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Why can't I pedal down hills?(11 posts)

Why can't I pedal down hills?Joe Nordic
Jul 31, 2003 10:18 AM
Would rollers help me learn to pedal down hills?
Why would you want to? Coasting is the whole POINTcory
Jul 31, 2003 10:28 AM
No, actually . . . well, I don't do it. But if I wanted to try, I'd shift to a higher gear. Try going up to your 53/11 or whatever your top is, then shift down until you hit a comfortable cadence.
do you mean spin faster?DougSloan
Jul 31, 2003 10:39 AM
Rollers can help you to develop a smoother and faster spin. A fixed gear bike will, too, as it forces you to spin, at least down hills. Of course, you can achieve the same thing by spinning on a regular bike; just use lower gears and spin higher cadences more.

re: Why pedal down hills?Fredrico
Jul 31, 2003 11:12 AM
Are you putting us on?

If you can pedal say, 100 rpm comfortably on a flat, you'll be able to do it going down a hill--until the bike gets away from you. Then, rather than spin out, stop pedaling, hold the crank parallel to the ground, go into a full tuck, hands clasped close together on the handlebars, knees close-in to the top tube, and witness the sudden acceleration in speed well beyond how fast you could pedal.

That's how you go down hills, mate.
re: Why can't I pedal down hills?Joe Nordic
Jul 31, 2003 11:25 AM
No, I'm not kidding. I have no problem spinning up a hill
at 90+ rpm. But when I crest the hill and see a steep
downhill on the other side, even though I upshift to a
high enough gear, I cannot seem to get my legs going to
build up some speed before I coast. I can pedal down
shallow hills ok. Steep rollers are a problem.
re: Why can't I pedal down hills?briburke
Jul 31, 2003 11:47 AM
Train yourself to realize the hill isn't over until you've crested the top and started down the backside - not at the very top, so don't let up early. Also, I find that if I shift into too high a gear too soon I'll tire and not hit as fast a speed then if I'd stayed in a lower gear and spun for a few more seconds.

Sounds like the barrier is mental as well as physical.dzrider
Jul 31, 2003 12:17 PM
Spinning your max on a bike acceleratiing really fast down a big hill can be a scary feeling, kind of like running down a steep trail without holding back at all. Try to stay ahead of the bike's acceleration for as long as you can before you tuck and roll. If your seat is too high, the rocking that comes when you've spun out will come at a lower cadence, which exacerbates the problem.
Sounds like the barrier is mental as well as physical.Joe Nordic
Jul 31, 2003 12:29 PM
Yup, that's the part I cannot seem to do - stay ahead
of the acceleration. I do have my seat a little high
to prevent knee problems. But it is a mental thing, too.

To return to my original question - would rollers help me
get over the problem?
Jul 31, 2003 1:51 PM
Now I know what you're talking about. You crest a hill doing 90 rpm, downshift, then can't pick up the same cadence in the larger gear as the bike takes off down the hill?

You're pushing on the pedals hard to get up the climb, gravity presenting significant resistance on each pedal stroke. When gravity pulls the bike away on the descent, your legs have to start spinning the crank. The resistance is no longer there for the muscles to contract the same way.

If you turn the crank in circles, spin, you'll be able to adapt more easily to the downhills. As Doug suggests, fixed gear training would be the ultimate way to learn how to crank in circles. But just get up a good spin in an easy gear, and concentrate on cranking rather than pushing down, and there will be much less problem taking up cadence at the crest of a hill.

Is this right?
Aha....Joe Nordic
Jul 31, 2003 2:09 PM
Yes, that is a good description of the problem I have.
And I wonder if riding the trainer all winter long just
makes it worse?
Maybe so.Fredrico
Jul 31, 2003 3:33 PM
Good point. After a winter of no hills, headwinds or tailwinds, vicious dogs, competition, or pretty girls up ahead, the pedaling would naturally become static, just plodding at the same monotonous efforts, overcoming the constant resistance of the trainer, simulating something like a slight rise.

Hinault's and Eddy B.'s books both say that even pros have to re-learn their spin after a hard season. Pushing is more intuitive, but is hard on the knees. Pushing also encourages use of fast twitch muscles, the ones that deliver explosive power using finite glycogen stored in their fibers, then have to back off to recover. The slow twitch fibers are the ones that burn oxygen and can take you the distance. Those are the ones that come into play in fast cadence and spinning.

The easiest way to get used to cranking in circles, is to spin at such a fast cadence that you can't consciously contract your quads on the downstroke. Momentum of the crank carries the legs around in a continuous movement. At first its really hard on the lungs and heart, but after your nervous system gets it down, you can go really hard and fast, for longer than if you pushed, feeling the burn all over your legs and butt, not mainly in the quads. Then after a hard climb with the quads inevitably coming into play at slow cadences, you can much more easily recover at the crest and get spinning again.