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Hills: Mash or Spin?

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Hills: Mash or Spin?

Old 06-20-20, 12:22 AM
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OldBrokeReCycle
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Hills: Mash or Spin?

I'm 67; I am a non-racer, have been a tourer, commuter, and now exclusively recreational rider. I've got 50% or so lung capacity due to 40+ years of Bad Life Choices(TM). I gave up electronics when the power meter wouldn't stop lauging.
But I still ride 20+ miles 3-5 times a week.
Lately, I've been riding my version of hills, +- 1500 ft in 20 miles. It's not easy, because I go into COPD hypoxia if I push too hard, hard being spin too much or mash too hard. Either way, I'm climbing at 5 or 6 mph up not too steep (5-10% [?]) grades.
It seems to me that mashing (39/30+ at really low cadence) is easier than spinning (30/30+ at a less-low cadence). High-cadence being maybe 70+ rpm, which I can do pretty easily (53/20+) on the flats at 12-14 mph. I am now no longer afraid of these 20 mile 1500 ft rides.
I would like to go on longer rides (30+ miles).
What do you think? Is mash or spin the better "training" strategy?
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Old 06-20-20, 01:44 AM
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Both, if it's a long Hill, I will alternate between sitting in the saddle and spinning, and getting out of the saddle, putting it in a bigger gear and cranking.
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Old 06-20-20, 01:54 AM
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I'm 69 and have a heart condition. Doc tells me to keep my heart rate under 140 and I do exactly that. I spin mostly, sometimes mash, and sometimes stand and mash but my heart rate dictates everything. If I get down to 3mph with a high heart rate, I'm walking .

Seems to me a combination of spinning and mashing might work best. Mashing could build up leg muscles to make climbing more efficient, and spinning lets your legs "rest" while working your cardio system.

Either way, pay attention to your doc and your body and keep riding. I'm impressed with your dedication to riding despite your medical issue. The real experts will be here any minute . . .
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Old 06-20-20, 04:03 AM
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Spin.
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Old 06-20-20, 04:13 AM
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The downside of mashing is the potential for knee problems:

https://www.roadbikerider.com/will-b...l-my-knees-d3/
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Old 06-20-20, 07:59 AM
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I start with a cadence that is comfortable. I will go up or down the cogs based on terrain and what my legs are telling me.
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Old 06-20-20, 09:51 AM
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Technically, if I have to "mash" I am not pedaling correctly. It is more about engaging the glutes out of the saddle and letting gravity work for me.
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Old 06-20-20, 09:58 AM
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Whatever is comfortable. The most important is that the pedals turn with low effort. How fast they turn doesn't matter.

Power = torque x rpm

Keep rpm low to keep power low and conserve energy to last longer.

Higher power = higher rate calories of burned = more carbs burned = lasts shorter.
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Old 06-20-20, 11:54 AM
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I do both. If the hill is long, I like to sit and granny up it, but if it is short, I tend to just stand up and power over it, knowing I can recover on the other side.
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Old 06-20-20, 12:30 PM
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Spin. The cadence range you give is appropriate for us duffers. A good rule for short rides is power up the short hills, whatever is fastest and spin the big hills. On long rides, spin all the hills. On long climbs, I stand for a bit every 10 minutes.
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Old 06-20-20, 12:45 PM
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A lot of it depends on your gearing. Bottom gear on most of my road bikes is around 43-45 gear-inches (45/28, 42/26, or 38/23)); on the mountain bike, the middle ring gets me down to 37 gear-inches (40/28). I lean toward spinning (90-120 RPM) most of the time, but end up mashing when the grade gets too steep or when I have to slow down and have run out of gears. The only downside I can see to using a low gear is that I can start to lift the front wheel if I gear too low on a steep climb.
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Old 06-20-20, 01:03 PM
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Not sure if it was Sean Yates or Stephen Roche who was asked his secret to climbing well, stating “I put it in the big ring and spin”, or words to that effect.

I spin till I’m dead then I mash.
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Old 06-20-20, 01:27 PM
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There's some rule of thumb that says if your legs burn downshift (more spinny), if your lungs burn upshift (more mashy). Like all rules of thumb, take it with a grain of salt.

