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Fear of the Gear

The following is a piece I wrote for the Cincinnati Cycle Club newsletter.  You can access the site by clicking here

Fear of the Gear

You are in a pace-line.  Nice steady tempo going.  You are doing your turns at the front and dropping back to take shelter and get a break.  All of a sudden, a gap opens, might be your fault, might not be.  But now you have to close that gap and quickly!  How do you do that?

 One of the hardest things to teach yourself on the bike is the art of spinning.   In the July article, I wrote about keeping a high cadence.  Being able to keep that targeted 85-95 rpm, is what I call, keeping your legs “supple”, or ready to spring into action when need be. 

Sure, it feels easier to slog away at about 75 rpm– makes you feel strong too!   But, if you have to accelerate from 18 to 22 mph to close that gap, it is much easier to do it if your legs are supple, or not bogged down by a heavy gear.  Here is an analogy for those that drive a manual transmission automobile.  You are merging onto the highway and you need to accelerate because there is a big truck blocking your nice smooth entrance.  Do you leave it in fifth gear while merging and need acceleration?  No, you drop a gear, pick up the rpm’s of your engine (get it now???) and get in front of the truck!  Same thing on your bike, it is much easier to accelerate when spinning rather than slogging away. 

Same holds true as you approach that HUGE HILL.  Rolling into that hill with a low cadence is going to feel like someone just added 20 pounds to your legs.  Rolling into that hill at a good cadence, or with your legs supple, you are now able to spin up that hill using much less energy! 

Whenever I suggest to people that they pick up their leg speed, I hear, “This feels better” or “I USED to spin …” or “I don’t know how to spin like that!”  Well, you have to train yourself to spin, it doesn’t just happen.  It will take time to adapt your legs.  If you know your cadence is low, next time you are out, set a goal that you will do three or four 5 minute higher cadence sessions during your ride.  The next ride, do three or four 10 minute sessions.  Before you know it, you will be spinning, and closing those gaps, like a Pro! 

We only have a few more newsletters before the press shuts down for the winter.  I would love to answer some of your questions for the next newsletter.  Please email them to me:

Until then …..
Eat Well!
Sleep Well!
Ride SMART!!