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Mash or Spin?

Old 05-05-21, 02:19 AM
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bwilli88 
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Mash or Spin?

When riding along and you find the going is too easy or maybe a bit hard. Do you shift up or stay in the easier gear or down to a bit harder and mash?
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Old 05-05-21, 05:43 AM
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Situation dependent - if it looks like a short rise or just a wind guys, I just grind harder. Looks like a hill or I've turned into a headwind, go down a gear or two.

In general, I've had a bad habit of grinding at low RPM and over the years have worked to increase RPM so I try to err on the side of downshifting.

I just did a very flat century ride on the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay here in Maryland, where at the start there were 24 mph sustained winds out of the WNW. There were 8 mile stretches right into the wind where I geared down, there were long stretches of quartering or side winds where I just ramped up the pedal pressure.

But, the last 18 miles were mostly directly to the WNW and I was shedding gears left and right!
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Old 05-05-21, 06:40 AM
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My default is to mash a high gear, and spin a lower one for hills and headwinds. I do tend to use a higher gear than most for hills, and do a lot of standing.

Lots of threads about this--people need to use whatever works best for them and ignore people who try to prescribe the superior method based on what works for them. Legs and cardiovascular systems are not standard issue, so different styles suit different people.

And there really is no evidence other than anecdote (not scientific) that mashing is bad for the knees, but expect a bunch of posts that will state that as fact. It appears to be an article of faith amongst trainers, but I've never had anyone successfully produce a study of any kind that indicates that this is so.
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Old 05-05-21, 07:19 AM
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I have come to the conclusion RPM is a personal preference. What works for me may or may not work for you. I have always been a spinner, and never mash gears- take care.
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Old 05-05-21, 07:24 AM
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When I run out of climbing gears and become fatigued, I become more of a masher. That is just the end result of pushing myself.
Is that a bad thing?
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Old 05-05-21, 07:27 AM
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In general if I'm at a short rise I may stand and hammer it out until it levels out again, but any sustained upward or headwind situation will have me shift down to keep my cadence up. My goal is usually to maintain 80 - 90 on my cadence.

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Old 05-05-21, 07:33 AM
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Originally Posted by CAT7RDR View Post
When I run out of climbing gears and become fatigued, I become more of a masher. That is just the end result of pushing myself.
Is that a bad thing?

No, it's quite logical.
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Old 05-05-21, 07:51 AM
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Originally Posted by livedarklions View Post
My default is to mash a high gear, and spin a lower one for hills and headwinds. I do tend to use a higher gear than most for hills, and do a lot of standing.

Lots of threads about this--people need to use whatever works best for them and ignore people who try to prescribe the superior method based on what works for them. Legs and cardiovascular systems are not standard issue, so different styles suit different people.

And there really is no evidence other than anecdote (not scientific) that mashing is bad for the knees, but expect a bunch of posts that will state that as fact. It appears to be an article of faith amongst trainers, but I've never had anyone successfully produce a study of any kind that indicates that this is so.
Talk to those 70 year olds still riding. And, of course, I will throw anecdotal "evidence" that human tissue: ligaments, tendons, muscle, cartilage and bone only have so much life to them. Same hip replaced twice (no accidents or specific trauma) and lots of friends "running" with new knees and even a few ankles. Yes, legs and cardiovascular systems are not standard but many have a "use by date!"
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Old 05-05-21, 08:14 AM
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Originally Posted by livedarklions View Post

And there really is no evidence other than anecdote (not scientific) that mashing is bad for the knees, but expect a bunch of posts that will state that as fact. It appears to be an article of faith amongst trainers, but I've never had anyone successfully produce a study of any kind that indicates that this is so.
Well I'll be that guy, LOL! I have bad knees but can ride no problems. By bad knees I mean lot and lots of meniscus damage with replacements coming in the next couple of years. I normally spin but am a masher for mountain climbs. As my knees have gotten worse I've had to stay completely out of the mountains. I can still ride my usually 25+ daily rides as long as I don't mash. If I do my knees will swell and become so painful I can't hardly walk. So yeah, put me in the camp of mashing is bad for you. I'd bet even if you do "get away with it" and feel no effects currently it will effect you as you age. Just my two cents....
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Old 05-05-21, 08:31 AM
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I do a lot of fixed gear riding, so both spin and mash! But I prefer a somewhat moderate gear ratio (68 gear inches) because I value the health of my knees. Mashing is much harder on them than spinning... no matter what someone who posts more often than almost everyone else says.
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Old 05-05-21, 08:49 AM
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There is a time to mash and a time to spin.

If you mash all the time, you are probably losing performance somewhere.

