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Using the full crank cycle - new muscle groups

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Using the full crank cycle - new muscle groups

Old 08-06-15, 06:10 AM
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Using the full crank cycle - new muscle groups

I had the finest ride yesterday on my 1980 Nishiki International - 57 miles RT from Oaks, PA to the South Street bridge. Perfect weather. Found a quiet, shady, but well hidden spot on Venice Island to eat my lunch, enjoy the breeze and watch the "Sure kill River" slowly amble by. The Intl was a joy to ride and let glisten in the sun. And I realized something new.

I've been dealing with a bit of medial tendonitis on my left knee this summer. Not too bad but I'm working to keep it a minor issue. I have noticed that its from mashing too much. So, aside from stretching, rest, heat, and dropping down a gear, I've been much more focused on using the whole pedal stroke.

Despite what the real cyclists say, I think of the pedal cycle as three phased: the mashing phase (12:00 to about 5:00 on the dial), the boot scraping phase (5:00 to around 8:00) and the lifting phase (8:00 to 12:00 high). I've known all this for years but, truely, I've mostly just mashed them pedals. BTW: I'm riding quill pedals, cages and straps. Set properly they work out just great for all this. No clipped in equipment needed.

Now, needing to mitigate the impacts of mashing, I've been focusing on the other two phases. I'd start out doing a minute or two scraping or a minute or two lifting then loose focus and back to mashing. I've been trying though and yesterday I noticed that I'm getting much better. I can go several minutes focused on phase 2 or 3, which also eases the pressure on my knee. And I'm faster. AND whole muscle groups now ache that never ached before. That muscle ache tells me that this must be good for me. I expect that soon nuff I'll quit thinking about 3 phases and they will all just flow together to continuous use. Progress, eh?

Had to guzzle the tonic water last night though to stave off the cramps. Those muscles doth protest.
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Old 08-06-15, 09:29 AM
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Great. I've been working to even out the power/pedal strokes as well. Rollers during the winter along with playing on ice/the loose stuff on the rigid MTB, now focusing on not mashing while on (or off) the road. I had about a half-week off the bike up until yesterday due to a string of commitments. Taking a pause helps to realize progress when stepping back on. I'm really focusing on drawing power from the other groups for the short hills (no downshift) and other power surges. I've noticed there's a certain feeling when you start getting it - less effort, lighter on the pedals, more evenness, and more speed. A joy.

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Old 08-06-15, 09:44 AM
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A few years back I worked on the 3 phases during winter training rides. The biggest benefit of the technique is the unloading of the heavy foot from the upstroke. Hillclimbs greatly benefit.
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Old 08-06-15, 09:59 AM
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I use to work on this a lot. I even went as far as riding using only one leg, that method gets you use to doing the push pull stroke. Now several years later it's a habit. I will benefit doing this type of pedaling of not having any knee problems. Maybe not but I think so.
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Old 08-06-15, 10:04 AM
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Been doing the same thing! No motivation like pain! Anyway, I don't have the pain motivation but just started trying different approaches. I too have been focused on the 12:30 to 5:30 stroke. The last couple of rides I decided to apply force through out the stroke on hills (slight) using more ankle in the stroke for the transitions while sitting. Big difference and satisfaction along with recognition that more exercise is needed.

With the process of getting my legs under me this year, I have been able to transition more to accelerating by standing and kicking. Adding the option of maximum rotational force is a great discovery! I feel like I am catching up with me when I was 20!
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Old 08-06-15, 10:13 AM
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First a comment on the tendon pain. There was no mention of shoe type and weather straps and clips, cleats or "clipless" used.
All of those in my experience can play a roll, leaving out cleat adjustment. Saddle height also, more often than not, lowering it a bit (even temporarily) changes much for the better.
Have someone you know that would understand, watch your knees from behind. Often I come up to a guy whom I see riding along (with clipless pedals it seems always) with their knees moving in and out as they pedal, when we get to a stoplight I ask how the pain in that leg is doing, they are surprised. I am not. Folk with flat feet are going to have trouble, but that is a different issue, you can see that at the ankle.
Avoid tennis shoes to ride with save for jaunts to the coffeehouse. They allow your foot to deform around the pedal, not good.

I recently have been encouraging a friend to get some decent cycling shoes and use SPD cleats, their bike has those two sided pedals.
It really requires after to learn to pedal circles, I forget it is a decades old habit for me but really does use more muscle groups more effectively and makes climbing so much easier. This was a challenge to grasp for them but I think they are ready as they see me climbing easier and can accelerate on a climb with little cost.
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Old 08-06-15, 10:33 AM
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I do two things when I'm thinking about it. (I admit that I lapse back to mashing as well. Still requires a bit of focus.)
  1. Try to push horizontally at the top of the stroke (10-2) and pull horizontally at the bottom of the stroke (5-9). The front quadrant (2-5) pretty much takes care of itself, especially for us born mashers.
  2. Try to carry more of my weight on my bum, and keep it steady.
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Old 08-06-15, 11:53 AM
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Originally Posted by sloar View Post
I use to work on this a lot. I even went as far as riding using only one leg, that method gets you use to doing the push pull stroke.
Yes, I also do one legged riding at the end of my 25 minutes on the trainer, thru the winter. On my mag trainer I get immediate feedback if I'm not getting a smooth power stroke allaway around - the chain rattles. Great feedback.

