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Why are so many big guys mashers and how do we STOP IT?(15 posts)

Why are so many big guys mashers and how do we STOP IT?Kvonnah
Apr 2, 2003 5:15 PM
I got my 2300 (I know, another poser on a Trek) in September and have put 2800 miles on so far mostly via commute to work. I thought I was improving pretty well (best time 40 mi @ 18.9mph) but then this new guy at work lives downtown Denver as I do so he wanted to ride with me. Cool, I thought. He was riding a 7-year-old Raleigh that was stuck on his 39 ring and he had no problem matching me while I was in 52-17 through 14.

Out of curiosity, I actually used my rpm meter on my comp and found that I ride @ around 75 to 85. One suggestion this guy gave me was to shift down to my 42 ring (triple) and match the mph I normally ride at on my 52. Good idea? Any others? Or is there something anatomically different about big guys that reduces our cadence? (Big = 6'5" 190 lbs)

Thanks in advance!
everyone is different...C-40
Apr 2, 2003 7:29 PM
Not everyone can pedal effectively at 90-110 rpm, but the only way to know is to try it. Power equals torque x cadence. If you pedal at a slow cadence, you have to apply a lot more force to the pedals to create an equal amount of power.

Gear selection, which you have complete control over, may be part of the problem. Select a little lower gear and force yourself to gradually increase your cadence. It will be easier on your knees and may result in faster speeds. I find it common to see riders obviously putting out a lot of effort with a slow cadence and resulting slow speed. It appears to me that they never learned to select the proper gear.

Cadence can be overdone too. If you spin too fast, with insufficient torque, your heart will race to the max, but you won't go very fast either. It's all about balancing torque and cadence. Don't apply so much torque that your legs go anaerobic (the big burn) or spin so fast that your heart and lungs are overburneded, with no improvement in speed.

You may have your saddle set too high. If the saddle is too high, it promotes a slow cadence. With you feet clipped into the pedals, be sure that you can drop your heel 2-3cm below horizontal (maybe more for a big guy) when your leg is locked out at the bottom of the stroke.

Saddle fore/aft position also has an effect on torque and cadence. Have you ever checked your knee position relative to the pedal spindle? A further forward position generally promotes a faster cadence.

Check out or Both sites have instructions on checking the knee to pedal relationship. There is no right or wrong to this position, but it's good to know where the "neutral" knee over pedal position is. Then you can experiment with saddle fore/aft changes. Saddle height will change slightly when the saddle is move forward or backward. The saddle should be moved down by 1/3 the amount that it is moved back and vice versa.
Great post, C-40! Lots of good info. (nm)Dale Brigham
Apr 3, 2003 8:08 AM
For me, it was.....DINOSAUR
Apr 2, 2003 8:48 PM
When I started having problems with my knees I learned to gear down and spin (still learning)...
that should motivate you to challenge yourself and ride fasterscottfromcali
Apr 2, 2003 11:45 PM
spinning is an acquired techniquetarwheel
Apr 3, 2003 6:02 AM
It takes a while to learn to spin comfortably at higher cadences. It helps a lot to have a computer that measures cadence but it's not necessary. I've gradually increased my cadence over the years from about 80 to 100 and it really helps my endurance on longer rides. Some ways to help increase your cadence include one-legged drills (where you just pedal with one foot) and spin classes. I go to spin classes on days when the weather is too crappy to ride outdoors and really focus on keeping my cadence high; spin bikes are also great for doing one-legged drills. Other ways to increase cadence include riding indoor rollers and fixed-gear bikes -- neither of which I have tried.

It's also true that some cyclists are just not spinners and will never be comfortable riding at higher rpms. However, I see a lot of cyclists who would clearly benefit from pedaling faster. I know some cyclists who really struggle trying to push big gears up hills and I just cringe. They're not only tiring themselves out but potentially injuring their knees.
75 rpm aint mashing for youwillin
Apr 3, 2003 6:53 AM
I am 6 foot, 200 bs, masters racer. 70-80 rpms at your speed is probably a good efficient rpm for your commuting. Certainly is not mashing.