If you spin all the time, you are probably losing performance somewhere.

Though anecdotally, when young, I mashed. I could pull off from a dead stop in a very high gear ratio and accelerated quick and keep going. As a much older person, I can't begin to even think about doing that. But I can spin and climb the short hills here as well as most. At least better than the young noobs that try to climb in their small cogs at a 30 cadence.
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Old 05-05-21, 08:52 AM
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Old 05-05-21, 09:13 AM
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Originally Posted by bwilli88 View Post
When riding along and you find the going is too easy or maybe a bit hard. Do you shift up or stay in the easier gear or down to a bit harder and mash?
I (sometimes) envy your options but I remain FIXED in mine
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Old 05-05-21, 09:16 AM
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Originally Posted by kahn View Post
Talk to those 70 year olds still riding. And, of course, I will throw anecdotal "evidence" that human tissue: ligaments, tendons, muscle, cartilage and bone only have so much life to them. Same hip replaced twice (no accidents or specific trauma) and lots of friends "running" with new knees and even a few ankles. Yes, legs and cardiovascular systems are not standard but many have a "use by date!"

That's true, joints wear, but that's not the question. The question is whether mashing wears the knee more than spinning. I don't know what your hip has to do with that, and obviously running is harder on the knees than biking.
I think people do a lot more damage to their knees walking around with a lot of extra weight than they do adding a little resistance to their pedal stroke,

I've been a masher all my life, and I'm 60. My knees are fine Another anecdote.
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Old 05-05-21, 09:44 AM
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Originally Posted by jamesdak View Post
Well I'll be that guy, LOL! I have bad knees but can ride no problems. By bad knees I mean lot and lots of meniscus damage with replacements coming in the next couple of years. I normally spin but am a masher for mountain climbs. As my knees have gotten worse I've had to stay completely out of the mountains. I can still ride my usually 25+ daily rides as long as I don't mash. If I do my knees will swell and become so painful I can't hardly walk. So yeah, put me in the camp of mashing is bad for you. I'd bet even if you do "get away with it" and feel no effects currently it will effect you as you age. Just my two cents....

I don't doubt that once your knee is injured, then mashing will be harder than if it is not. But notice that your anecdote says you developed these knee problems while you were primarily a spinner.

What it comes down to is a certain percentage of people will screw their knees up regardless of whether they ride or not, and also regardless of spin vs. mash. These threads always end up with people telling me that even though they got some sort of joint problems without significant mashing habits, that somehow indicates that mashing is bad for you, and that they know someone who mashed and their knee went bad. We all know plenty of people with bad knees as we get older, but did you ever notice how many of them DIDN'T mash high gears?
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Old 05-05-21, 09:59 AM
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Originally Posted by livedarklions View Post
I don't doubt that once your knee is injured, then mashing will be harder than if it is not. But notice that your anecdote says you developed these knee problems while you were primarily a spinner.

What it comes down to is a certain percentage of people will screw their knees up regardless of whether they ride or not, and also regardless of spin vs. mash. These threads always end up with people telling me that even though they got some sort of joint problems without significant mashing habits, that somehow indicates that mashing is bad for you, and that they know someone who mashed and their knee went bad. We all know plenty of people with bad knees as we get older, but did you ever notice how many of them DIDN'T mash high gears?
Negative, lol! I've always been a masher up hills and mountains. i also grew up a masher on my single speed bike. I progressed into being a spinner about 10 years ago as the knee problems kicked in. But honestly you have your opinion, I have mine and in the grand scheme neither matters.

I do know that my physician, knee surgeon (he's operated on my 5 times) and physical therapist are all cyclist and all have advised me to spin easy and avoid the stress of mashing. That carries more weight with me than my on opinion. The surgeon has mentioned studies on this but who knows?

Oh, and you've actually mentioned something interesting. If you agree that mashing on bad knees can now be problematic isn't that admitting that the stresses of mashing are more than spinning and thus detrimental? Common sense being applied here of course...
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Old 05-05-21, 10:14 AM
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I have a really hard time spinning, even though I know it's more efficient. I usually end up around 80 rpms unless I am really trying to spin.
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Old 05-05-21, 10:18 AM
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Funny this thread pops up at this time. while out yesterday i decided to ride up a familiar hill but i wanted to use my small chain ring on my triple just to see how it would go. normally i am in the middle ring and usually on the largest or next down cog in back when spinning then go down two or three cogs to mash for a bit. the small ring was such a werid feeling that i could not do it for very long. i had to go back to the middle ring.

i like to mash when i get a bit tired. and when we say mash i assume we also mean standing, or do i have that wrong? regardless, i like to switch it up when the grade is steep just to give some muscle a bit of a rest.
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Old 05-05-21, 10:21 AM
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Originally Posted by jamesdak View Post
Negative, lol! I've always been a masher up hills and mountains. i also grew up a masher on my single speed bike. I progressed into being a spinner about 10 years ago as the knee problems kicked in. But honestly you have your opinion, I have mine and in the grand scheme neither matters.

