Thursday, May 17, 2007

Cycling Mechanics - What are the Trends?

A trend will show you what is happening over time. Do we just use tradition or guesswork? Do we just focus on one part of the body only? On what basis does a cyclist make his/her decisions? What is it you want to do?

As I just came back from a fly fishing trip at Billy Shaw Reservoir in Nevada, home of very large rainbows (fish that is!) with friend Pat Harper who is a getting ready to start guiding in Sun Valley, ID.

Patrick was a long time member of Team Montrail and has raced all over the world. He has a love of fishing, as do I, when I can find time. Patrick asked us, "what is up with all the success? You guys are kicking it!"

After 4 hours of drive time, talking about everything, this is what I said!

There is more to cycling mechanics than meets the eye! Cycling has advanced only in the past few years . The game is the same, but the way we teach the pedal stroke has changed! We have better working models that show you how to have better trends. This is not just training!

Equipment design in cycling will only improve your performance to a certain degree! The body is the motor, which is run by your brain, so let's start there! What is the purpose? The quest is to produce perfectly efficient propulsion! No human will ever achieve this, but you can improve your performance, and by doing so, can reach you own potential.

The first thing is to get all the links right! The first is the foot link, which is the correct placement for the best orbit, for the game you want to play. We see people who have used this and that to train on, thinking the feedback of the device allows them to make the best moves. The best moves for what? The road bike is not a mtb bike, nor is the mtb bike a tt or tri bike. Then they come to us and we see huge waste because they have a road bike fit when they need a mtb fit. If you can't get the golf club on the ball, or get your hands right, then don't expect the ball to go where you what it to!

Next you have to find the right shoes, saddles, etc... We even see the best in the world having foot issues! So finding the correct shoe is a huge deal alone! If the horses foot is hurting, it will not go! Some shoes work and some shoes don't, so get the best horse shoe or the game over!

The quest is to exert the different pedal strokes needed, when we want them, and yet to have a constant force on the end of the crank, where the pedal is, so you are not wasting the force to the center of the bottom bracket where the crank starts. Both tangentially and gravity forces are needed. The hip can represent the pivot of upper and lower axis, so as to provide the tangent/gravity stroke it's best to have the hip in place to push against!

This model is determined by the center of the bottom bracket and the radius, determined by the cyclist's choice of crank length. Most will fall into the range of 172.5mm, but taller people will opt for 175mm cranks, then you have some shorter at 170mm. Again, what is it you want to do? We all know that you can turn a shorter crank over!

It sounds easy, but this is a very complex skill for any cyclist. Extensive practice only, on xyz crank, will determine how well you do this, so do your 'home-work'. Too short and you don't have the top-end speed, too long and you bleed the sugar from your muscles! That means you are working on bad motor skills, and that will produce only more bad motor skills later, and ultimately bad results.

If you don't know the precise sequence then you could be wasting your time. You can have the various muscles working and contracting at the wrong times. It also wastes energy to 'over-and-over', speed up only to slow down within one stroke! Also, force that is exerted outward or inward for the best circle is not useful for propulsion. Any lateral movement is also a waste! Even twisting links, (too much toe-in or toe-out), will lower your propulsion!

There is talk about the cleat location under the arch of the foot in assisting the rider in maintaining an improved circular motion. Many could stand to use this idea, as it would provide them with more control of their foot in space. It's true, if the baseball player has his hands or grip at the end of the bat, he doesn't always have the skills to control the swing. Perhaps, if they don't have the skills, they can move their hands up, providing them more control. But don't expect them to hit a home-run!

Perhaps a base hit? Let's see, that would it take for 4 players to drive home just one run? If we can teach a person to hit the home run, then we can get all 4 players to hit home runs, and then, well I think you get the picture! Not to say that base hits can win games! It is just harder to get that many players to even get a base hit.

I want to point out that not everyone can be a winner, but rather we want the target for all to improve their performance, which opens more playground for them. Competitive cycling is not the only focus! Many say that they don't want to race, but on the other hand, would like to meet the physical demands of their local rides.

It's true, no cyclist has unlimited energy to expend in the many ways that energy can be wasted in wobble "Wobble-naught".
The 'Wobble', being the movement not needed, and the 'Naught' is a term for using CAD to find the best solution.

After finding the best zone for the many strokes, the key is then is to teach the cyclist to increase their proportion of force. Just like the batter or golf swing, this must be learned! We understand that learning is hard work and that many don't want to learn, they just want a silver bullet! Think of all those who go to school and pay big for it, plus all that homework?

Today there are many devices that provide some kind of model, or trend for you to watch. Much better than tradition or guesswork! However, for the most part, these devices only show the sum of what someone is doing. They don't show you what muscle is doing what! Nor do they really teach you to make better movements, (which comes from a ton of "home work").
It is fun to see some morphing image, but it is not really scientific.

There is "NO INCENTIVE" to make corrections to a better pedal stroke (swing the bat or golf club) if they don't hold the bat or golf club for the shot you want to make!

There is a relatively large range of motion of foot with any pedal stroke! Only a small range of motion is located where the sit bones make contact on the saddle. Put both in the wrong space, and you will really miss, strike out, or worm burn/sky your drives!

Now comes the teachings of just sitting in a passive fashion of top of the saddle, sliding all over it, or going hard and knowing where to press into it! Anyone can ride passively, but can they go hard?

To sum it all up! The sum of a many linked system is only that; the sum! Ha! You can ride in a passive manner or go hard. However, if you don't have your bones stacked, allowing for the best range of motion for the muscles and their precise firing sequence, efficient propulsion will never come!

Even if you only want a base hit, knowing it might take you 4 hits to get the one "run", you better have your hands in the right spot. If you want to hit a home-run, you had better hold the bat in the best way to increase you chances to score.

What's in your game?

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