When I race and am trying to conserve energy in the pack (efficient) I am in the 75-85 rpm range and heart rate is low. Not working too hard.

When I need to go harder I shift up, pick up the cadence to anout 96 rpm, which is the most efficient fast speed for me.

Spinning fast means you are fit, too. Spining a low gear makes you go slow. (low is slow). Spining a high gear is fast, but you need to be fit to push it

If were you Id kick it up from time to time on your commute, to about 95 rpm, see how it feels...

Spinning is in vogoue now, doesnt mean it is the only or best approach. Lance Armstrong spins because he can--because is is really fit, and he is spinning a high gear and goin fast.
More than just fashionfiltersweep
Apr 3, 2003 7:21 AM
I think it is more than just in vogue... I challenge anyone to sustain a reasonable power output (wattage) for any length of time (like an hour) at low cadence. It simply cannot be done as efficiently. Spinning simply recruits more muscle fibers that have more of a propensity for endurance. Maybe there is some science out there that refutes this..?

On an unrelated note, all the running I've done over the winter (at a "cadence" of 75-85) has slowed my cadence down considerably... time to re-learn th cycling cadence.
interesting topic....running cadenceFrith
Apr 3, 2003 7:42 AM
I wonder if runners argue about running cadence? I suppose it has more to do with the length of your legs than anything. I don't know if my running technique is any good. I do know that I shift around alot to get a comfy stride. Never counted though... Is 100 strides per minute even doable? efficient? smart? would it benefit you cycling cadence to keep your running cadence as high as possible even at a cost of inefficiency? very interesting.
Apr 3, 2003 10:44 AM
runners tend to regard cadence as stride (length of strides)- which is roughly the same thing- HOWEVER look at the WIDE variety of gear inches available to cyclists- vs. reasonable stride length variations for runners: there really is no comparison- the equivalent to mashing would be a runner leaping from step to step- it simply isn't done ;)
Apr 3, 2003 7:47 AM
Generally, I agree with your point. The problem is it depends too much on each individual, the riding style, the gearing, and level of fitness. Some people may HAVE to spin because the knees & muscles necessitate it, not because it is the most efficient way.

But we are talking about ranges here. What do you consider low? What do you consider high? And still, each range given has a span of at least 10 RPM.
Science supports spinningDale Brigham
Apr 3, 2003 8:06 AM
For a given power output, higher cadence ("spinning") means lower peak pedaling torque is needed. Lower peak pedaling torque means that fewer high-power/highly fatigue-prone fast twitch, or Type II, muscle fibers need to be recruited by the motor neurons. Less recruitment of Type II fibers means less lactic acid, less glycogen depletion (Type I, or slow-twitch fibers, can burn fat as fuel better than the fast-twitch ones can) and less overall fatigue. Less lactic acid, glycogen depletion, and concommitant fatigue means a longer, more sustainable effort. Since sustainable power is the name of the game in road cycling, spinning has some real benefits.

Ugly, but I like it.juanteal
Apr 3, 2003 8:43 AM
I agree with the science behind spinning, but you can't deny Jan mashed his way to a TdF win and Ekimov TT'ed for the gold medal with his heel 2 inches above horizontal. Sometimes (rarely, I admit) ugly is better.
high cadenceRich_Racer
Apr 3, 2003 3:53 PM
I think generally higher cadence is considered more efficient because it allows the use of smaller muscles that can drive a more complete pedal stroke. It does take some practice but even big guys will benefit. You'll still be able to mash - but it'll mean you'll have saved your big mucles a bit more, when it comes time to mash, if you've been spinning.

It's the mix of the two, and good gear selection that will make you a better cyclist.


Thanks for responses all!! nmKvonnah
Apr 3, 2003 4:55 PM