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Science of going faster!(17 posts)

Science of going faster!Max
May 1, 2001 8:33 PM
I'm a little curious as to what takes place in a racers body over time to allow them to progress. From what I've read, there are several changes that take place in cyclists as they begin training. Now jump in at any time to correct any old wives tales I may have aquired here!

Cardio vascular fitness: the heart can reach its full potential as a trained muscle in a few months under rigorous training? Red blood cell concentration can reach maximum levels in even less time.

Leg strength: I switched to cycling after bodybuilding, so I came into this sport with all the quads I needed and then some. I have heard that in two to three years an idividual can fully develop any muscle group to its genetic potential as far as size and strenght are concerned. This seems accurate in my experience. Size though, isn't the key focus in cycling. Then there is the issue of fast and slow twitch muscle fibers of which I know little about.

Muscle fiber recruitment: from experience I can agree that your body's ability to increase the number of muscle fibers involved in muscular contractions does improve over time. What that time period is I don't know. Maybe this is maxxed out in two years.

Arteries, veins,and capilaries:this is what interests me most. Does your body have the ability to produce more capilaries? Do your arteries and veins increase in size as well? Can your arteries contract with the beating of your heart to help improve the circulation of your blood? Over what time period do these changes take place?

August will be two years of serious cycling for me. The improvements that I have seen have been quite satisfying. I raise these questions since I am curious as to what is happening in my body and wonder how long gains can be expected for someone who is following a solid program from year to year. I would appreciate any information or corrections to some misguided conceptions I may have about the whole cycling process.
re: Science of going faster!DBOD
May 1, 2001 10:01 PM
Over time, with the right training intensity, your body will develop new capilaries. This will happen during the base building period when intensity is low (65-75% max heart rate). It's important to develop these new capilaries as they will carry oxygen rich blood to your muscles as the intensity gets higher(intervals). Apparently, training in this low intensity zone is most effective for developing these new capilaries. Any type of sustained aerobic acivity will also produce changes in the heart muscle itself. It will grow larger and pump with more volume. That's the science behind a low resting heart rate. It doesn't need to beat as much, since it's delivering more blood with each stroke. Hope this helps.
I'll take a shot at this...Kyle
May 2, 2001 9:49 AM
The heart grows with training like any other muscle. Maximum stroke volume cannot be achieved in a few months, though. And be careful of that 'rigorous training' idea--stroke volume responds best to long efforts at moderate intensities. You may be thinking of improvements in Lactate Threshold (ability to perform at a high heart rate) or VO2max (ability to uptake O2) which are both short term adaptations that respond to high intensity training.

Red blood cell concentrations will vary with altitude and nutrition (and drugs for those cheaters out there) more than training. In fact, there may be no training benefit here at all--someone out there might know for sure.

Absolute leg strength is not as important in cycling as the ability to maintain a high percentage of your maximum power output for a long period of time. Interestingly, the adaptations for strength and endurance seem to be mutually exclusive. Ie: In a maximally trained muscle, you have to give up one to get the other.

Muscle fiber ratios are determined genetically, though training can realign their performance somewhat. Generally, fast twitch=good strength/poor endurance and slow twitch is the opposite.

Recruitment is not a particularly useful concept in cycling unless perhaps you are a sprint specilist. This is a fairly fast adaptation, but due to the high loads needed during training it is extremely dangerous. Leave it to the power lifters and rock climbers.

The prior post was correct on the capillary issue. Mitochondria are also critical and you want a high relative density of both. This is an argument against excess muscle mass (beyond the more obvious body weight argument.) A fairly long term adaptation that responds to long, moderate efforts.

Arteries, I believe, do increase in size with training and I believe the adaptation is fairly long term. I don't know for sure about veins or your contraction question, so I'll leave it to a passing biology geek.

Interesting....thanks nmMax
May 2, 2001 2:17 PM
Max raises hand.Max
May 4, 2001 3:25 PM
What are mitochondria? What role do they play?
Max raises hand.Bruno S
May 5, 2001 5:06 PM
Some info:
Don't forget about technique.Maillot Rouge
May 3, 2001 9:59 AM
Speed is probably 75% physical and 25% technique. Being a former body builder I'm sure you recognize the importance of proper position on the bike and pedaling technique. The ability to apply equal power around the entire pedal stroke takes time to develop. Pedaling perfect circles will increase power output which results in an increase in speed without requiring additional effort.

Then there's the whole aerodynamics aspect of body position that we, as non-pros and limited resources that prevent us from using the Texas A+M wind tunnel, can only improve to a degree.

I understand that you were asking about the purely physical aspect of speed that can probably be better described as power output but I thought I'd throw these factors in.