As I said in the OP, I'm riding quill pedals, toe cages and leather straps on all the bikes. I keep the straps just tight enough to be able to use the whole crank cycle but just loose enough that I can pull out at a seconds notice. I am also able to turn my foot a bit if needed. Yup, if I'm not straight on the pedal that tendon will tell me. I also wear indoor soccer shoes to ride in - nice close fit and stiff soles with and added ABS insole in each for added stiffness. Easy to walk and drive in too.

I should try fiddling with saddle height a bit. BTW; this is the first year for this wee pain. Nothing has changed from past years - fit, size, gear, bikes, tires, mileage. All the same. I think this might just my be pain of the year (last year was a sore hand, strained bicept the year before). As I push on to 64 yrs old I'm getting pretty expert at the getting older thing.

Interesting that I'm not the only one predisposed to just mashing. It is good that this has all finally motivated me to work the whole power stroke.
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Old 08-06-15, 11:57 AM
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There's been a lot of analyis lately on whether being tied to a pedal (clips and straps or clipless systems), with professional cyclists there is no statistical difference in efficiency, and we almost never pull up on our stroke. Yet I do remember riding on rollers in my youth and working on my pedal stroke, then feeling a lot more in control on my bike and feeling more comfortable afterwards. Especially when riding rollers, you have to concentrate on going very straight, and eliminating any side to side motion. I remember riding on rollers, then going out on rides and being able to "stay on the white line" for long periods of time-more efficient, and a shorter route than weaving back and forth, even if only a bit.

I think this is an instance of "both things are equally true".

It's difficult to work on a nice, round pedal stroke when you're not clipped in, IMO. The cyclist with a nice, smooth, round stroke is putting less stress on any giving part of pedalling. Take the clips off and just ride on a platform pedal, you still ride those nice, round, smooth strokes.

As far as shoes, a good, large platform pedal will allow you to ride with just about any shoe with no pain or consequences. Riding on an SPD or even a vintage quill type pedal without a stiffer sole to protect your foot. Large platform pedals can be ridden on without deforming your foot around the pedal. One of my best friends has been riding this way for a couple of decades. He wears a size 14 shoe, and finds that shoes made for discus throwing are best for him. They've pretty flexible, and have absolutely no tread to get caught on the pedal. I've ridden and toured with him, can't really see any advantage over his style over mine. He's never fallen off his bike at low speed because he was clipped in, so there's that.

I've been riding for several decades, my early years were spent learning the same techniques and training that are esposed above, so I have a huge amount of muscle memory. I wonder if I'd have any advantage today if I'd learned on large platform shoes. That would be a great experiment-take someone who has only ridden with platform shoes, but rides often, then train them to make circles, and see if efficiency increases.

As far as pain goes, riding on large platform pedals allows the leg to follow a natural motion, so there's only seat height and crank length to play with, then cadence. I'm not so sure that locking one's legs into a certain position is the key-it's entirely possible that people that have pain with platform pedals just are riding too hard or too long.

I stopped trying to tell people who are getting into riding for fun, exercise, touring, whatever that being tied to your bike through the pedals is a better way to ride. I tell 'em now to forego clipless pedals until they've been riding awhile, then make a decision. Bike racers and triathletes will always go with with "the pros" are doing, I'm not going to tell them otherwise.

Me? I've been riding locked in, first with toe clips and straps, then when clipless became available, a succession of pedals until I settled on SPD many years ago, always with float. The only couple of advantages I see are the ability to readily "bunny hop", and I also feel I have a bit more control of the bike when I'm locked in, but that could just be my mind at work.

So, yeah, using the full crank cycle probably gives you a more efficient stroke, IMO. I'm guessing being clipped in helps do that-you can exaggerate the movement to train the muscles in a way that you can't with platforms.
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Old 08-06-15, 12:21 PM
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Rollers are THE ANSWER! They force a smooth style or the kick one off!
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Old 08-06-15, 12:50 PM
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Originally Posted by smontanaro View Post
I do two things when I'm thinking about it. (I admit that I lapse back to mashing as well. Still requires a bit of focus.)
  1. Try to push horizontally at the top of the stroke (10-2) and pull horizontally at the bottom of the stroke (5-9). The front quadrant (2-5) pretty much takes care of itself, especially for us born mashers.
  2. Try to carry more of my weight on my bum, and keep it steady.
I try hard to train myself to pedal this way.
I ride with the big grippy mtb pedals.

But sometimes when I'm tried or lazy I feel myself going back to mashing.

