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Thread: pedaling style

  1. #1
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    pedaling style

    Hi all, I'm a relatively new cyclist and have just recently begun taking rides seriously. I have noticed that there seems to be a discrepancy between my style of pedaling and other people I see on the road.

    Let me start with a brief background on myself... I'm more of a sprinter. In high school football, I used to be able to spring 35+ yards each snap. I would rest as we reset and I would be able to do it over and over, the entire game. Now, bad habit or not, I've kinda translated this into cycling... I pedal hard for 8-10 strokes, and then coast for a few seconds. I guess I need that sort of rest for my muscles to recover... and the results aren't too shabbly. I can sustain low 20mph on flats for a good while.

    The problem is that when I have to do ascents, I can't coast and rest my legs. I quickly lose stamina and basically end up almost crawling uphill (7mph)...

    I'm wondering if I need to change my pedaling style or if this is something I can work on. I see people pedal continuously on flats and wonder if that's what I have to end up doing. Currently on flats, if I pedal continuously, I will get tired.

    I've only been cycling about a year now, and only started to get serious the last few months, so I don't think a fundamental change is going to be too detrimental... but I'd like to know what to do... thanks.

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    I'm a fan of doing whatever works for you, but it seems that you are saying what you're doing isn't working. I can definitely see that your technique wouldn't work well on climbs or into a headwind. In order to be the most efficient, you want your speed and cadence to be as constant as possible.

    If you are having trouble with continuous pedaling, you might be pushing too hard when you do pedal. I would try to focus on pedaling constantly and tone down the intensity a bit, at least while you adapt to the constant pedaling. Of course, you can take the occasional break, but it really should only be on a descent where pedaling isn't helping you out much at all.

  3. #3
    Senior Member z415's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chadteck View Post
    I'm a fan of doing whatever works for you
    +1.

    Generally novice riders pedal on a harder gear at a lower rpm (cadence) and more experienced riders pedal on an easier gear at a higher cadence. Just try until you get something that works for you.

    As for ascents, I would suggest learning to change your pace. On anything long, I go easy and spin fast then gear up two and get out of saddle for a several strokes.

    Also learning a good pedal stroke will help.

    All this takes time to develop, but eventually you'll figure out what is best for you.

    As more concrete advice, I would say go to one easier gear than you were used to before and work your way down.
    Falling is learning...[SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]...learn to not fall in a box.
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    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    It's your muscle type and how you've trained them. I've forgotten pretty much everything I learned about the technical details so here goes nothing.

    We don't really have "fast twitch" muscle fibers and "slow twitch" muscle fibers, but its a useful fantasy. You have great fast twitch, but you're just using them and not using your slow twitch. You have to force the slow twitch to pick up the load by exhausting the fast twitch. In about seven minutes of continuous high output, your fast twitch fibers will be toast, and the vast majority of the load will be picked up by your slow twitch.

    So that's what you have to do. Every ride. Force yourself to pedal hard, continuously. Yes, you'll get exhausted. Keep going. Just keep it up. It'll hurt. Keep it up. You need to get to where you can pedal hard for an hour without any break at all. It might take a couple of years to get the adaptation that good. Start with 15 minutes, and gradually work up. 15 minutes hardish, then 15 minutes continuous but easy, then 15 minutes hard again, then 15 minutes easy, then done. Like that.

    Don't know how often you can do this, depends on your recovery ability. If you feel you're getting weaker instead of stronger, you need to take more easy days. An easy day is when you ride continuously, but well below any hint of pain.

    Pro sprinters have to ride 200k at a fast pace before they get their 10 seconds. That's the deal. You're going to get a lot faster.

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    hey thanks for the responses... Yeah I know what I'm doing isn't working, at least not as well as I would like. I guess I agree with CFBoy in that I'm just using what I'm trained with. Up until this level, I didn't see a need to change anything because what I've been doing has been working well enough. And if it is true that i'm only using fast-twitch muscles, and that my slow twitch muscles haven't been develeoped, I guess I know what I have to do.

    I wish I could get out more often and exercise past my limits, but this usually only happens on weekends (and only when I have free weekends). I'm not much of an early person, and after work there isn't much time... so I'm planning on investing in two things mentioned in the posts above...

