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View Full Version : Usain Bolt proves that "Pedaling Circles" is overrated?


Pastashop
08-03-2017, 12:51 AM
https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/07/20/sports/olympics/usain-bolt-stride-speed.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=photo-spot-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0&referer=

Discuss...

martl
08-03-2017, 02:45 AM
there is a (german) study around which analyzed the pedal stroke of top athletes (german olympic track racing team). The "pedalling efficiency" of the athletes varied vastly. If people with what is dubbed "inefficient" pedalling (or running style) can win a gold medal, where does that leave all the nice theory..

eippo1
08-03-2017, 09:08 AM
there is a (german) study around which analyzed the pedal stroke of top athletes (german olympic track racing team). The "pedalling efficiency" of the athletes varied vastly. If people with what is dubbed "inefficient" pedalling (or running style) can win a gold medal, where does that leave all the nice theory..

I generally think of it as genes and hard work get the top athletes there no matter how they do it. However, learning efficient pedaling helps the cat 4 move up to cat 3 given their actual ability and time constraints for training.

Kinda like putting in a new exhaust on a Honda won't make it as fast or handle as well as a Porche, but it will give it plenty more go-go.

CaptStash
08-03-2017, 09:41 AM
I generally think of it as genes and hard work get the top athletes there no matter how they do it. However, learning efficient pedaling helps the cat 4 move up to cat 3 given their actual ability and time constraints for training.

Kinda like putting in a new exhaust on a Honda won't make it as fast or handle as well as a Porche, but it will give it plenty more go-go.


I have known a relatively large number of truly elite athletes including mainstream professionals (football and baseball), Olympic rowers and cyclists, and they all have three things in common:
1) God was good to them. They have the genes and are gifted with natural ability.
2) They are seriously hard workers, They're the ones doing the extra set, taking the long way home and going harder than everyone else each time.
3) They have demons chasing them. This is the secret sauce that puts gets you to the top of the pyramid. There is a certain craziness that I would wager we have all seen, and it helps drive an athlete to performances beyond what they thought they were capable of.

When I was chasing my eltie dreams, I knew in my heart of hearts I had two of the three ingredients. That's why I was pretty good, but not great.

CaptStash....

martl
08-03-2017, 10:08 AM
I generally think of it as genes and hard work get the top athletes there no matter how they do it. However, learning efficient pedaling helps the cat 4 move up to cat 3 given their actual ability and time constraints for training.

Kinda like putting in a new exhaust on a Honda won't make it as fast or handle as well as a Porche, but it will give it plenty more go-go.

As Jobst Brandt once said (i believe), cycling is sort of a contest who has the highest anerobic threshold :)

As for the Cat3->4 thing, that is hard to verify what the root cause is.

Example: a rider does 4000km in his first year cycling, 6000km in his second year, 10000 in his third and fourth year, he may improve in that fourth year even though he didnt do more training. Where did that come from? anybody's guess. Looking at the example of the german olympic athletes where one of them had a really very "inefficient" technique, i really doubt it has much impact. One thing the human body is excellent at is adaption and working with feedback. Your muscle power will go where it has effect without the conscious part of the brain interfering.

MattTuck
08-03-2017, 10:16 AM
Interesting. Timely, too, considering I have been trying to make some adjustments to my asymmetric pedal stroke.

However, I don't think my uneveness is skeletal, it is almost definitely related to strength and flexibility differences left to right. As a result, I can feel my left side has done some things to try to wring some extra power out of my leg that it shouldn't be doing. Trying to correct it is a hard process because it is neuromuscular as well.

The down stream effects are actually really interesting also. For the last 3 weeks or so, I've been dealing with a muscle pull/soreness in my upper left back, sort of anterior to the shoulder blade. This gets aggravated when I do hard efforts with a more balanced form. Why my left mid/upper back is being recruited for cycling, I don't know... the body is a fascinating thing.

benb
08-03-2017, 10:39 AM
I have seen references before to Pro Cyclists not focusing on "round pedal strokes" and that they prefer to concentrate on maximum power in downstroke portion of the pedal stroke. Hard to say because most of what we read/hear is hearsay.

I can pedal at a relatively wide range of cadences and have been told I'm very smooth and I can't really even figure out what works best for me now that I've been riding with a PM for a year. My average cadence has probably dropped since I got the PM, which is consistent with what I've read about Pros focusing on the downstroke maybe, but I want to work on getting it back up for harder efforts. I find riding at the higher cadences and maintaining the power output seems like it requires more concentration on "pedaling circles".