I'm one of the few that believes the upstroke doesn't really happen.
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Old 08-06-15, 12:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Rocky Gravol View Post
I'm one of the few that believes the upstroke doesn't really happen.
What goes down must go up to go down again.
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Old 08-06-15, 12:59 PM
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Originally Posted by SJX426 View Post
What goes down must go up to go down again.
There's always one wise guy.
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Old 08-06-15, 01:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Rocky Gravol View Post

I'm one of the few that believes the upstroke doesn't really happen.
Ah, but remember what Admiral Grace Hopper said.

the myth of the upstroke:

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Old 08-06-15, 01:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Rocky Gravol View Post
There's always one wise guy.
Thank you! I do resemble that remark!
@gugie that looks like the power cycle of a beach cruising individual. I only know what I experience and I am glad my bike shoes all the features needed to hold my foot in the shoe at every rotational position in the cycle, and it is a cycle not a linear path.
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Old 08-06-15, 01:29 PM
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the bike fitter at the shop I worked on encouraged you to think about two things. pushing across the top and pulling across the bottom, you will put the hammer down without thinking about it and the goal is simply to even things out which helps muscle recovery and endurance. scrap the mud off he said. Pulling up does almost nothing apparently except increase fatigue. He also suggested one leg pedaling to increase pedaling efficiency. it is incredibly difficult to get rid of that dead spot and when you try to pedal with one foot it is hard to keep the tension on the DT all the way around.
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Old 08-06-15, 01:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Prowler View Post
I've been much more focused on using the whole pedal stroke.
When just plootering about on a bicycle pedaling style don't matter much, if at all.

Cycling however is a sport where pedaling dynamics does matter if one is challenging terrain, time and other riders.
The Old School method for developing a powerful high cadence pedaling style with both grunt and spin on demand is to ride a Fixed Gear.

Spending seat time building base miles in a ~70GI will force adaptation to a smooth balanced pedaling style.
Riding against headwinds and climbing moderate hills for smooth power and with the wind and on descents for supplesse and spin builds character and good pedaling style.

On a FG you pedal the bike and it pedals you right back: Fair is fair.

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Old 08-06-15, 02:02 PM
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Yes, riding single speed, though not fixed, has helped as well. Just keep pedaling.
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Old 08-06-15, 02:08 PM
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Concentrated Upstroke power is useful for short durations. What I feel does get applied almost universally without thought after a bit of practice is pushing over the top and pulling back beyond the bottom of the stroke, to achieve that you really need cleats. A bare pedal just won't let you do that.
Toe clips and straps even with tennis shoes do help, but as I wrote earlier have other consequences.
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Old 08-06-15, 02:29 PM
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Originally Posted by gugie View Post
Ah, but remember what Admiral Grace Hopper said.
Any mention of Admiral Hopper will brighten my day, so thank you.

@Prowler, how old are you? I'm 54 and have knee pain, and I haven't investigated it very far yet. I suspect I've been mashing too much. Just last week, I resolved to spin faster and am using lower gears. The trouble is that I don't have a good feedback loop. I don't have knee pain on the bike. A certain minimum amount of cycling lessens my knee pain.

On a doctor's recommendation, I'm taking glucosamine/chondroitin supplement pills every day. They seem to be helping. My greatest difficulty is in descending stairs.
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Old 08-06-15, 03:02 PM
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Originally Posted by SJX426 View Post
@gugie that looks like the power cycle of a beach cruising individual.
Actually, it's the power cycle of a professional cyclist. Click on the picture for the article...
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Old 08-06-15, 03:11 PM
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Originally Posted by noglider View Post
My greatest difficulty is in descending stairs.
Even on a full suspension MTB I've found descending stairs difficult, particularly indoors.

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Old 08-06-15, 03:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Bandera View Post
When just plootering about on a bicycle pedaling style don't matter much, if at all.

Cycling however is a sport where pedaling dynamics does matter if one is challenging terrain, time and other riders.
The Old School method for developing a powerful high cadence pedaling style with both grunt and spin on demand is to ride a Fixed Gear.

Spending seat time building base miles in a ~70GI will force adaptation to a smooth balanced pedaling style.
Riding against headwinds and climbing moderate hills for smooth power and with the wind and on descents for supplesse and spin builds character and good pedaling style.

On a FG you pedal the bike and it pedals you right back: Fair is fair.

-Bandera
Fixed gear bikes used to be for late winter riding to develop our stroke, just as you describe.

Now you wear tight pants and call them fixies. And most of the time they're freewheeled, single geared bikes, but the yuts still call 'em what they wanna call 'em...

For most, however, cycling is just for fun, not a sport.
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Old 08-06-15, 06:13 PM
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+1

At 50ish, I developed tendon related knee pain and have discovered that riding a fixed gear bike correctly improved my pedaling technique, reduced/ eliminated the knee pain and I think has made me a stronger rider, plus it's a lot of fun.

In the beginning, I did strain some tendons & muscles but learned quickly as to avoid repeating the same error.

The coolest part is moving from fixed to freewheel. Muscle memory keeps you spinning smoothly mile after mile.
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Old 08-06-15, 08:32 PM
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I too enjoy riding fixed. Didn't start until I was 60 tho...
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