    1) Cadence meter. I have a garmin gps watch I used for marathon training. Fortunately, it has a cadence attachment I can get on ebay pretty cheaply. I'll be able to monitor my cadence and adjust accordingly

    2) Resistance trainer. I'm going to start looking for something that I can use on weekdays after work. Hopefully I can dial in hills and work my slow twitch muscles while i'm at it...

  6. #6
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ketchup318 View Post
    I've kinda translated this into cycling... I pedal hard for 8-10 strokes, and then coast for a few seconds. I guess I need that sort of rest for my muscles to recover... and the results aren't too shabbly. I can sustain low 20mph on flats for a good while.

    The problem is that when I have to do ascents, I can't coast and rest my legs. I quickly lose stamina and basically end up almost crawling uphill (7mph)...

    I'm wondering if I need to change my pedaling style or if this is something I can work on. I see people pedal continuously on flats and wonder if that's what I have to end up doing. Currently on flats, if I pedal continuously, I will get tired.

    If you've ever ridden with someone who rides like this, it can drive you crazy after a while! Especially if they've got a noisy drivetrain.

    Try shifting into a gear that will allow you to keep pedalling relatively consistently all the time, and keep your cadence somewhere between 85 and 100 ... probably closer to the 85 for now.

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    Senior Member rodrigaj's Avatar
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    My FD cable broke several days ago and I was forced to pedal the way you describe your pedaling technique; I had to pedal like crazy and then coast. Looking at my stats after the ride, my heart beat dropped to a zone 1-2 compared to a zone 3-4 before the break. Contrary to what you would expect, when I got home I felt exhausted. The inconsistent pattern of cadence never allowed my cardio/pulminary system to get into a nice aerobic rhythm.

    It took me about 2 years to develop a good cadence, but it really is worth it. Yesterday I did a metric century and my average cadence was 90 RPM. The heat index was around 100degF. Part of the reason that I felt quite comfortable for the duration of the ride was because I was able to get the heart and lungs working efficiently with the steady cadence. The engine just needed 6L of water, 4 electrolyte pills and 3 flasks of perpetuem.

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    The longer I've been riding the less I use the gears. I think because my legs are stronger now. When I do shift gears I anticipate the gear I'm going to need for the grade I'm going to ascend. If you have a good cadence going and you shift into the wrong gear it will mess up your cadence and make you pedal twice as fast, resulting in wasted energy.

    I usually ride 12 mi. a day and 1/2 of it is downhill. The first 6mi. is a lot of fun, but on the way back it's all uphill. It gradually gets steeper (30%?), so it's a good way to get my legs, heart and gearing in rhythm. When I first started riding again I kept shifting to a lower gear because I didn't have any leg strength, but the longer I've been riding, I don't have to shift as much beacause my legs are stronger.

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    Senior Member rodrigaj's Avatar
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    Just to be clear. When I was referring to a steady cadence, I do it by shifting.

    I have a triple FD and I use all three gears. Literally, I shift all the time.
    Last edited by rodrigaj; 06-24-09 at 06:23 AM. Reason: typo

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    I've been told that I need to pay closer attention to my cadence. And for the most part I tend to monitor it. On flats I tend to be able to keep a 80-90 cadence (although only in intervals like i mention earlier). On hills, although I tend to keep the same cadence, I guess my legs aren't strong enough. I tend to cycle through the gears pretty quickly and find myself on the lowest gear most of the time.

    I guess just time and practice is all that I need. I guess there's no wonder-pill or wonder-exercise that will get me in tip top shape in a month or two... From most of the responses it sounds like it'll take a bit of time to get into shape.

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    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    If you have money, get a set of rollers which incorporate a resistance unit instead of a trainer. Or just get an ordinary set of rollers. Performance has perfectly good ones for cheap. Nothing like rollers to smooth up your spin! Plus it's not so frigging boring.

  12. #12
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    I don't know how fast and slow-twitch fibers are a fantasy. They actually do have very distinct physiological differences that give them their characteristics. They are recruited by different stimuli (proprioception is important). you don't really bring one in by tiring the other.

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    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ketchup318 View Post
    I guess just time and practice is all that I need. I guess there's no wonder-pill or wonder-exercise that will get me in tip top shape in a month or two... From most of the responses it sounds like it'll take a bit of time to get into shape.
    Yep!

