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The pedaling technique thread

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The pedaling technique thread

26 Feb 2013 03:04

There was a thread with similar title - but it became a thread about one particular argument about pedaling technique. So, now that topic (uncoupled cranks, specifically Powercranks), has its own thread, so the people who want to discuss that narrow topic can do so - and there are people who seem to enjoy that argument.

This thread is for a general discussion of pedaling technique. A few posts here and there discussing uncoupled cranks will be tolerated, but the uncouple crank topic has its own thread. So, continuing on about them will be considered off-topic. Off-topic posts are covered in the forum rules.

But pedaling technique IS important. Early in our cycling lives, we heard the "spin, don't mash" mantra. I don't recall who it was, but one cyclist turned coach said he got best results from trying to hit the handlebars with his knees, rather than focusing on "pulling through" with your foot.

When I raced, I used a traditional Euro-pro method of making sure my stroke was smooth - I spent a month early each year on a fixed gear bike. It definitely helped me improve my ability to reach higher cadences - when you hit 140 rpm and start bouncing on the saddle on a fixed gear, it can get dangerous to your health! Actually, I would usually start the fixed gear month each year, at somewhere between 100 and 120 as my top cadence without bouncing on the saddle. By the month end, I would be kicking over 140, although I think I only ever hit 150 a couple of times.

Just a quick mention here - if uncoupled cranks DO have any benefit to pedaling technique, I think it would be like that offered by riding a fixed gear. I.e. you get instant physical feedback that your pedaling is not smooth. (Now, see? That was a mention, not a whole post, get the idea?)

Btw - if you are interested in using a fixed gear - you can set up a fixed gear rig extremely cheaply - if you can get your hands on a decent used frame. It doesn't even have to be a "good" frame - although I think it might have been easier back when steel frames were more common. Then you could pick something halfway decent off the trash that was close to your size. Check out Sheldon Brown's pages on fixed gear rigs for more on how to do this. You'll note he says you don't have to have a track dropout - and very few riders will need a track dropout in the rear. My fixed gear is an old "Panasonic" steel frame, standard road dropouts.

On the other hand, today, with fixed gear being popular, you might be able to find something used, too, eh?

I'll let somebody else tell us why pedaling techique is important - this post is already long enough.

Cheers - h
It is of great use to the sailor to know the length of his line, though he cannot with it fathom all the depths of the ocean. ~ John Locke
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26 Feb 2013 18:24

hiero2 wrote:But pedaling technique IS important. Early in our cycling lives, we heard the "spin, don't mash" mantra. I don't recall who it was, but one cyclist turned coach said he got best results from trying to hit the handlebars with his knees, rather than focusing on "pulling through" with your foot.
Here is the crux of the issue. Not everyone believes that pedaling technique does matter. There are more people here who will give the advice to those who ask about technique to "just ride more" or "just push harder". While many elite riders do work on technique no one can prove that any technique is better than another.

Unfortunately, we all learned the "basic" pedaling technique when we were 3 years old on our first tricycle with platform pedals. To pedal that bike (and any bike we had before we got clipless pedals) required keeping back pressure on the upstroke to maintain contact with the pedal. It was this technique and feeling that became ingrained into our nervous system. If one wants to change so something perceived as better how does one reliably change a habit that has been ingrained for 10 or 20 years?

