View Full Version : Probably a "Dumb" question re: Spinning.

03-10-2014, 10:16 AM
Hi Folks,

For me at least there has always been a sort of mystique/unknown about the magic of "spinning" on a recumbent. People refer to it, but I have never seen a proper description of it.
I'm not sure what it is meant to 'feel' like and how one knows that one's technique is correct.

Yesterday on my long-ish run in the sunshine (it was truly wonderful) I noticed several occasions on the flat when....

It felt almost as if the gears were 'disengaged' and I was costing and/or pedalling against no virtually no resistance. Although my speed was constant neither rising nor falling.
If I changed up a gear then a feeling of resistance returned and it was clear that pushing harder to maintain the RPM would mean an increase in speed.

From a mechanical standpoint all of this is obvious to me (an equilibrium/balance has been reached in terms of effort to keep a constant speed).

It seems to me that as the rehab on my left leg continues and some strength returns I will be achieving this balance point at higher and higher points along my available gear-inch range.

Is this what people mean by "spinning" or am I misinterpreting things?



03-10-2014, 10:38 AM
The answer is simple "cadence" - you maintain steady cadence regardless of speed, by adjusting gears as necessary.
Everything revolves (pardon the pun) around rpm of your pedals.

03-10-2014, 11:11 AM
I thought there is a difference between spinning and pedaling -- both involve cadence. I have always thought that spinning is when you hit a hill an downshift into a lower gear that is comfortable so you can maintain a higher cadence (Aha! maybe you are right!!!) of 100 to 120 rpm so that you can travel up the hill without putting undue stress on your knee joints.

03-10-2014, 12:26 PM
No spinning and mashing are both pedalling, but at different cadence.
For flat road spinning you aim for 80-110 rpm cadence and for hills no less than 80 rpm.
That's the theory - in practice a lot depends on the rider - I can never manage (sustained) a lot more than 80 :rolleyes4:
One thing is for sure if you drop to 60 rpm and below, you are mashing and damaging your knees ...

03-10-2014, 03:15 PM
Sorry, but you are both talking about cadence which is simply the number of times you rotate the cranks in one complete circle in a minute. Recreational cyclists normally maintain a cadence in the 60-80 range, racers push 80-100 for most riding, but will push 150 or so during sprints.

Spinning is when you are pushing or pulling through the entire pedal stroke with both feet. Unfortunately a lot of confusion between cadence and spinning stems in large part from "spin" classes where they actually focus on cadence without teach people how to actually spin. That being said, spinning will come naturally to you over time when using clipless pedals. You can't spin on a bike with standard pedals so your legs never develop the muscle memory to do it.

Danny, to learn how to spin, put the bent in a gear that requires you to use both pedals constantly, meaning no coasting, but not high enough that there is much strain. Then take one foot off the pedal and put it in a comfortable place that is out of the way of the crank arm and pedal. Next use one foot to pedal and notice that it requires you to:
Push down in the 2:00 - 4:00 position
Push down and back in the 4:00 - 6:00
Pull back and up in the 6:00 - 8:00
Up in the 8:00 - 10:00
Up and forward in the 10:00 to 12:00
Forward and down in the 12:00 to 2:00

Once you get started, quickly adjust the gear to a position that doesn't strain your knees or leg muscles when doing this, the point is to learn the motion at first, then you can increase the gear as you master the motion and strengthen your quads and calves, and be aware that they will get sore afterwards.

Make sure to switch legs often enough to avoid tiring out your legs, and it's best to do this in a flat area like a parking lot of an office building on a Sunday. Once you understand the motion, use both feet and actually think through the motion, it will take some focus until your legs get used to it.

Worry about cadence after you master this and only push your cadence as much as your cardiovascular system can handle.


03-10-2014, 04:00 PM
...Spinning is when you are pushing or pulling through the entire pedal stroke with both feet....

simply no :) (unless there is different definition of it on your side of the pond :cheesy:)

SPINNING (high cadence; “small” gears) or MASHING (low cadence; “big” gears)

03-10-2014, 11:02 PM
Not trying to get the last word in or start some sort of flame war, but the common understanding of spinning has changed because the popularity of "spinning" as an aerobic exercise makes it almost impossible to find any authoritative info on the subject and not going to continue looking for info that doesn't use the term generically, kind of like saying you have a Kleenex when you actually have a tissue. It also does not help that "Spinning" is now a registered trademark which allows the company that owns it to define it anyway they want and there isn't much that the cycling world can do about it... Unfortunately this means that all I can provide is my knowledge of the topic based on my decade of racing starting almost 30 years ago.

The info that I provided is solid regardless of what we choose to call it, so Danny please use the info to help you and feel free to stop reading further if you don't want any of the following which is just historical info...

So, for anyone interested in reading further here I go...