I do know that my physician, knee surgeon (he's operated on my 5 times) and physical therapist are all cyclist and all have advised me to spin easy and avoid the stress of mashing. That carries more weight with me than my on opinion. The surgeon has mentioned studies on this but who knows?

Oh, and you've actually mentioned something interesting. If you agree that mashing on bad knees can now be problematic isn't that admitting that the stresses of mashing are more than spinning and thus detrimental? Common sense being applied here of course...
Of course this all makes sense. But you have 6,XXX posts in 11 years and LDL has 8,XXX in 3, so there's no way he'll ever let you "win". I've yet to ever have a reason to put anyone on ignore, but I must admit it can be quite nice when they do it to you!
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Old 05-05-21, 10:24 AM
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Originally Posted by AlmostTrick View Post
Of course this all makes sense. But you have 6,XXX posts in 11 years and LDL has 8,XXX in 3, so there's no way he'll ever let you "win". I've yet to ever have a reason to put anyone on ignore, but I must admit it can be quite nice when they do it to you!
Well daggum it, I need to get that post count up, LOL!
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Old 05-05-21, 10:45 AM
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Generally, I'm a spinner. 94-104 rpm, and I find myself shifting constantly to keep in that zone, except climbing anything over maybe 3-4% of any length. I found that even if I have gears that will allow me to spin at my usual cadence at the same speed, my legs seem to want to run in the 80-90 rpm range.

Recently, I've acquired/restored a couple vintage bikes, with 8, 7, and most recently only 6 gears at the back, as well as downtube shifters. Less convenient for constant shifting, plus larger gaps between the gears and not as wide a range, so I have to expand my comfort zone.
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Old 05-05-21, 10:52 AM
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Originally Posted by jamesdak View Post
Negative, lol! I've always been a masher up hills and mountains. i also grew up a masher on my single speed bike. I progressed into being a spinner about 10 years ago as the knee problems kicked in. But honestly you have your opinion, I have mine and in the grand scheme neither matters.

I do know that my physician, knee surgeon (he's operated on my 5 times) and physical therapist are all cyclist and all have advised me to spin easy and avoid the stress of mashing. That carries more weight with me than my on opinion. The surgeon has mentioned studies on this but who knows?

Oh, and you've actually mentioned something interesting. If you agree that mashing on bad knees can now be problematic isn't that admitting that the stresses of mashing are more than spinning and thus detrimental? Common sense being applied here of course...
Injuries that affect a joint can make stresses that you normally could handle without damage painful and irritating. Are you saying we shouldn't weight lift because people with bad backs from car accidents can't lift weights without too much pain? That's not common sense at all.


We actually had a guy posting here a couple years ago who said his arthritic knees could handle mashing but not spinning, so I think it depends on the injury, btw.
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Old 05-05-21, 11:01 AM
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Originally Posted by jamesdak View Post
Well daggum it, I need to get that post count up, LOL!

Trust me, there's really good reasons I put that guy on ignore. I can only put up with so much aggressive condescending BS. Look at the guy jump on me for no reason right there, for example. I wouldn't have known about it if you hadn't quoted him.

I'm quite sure you know best what does and doesn't work for your knees, by the way. I just think there's too many people who don't give mashers the same credit.
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Old 05-05-21, 11:12 AM
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Originally Posted by kahn View Post
Talk to those 70 year olds still riding. And, of course, I will throw anecdotal "evidence" that human tissue: ligaments, tendons, muscle, cartilage and bone only have so much life to them. Same hip replaced twice (no accidents or specific trauma) and lots of friends "running" with new knees and even a few ankles. Yes, legs and cardiovascular systems are not standard but many have a "use by date!"
I will be 83 this year, and what you say doesnt apply to everyone. I ride anywhere from 20 to 35 miles every other day. I ride at a cadence that feels right, probably averages out to about 75 rpm. I mash up short hills and shift down on longer ones.
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Old 05-05-21, 11:17 AM
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Custom cadence for a custom individual! I'd say there's perhaps a realm of reasonableness on either end between zero and 200. That reasonableness is based on your knees, your available gears, and whatever you need to do with the bike during that next 100 yards you plan to traverse.

That's all I've got on this one.
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