On the other hand, walking gives your butt a break.
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Old 06-20-20, 02:23 PM
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Is mash the same as grind? Or is it a word for being out of the saddle?
I've always used rhythm when cycling, 1,2,1,2 left/right leg at a certain tempo if the tempo speeds up I go up the gears if it slows down I go down. Never had a computer on the bike so have no idea how what my wattage is I just think it would take me away from enjoying the spin.
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Old 06-20-20, 03:58 PM
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To give a concrete example of what might work for the average person, I try to climb at about 78 rpm, somewhere in there, depending on if the exact gear matches the exact slope, so a few beats on either side of that are acceptable for me. Say 75-85. In my mid-50s, my lowest gear was 32 g.i. In my mid 70s, my lowest gear is 23 g.i. Yeah, we get slower as we age.

That gearing has enabled me to do 3000' climbs at a steady pace and to do 250 mile day rides with 15,000'. It's not a slow pace, just slower than really strong folks, about in the top 10% of my age group. Too many people gear too high and think a big cassette means you're weak.

It's too bad that triples have gone out of fashion. It seems that the more money one spends on a bike, the higher are the standard gears that it comes with. Seems like it ought to be the other way 'round, since the older we get, the more disposable income most of us have.
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Old 06-20-20, 07:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Steve B. View Post
Not sure if it was Sean Yates or Stephen Roche who was asked his secret to climbing well, stating “I put it in the big ring and spin”, or words to that effect..
Andy Hampsten said that but maybe he was quoting one of them.
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Old 06-20-20, 07:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post

It's too bad that triples have gone out of fashion. It seems that the more money one spends on a bike, the higher are the standard gears that it comes with. Seems like it ought to be the other way 'round, since the older we get, the more disposable income most of us have.
Modern compact doubles can be set up with 34x34 low gear. Campagnolo even has a 32x34 in the Chorus group, that's lower than anything I ever had on a triple.

I do have a 28x46 on my mountain bike and it's a one-by.
I like to spin but my main bike has 34x29 low and I'm 200 pounds so I end up doing some grinding.
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Old 06-20-20, 09:04 PM
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Originally Posted by big john View Post
Modern compact doubles can be set up with 34x34 low gear. Campagnolo even has a 32x34 in the Chorus group, that's lower than anything I ever had on a triple.

I do have a 28x46 on my mountain bike and it's a one-by.
I like to spin but my main bike has 34x29 low and I'm 200 pounds so I end up doing some grinding.
My C-Dale gravel bike came with a 46/30 crank and 11-34 11 spd cassette. That’s a 22 gear inch low which is almost as low as my touring triple. I could go lower as well with an 11-40 cassette. My triple 24/36/46 with a 9 spd. 11-34 has about 14 non repeating gears, the 2X has 15.
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Old 06-20-20, 09:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Steve B. View Post
My C-Dale gravel bike came with a 46/30 crank and 11-34 11 spd cassette. That’s a 22 gear inch low which is almost as low as my touring triple. I could go lower as well with an 11-40 cassette. My triple 24/36/46 with a 9 spd. 11-34 has about 14 non repeating gears, the 2X has 15.
I toured with a total load of 270 pounds, or so and I had a 28x28 7 speed with a triple. I could have used a lower gear at times.

Some people on the forum think triples are coming back.
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Old 06-21-20, 01:20 AM
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Last year I switched from spinning around 90-100 rpm to a more old school cadence of 60-75 rpm.

I no longer have the cardio for spinning to be efficient. I'm not racing consecutive days for three weeks. I'm not taking EPO, or blood doping. All the stuff that makes spinning more efficient for younger athletes in peak condition.

Slower cadence works for me. My heart rate stays lower. My legs are stronger. No injuries -- I stay within a reasonable effort. I'm not trying to grind a 52/13 gear up a climb. Depending on the bike my easiest climbing gear may be 42/28 or 39/28. Usually I'm in the 24 or 25 rear cog, even if I'm tired. But the 28 is nice to have after long, hot rides.

***

See this 2019 article .

Ideal cycling cadence: new evidence why amateurs shouldn’t pedal like Chris Froome

Scientists reveal more evidence of how pedalling a low gear at a high cadence could waste a cyclist's energy

"New experiments from the UK-Japan research collaboration have revealed one of the factors which makes that kind of pedalling wasteful.

