The Magic Combination
There are two magic ingredients to riding a Spinner® bike that together can transform a person’s experience in indoor cycling: a proficient pedal stroke and resistance. When ignored, results are lacking and discomfort may abound. When resistance is coupled with a refined pedal stroke, riders will notice physical benefits and a greater ability to focus mentally. These are basic but important tips all of your students should understand.
People tend to think that riding a stationary bike is simple, but to ride one well with an efficient pedal stroke takes practice. Understanding the application of force throughout the rotation of the pedal stroke and applying that during class can assist riders with isolating their leg muscles and taking pressure off their feet.
The pedal stroke has two phases: the power phase and the recovery phase, which can be broken up into four quadrants. Quadrant one of the power phase is where the foot is parallel to the floor and the rider pushes the foot forward. Quadrant two of the power phase is where the rider pushes the heel downward. What may be misunderstood about the power phase is that it is not a constant vertical push because the foot is traveling in a circle. The power phase is traveling forward at the same time it is traveling downward, and the most powerful point of that is at 90 degrees.
Quadrant three of the recovery phase is where the foot is parallel to the floor again and the rider is drawing the heel straight back. Quadrant four of the recovery phase is when the heel lifts slightly. This fourth segment is the least understood as many instructors cue the hamstrings to draw the leg up, but it is actually done via the hip flexors, so the hamstrings are the antagonist. At the back of the pedal stroke the foot should feel “unweighted” while the opposite foot is doing the work in its power phase. A lot of people make the mistake of focusing on pulling up on the back side of the pedal stroke all the time, but the only time the recovery phase has any pulling up is during climbing and sprinting due to the amount of resistance on the flywheel.
Now that we’ve learned how to perform a proper pedal stroke, let’s see where resistance comes into play. Since Spinner bikes have a weighted flywheel, it is crucial to maintain enough resistance on the flywheel in order to be in control of the pedal stroke. Too little resistance greatly reduces the rider’s fitness potential. This is evident when riders bounce in the saddle with too little resistance and too high of cadence.
Resistance on the Spinner bike is created by a brake pad, which compresses against the weighted flywheel when the resistance knob is turned to the right. There is no way to calibrate the resistance on the bikes as each brake pad will wear differently over time due to usage variations. Therefore, the best way to communicate resistance is to use the words light, moderate and heavy and to give cues that describe the way the ride would feel on a road bike. Orienting riders with how much to rotate the resistance knob may be done during the warm-up by encouraging them to turn it in small increments and allowing them to judge for themselves how much a single gear change is on that bike. Perception of how easy or difficult the resistance is will be based according to their fitness level and riding experience. We do not cue our students to turn the knob a half or full turn as all the bikes can be different as well as all the riders.
If you review your instructor manual, you’ll see that each position has a recommended amount of resistance. For example, on a Seated Flat, we recommend light resistance, but even within those guidelines, there is room for two or three resistance changes. We can simulate a very smooth road, one with bumps, or even one with a strong wind pushing against us according to where on the scale of “light” we decide to ride. To create a Seated Climb we need moderate resistance, which feels like the difference between walking on a sidewalk and walking in hip deep water or loose sand. The crank arms are definitely more difficult to rotate and the workload would be described as hard but doable for one or more songs in a row.
Outside, cyclists stand up out of the saddle when the grade of the hill begins to overcome the rider. We can simulate that indoors as well. Heavy gear is needed for Standing Climbs and that should feel difficult to pedal while seated, so that the rider feels the need to stand up to overcome the resistance and has stability when he or she does so.
When a rider is able to apply moderate to heavy resistance and work all four segments of the pedal stroke, the rider is able to increase mental focus because one must really think about each section and remain observant about the foot positions. In my experience, participants have reported a huge reduction of foot numbness by improving their pedal stroke, so the whole ride is more enjoyable. Riders have also expressed truly feeling their muscles work in the legs when they put effort into the four segments of the pedal stroke. Combining resistance with proficient pedal stroke is useful for all levels and gives people more of what they come to class for: RESULTS!
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