When I raced, I used a traditional Euro-pro method of making sure my stroke was smooth - I spent a month early each year on a fixed gear bike. It definitely helped me improve my ability to reach higher cadences - when you hit 140 rpm and start bouncing on the saddle on a fixed gear, it can get dangerous to your health! Actually, I would usually start the fixed gear month each year, at somewhere between 100 and 120 as my top cadence without bouncing on the saddle. By the month end, I would be kicking over 140, although I think I only ever hit 150 a couple of times.
IMHO I would agree that the ability to ride at high cadences depends upon a good technique. I don't particularly think 140 or 150 is particularly high. I myself have been able to get up to cadences of 200. One of my customers (a masters track rider) told me he was able to improve his maximum unloaded cadence from 175 to 245 over 6 years of PC training. Another user, a young girl reported she was invited to the OTC here and recorded the highest RPM ever seen there in a girl at, again, 245 and she was 14 at the time I believe. High cadences are very hard and how high you can get is probably a good indication of how good your technique is now.
Just a quick mention here - if uncoupled cranks DO have any benefit to pedaling technique, I think it would be like that offered by riding a fixed gear. I.e. you get instant physical feedback that your pedaling is not smooth. (Now, see? That was a mention, not a whole post, get the idea?)
Unfortunately, you have made an assumption here that the facts will dispute. Occasionally we see a fixed gear rider get on the PowerCranks and simply ride off because they know how to do it. But, more frequently we see them have as much trouble if not more trouble than everyone else. So, fixed gear riding might "fix" your stroke we find that fixed gear riding is particularly good at pushing the recovery leg up and can even make them worse. Usually, using them for a month in the preseason is not enough to really change anything as evidenced by yourself as it seems you tend to revert once you get back on a regular bike and have to start over to learn again the next pre-season.
I'll let somebody else tell us why pedaling techique is important - this post is already long enough.
Or, more likely, they will come here and tell us why it is not important. At least that is what they keep telling me. Looking forward to the discussion.
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26 Feb 2013 20:42

Let me see - we all learned our cycling technique when we were 3? Then why so many articles and advice over the years, telling new cyclists to spin, how to spin, to pull their feet through, to ankle or not to ankle? Nah, man, it is a hot topic for newby cyclists, and I don't see anyone arguing that around here.

You don't think 140-150 is particularly high? Gee, thanks for the compliments and votes of confidence, friend. But, you know, you DO have a point. There are plenty of riders who've been faster than me. But, I never claimed to be any sort of record holder - and I've posted my complete palmares elsewhere in here more than once - I've nothing to hide.

You want to see fast? Here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=sVbwngNoHm0

But, in my experience, racing against others in my age group at the time, and against more than a few Cat 4 riders as well, 140-150 WAS pretty good in comparison to what most could do. I know there were better - they were all Cat 1 and 2. I raced one Nationals, with Dale Stetina in the pack, down in Fla. I managed to hang on until a crash separated the pack in the last few miles. Which was just as well, because it was a mass sprint at the end, and nobody wanted to be left out - as I rolled in, I passed dozens of riders on the side of the road from multiple crashes.
It is of great use to the sailor to know the length of his line, though he cannot with it fathom all the depths of the ocean. ~ John Locke
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26 Feb 2013 21:08

hiero2 wrote:Let me see - we all learned our cycling technique when we were 3? Then why so many articles and advice over the years, telling new cyclists to spin, how to spin, to pull their feet through, to ankle or not to ankle? Nah, man, it is a hot topic for newby cyclists, and I don't see anyone arguing that around here.

You don't think 140-150 is particularly high? Gee, thanks for the compliments and votes of confidence, friend. But, you know, you DO have a point. There are plenty of riders who've been faster than me. But, I never claimed to be any sort of record holder - and I've posted my complete palmares elsewhere in here more than once - I've nothing to hide.

You want to see fast? Here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=sVbwngNoHm0

But, in my experience, racing against others in my age group at the time, and against more than a few Cat 4 riders as well, 140-150 WAS pretty good in comparison to what most could do. I know there were better - they were all Cat 1 and 2. I raced one Nationals, with Dale Stetina in the pack, down in Fla. I managed to hang on until a crash separated the pack in the last few miles. Which was just as well, because it was a mass sprint at the end, and nobody wanted to be left out - as I rolled in, I passed dozens of riders on the side of the road from multiple crashes.
140-150 at power is fast. I am talking about unloaded cadence, that fastest you can make your legs go around with no resistance. That is all technique. If you are bouncing all over the place at 140-150 loaded you won't go much faster unloaded I would predict.

And, I agree that "spinning" does get talked about a lot. But, no one seems to know what "spinning" actually means or, at least, they disagree as to what it means and no one has ever shown that it is really possible to transform how people pedal the bike and no one has ever shown that if it is possible to transform how someone pedals that it makes a difference.

That is what makes this area so contentious, my coming here and claiming that it is possible to reliably change how people pedal a bike and that it makes a difference, a big difference when I cannot prove such a statement with scientific certainty. I have as much proof regarding what I say as those who tell people the best piece of equipment they can get to help them to get faster is a power meter. There is zero scientific evidence to back that statement (in fact, the scientific evidence is it is of zero value) up yet it is a widely held belief.