“When the cyclists pedalled close to the ‘ventilatory threshold’ at 90rpm we were able to see the oxygen level in the thigh muscles had fallen, compared with lower cadences at the same exercise intensity,” says Formenti. “Participants’ heart rates increased by 15 per cent, yet their exercise efficiency actually decreased.”
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Old 06-21-20, 06:59 AM
  #21  
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Hills: Mash or Spin?
Originally Posted by OldBrokeReCycle View Post
I'm 67; I am a non-racer, have been a tourer, commuter, and now exclusively recreational rider. I've got 50% or so lung capacity due to 40+ years of Bad Life Choices(TM). I gave up electronics when the power meter wouldn't stop lauging.

.Either way, I'm climbing at 5 or 6 mph up not too steep (5-10% [?]) grades.

It seems to me that mashing (39/30+ at really low cadence) is easier than spinning (30/30+ at a less-low cadence). High-cadence being maybe 70+ rpm, which I can do pretty easily (53/20+) on the flats at 12-14 mph. I am now no longer afraid of these 20 mile 1500 ft rides.

I would like to go on longer rides (30+ miles).

What do you think? Is mash or spin the better "training" strategy?
Originally Posted by crtreedude View Post
I do both. If the hill is long, I like to sit and granny up it, but if it is short, I tend to just stand up and power over it, knowing I can recover on the other side.
Originally Posted by bruce19 View Post
I start with a cadence that is comfortable. I will go up or down the cogs based on terrain and what my legs are telling me.
FWIW, I have posted about riding on the moderate hills of Metro Boston.
Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
"Cadence"

I’m a 40+ year long cyclist and I ride mainly for fitness. My training tool is the Relative Perceived Exertion (RPE) Scale, and I use cadence to chose gears to maintain my desired exertion..
Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
This year though, I decided to go for speed (intensity), and I use the semi-quantitative, standardized, but personally relavant system of (Borg’s) Relative Perceived Exertion (RPE) (link).
Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
The RPE scale ranges from 6 to 17, with descriptions of the intensity. Multiply the RPE by 10 is the approximate heart rate. Jim's scale is the equivalent on a 0 to 100 scale, easier to think about:

RPE = 7, very, very light... Jim's scale = 20 to 30

RPE = 9, very light... Jim's scale = 30 to 40

11, fairly light...50 (my usual happy-go-lucky pace without thinking about it)

13, somewhat hard...60 (I have to focus to maintain)

15, hard...70 (I start breathing hard at about 30 seconds)

17, very hard (lactate threshold; breakpoint between hard but steady breathing and labored with gasping)...

18, 80 (my predicted max HR)

19, very, very hard...90 to 100.
My basic training is to ride at my RPE of 50% for six miles to warm up, then cruise at an RPE of 60%, and do intervals (on hills) at 70%. I try to change gears to maintain a cadence of about 85-90 rpm on flats and rolling hills, and about 60 to 80 rpm on harder hills, to maintain my RPE.

Shift up to higher gears as the cadence rises, and shift down as the RPE increases.
My above schedule is partly based on the need to incorporate intervals in training.
Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
...I'm fortunate to be a daily year-round cycling commuter early in the morning, with a pleasant, minimal one-way distance of 14 miles, easily lengthened during the nice weather. My commute is really my only chance to train.

I had long rejected the idea of intervals because getting on the Road early is a challenge itself, and I didn't want to lose my enthusiasm by punishing myself too much. That fairly simple regimen described above seemed tolerable, and for the first two days so far was tolerable and somewhat enjoyable....

Intervals on the road during a defined commute are more variable than what one can do on a trainer. I have quickly learned that I must watch out for traffic and not pay too much attention to the stopwatch on my cycle computer. Sometimes the stopwatch times out during an interval and I have to reset. Often the terrain is out of synch with the interval, e.g. downhills on the intensity interval, uphill on the rest interval, with stoplights interspersed.

As mentioned above I just use “Rating of Perceived Exertion” (RPE) as my monitor...I consider my usual happy-go-lucky pace is at an RPE of 50 (out of 100), and previously sometimes tried to ride most of the commute at a steady 60. So I ride about 6-8 miles at my usual pace (exertion) to totally warm up, then I estimate my RPE during the intense one-minute intervals to be about about 70-80. I then revert to my usual RPE of 50 for the remaining 2-3 miles

.
My hills are of a suitable length for those intense intervals,As @crtreedude mentioned above, I consider my ability to recover quickly as an informal indicator of fitness (along with intensity (speed) of the effort, and resting heart rate).

