to your big toe. Try to ride this bike around. You'll find that your feet always has to "lead" the pedal-spindle around. So the feet motion is always 90-degrees to the crankarm.

    That means when the pedal is at the bottom of the stroke, you feet should actually be moving directly backwards. A lot of people think of up-down motion, but you have to think circles. When the crankarm is horizontal, yes, your feet should be moving up & down, but by the time the pedal is at the bottom, you feet should have transitioned into forwards-backwards motion. A lot of people still push down on the pedal at the bottom of the stroke. That does nothing for spinning the crank, all that strong muscle force is just trying to stretch the crankarm. Since that's not gonna happen, this force goes into pushing your body upwards and leaning the bike over. That's why you feel and see the up/down bobbing motion of people's upper bodies who has an inefficient stroke. Also why spinning faster makes you feel like you're bouncing, because you are...

    Practice circles and the smoothness and cadence will be automatic. It's cause & effect. Just slamming it into lower-gears and spinning faster doesn't make you smooth or efficient. The goal really should be smooth round strokes, the "cause" is a smooth & round pedal-stroke and the side-effect or the "result" is a fast cadence automatically.

  13. #13
    Senior Member DannoXYZ's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ranger5oh
    In fact, if you are really interested you should read this white paper "Physiological and biomechanical factors associated with elite endurance cycling performance", written by E. F. COYLE, M, E. FELTNER, S, A. KAUTZ,
    M. T. HAMILTON, S. J. MONTAIN, A. M. BAYLOR,
    L. D. ABRAHAM, and G. W. PETREK"

    You can find the article here : http://www.edb.utexas.edu/coyle/pdf%...performance%22
    The thing is most riders aren't even close to being at the level of the Group2 state-championship racers used in that study, much less the Group1 national-level riders. Also the intensities used on that study are very high at sprint & interval-type workouts. Compared to a "masher", these guys are easily 10x smoother. You'll notice from the force-diagrams that there's very little negative torque on either sides of the crank, thus detracting very little force from the leg on the power-stroke.

    Even if they're not creating much torque by pulling up, they are at least pulling up enough to unweight the leg from the pedals; it's lifting its own weight and not requiring an upward-push by the opposite leg. If you can ride one-legged, you'll know that each leg is at least carrying its own weight and not sucking power from the other side. In contrast, mashers here will require substantial help from the opposite leg on the upstroke.

    Your assertion that mashers don't have to work on their pedal strokes at all because they have the same pedal-stroke as racers with 5+ years of experience makes assumptions that we don't have data on. Such as the pedal-force profiles of people on this board. The data that we can compare is perhaps max-RPM spinning rates. I'm pretty sure any of those state- or national-champ riders that can do a 40km TT in 51-minutes can probably spin at 130-150 easily. Mashers here have problems reaching 80-90rpms. This obviously shows that their pedal-strokes aren't as smooth as the national-class riders and can use some improvement.
    Last edited by DannoXYZ; 09-08-06 at 12:35 PM.

  14. #14
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    Ok here's an update, I took my usual 22M ride home yesterday and made an effort to use a lower gear than I typically do. I didn't allow myself anything higher than 53x21. I dont (yet) have a cadence meter but I was definitely spinning faster than I typically do. I tried to keep it at 53x24 but I was bouncing around a lot, so the 21 gave me the best chance at staying smooth.

    And here's the kicker-I was more consistent, didn't have any 'valleys' in terms of my effort, and my overall ride time/performance was consistent with my mashing efforts.

    I know a lot of things are at play such as wind, traffic, etc but things went pretty well. I'm going to put some time into this and see what kind of a difference it makes.

    Thanks for everyone's feedback and input.

    Ride data can be found at

    http://trail.motionbased.com/trail/e...kValue=1332816

  15. #15
    ncr
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    Quote Originally Posted by DannoXYZ
    I don't know if it's possible to have a "perfect" stroke, but more efficient is certainly possible in most cases.

    The perfect pedal stroke does exist and involves a completely different power generation and linear application technique which only two people in the world have ever been aware of. What you are referring to by smoothness is a non jerky pedalling action, while smooth power application is a horse of a very different colour. Smooth power application is the application of max power in such a way that almost the same upper chain tension between the chainwheel and sprocket will always be there. It is done by applying the same constant max power with each leg to the pedals through the entire 180 degrees (only) of the pedal stroke between 11 and 5 o'clock, which when both legs are taken into account gives 360 degrees of the smoothest max power application . Pedalling circles can never give smooth power application as there will always be the weaker or non power application in the dead spot area between 11 and 1 o'c. That is why the masher who concentrates only on the most powerful area of the stroke will always be more powerful than the circular pedaller, he will not have smooth pedalling but he will have an earlier start and later finish to his downstroke, which for mashers and circular pedallers is their main power application area.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nkodner
    So I tried my usual 10-mile get-to-work quick ride using a higher cadence/lower gear this morning. A couple of observations from Garmin's training center

    I was :30/mile slower. However its tough to compare speeds because of traffic/school zones/red lights, etc.

    My HR wasn't as high as my mash-fests typically are but I did feel like I worked harder. A lot harder. Turning the pedals at a high RPM (I dont have a cadence sensor for the edge yet) seemed to be MUCH more work to get the same amount of speed.

    Here's my ride stats, including HR data for 2 very similar rides

    This morning's high-RPM-fest
    http://trail.motionbased.com/trail/e...kValue=1329992

    Last friday's personal best on this route
    http://trail.motionbased.com/trail/e...kValue=1296240

    Also, I did have to slow down and stop to take a phone call so that could have affected my speed.

    Finally, I'm having trouble dropping pounds considering how much I ride and the fact that I'm pretty careful about what I eat-Would a higher RPM lead to burning more calories over the same amount of time?

    Keep in mind that so far I'm finding 'spinning' to be much more of an effort than mashing. At times today I was jonesin' for my 12 or my 15 in the rear, but i stayed in the 25. I have a 53x19 and a 12x27.

    Bear in mind that the END goal is to be able to spin the higher cadence....in the higher gear. If you are a higher cadence rider it doesn't necessarily mean that you always use a lower gear. You will have to start that way and develop your cadence and your power to be able to eventually use higher and higher gears.

    Higher RPM traditionally is associated with aerobic conditioning. While I personally don't buy into the whole low intensity workout deal....it might be the change that your body needs to trigger continuing weight loss. If you had good success with your low cadence work your body may have adapted to those demands? I think the ideal would be to mix the two...but unfortunately what works for one will not work for all and you will likely get a million different answers on here.....so mix it up and try what works for you. Lance is Lance...Greg is Greg....and you are you.

  17. #17
    Senior Member johnnygofaster's Avatar
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    I ran for 10 years before starting cycling (and holy cow is running cheaper). I tend to spin at a pace similar to my running stride... maybe a bit faster: 93-98. Works great for me. I feel fresh for a long time.

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