So, people argue what they believe but nobody can prove their belief. So, until some proof exists these threads will tend to be contentious and interminable.
Life is short, both reading my posts and training with PowerCranks will make it seem longer
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26 Feb 2013 21:31

FrankDay wrote:
That is what makes this area so contentious, my coming here and claiming that it is possible to reliably change how people pedal a bike and that it makes a difference, a big difference


If your new method of pedaling does not change the sinusoidal graph, it is just another variation of the basic natural pedaling technique and has nothing to contribute to performance improvement beyond that of circular pedaling or one legged training.
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27 Feb 2013 00:27

coapman wrote:If your new method of pedaling does not change the sinusoidal graph, it is just another variation of the basic natural pedaling technique and has nothing to contribute to performance improvement beyond that of circular pedaling or one legged training.
Everything we do is a variation of the basic "natural" pedaling technique everyone uses, including your technique - even though you think you are doing something completely different. The only real questions are: 1) How much variation is possible? and 2) Which variations provide a benefit?
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FrankDay
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27 Feb 2013 10:30

FrankDay wrote:Everything we do is a variation of the basic "natural" pedaling technique everyone uses, including your technique - even though you think you are doing something completely different. The only real questions are: 1) How much variation is possible? and 2) Which variations provide a benefit?



You have said your improvement in power application takes place throughout the whole pedaling circle, how can your technique improve the power application of an unweighting masher between 1 and 5 o'c.
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27 Feb 2013 15:18

coapman wrote:You have said your improvement in power application takes place throughout the whole pedaling circle, how can your technique improve the power application of an unweighting masher between 1 and 5 o'c.
"Unweighting masher" has little meaning. Unless I know the specifics of the riders pedal forces around the circle I cannot tell you specifically how I might expect to improve this type of rider other than generally, from that description I would expect this type of rider to be able to add power across the top and bottom of the stroke and, perhaps, better direct his muscular forces to be more tangential during the "mashing" phase.
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28 Feb 2013 21:26

FrankDay wrote: I would expect this type of rider to be able to add power across the top and bottom of the stroke and, perhaps, better direct his muscular forces to be more tangential during the "mashing" phase.


Then he would no longer be a powerful masher who unweights his idling pedal, instead he would be a weaker and less effective circular pedaler, (Coyle et al). Your ideas on pedaling do not make sense. Like your cranks that's the long and the short of it.
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01 Mar 2013 05:12

coapman wrote:Your ideas on pedaling do not make sense. Like your cranks that's the long and the short of it.


Pot. Kettle. Black.
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01 Mar 2013 10:51

M Sport wrote:Pot. Kettle. Black.



For more effective torque generation purposes it is better to concentrate on each leg over half the pedaling circle instead of the entire circle. Instead of trying to use your untrainable hip flexors to assist in generating effective crank torque, it makes more sense to use the more powerful arm muscles. By combining arm and leg muscles it is possible to apply the same maximal torque through 12, 1 ,2 and 3 o'c while in the natural racing drops position. Frank's ideas have been tried and tested down through the years, how many researchers considered making the arms part of the pedaling technique.
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01 Mar 2013 16:08

coapman wrote:...
Instead of trying to use your untrainable hip flexors to assist in generating effective crank torque, it makes more sense to use the more powerful arm muscles. By combining arm and leg muscles it is possible to apply the same maximal torque through 12, 1 ,2 and 3 o'c while in the natural racing drops position.
...

==========================
I can understand how arm muscles can be used to STABILIZE the hips and torso, but I don't think the arm muscles can actually produce any movement of the pedals - moving the pedals is done by lower body muscles.
Are your arm muscles doing some sort of 'rocking the torso' to assist leg movement?

And why do you think that any muscle is untrainable?
It is probably necessary for an untrained 'masher' to train the leg muscles to really unweight on the upstroke. Perhaps they can do a bit better and actually supply some positive torque.

Jay Kosta
Endwell NY USA
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01 Mar 2013 16:54

JayKosta wrote:==========================
I can understand how arm muscles can be used to STABILIZE the hips and torso, but I don't think the arm muscles can actually produce any movement of the pedals - moving the pedals is done by lower body muscles.
Are your arm muscles doing some sort of 'rocking the torso' to assist leg movement?