Spinning and Mashing are pedaling techniques. Cadence is a measurable result achieved by either technique. The "Kleenex vs Tissue" debate stems partly from the fact that it is very difficult to maintain a high cadence when mashing because the force generated by mashing needs higher gears to maintain the same cadence generated by spinning and it is physically easier to maintain a higher cadence by using the spinning technique vs the mashing technique.

Spinning is not new. It was and can be done to some degree using toe clips, but the technique was really able to be perfected when clipless pedals were invented because it meant that you could truly complete a full rotation pedal stroke that allowed a single foot/leg to provide power input throughout the entire stroke, thus resulting in the ability to achieve higher cadence levels than possible with toe clips.

You can achieve a relatively high cadence when mashing, but it is nearly impossible to maintain a high cadence for extended periods because of the physical requirements to do it, whereas you can by spinning because it take less energy to spin due to the fact that you are using the full potential of both legs continuously through the entire pedal revolution.

Spinning can be done at low cadences as well because it is a technique, not a period of sustained high cadence. Cyclists who have mastered the spinning technique will generally only mash when climbing because it is more difficult to spin effectively when climbing and pretty much impossible when out of the saddle because you can’t put your energy into the full pedal stroke when you have to use you legs to “stand” out of the saddle.

Biomechanically spinning is easier on the body because by using more muscles in the leg in the rotation it minimizes demands placed on the tendons around the knee because they are used in a more biomechanically balanced way.

At the end of the day, if you walk up to an elite cyclist and ask them if they can spin at 60 RPM’s they will tell you yes. If you ask them if they can mash at 150 RPM’s, I can pretty confidently say that they will tell you no (if they don’t, I’d recommend asking a different “elite” cyclist because the other guy was either a poser or a freak of nature…).

03-11-2014, 04:28 AM
Hi All,
I'm going to stay right away from the definitions of what we all think it may or may not be.
Point is that its not good to try to push real hard in a high gear at low cadence for too long.
Its better to think of your legs as a diesel engine--they have a comfortable speed they like to work at (cadence or peddle rpm), and they have a limit as to how hard they can push constantly.
Trick is to maintain the cadence, then select the gear that allows the max comfortable push, and accept whatever speed this results in.

Have fun,
Steve G

03-11-2014, 05:16 AM
Hi Folks

"Mashing the gears " or Pushing too high a gear as it was known when I did my stint of cycle racing " way back then " is when the power output from the legs is concentrated into the short arc that each legs can actually produce power which is about 90 to 120 degrees "per revolution . This "power output can be likened to a 2 cylinder 2 stroke engine . the total power output being about 200 degrees out of 360 the lost 160 degrees ish is when the " engine " is following through where no useful power is output .
Increasing the revs the " engine " ( our legs in this case ) the lower output of the legs ( effort ) is magnified by the distance travelled , ( mechanical advantage ) when we get up to a certain speed we start to increase the useful power band ( arc of which we can get power from the single rotation ) as the cadence ( rpm ) increases it gets to a point where Danny found where it is "easy" to maintain a given speed ( this is similar to the max bhp of an IC engine ).
"over reving " ( when the body starts to go out of control and bounces about ) happens with a candence in excess of 140 rpm. This is more easily achieved on an upright racing bike when rideng a low fixed gear than a recumbent
Candences in excess of 140 cause bum bounce om a recumbent and leads to muscle strain and bruising in the "triangle area "
The ideal RPM / cadence varies from person to person and to say " You should ride at X cadence" will not suit everyone .

another technique used by racing cyclists is ankleing where the angle of the ankle changes more during the " power stroke " allowing further reduction on the "dead " parts of the revolution.
There are times when mashing on a road bike give the power output you need , It is impossible to spin for long out of the saddle, for stability reasons.
Sprinters use the " mashing technique to get a big gear going when they are out of the saddle , or hill climbers have used it ,

Genererally on a recumbent a higher cadence produces a smoother power output for less effort .
The use of clipless pedals or toeclips increase the " power output" as we can get an increase in power from the upward stroke as well as the downward power stroke .

During the sixties the BCF ( British cycling federation ) limited " schoolboy" and " juniors " gears to 76.5 and 86 inches 48-17 48-15 respectively to reduce the injuries and damage caused by "pushing" too higher gear too young ,as the teanagers were just developing their muscles .

regards emma

03-11-2014, 11:03 AM
Thank you everyone for the input, I really do appreciate it.
As a boy on my DF bike standing on the pedals when climbing or to trying to go "faster" using the ladded leverage of your weight was the normal thing to do.
While I can really "put my back into it" with the support I have on the recumbent (if I really need to for mounting a curb/kerb or for a standing start on a steep slope) this feels a little alien and I can feel it is "not right" for my knees as far as a normal cycling M.O. is concerned. The effortlessness of rapidly turning the pedals in the "right" gear feels a little odd (almost like a disconnect in the gear-train) but it is also very easy on the joints and the speed is constant.

Many thanks for the explanations of technique and body-mechanics involved. I shall continue in my practice.