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Spinning question(18 posts)

Spinning questionMXL02
Oct 7, 2002 7:05 AM
I am trying to improve my spinning speed. I can get up to about 120rpm without bouncing...How do I go higher? Do I focus on smooth pedal stroke? I use the lower gear ratios to go higher but the lack of resistance seems to induce more bouncing. Is there a regimen that you use to increase your rpms?
Quick questionEager Beagle
Oct 7, 2002 7:07 AM
Why on earth do you want to spin above 120 rpm?
Good questionMXL02
Oct 7, 2002 7:14 AM
I was told by some of the "experts" where I ride that it is good practice to see how fast you can spin, not for any appreciable time, but just to get, spin up to 150 or so then back down. I was just playing around with it this weekend on my warm-up, and for the life of me, I couldn't see how anyone could spin faster than 120. Are these "experts" wrong?
I am not a spinning expertEager Beagle
Oct 7, 2002 7:36 AM
or at least not a fast one, as I tend to ride best at around 80, but I certainly can't see any benefit in spinning that fast - I should think most people that have a nice spin at their usual rate and a bit either side would struggle at those sorts of speeds in any event.

Still, I suppose it's a nice knack to master if you can, and something to do on your rides.

Is this a "Lanceism" by the way - what does he spin at?
Oct 7, 2002 7:46 AM
Tks - interesting. However...Eager Beagle
Oct 7, 2002 7:53 AM
I wonder who they tested all this on? My amateur observations from club etc riding is that the larger the legs, the slower the spin (in very general terms).

I always feel (though I have no science to back this up) that if you have strong, large muscle bulk legs, it's less efficient to keep heaving that mass, as well as the cranks, up and down/around in circles at 90 rmp, when you can apply more power than guys with less strong skinny legs. At least at amateur level.

No doubt someone will shoot me down on that one however....
You'll notice...MXL02
Oct 7, 2002 8:30 AM
no one else is responding...after my questions last week it seems that most experienced cyclists find this pretty mundane stuff...old hat so to speak. So I went to several cycling training sites, and discovered the following: you have two types of muscle fibers: fast twitch and slow twitch. The fast twitch are the power fibers that use glycogen and anaerobic metabolism. The slow twitch fibers burn more fat and are used in aerobic metabolism. While fast twitch fibers do help provide power, endurance efficiency, (the ability to go long distances at speed without lactate burnout or bonking due to lack of glycogen)require more slow twitch fiber involvement. High cadences use more slow twitch fibers than fast twitch, thus it is more efficient for endurance riding. When climbing or sprinting (accleration) fast twitch fibers are needed for power. If you look at the pro peleton, you will see some riders with slim thighs and others with big (fullback) quads. To win you need a combination of both. (Most of this comes from Friel's book by the way)
Explains whyEager Beagle
Oct 7, 2002 8:41 AM
I'll never be a pro - I work exactly the other way around - I spin slower on long rides (toured in France with weekend - spent most of the time at 60-70, slower with the wind behind me) as I find it far easier to maintain the pace that way without bonking. Sorter faster rides I up the cadence.

Most of the guys I ride with just say "do what feels natural to you", but then most of them I would bet have never even thought about the physiology of it all.

Do your sources give you any example rates, say Big Mig v Lance or similar? I'd be interested to know...
You sound like me.....joekm
Oct 7, 2002 9:29 AM
A few days ago, I started a similar thread here and followed up on some of the physiology data that I got as feedback. I was actually spinning at 55-60 rpm. Anyway, I'm giving the 80-85 rpm approach a try. To be honest, it feels awkward. Then again, learning to use my hamstrings in the pedal stroke felt awkward at first as well. Now I do it without thinking about it.

Based upon what I've read recently, this does not appear to be a "Lance does it therefore you should too" kind of thing. It appears to be based upon sound physiological data.

I'll probably make follow up post as I learn how to do this . Old hat or not, there appears to be sufficient interest to keep this thread going.
You need the speed...Jon in CT
Oct 7, 2002 8:51 AM
...if you're a racing cyclist.

In some sprints, depending on the level of racing, the only difference between the person who wins and 2nd place is the ability to turn the cranks over faster. I've been in sprints where I was in 53x11 and the only reason I won (or lost) was because of my ability to turn the pedals faster (or slower) than the next guy.

And just to clarify, having big legs has nothing to do with how fast you can spin. Track sprinters can get well over 160 RPM and they have some of the biggest quads out there.

Even if you don't race, learning how to turn the pedals at higher speeds teaches your nervous system to fire muscle fibers more rapidly and will ultimately lead to better cycling for most.

BTW, it is not unusual for race sprints to require 140 RPM out of the saddle.
But....Eager Beagle
Oct 7, 2002 8:58 AM
Track sprinters are doing it for short periods of hard pushing.

I know large legs can do it, but over, say, a days cycling surely it can't be more efficient to lift those thights up and down 100 times a min, rather than 80 for the same given speed - or can it?
If you race, you absolutely need the speed.bob_vanderhaus
Oct 7, 2002 9:22 AM
Being a sprinter myself, I can say the high rpm drills are required for good sprint performance. In fact all of the racers that I know train regularly at high rpms(short bursts). I max out in the mid 160's for short bursts, and I am sure I hit close to that in every sprint. I am usually not spinning out a 53-11, but like some engines, I accelerate faster at higher rpms than if I am bogged down in the bigger gears.
100 RPM can be better...Jon in CT
Oct 7, 2002 9:34 AM
...but it depends on the rider.