And why do you think that any muscle is untrainable?
It is probably necessary for an untrained 'masher' to train the leg muscles to really unweight on the upstroke. Perhaps they can do a bit better and actually supply some positive torque.

Jay Kosta
Endwell NY USA



If you are to apply forward maximal crank torque at 12 o'c, you need something to reinforce your hip resistance and the arm muscles are ideal for this. The hip flexors are untrainable because they have been doing minimal work for too long. The workload required for unweighting is being done every day by the hip flexors each time you lift your leg when walking.
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01 Mar 2013 17:16

coapman wrote:If you are to apply forward maximal crank torque at 12 o'c, you need something to reinforce your hip resistance and the arm muscles are ideal for this. The hip flexors are untrainable because they have been doing minimal work for too long. The workload required for unweighting is being done every day by the hip flexors each time you lift your leg when walking.
It seems to me that it would be more effective, if one really wanted to counter "forward maximal crank torque" at 12 o'clock, if one used and equal "backward maximal crank torque" at 6 o'clock instead of arm forces since the backwards maximal crank torque at 6 o'clock actually adds to the power the wheel would see. But, of course, if you don't try to do that then you need to counter with something and I guess the arms would be necessary then.
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01 Mar 2013 20:46

FrankDay wrote:It seems to me that it would be more effective, if one really wanted to counter "forward maximal crank torque" at 12 o'clock, if one used and equal "backward maximal crank torque" at 6 o'clock instead of arm forces since the backwards maximal crank torque at 6 o'clock actually adds to the power the wheel would see. But, of course, if you don't try to do that then you need to counter with something and I guess the arms would be necessary then.



Unlike the muscles used at 12 o'c, the pulling back muscles at 6 are not capable of generating the equivalent of 3 o'c maximal torque. They are no more powerful than the hip flexors. By combining maximal arm and leg muscle forces, total concentration can be given to torque application between 11 and 5 o'c and the idling leg gets 180 deg. of recovery time during each pedal stroke. This technique was created for the sole purpose of combining maximal arm and leg forces.
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01 Mar 2013 23:27

coapman wrote:Unlike the muscles used at 12 o'c, the pulling back muscles at 6 are not capable of generating the equivalent of 3 o'c maximal torque. They are no more powerful than the hip flexors. By combining maximal arm and leg muscle forces, total concentration can be given to torque application between 11 and 5 o'c and the idling leg gets 180 deg. of recovery time during each pedal stroke. This technique was created for the sole purpose of combining maximal arm and leg forces.
I disagree with your contention but, for the purpose of the discussion, let's say you are right, that the muscles at 6 o'clock are not as strong as the muscles at 12 o'clock, perhaps only half as strong. I would still submit that it would be better to use those muscles to partially balance the forces being generated at the top and only use the arm muscles to complete the balancing if the friction of the **** on the saddle was not able to do so. The reason this would be better is you would, again, be adding power where none existed when solely using the arms to balance this force. You are focusing on applying power in two quadrants of the circle. I think the athlete should focus on trying to apply real power in three quadrants.
Life is short, both reading my posts and training with PowerCranks will make it seem longer
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02 Mar 2013 00:03

JayKosta wrote:==========================
I can understand how arm muscles can be used to STABILIZE the hips and torso, but I don't think the arm muscles can actually produce any movement of the pedals - moving the pedals is done by lower body muscles.
Are your arm muscles doing some sort of 'rocking the torso' to assist leg movement?

And why do you think that any muscle is untrainable?
It is probably necessary for an untrained 'masher' to train the leg muscles to really unweight on the upstroke. Perhaps they can do a bit better and actually supply some positive torque.

Jay Kosta
Endwell NY USA


Based on one thing, I would tend to disagree that the upper body can add no power to the leg stroke. I will agree that the arms do not move the crankarms, but I would also agree that they can be used to add power to the pedal stroke. It would be limited, but it is this:

In boxing, or any martial art, full power of a strike is only gained when the strike "comes from" a grounded limb. For instance, a full strike with the fist starts from the back foot. If that foot is not grounded, the strike is less powerful. Fencers, boxers, and karatekas are taught this early in learning the sport. While that leg contributes very little power, it provides an extremely significant anchoring point for the application of power. If I have explained this clearly, it seems to me, that the arms, on the bicycle, are a similar anchor. If you do not use your arms, you isolate the legs and use them alone, which results in less power.