I pedal hard and fast on the downhill preceding an uphill grade to conserve my downhill momentum as I go uphill. One useful tip I garnered from Bike Forums is to jump two gear levels up when rising to stand on the pedals and mash.

A caveat about hillls though:
Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
"Riding versus Training"

One other thing I learned during my trial phase of this training program is not to underestimate hills when doing intervals. I once was riding up a hill in too high a gear, barely pedaling to stay upright, and my chain fell off the front cog and got wedged between the seat tube and pedal crank.

I had to pull so hard to remove it that I bent a link, causing the chain to skip with each rotation.
I had posted about my last mountainous road ride in Pennsylvania in 2015:
Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
…Compared to the hills of Metro Boston, I consider that I rode over two mountains, shorter perhaps, but with grades as challenging as I had encountered in Colorado (but that was 35 years ago) .
Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
Now there are plenty of nice rides around Boston, but what made this ride special were the mountains; see BD’s Ride with GPS.
There were also some steep backroad hills,



and I occasionally got stuck in too high a gear, saying to BD, “I gotta learn to respect these hills.”
˅˅˅˅

Last edited by Jim from Boston; 06-21-20 at 02:23 PM. Reason: added new link to Borg's scale of RPE
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Old 06-21-20, 06:59 AM
  #22  
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˄˄˄˄

Speaking of recovery after cresting a hill, I posted to this thread. “Oh No! i just realized that i coast too much”
Originally Posted by CraigB View Post
Coasting is not allowed among those who believe rides should be "sufferfests."
Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
I often think the same thing when I find myself coasting, and as also posted above, using a cadence meter is a good motivator to keep pedaling. Furthermore if you track your average speed for a ride, pedaling downhill is an easy way to bump up the average.

As far as feeling "guilty" about coasting, I think to myself that I did have to pedal up the hill to be able to coast down, and maybe the respite is good for recovery.

A saying of Ronald Reagan from the 1980 presidential campaign strangely comes to mind as I coast. RR said, "I paid for this microphone, Mr. Breen."

I paid for this hill.

Last edited by Jim from Boston; 06-21-20 at 08:21 AM.
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Old 06-21-20, 08:19 AM
  #23  
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I think you are doing great.

IMO, the mash / spin discussion is a fools errand to an extent. I think it is more about muscle composition, genetics, goals and health versus which is better.

I can spin up a climb or mash up a climb. Most of my riding is on the same routes and climbs day after day. So I try various methods. My legs like mashing up hills and I get some of my better times and average power. If I do a hill climb race, I will spin slower versus faster but I may vary the cadence as the grade changes.

The downside of mashing for me is muscle strain. So if I am on a bike tour, riding every day, too much mashing is not great. I will tend to gear down and spin more.

With respect to training, I do low cadence work where I will keep the cadence between 55 - 60 rpm. I do that for climbing and flat terrain. I will ride 54/11 on my time trial bike on flat terrain at 55 rpm to build strength in the time trial position.

My suggestion is to try both. There is one proviso and that is one must train to spin faster (one will not have immediate success) but one can always self select to spin slower.

Last edited by Hermes; 06-22-20 at 12:21 AM.
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Old 06-26-20, 01:16 PM
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I do both depending on how I feel. When I mash I do it out of the saddle and it feels good to stretch. I usually do this on shallower climbs where I am moving pretty quickly. If it's really steep or I'm tired I spin. For years I was riding a road bike with a low gear of 34x26. That was enough to get me up the steepest hills round these parts. When I got a gravel bike with a low gear of 42x42 I never thought I could possibly use that. As it turns out I've found a couple of hills that I use it on. I could walk up that hill faster but I feel a lot better when I get to the top!
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Old 06-26-20, 06:07 PM
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I usually mash a little bit at the start of a hill and then downshift a bit to keep my cadence where i like it. As the hill gets steeper then downshift again till I'm in my lowest gear and grind from there. I try not to waste too much energy in the beginning by mashing therefore shifting to lower gears earlier on. Pulling up on my pedals helps a bit also. Trying not to use all your energy on the hill but save it for the flats where you can go faster for longer periods of time is my motto...
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