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Pedaling Technique.......and spinning?

Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

Pedaling Technique.......and spinning?

Old 10-07-04, 05:09 AM
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muhlgirl868
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Pedaling Technique.......and spinning?

Okay, so this is pretty much a question of technique. When I ride I find myself often pedaling pretty hard for a minute or so, then resting my legs for maybe 20 sec. or so until i slow down enough to get more to push against. I've tried shifting my gears higher, but I always get to the point where pushing the pedals is just for the sake of moving my legs around and around and that just tires my legs out. So when riding I essentially fall into a pattern of pedaling and leg resting (which by the way seems to really help out my bum since I am able to tense up my legs a tad during the resting and lift myself from normal weight on the seat).

It seems to be working for me, however I wonder if this is improper cycling technique. Is this related to the term spinning? And what is spinning exactly?
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Old 10-07-04, 05:29 AM
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Spinning is the opposite, it's not about pushing big gears (initially). To learn, gear down and spin faster (or don't gear down but just spin faster). Try intervals where you increase your cadence to about 90-120rpm range. Make sure you don't bounce in the saddle when spinning so fast.

After a while your brain learns how to control your legs and will allow you to spin faster for extended periods of time until you can do it for the entire ride. Until you can do 90+ rpm for the entire ride.

I've heard that the natural resonance frequency is at 120rpm and that you will bounce (i've never really experienced this) but past that it should be fine.
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Old 10-07-04, 05:53 AM
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Sheldon Brown defines "spinning" this way: "to pedal at a rapid cadence." Cadence is, in Sheldon's words, "The speed at which the pedals turn, measured in Revolutions Per Minute. Inexperienced cyclists tend to ride in higher gears than they should, pedaling at a slower cadence. Most experienced cyclists pedal at cadences in the range of 70-90 RPM. This puts less strain on the joints, particularly the knees. Racing cyclists often use even higher cadences for bursts of accelleration."

More so than "improper," your present technique is inefficient. More of a masher than a spinner (that is, I prefer the feeling of some resistance to the feeling of spinning too easily), I approach this intuitively--my knees tell me what to do. I find the gear that allows me to feel that modest resistance and as the terrain changes, I shift to keep that feeling. It's obvious when I need to shift--either it becomes harder to turn the pedals or it becomes too easy. There's no one right cadence: it has to be right for you.

Your style is also inefficent because when you coast, you immediately slow down and lose momentum, which you then have to regain. I often see riders coast far too much and don't keep their speed as approach an incline, making it harder, requiring more work, for them to get up that hill.

The other problem with your technique is its inconsistency. When riding with other cyclists--and I don't mean a pace line but any group--it's important to keep a fairly consistent pace. When you coast and slow down, the riders behind you have to brake and the group yo-yos, which is neither efficient nor fun.

Lastly, although I have no factual support for this assertion, I think that your present style is not as good a work out, over-all. I used to coast a lot but noticed that stronger riders kept pedalling (except when at very fast downhill speeds) throughout the ride. I began to concentrate on this, which may have contributed to my becoming both faster and stronger.
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Old 10-07-04, 07:05 AM
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I think it depends on your objectives....

If you're trying to become a better/faster rider than definitely explore some of the "spinning" techniques outlined above.

If you're out to enjoy yourself and the fresh air, while you get some exercise, then do whatever the heck you want...provided you're not hurting your knees by "mashing."

