After 1 month

A light bike doesn't replace good fitness.

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You may find that the reduced volume higher intensity approach effective (with or without PCs) and I certainly wish you the best success:!:

Certainly my experience is such and this again is where the baseline data would help proving. Next year I am going to save data from every ride (I put a Polar on my mountain bike) and even convert spin class HR data to an approximate TSS so every training mode is recorded to some degree.

Exactly my plan, in fact. I've already begun recording my training this fall as I start to get some base again. The spring won't be a fair comparison to now because of my current lack of fitness, but I do have a recorded ride from this summer (when I was fit) to compare to. It won't be the most rigorous of comparisons, but hey, this isn't really my science and I don't plan to publish.

One of the elite guys I know, a guy I train with from time to time, actually had a spin scan done and is remarkably even in pedal application. He's also got an incredibly high cadence, regularly riding crits at a 110-120 average. He's not the strongest in the pack but he's a smart racer and tends to do well anyway in local races, consistently top 20 in the P-1-2 field.

On the other hand, another friend of mine was his former teammate(who just got a pro contract in Wisconsin) who can turn 420W while reading a book and holding a conversation (HR ~155 after 5 minutes). This guy weighs 200+ lbs and wins hill climbs here in Colorado by significant margins ... and he has a terrible spin profile, all power on the downstroke. He's been riding for basically two years and took third in the National TT championships this year as a Cat 2. Hell, he won an 85 mile road race in June on a windy 98 degree day by going off the front with one other guy from mile 7 - then shedding him at mile 65 and beating him by 10 minutes! And we have some of the best time trialists in the country here (in fact, numbers 1 and 2 from this year's TT championship were both in that pack) . This guy would appear to support what you're saying; but the problem with me wanting to emulate him is that he is nothing but pure, raw talent. It may be that the very top people will be good no matter what kind of stroke they produce simply because of this talent.

Anyway, lemme know when you find that study :wink:

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by Sparta

Interesting discussion, I couldn´t help but think of my own experience with pedalstroke. When i pedal smoothly my muscle endurance increases as more muscles are recruited for the same effort, but I´m not able to make a hard acceleration without going to the up down (pure quad) method. Perhaps it´s more a question of different styles for different purposes. I find that the further back I place the saddle, the smoother my pedalstroke as I use more glutes and hamstrings, whereas the more forward position is the quad or unsmooth position. I was wondering if many untrained riders will not go for the smoother (more musclegroups) approach simply because it is less painfull and allows the untrained to attain a higher average of power for a longer time?
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by John979

Among the participants in Coyle’s study, there were no significant biomechanical differences between low power and functional threshold power efforts. Saddle position was not studied. However, it is certainly true from a cadence perspective that novice cyclists tend to prefer a lower cadence than experienced cyclists, perhaps due to increased low power efficiency at low cadence and the relatively low power capabilities most novice cyclists possess. However, as power demands increase, efficiency shifts to higher cadence as demonstrated by the high RPMs of all hour records. As discuss, there is no longitudinal study I know examining individual biomechanical progression. However, the following appears quite plausible:

When Novice
Low functional threshold power
Low peak force
Force applied over a wide range of pedal stroke
Low self-selected cadence

When Experienced
High functional threshold power
High peak force
Force applied over a narrow range of pedal stroke
High self-selected cadence

While some speculate that a cyclist can obtain higher power by applying force more uniformly throughout the pedal stroke, I maintain the opposite to true (as evidenced in the Coyle study) and believe a high, narrow force profile allows more recovery between efforts enabling higher power.

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by rockymtnway

We're not all 100% roadies out here, so I thought I'd interject without getting into the fracus over which works better, because frankly, I don't have a clue and have been enjoying the view from the sidelines. This has been a good thread.