Don't forget about
May 4, 2001 2:08 AM
If one is using the pedaling circles technique, there is no way that
he can apply the same maximum chain drive power to the pedals at
the upper and lower dead spots as he does at 3 o'clock. There is only
one completely different technique that enables a person to apply
continuous maximum power to the chainwheel throughout it's full 360
degrees and that is the technique that was used so successfully by
the world's greatest ever time trialler Jacques Anquetil. And further
proof that it is the only perfect way to pedal lies in the fact that
it instantly and completely eliminates even the worst type of chronic
lower back pain.
Don't forget about technique.Dean
May 4, 2001 6:18 AM
I have heard this technique mentioned, but how do you do it? Is it as easy as pedaling circles or is there more to it?
Don't forget about
May 4, 2001 7:21 AM
Much easier when you know how to do it. You mentally pedal using just
two lines, one is forward/down and the other is back, the turning cranks do the rest. One can mix the normal pedaling style with this
technique as the occasion demands. But it is how one applies the power to the pedals that is the key to the whole technique. It is done
in a forced sliding style manner and toe-clips and straps are necessary as the power is driven form behind the pedal axle and the shoe will be always in a pointed downward direction. While the shoe is
only slightly pointed downward at the top of the pedal stroke, that
downward pointing becomes more pronounced as the pedal moves downward.
It is almost impossible to describe on paper, it has to be explained
and demonstrated in person. It is planned to have it undergo a series
of tests in June for direct comparison with normal pedaling. The only
mystery that remains for me is how Anquetil happened to acquire it.
Ps. You start to apply the power at 11 o'clock and it ends at 5 o'clock, which with both legs means that maximum power is delivered
for the full 360 degress of the chainwheel.
Don't forget about technique.Maillot Rouge
May 4, 2001 5:08 PM
My old coach told me that the way to pedal perfect circles is to think triangles. That is you think down and forward, straight back across the bottom ( generally described as scrapping mud off of your shoes) and then up and forward. He told me that if you think circles you pedal squares.

Tests performed by Ed Burke showed that even top professionals can not add power to the pedal stroke on the up stroke. The best you can do on the up stroke is eliminate negative force or force that would negate the downward force of the oppisite leg.

This still doesn't answer the above question, sorry.
Going round the bendKerry Irons
May 5, 2001 7:53 AM
While Anquetil (and other great riders) obviously developed great pedaling style, one must be careful to differentiate maxiumum power from full power around the revolution. Even when a rider is delivering maximum power at all points in the circle, that is NOT uniform power. There is still a significant peak and valley to the power applied. Numerous studies on world class cyclists have shown this, and the ratio of peak to valley increases with cadence. The faster you are pedaling the harder it is to effectively apply the technique of pushing forward/pulling back at top/bottom dead center. Despite this, there is a lot to be gained from developing an efficient pedaling style, something that many recreational riders and amateur racers never seem to understand. Our boy Lance has just learned this in the past couple of years as he has shifted from a mashing to spinning style, and taken a step up in his level of performance.
There is no bendnc
May 8, 2001 2:30 AM
When using Anquetil's completely different technique, there are no
upper and lower dead spots, one leg starts applying maximum power to
the pedal at 11 o'clock and as it finishes applying this maximum
power at 5 o'clock, the other leg instantly takes over and continues
with that same constant maximum power. As I said, just two lines is
all that it takes and even as the revs increase one can continue with
that power, if one is fit enough to do it. Of course it has the
assistance of the pulling power of the arms which is made possible by
the fact that power to pedal line and arm pulling line are parallell.
The other advantages of this style are that it reduces the workload
on the knees, prevents one from sliding forward on the saddle even
when tilted down for greater comfort and safety in that delicate area and
it completely eliminates all cycling related lower back pain. High
gears have always been associated with lower back pain but in reality
high gears are only magnifying all the faults (lower back and knee)
of the normal recommended pedaling style. With Anquetil's style, the
higher the gear one uses, the more relaxing and beneficial it feels
throughout the body.
Maximum Powernc
May 8, 2001 5:22 AM
The maximum power that I am referring to is equal and continuous at
all times. Each pedal delivers the very same power at 12 o'clock as
it does at 3 o'clock. If tested, it should give an almost continuous
straight line, completely different to the waves that are produced on
a graph by the normal pedaling style. Anquetil's technique was never
tested by the experts, simply because they do not know how he powered
his pedals and the recently released English version of the French
video on Anquetil is proof of that.
Proof or belief?Kerry Irons
May 8, 2001 7:12 PM
So you're saying there is no data to prove that Anquetil was able to do what you say? "If tested, it should" be constant? How do you know that? Pictures do NOT tell how much power was applied. The physiological/bio-mechanical challenge of doing what you claim is extreme. Do you say it is so because you believe it to be so, or is there some concrete data anywhere that shows that anyone has ever accomplished what you claim? Once again, you cannot determine how much power is applied by looking at pictures, slow motion video, etc. You can only determine this by measurement.
Proof or belief?nc
May 9, 2001 3:24 AM
As I stated earlier, I am having my technique tested next month
by an independend sports technologist. I discovered the powerful
technique that I am using over four years ago and since then have
perfected it. It is a completely different pedaling style which
enables one to make maximum use of arm pulling power if needed. On the video it states that the source of his power is a mystery
and while some said it was due to his large heart, others believed it
to be in his special back formation, but all were guessing. I only
say this video for the first time a few months ago but as soon as I
saw his technique I knew it was identical to the one that I am using.
Direct downward pressure is never used with this technique and this
makes it so easy to distinguish from all other styles. If Anquetil
had gone for narrower bars, his pedal power and winning margins would
have been even greater.
All of the above and below plus...gimmeaminute
May 3, 2001 11:49 AM
Isn't a bit*h when all that effort goes out of a tiny hole in a tube?