On the other hand, you can use the upper body incorrectly, and tire yourself needlessly as well. I think that technique is important, as is knowledge of your own body and it's limits (aerobic vs non-aerobic). It also seems to me that most of the time you want to isolate your legs, to minimize the energy consumption of the body as a whole. But, in a sprint, it would seem obvious from the experience of many pros that the arms as an anchor come into play. I could see some value in climbing, but I'm thinking that standing and climbing is more using your body weight as the anchor - your torso, and bringing other sections of the glutes etc into play to assist with the work. Not as efficient as sitting and spinning - isolating the legs - but for a little extra power, a necessary thing.
It is of great use to the sailor to know the length of his line, though he cannot with it fathom all the depths of the ocean. ~ John Locke
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02 Mar 2013 00:12

FrankDay wrote:I disagree with your contention but, for the purpose of the discussion, let's say you are right, that the muscles at 6 o'clock are not as strong as the muscles at 12 o'clock, perhaps only half as strong. I would still submit that it would be better to use those muscles to partially balance the forces being generated at the top and only use the arm muscles to complete the balancing if the friction of the **** on the saddle was not able to do so. The reason this would be better is you would, again, be adding power where none existed when solely using the arms to balance this force. You are focusing on applying power in two quadrants of the circle. I think the athlete should focus on trying to apply real power in three quadrants.


How does your torque at 6 compare to what you apply at 3 o'c ?
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02 Mar 2013 00:20

hiero2 wrote:Based on one thing, I would tend to disagree that the upper body can add no power to the leg stroke. I will agree that the arms do not move the crankarms, but I would also agree that they can be used to add power to the pedal stroke. It would be limited, but it is this:

In boxing, or any martial art, full power of a strike is only gained when the strike "comes from" a grounded limb. For instance, a full strike with the fist starts from the back foot. If that foot is not grounded, the strike is less powerful. Fencers, boxers, and karatekas are taught this early in learning the sport. While that leg contributes very little power, it provides an extremely significant anchoring point for the application of power. If I have explained this clearly, it seems to me, that the arms, on the bicycle, are a similar anchor. If you do not use your arms, you isolate the legs and use them alone, which results in less power.

On the other hand, you can use the upper body incorrectly, and tire yourself needlessly as well. I think that technique is important, as is knowledge of your own body and it's limits (aerobic vs non-aerobic). It also seems to me that most of the time you want to isolate your legs, to minimize the energy consumption of the body as a whole. But, in a sprint, it would seem obvious from the experience of many pros that the arms as an anchor come into play. I could see some value in climbing, but I'm thinking that standing and climbing is more using your body weight as the anchor - your torso, and bringing other sections of the glutes etc into play to assist with the work. Not as efficient as sitting and spinning - isolating the legs - but for a little extra power, a necessary thing.
You are mixing and matching terms here. Power in boxing and power in cycling are two different things. In cycling it doesn't matter if the "fixing" for the delivery of the force comes from friction on the saddle, the arms or the counter leg. As long as the body is fixed in space (that is, it doesn't move back when you push forward) then the full force of the leg muscles should be transmitted to the pedal. Gravity provides that counter force when pushing down unless the rider is pushing down with more force than the body weighs, a rare occurrence for most riders. A rider should only need his arms to fix the body when the friction on the saddle plus the rearward forces of the opposing leg are too small to counter the forward driving leg. In most riders, the forces of "scraping the mud off the shoe" at the bottom of the stroke are larger than what they are doing at the top so the rider might push back against the bars to maintain position. Coapman is talking the exact opposite, pushing hard over the top and doing nothing at the bottom, something the normal rider never encounters.

Anyhow, this is a simple mechanics/dynamics problem of balancing the forces. If forces are not balanced things move. If they are balanced they don't.
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02 Mar 2013 14:47

coapman wrote:How does your torque at 6 compare to what you apply at 3 o'c ?

=================================
The only time I'm concerned with how torque differs between sectors is if changing the pedal technique in one sector results in a DECREASE of torque (or endurance) in some other sector.

I think the goal is to increase the overall full-rotation torque (with all sectors at least 'being considered'), and to also have endurance to maintain high torque for the duration of the event.

Jay Kosta
Endwell NY USA
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