Have Fun!
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Old 10-07-04, 07:09 AM
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You must be kidding......I almost feel like I am being baited into this one!
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Old 10-07-04, 07:13 AM
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Cadence is all of the above, however is not that simple, you could be spinning, very comfortably at 120 rpm, and not go more than 17 or 18 mph; leg strength and the ability to generate good watts is required if you want to move faster. Just look at Lance while in the Tour de France, he's spinning at high cadence but moving fast as well because of his powerful legs.
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Old 10-07-04, 07:24 AM
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Originally Posted by Corsaire
Cadence is all of the above, however is not that simple, you could be spinning, very comfortably at 120 rpm, and not go more than 17 or 18 mph; leg strength and the ability to generate good watts is required if you want to move faster. Just look at Lance while in the Tour de France, he's spinning at high cadence but moving fast as well because of his powerful legs.
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yeah.....that because he is like me and therefore able to spin the tall gears
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Old 10-07-04, 02:57 PM
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If you're riding for an aerobic workout then you need to keep pedalling and continue it for about 20 min. It sounds like that you need to just drop a couple gears and build your enruance a little. Cycling the way you are is very inefficient and probably time comsuming in realation to the amount of distance you cover. Also, make sure your brake pads aren't causing any unnessesary drag. I see that being most peoples porblem that ride the way you do.
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Old 10-07-04, 03:01 PM
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You sound as though you need a computer with cadence and riding companions. You need to find a club, preferably with groups of different speeds, start with the slower group and start picking up skills.
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Old 10-07-04, 03:27 PM
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Originally Posted by SDS
You sound as though you need a computer with cadence....
Gee, this makes me question how I arrived at my cadence long before computers were available. Could it be I wore a watch with a second hand and simply counted my pedal revolutions? (Nah, that would never work. Nevermind, you do indeed need to buy that computer.)
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Old 10-07-04, 06:18 PM
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irzipris pretty much covered it all, check out http://www.sheldonbrown.com/ for lot's of info on anything else you might have an issue with such as shifting or how to properly take off on the bike. after you figure out how to spin it will get easier.
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Old 10-07-04, 06:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Maj.Taylor
Gee, this makes me question how I arrived at my cadence long before computers were available. Could it be I wore a watch with a second hand and simply counted my pedal revolutions? (Nah, that would never work. Nevermind, you do indeed need to buy that computer.)
Sure, it works, but given that you can buy a computer with cadence for less than $30 and it lets you keep track realtime, its a good way to work on it.
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Old 10-07-04, 08:02 PM
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Wow, thanks for all the great advice. I had a sneaking suspsion that spinning would be more efficient, but didn't have much to back it up. I don't have a computer on my bike yet, but hope to soon. The only question I have now is is my speed going to seriously decrease..i mean if I'm pedaling in lower gears the whole time won't I go slower then as well??? I apologize if the answer is obvious, but I am still trying to get aquainted with the mechanics of the bicycle. Thank you again!
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Old 10-07-04, 09:29 PM
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Believe it or not, you should notice a speed increase. It'll be easier to turn more RPM in lower gears than to push the higher gears, so it will be easier for you to travel forward. I find that if I start slowing a bit, dropping a gear will usually speed me back up a little bit, then I will go back up with the momentum I gained. A computer will really help you out in a lot of ways and help you track your progress. As a new rider myself, I've also found the Cyclestats program to be pretty valuable and worth the $30.
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Old 10-07-04, 09:45 PM
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One thing that I will say--make sure that you continue to do intervals with higher gears. Ive found that if I get completely adapted to spinning 100-120RPM all the time, when it comes down to really put in some power, my legs wont put up with it. A few interval workouts takes care of this, and then you get the best of both--spin it out when you can, but when it comes time to put some power down, you have the legs to do it.
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Old 10-08-04, 11:15 AM
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I may have overlooked it, but no one seems to have conveyed what your optimal cadence might be. As has been noted, it should be above 90 rpm the majority of the time. It may slow to 80, or even less, if climbing. Of course, it will be much faster than 100-120 rpm during a sprint. (Superb sprinters can reach as high as 200 rpm.) Research has found a cadence above 100 rpm begins to be inefficient for most riders. Therefore, you're looking to establish a cadence somewhere between 90-100 rpm.

And seriously, you don't need a computer at all to determine your cadence and develop your spin. Sure, go ahead and buy one, but start working on your cadence now. Just use your watch and count your leg revolutions for six seconds, and then mutiply by ten. That's all I've ever done. It worked. I also avoided the behavior I too often see of new riders focusing on one thing to the exclusion of all else. I've actually seen them run off the road or into someone's rear wheel because they locked their eyes onto a computer and forgot they were riding a bike. Just check your cadence a few times each ride. Take conscious note of how you feel and the speed of your legs as you take measurements. After a while, muscle memory will take over and you'll not need to check your cadence hardly ever again.

I eventually settled into a normal cadence of 93-94 rpm. I'll admit to still being a bit astonished that whenever I occasionally decide to check, it is invariably 93-94 rpm. My legs are literally locked at that speed when on the bike. That said, I think I recall reading somewhere that the most optimal cadence for the majority of cyclists will be right around 95 rpm. You might use that as a goal, but not worry if you're a revolution or two higher or lower.

One other thing I don't recall seeing mentioned. Gears are there so you can maintain your optimal cadence. If you see your leg speed has dropped to 85 rpm, and all is normal otherwise, you're being told to shift into a lower gear to increase your cadence. If you find yourself going downhill and your cadence is 110 rpm, you're being told to shift into a higher gear to lower your cadence, and thereby increasing your power. It is not a set rule, but as a rule, your cadence should remain the same as terrain and speed varies.

One other way to work on your cadence is to ride with a rider that has developed a good spin. Then, you don't even need to count. Is your foot at the bottom of each revolution in tune with that rider's foot? That is, are your legs turning the same speed as his/hers? That is one of the primary ways I worked on my cadence. I was fortunate enough to ride with several Cat. 1, 2, and pros when I first began. If I looked over and Joe was spinning faster than I, I knew I needed to shift down a gear. And conversely, if I looked over and saw he was spinning slower. Mind you, this is not sacred. It is merely a guide. My friend, Joe, tends to have a natural cadence of approx. 95 rpm. (God, he's beautiful on a bike. The boy was born to ride a bike.) I still look over and and sometimes see he's spinning a tad faster than I, but the difference is not very great so I either don't worry about it, or decide it might be a good day to work on a faster spin. But again, watching a more experienced rider who does it right is only a good guide, not an absolute.
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