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    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tadawdy View Post
    I don't know how fast and slow-twitch fibers are a fantasy. They actually do have very distinct physiological differences that give them their characteristics. They are recruited by different stimuli (proprioception is important). you don't really bring one in by tiring the other.
    If you're a research exercise physiologist maybe you can help me out here. I read an article by one, who said that human muscle biopsies don't show red, white, and pink muscle cells like in a chicken. Humans are generalists, and all our muscle cells look pretty much alike. He claimed that we have a black box view of muscle activity and that what goes on in there that looks like fiber type from outside the box may be due to nerve impulses or feedback loops that we don't understand.

    However that may be, a sprinter can become a better climber by doing more long climbs, and a climber can become a better sprinter by spending more time in the gym and more time doing sprinting drills. But when you gain in one specialty, you lose a little in another.

    AFAIK at this time, the exact mechanism is not known, but it seems useful to think about it as strengthening or tiring a particular fiber type.

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    you still aren't in bike shape. when you want to stop pedaling, keep going. you'll quickly learn that maybe you are going too hard at first, and you'll eventually find a rhythm. riding a bike efficiently takes practice.

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    Quote Originally Posted by illwafer View Post
    you still aren't in bike shape. when you want to stop pedaling, keep going. you'll quickly learn that maybe you are going too hard at first, and you'll eventually find a rhythm. riding a bike efficiently takes practice.
    well said...i thought i was doing better than i actually was until i strapped on the old cadence sensor. been trying to keep it at or around 90 and focusing less on what mph i averaged. i used to be so excited when i pulled the ride data off of my garmin and saw max speeds of 30+ mph...now when I see average cadence of 78, it reminds me to push a little harder next time.

    pedal pedal pedal

  17. #17
    Senior Member Richard Cranium's Avatar
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    I guess just time and practice is all that I need. I guess there's no wonder-pill or wonder-exercise that will get me in tip top shape in a month or two...
    Some of the previous comments in this thread are at the least confusing - and at the most just plain wrong and inaccurate.

    I can hardly understand your pedaling problems from the content of your posts. But as near as I can tell, you simply don't understand gear ratio selection and the need to pace your pedaling cadence at a rate to can sustain continuously.

    I suggest you try a couple of training rides, where you make the goal of the ride to simply keep moving your legs and never coasting. After you become better at shifting to gears to keep your legs moving - you can move onto refining your pedal stroke and increasing the RPM of your cadence.

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    thanks for all the replies... I got myself a kurt kinetic trainer and a cadence meter. I also grabbed a few Spinerval DVDs really really cheap from ebay...

    Based on the training now and the comments, it would seem that I would pushing myself too hard at a lower cadence (and sometimes using too low a gear and going over 120rpm). And to make matters worse, I'm probably not as fit on a bike as I think i am. I'm switching from marathon running to biking (due to a damaged right knee). I was doing really well running, but biking is a whole new set of muscles...

    I'm now practicing to pedal at a decent cadence. I'm also learning when and where to pedal harder... All in all, it's been a great learning experience so far. One thing I've noticed though, riding on a trainer (w/ training video) is less fun, but a lot more focused than riding on the road...

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    I'm relatively new to riding also with this being my second full yr. of riding. I did some reading here and elsewhere about spinning, pedaling, etc. I rarely stop pedaling unless coasting downhill and even then, I tend to shift to a higher gear, keep the rpm's up and go faster. In my opinion, you'll eventually settle in to a cadence that is good for you.

    I was always looking at my cadence and worked to keep it between 85 - 100. I can now spin at 100 - 105 fairly comfortably. Usually though when I haven't looked at my cadence in some time and then look down I'll be around the 92 - 95 range. Less and I begin to feel like I'm mashing a bit and more feels like I'm not putting any force into the pedals at all.

    I do try to incorporate some low candence (trying to build some power) drills and also some high speed drills into some training rides.

    Those are my rookie opinions.

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    Senior Member frymaster's Avatar
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    and get foot retention.... especially on hills, it makes a huge difference.
    "Let's try and keep the constructive answers in the commuting forum." --SheistyMike

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