For example, I am classified by most I ride and race with as a "big sprinter" (6'1" & 185 lbs) and I find it very comfortable to spin 3 - 5 hour training rides between 95 and 105 rpm. And I've seen skinny-butt climbers grind out big gears on the flats (70 - 90 rpm) and absolutely insane gears up climbs (50 - 60 rpm) where I have to spin a small gear at 80 - 90 rpms to keep them close enough to catch on the other side.

Understand that we all have different abilities and tissue "make up". My legs stay clear of lactic acid better when my RPMs are up whereas someone else may not have the efficiency at higher leg speed and may do much better in a bigger gear.
Turn the big gear quicklymass_biker
Oct 7, 2002 9:58 AM
Simply put, focusing on spinning will improve your leg speed. Weights (and time in the saddle) will improve your strength (not to mention cardiovascular strength). Put the two together and you can turn the big meat over quickly.

My drills are simple - I ride the rollers through the winter, focusing on pedalling faster to go faster. 30 minutes at a time seems to be about right. I find the key is to focus on staying smooth at the bottom of the pedal stroke - that is where the bouncing comes in and where it is even more important to "think round".

Couple rollers (or fixed gear riding) with weights, and it is a good balance.

Leg speed + leg strength = going fast.

Smoothing out the spinMcAndrus
Oct 7, 2002 10:29 AM
Let me first give my caveat - I am not the doctor of spin - but I do know what works for me.

During a spin-up drill I routinely get into the 150s and can push it into the 160s if I try real hard. On a flat road I'll spin at 95-105.

When I first started doing spin-ups a couple of years ago I also bounced like crazy over 120 rpm. Now my fast spins are not perfect but they are much better for two reasons: experience and relaxation. Do it more and you get better at it and try to relax.

If you're bouncing on the upstroke then your legs are not completely relaxed after coming through the bottom of the stroke and you're pushing yourself up with your tensed-up thighs.

Now, why do this? The first reason is that a faster cadence leads to longer, more sustainable rides as you consume more blood glucose for energy and less leg glycogen using a faster cadence. Blood glucose is replaceable with a simple energy drink. Leg glycogen takes much longer to replace - longer than a mult-hour ride.

The second reason is leg speed. Once your legs are used to spinning quickly a handly little thing happens: you can take this same fast cadence, shift into a bigger gear, and move more quickly, instantly. In essence, this is sprinting.

I've read some people saying a 140rpm cadence on the flats is a good thing. I disagree. The evidence I've seen shows a decline in power generated over 120rpm or so on the flats. (There was a big discussion of why Lance lost the first TT in this year's Tour. Many said it was because his cadence was too high.)

I'd say the maximum power curve is probably between 90-110 rpm and above that power declines as cadence increases - more energy goes into spinning the pedals than in pushing the bike.

Sprinting is different as you're trying to push a huge gear as quickly as possible. If you and I are sprinting for the win and we're both in our 53x12 then the guy with the faster spin wins.

As in most things athletic, repetition is the key. Keep doing spin-ups. Go a little quicker each time, try to do them on a downhill, and try to relax. It'll come.
work on it at least once a week...853
Oct 7, 2002 10:44 AM
I have been doing these high cadence sprints on my recovery days(easy gears)for a few months and it seems to work.
I started at about 100rpm and would max out at about 140, bouncing everywhere. Now, I start at about 120 and max out at about 190-195.It feels like the bike is going to explode.
Just remember to think circles and don't just spin apply power to the pedals, feel resistance - I've found out that once I start letting off on the resistance the bouncing begins.
Harder gearGMS
Oct 7, 2002 11:54 AM
Spinning implies easy gears, but that's not really what it is. Attaining a high rpm actually requires a minimum amount of resistance that may not exist if the gear is too low.

Your legs are guided by resistance. If there is no resistance, your feet are on their own as to where to go. Get going 20 mph and try to spin at 39x25. It's very difficult.

Try upshifting every time you max out your RPMs. You will find it is difficult to attain the minimum resistance required to pedal efficiently. You'll think, "Hey, I'm just going faster, and I keep dropping my RPM back down every time I upshift, so this is no help." But eventually the wind resistance (which is increasing at an increasing rate) will provide enough resistance for you to pedal smoothly and increase your RPM beyond your normal threshold. At this point you will be pedalling hard and pedalling fast (in contrast to pedalling fast and easy, which is the common interpretation of spinning) and you will realize why RPMs usually don't go above 120 unless it's a sprint.

Try it and tell me what you think. I'd like to hear. Tell me if you can spin 120 in lowest gear with no resistance. I can barely spin 100 that way. But I can spin significantly higher if I pedal harder in addition.

Also, note places in your route where you can spin faster than others (up a hill, wind in your face, downhill, tailwind) and make observations there. I'd find it hard to believe you can always spin exactly 120 in all situations. Figure out what the other factors are for you that change your maximum RPM. Share them.

I don't think it makes sense to spin over 120 aerobically. I think it calls for anaerobic effort to go beyond that, and therefore lends itself to sprints.
Harder gearMXL02
Oct 7, 2002 12:30 PM
Thank you for a cogent, lucid, and interactive reply. I am sincerely trying to go to the next level in my cycling, and I appreciate the help from you more experienced riders. I will try as you suggest and let you know how it works out. Thanks again.