Wednesday, October 29, 2008

45 Minute Power Lunch

Got a power lunch ride in with the big guns at UP today, including Wes, Ed, Brant and Shim. At 50F and sunny, a mini-social ride was a glorious way to spend lunch.

Of note, Shim was riding a fixed gear. I dialed in Ol' Yeller to a similar gear to ride along with him at the same pace. Save for the limited time on Murphini's "phixie", I've had little experience riding on this type of bicycle.

So in my pseudo-fixed gear experiment, I found it annoying to have to pedal so quickly on the downhills to keep up with gravity's pull on the bike. It ended up being quite choppy in the saddle. This is obviously not part of the pleasure of riding a fixed bicycle, but it makes for good riding form.

You fixed gear riders will have to comment: do your legs ever really "learn" how to smooth out the cadence to accommodate reasonable downhills? And if you practice regularly, how soon did you start seeing an improvement in your mechanics?

If I ever go fixed (and I don't blow up my knees), then my goal will be to ride as smooth as Eddy Merckx on rollers..

Dang! That's amazing!


  1. Annoying is the key word with anything related to fixed gear. At least the riding part. The bike itself looks cool. And the idea that you have a direct connection from crank axle to wheel axle is pretty neat. But that's about it.

    You wanna climb a long grinder? Better hope bionic knees become more fact than fiction. Wanna keep up with "normal" cyclists going down a hill with a grade greater than 5%? Better learn how to become a human egg-beater, or just unclip and hope you can clip in again when needed.

    Yes, riding a fixie will smooth out your stroke. But if you aren't seriously pedaling squares or taking out fields because you're a squirrelly rider, then a fixed gear is more of a novelty than a training tool. Use a fixed gear to ride to the coffee shop that's 5 blocks away, with no hills to climb/descend.

    This is evil Munson talking, by the way. I've tried the fixed thing. In the infamous words of Men on Film, "Hated It!"

  2. Au contraire, mon frere...or actually Munson, not Brady that is...and he ain't heavy-he's my brother.

    I really enjoy the fixed riding and feel it has improved my riding in several ways:

    1. Supple legs. Cadence feels more fluid and smoother @ higher rpms.

    2. Downhills: I get to the point where I brake a bit to keep the cadence manageable so to neither egg-beat nor unclip. Getting re-control of pedals too hard.

    3. Uphills: love to accel @ bottom because fixed gives a mechanical advantage. Just the delta pressure on pedals & you fly.

    3a. I only have one climb...about 1km and less than 6%, so it aint too bad. when I ride my geared bike on same hill feels like I'm cheating.

    4. Focus: You watch for every bump & turn as you are forced to bunny-hop them like a steeplechase rider.

    5. Silence. Gliding along @ a good clip w/no sound....feel like an owl stalking one tasty mouse.

    Am I faster? Don't know. Am I fitter? Maybe....but its offset by increased consumption of Guiness.
    Am I cooler? Yes. Am I dorkier? Emphatic yes sez my wife & kids.

    I like to ride it w/newbies or my wife because my speed is slow & controllable. Its my commuter so I ride it slower & sweat less.

  3. Murphini: Have you reverted the phixie back to fixed after your recent cyclocross race in single speed mode? (I'm using this as an enjoyment factor gauge to see how much you really enjoy riding fixed versus single speed.)

  4. Not to be argumentative...well ok, I am, but to get supple legs, you can just as easily do high cadence intervals. I mean, Brady, that vid of the Badger is a geared bike on rollers. So, ride rollers and up your cadence. How is that going to help your riding anyway? How many times on the road do you need to pedal at 130 rpm? Oh yeah, when you're riding a fixie. That's it. Basically, riding a certain bike a lot will make you good at riding that bike. Put a hardcore mountain biker on a roadie and watch him trail back and forth in a group (Shim) making everyone nervous. Put a hardcore roadie on a mountain bike and watch him run into trees (me) since you actually have to turn often.

    If you want to do the fixie thing, make sure you do it full on. Make that thing your only ride for a few months. Otherwise, it's just not worth it. But, as with everything in cycling, that's my own experience/opinion.

  5. Ah! It's evil Munson -- please don't stick an icepick in my brain!

    (is he gone yet?)

  6. Do you lift weights? Do you use a HRM? Do you power meter? Do you do intervals? What training tools work for you?

    Do you agree with me that a more efficient cyclist wastes less energy? On long rides and distance races, that could make a huge difference in performance.

    Using rollers as a tool to improve cycling economy is a good example. From my limited experience, riding on rollers at any speed has effectively shown me how choppy my stroke is. From that, I've experimented to learn to become a more efficient rider. That's why I appreciate having a set of rollers in my training toolkit and use them regularly in the off season.

    Another training tool, or so I've been told, is riding a fixed gear bicycle. I've read that fixed gears also teach you basic riding mechanics that will ultimately result into better form. Like how to ride with a smooth stroke at low and higher cadences.

    I don't know, but you may be right that you'd have to ride a fixed gear for a long period before any benefits came from it. But like I said, I don't know. That's why I asked.

  7. More Evil Munson speak:

    Specificity! Specificity! Specificity!

    Are you ever planning to use a hrm on your fixed gear? Power meter? Intervals? All those training tools are things you use on your regular race machine so that, when you do need to put out the power, or be supple, you can do so on the bike your body is used to.

    No matter how hard you try to mimic positions, any bike change is going to use slightly different muscles. Again, I go back to the idea that a fixie is more of a novelty. Fun to ride. Not a training tool. High cadence on rollers with your REGULAR RACE MACHINE is much more specific for your body than eggbeating your legs to death downhill on a fixie.

    Again, this is my opinion. And apparently, a USCF coach/cat 1 racer feels the same way (read Myth # 1).