But when it comes to MTB riding, a smooth pedal stroke, regardless of peak power, in mud, round strokes keep the wheels turning. If you're someone who crosses disciplines, there's still value, regardless of what the science says or doesn't say about a nice even pedal movement. Surges in power tend to spin the rear wheel, at which point it's game over, thanks for playing, have a nice walk home.
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by RTW


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I personally believe a round stroke is a valuable commodity, even if 5 or 6 elite cyclists in Coyle's study didn't have one back in 1990. In 1990 clipless pedals themselves were a relatively new technology, and I don't believe there has been enough evidence since to say that a square stroke is better than a round one. Especially since speed records in general have improved significantly since the 80s and clipless pedals were one of the changes.

My personal experience says a round stroke is better. One of the best rides/competitive experiences of my life was not in a race, it was with a training partner. He was racing Expert at the time and I was racing Sport, but it was generally agreed upon among friends that I was a bit faster. He didn't like that our friends thought this, especially since he wasn't doing that well at Expert.

We were planning on a ride one sunday in the fall. But another friend called me up that friday to do a pretty hard climbing ride, which I went along with. So my Expert friend told someone he was going to use the opportunity presented by the fact I was going to be unrecoverd and try to drop me.

We got out on the ride, and I was feeling pretty good. We were going to ride to Estes Park from Boulder, about 75 miles round trip up a canyon, which has two sections broken up by a short downhill. Sure enough, when we got to the first canyon, my friend raised the pace to a pretty hard level. I suddenly realized I needed to eat, so I downed a Powerbar and held on to his wheel (ok, this was the mid-90s). I was happy to see that short downhill come up.

For the second section of the climb, I decided it was time I got out front and controlled the pace a bit. So I did, but was out there only thirty seconds or so when he came around me and started pushing the pace a bit. But I was recovered now, fully fueled ... and definitely pissed off that he had jumped in front like that. I lifted my cadence and attacked him with everything I had, and just rode off the front. I looked down at my speedometer and it read 22 mph - on a hill I regularly get to 45 coming *down*. I heard some frantic shifting behind me, but didn't look back; and 20 seconds later there was nothing. I rode away and, for some reason, arbitrarily decided my speed for the rest of the climb was not going to drop below 20. It never did that day, though it came damn close on some of the steeper sections. At the top of the hill I waited 10 minutes for my riding partner, and I tried to keep from grinning when he struggled up to where I was sitting with a perplexed look on his face.

I have never again managed to hold 20+ up that canyon, so I must have had some serious adrenaline going for me (and a tailwind) because I'm a much stronger rider now. But the point of this long-ass story is that while I was riding I was noticing a different feeling in my legs from the one I usually climbed with. I was involving my glutes a lot more, my hamstrings were doing "bicep curls" with the pedals, and I could feel my entire core getting involved - it felt a lot like turning a crank with your hands, applying pressure evenly to the outside of the stroke all the way around. Only it was with my legs.

This is exactly the feeling I get when I ride the Powercranks. And it's why, short of a conclusive study showing a consistent reduction in power in someone after rounding out their stroke, I simply can't be convinced that it's better just to push.

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by John979

Again; one cannot merely look at a cyclist's pedaling style and determine the cyclist's force production throughout the stroke, so yours may look round but actually be less than you think in terms of force production throughout your stroke. In addition, multiple studies show there is no significant difference in muscle activation between seated riding on a flat or grade (there is significant difference in muscle activation standing on a climb), so I am not sure of your story's point regarding "feeling." Personally, I always feel sore after looking climbs 1) because I am riding hard 2) because there is no time for recovery.

Here is the Dr. Coggan's take on pedaling is circles:

"...It would also be interesting to see the data upon which he bases his
conclusion, since it runs counter to the only published data that I am
aware of that has examined the relationship between pedal force patterns
and efficiency, performance, etc.

Somewhat ironically, when I was doing my Ph.D. w/ Ed (Coyle), he too had the working hypothesis that somehow "spreading the work around" to different muscle groups made a significant difference...but first we found no difference in metabolism or performance between pedaling w/ or w/o toe-clips, or cycling vs. running uphill (in high LT cyclists), and then subsequently he found that the best performers were those who simply stomped down hardest on the pedal, i.e., NOT those who "pedaled round". Despite these data, though, the idea still seems to keep coming 'round again (pun intended)..."