    Give it a try if you want, but don't be surprised if it's not as fun as everyone makes it out to be. I like to shift, but that's just me.

  8. 2 things.

    1. if you type in, you'll get a girl's blog from Chicago with no activity. Just thought I'd share my discovery.

    2. This was the website I meant to link about the coach/cat 1 racer's opinion.

    That is all.

  9. methinks Brady thinks too much.

    Eddy Mercxx: Ride Lots.

    Agree with evil Munson--fixie is for novelty-and fun. Just today, rode the fixie with a guy I work with and 2 of his pals. One had a Trek5200 carbon/Ultegra, other had a Seven Titanium. 3rd had the Trek Soho hybrid.

    Why was it fun? I dropped them like a bad habit. Especially on the uphills. (OK, the Seven guy was in his 50's and the Trek5200 only been riding for 3 years) but I felt strong leading the pack on my 39/15.... sounds like a rap song in there somewhere, alls I have to do is mention a gloc and mac.

    BUt--back to the real topic: Ride lots. Fixie won't be any better than ole yeller.

    I may be able to drop people on the fixie because I ride lots, not because I ride a fixed gear.

  10. The Murphini is droppin mad knowledge, yo!

    Like I said before, give it a try. Maybe you'll go crazy for fixed gear and have to move to a state with a velodrome so you can become a trackie. Or maybe, you'll be like me and become jaded after you found all the hills of Omaha too annoying to deal with on a fixie. Every cyclist is on their own journey. Holy crap, I need to sell that slogan to someone!! Trek? Specialized? Make me an offer.

  11. "...Do you have any 8's?"

    Judge Smails: "Don't you have homes!?!?"

    What do you guys do all day???

    As for fixed gear, pedaling efficiency, smoove cadence... etc...

    My .02 is that fixed gear bikes are novelty bikes for the average rider, but for the bike messengers and snow-bikers (which I'll be getting in to this winter with the Pugsley), going without a derailleur reduces the possibility for problems - whether it be bent/broken/cable snapped/etc for the messenger ... or frozen for the snow biker. So I'd vote there's actual function before form.

    If you pedal correctly (read: perfect smoove circles) you'll not stress your knees out nearly as much as if you're a masher. Holds true if you've got tree trunks for legs or chicken legs.

    How do you get nice smoove cadence? I personally have always felt that imitation works best. Take a gander at cyclists on Cyclysm Sunday on Versus. Most guys pedaling, from the side, look like wind-up toys. You'll know it when you see it. Then try to copy it. It's like dancing, and chics dig it. I keep fightin' 'em off. I wish I had known about this when I was in high school.

    Right. Zubaz-a-roodle rolls easy as a single speed. I'd like to take it cross country. 48-16. Dig it.

  12. In that case, I'm screwed and there's no point in trying. You see, there are many things that I can do well. Dancing is not one of them. So if you're saying it's like imitating dancing, then try picturing white man's overbite on a bicycle and you've got me.


    Anyone interested in going for a run?

  13. Brady, with all the group rides we've done, from my point of view, you are already as smooth as butter. That's the reason I've been nudging you away from the fixie thing, because I honestly don't think you need it. You are already very strong, have no issues in a pack, ride straight and smooth, and can put me in the hurt lockers when you want.

    There's a large number of cyclists/coaches that believe smooth pedal strokes don't provide any benefit. Efficient pedal stroke is good, yes, but you don't need smoothness to be efficient. You just need to train the muscles to work better. The extreme version of this training technique is the Power Crank, in which both crank arms are independent of each other. Really strong riders have to start out with half hour easy spins just to get the weird muscles firing. But again, lots of coaches think this is overkill. All you really need to do is train your legs to push through the power phase then not push down at all during the back stroke, or lift phase of the revolution.

    So the old ideas of focusing on scraping mud off the bottom of your shoes, then lifting your knees toward your handlebars, are all you really need to do. A fixie is going to do that last part for you since you can't coast.

    Again, I believe the only thing you need to worry about is getting stronger and/or incorporating high intensity into your training if you want to race in road races. You have plenty of LT power and seem just fine in packs. It just takes some time to be more comfy in larger packs. I had always had a problem with being in large packs, but got used to it when I raced all the time.

  14. On the topic of ways to improve pedal stroke, a la "scraping mod off the bottoms of your shoes," my dad always said that you should be constantly trying to make a larger circle than your cranks allow. If you are always trying to make a bigger circle, you will use more muscles in your legs.

    And on the topic of fixies, I don't like them. I love gears and I'm a big fan of shifting, for one. Also, I love coasting, so I ride a single speed. I don't use it to help my cadence or smoothness, though, I use my geared bike for that. It's for precisely the reason Munson said - I'm more comfortable on it, and I'm sure I'm using the right muscles. The SS is reserved strictly for riding to Jimmy John's.

  15. Hills in Omaha on a fixie
    I feast on em

  16. Munson: form can always be improved and I'll be vigilant about incorporating drills into training. I also agree with you that leg strength is my greatest weakness; I'm lifting in attempt to compensate.

    Sean: I'm leaning toward turning the Nishiki into a single speed on the cheap with an existing wheelset. It won't happen soon as I've got no time to do this. If I get the itch, then maybe I'll get a flip flop hub one day.

    EB: I don't doubt it. You've got tree trunks for legs.

  17. Friel recommends riding a fixed gear (if you have one)once or twice a week during base I and II to improve the pedal stroke, this can be alternated with single leg spins. So you can choose to listen to Friel who has some creditials or some yahoo that Munson found on the internet. Nobody has a perfect spin and the off season is a great time to mix in some other things. As for me, I wasn't riding it for any reason other than the fact that it was in my car from the pub crawl. Incidentally my Eddie Merckx fixed gear is very cool.