Indeed, "pedaling in circles" is myth without substantiation that won't die, kinda like tubulars having lower rolling resistance than clinchers. :cry:

PS did you save your power meter data from the above ride? Since it sounds like a great person best and something to have objective data to analyze.

Finally, the reasons why speed records changed starting in the early 80s (actually 90s) are primarily twofold 1) Much, much better aerodynamics 2) hematocrit manipulation. You can take 2) to mean whatever you want (hypoxic training?), but when hour record data is analyzed in terms of watts/kg, there is a power spike starting in the early 90s that cannot be explained by improvements is mechanics or training.

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Hah, I *wish* I had had a power meter on my bike then. That was the mid-90s and I was lucky to have a cyclocomputer. But it might have been depressing, too, if I was somehow producing some ridiculous amount of power that I've never been able to get to since.

I understand quite clearly your distinction between appearance and the actual manifestation of a 'round' stroke - sorry I didn't acknowledge earlier. Too bad a spin scan isn't available to everyone, it'd be pretty interesting to compute a distribution for the general population on some quantitative measure of evenness of stroke. Perhaps a standard deviation of torque values would be a sufficient measure. Correlating this measure with some power measure would be useful too, perhaps mean power over a 20 minute time trial. Even better, get a sample of say 50-100+ riders of varying abilities and have them ride one test concentrating on circles and another concentrating on squares ...

My story's point regarding feeling was that I was concentrating more on my upstroke than my downstroke, on the hypothesis that the downstroke would take care of itself. The "hamstring curls" I was doing seemed to be making a huge difference. I've had the feeling at other times when I've climbed well, too, though never to this degree. And the whole climb was seated; back then I didn't believe in standing on long climbs, and even now I only do it to switch muscles for short periods of time.

If turning circles is indeed a myth, it would be nice to see a conclusive study out there. I hope you're not offended when I tell you I don't believe it's a myth based on what I've seen, despite what your research or your colleagues may seem to indicate. And while we're at it, I have a hard time believing that there's no significant difference in muscle activation between seated climbing and flat rides! In my experience, individual power produced on a hill is quite different from that produced on the flats (eg. for me personally, it is much easier to maintain high values of power on uphills). But that's perhaps something best left to another post ... :?

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by Bruiser

I've been doing alot of hill time trials recently, and I've developed a substantial amount of power out of my hamstrings and glutes.

Yesterday I rode over a few 1-2% sections during my climb and it was the first time I've felt really strong. My stroke wasn't circluar but I got alot of power out of the up section in addition to the down section. I was pushing (70-80rpm) bigger gears than usual and really moving.

We know that good riders produce lots of power in their down stroke, but why shouldn't they be able to produce even more power by using the upstroke as well?

I'm not detracting from the important of a powerful downstroke, but why not use other muscles in addition to that powerful downstroke?

Pedaling in circles (leanring to use your upstroke) is the first step to a powerful technique.

Sure you can be a high cadence rider like a MTB rider or a hill climber who flys with low gears, but with years of training you would be able to use your most powerful technique to climb.

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Well, what I am really hoping is that the Powercranks will help me learn to use the same technique with a high rate of spin. I have managed to get my cadence up to an average of about 80-90 RPM (without 0s) now on a 2-3 hour ride - my legs are still most comfortable at a 75, but if I can make them comfortable with a 90+ cadence I will feel like I've accomplished something. After 1400kJ of riding yesterday (including a short but power-intensive climb I managed to average 4-500W up), and two similar days prior to that, I am very sore!

Now if I could get the cadence on them up even higher ... In crits I try to turn no less than 100RPM, and often hover around 110-120. I certainly wouldn't want to sacrifice my ability to do that; at the very least it's extremely important for responding to accelerations. But at this point 100RPM, even at light wattages like 120W, feels like harcore neuromuscular fatigue.

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