Over the past 10 years I got asymmetrical due to bad fitting advice (cleats). I've known for a long time my legs are not quite symmetrical, and I got a reversed correction recommendation back around 2007 which gradually made things worse. Late last season I finally figured that out. I don't really think it's skeletal in my case either except for one foot being at least 1/2 size bigger than the other.

Mark McM
08-03-2017, 11:15 AM
Researchers studying pedal stroke have been careful to make distinctions between efficiency (a measure of how much muscle energy becomes mechanical energy) and effectiveness (a measure of how well the force applied to a pedal acts to generate a torque at the pedal). Pedaling in circles is an attempt to maximum pedaling effectiveness. However, research has shown that pedal effectiveness does not correlate well to pedaling efficiency, and often trying to maximize effectiveness actually results in a decrease in power and efficiency. In other words, humans aren't designed to be able to pedal in perfect circles.

Here is one study that looked at effectiveness vs. efficiency:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17545890



As an anecdote, my club puts on a weekly roller race series in the winter. Roller race rules specify a maximum gear size, and rollers have very little friction and inertia, so roller racing is largely a measure of smoothness of pedaling at high cadences (my typical average cadence for a 1Km race was 175 rpm, and 150 for a 3Km race). When I did these races, I was typically one of the fastest racers in the club. But when racing out on the road, I was closer to the bottom rung. In other words, I am evidence that smoothness in pedaling circles does not translate into power and efficiency.

jruhlen1980
08-03-2017, 11:29 AM
Interesting that Bolt wins medals in sPitE of his striDe.

RonW87
08-03-2017, 11:36 AM
I see what you did there.

FlashUNC
08-03-2017, 11:36 AM
There's the apocryphal story from Angelo Dundee telling a reporter that Muhammad Ali is the last person you want to emulate as a boxer. His unique defensive approach relied on a preternatural sense of anticipation and otherworldly quickness. Technique didn't matter for Ali, because he didn't need it thanks to a singular set of gifts that he used to his maximum advantage.

For us normal folks, the "best practice" technique is a way to improve whatever meager skills we have.

For other guys, the mold just doesn't apply. Bolt's one of those guys, and I wouldn't take many lessons from his success and apply them to the middle of the bell curve of humanity.

benb
08-03-2017, 11:49 AM
As an anecdote, my club puts on a weekly roller race series in the winter. Roller race rules specify a maximum gear size, and rollers have very little friction and inertia, so roller racing is largely a measure of smoothness of pedaling at high cadences (my typical average cadence for a 1Km race was 175 rpm, and 150 for a 3Km race). When I did these races, I was typically one of the fastest racers in the club. But when racing out on the road, I was closer to the bottom rung. In other words, I am evidence that smoothness in pedaling circles does not translate into power and efficiency.

Wow.. impressive cadences for that length of time!

Ti Designs
08-03-2017, 06:33 PM
there is a (german) study around which analyzed the pedal stroke of top athletes (german olympic track racing team). The "pedalling efficiency" of the athletes varied vastly. If people with what is dubbed "inefficient" pedalling (or running style) can win a gold medal, where does that leave all the nice theory..

There's a difference between watching and participating. If you're watching you get to compare methods and make judgements on what works and what doesn't - not that anybody cares because you're just watching. If you're participating, you play the hand you were dealt, which is to say that you need to figure out what works best based on your starting point.

As an anecdote, my club puts on a weekly roller race series in the winter. Roller race rules specify a maximum gear size, and rollers have very little friction and inertia, so roller racing is largely a measure of smoothness of pedaling at high cadences (my typical average cadence for a 1Km race was 175 rpm, and 150 for a 3Km race). When I did these races, I was typically one of the fastest racers in the club. But when racing out on the road, I was closer to the bottom rung. In other words, I am evidence that smoothness in pedaling circles does not translate into power and efficiency.

I happen to own the record for the 1Km at that roller race, and yet I run 44/56 chainrings on my road bike. It's the perfect example of adapting the right method for conditions.

martl
08-07-2017, 02:53 AM
There's a difference between watching and participating. If you're watching you get to compare methods and make judgements on what works and what doesn't - not that anybody cares because you're just watching. If you're participating, you play the hand you were dealt, which is to say that you need to figure out what works best based on your starting point.

Sure, by watching someone else i can tell if it looks "smooth" or not, and it can be measured as well.
Tinkering with that i'm uncomfortable with. Sometimes, it is about position or bike fit, which is ok.
In other cases, there may be reasons for an uneven or "inefficient" looking/measuring pedal stroke based on some precondition unknown to the observer, even unknown to the rider himself. In that case, long-term harm may be done by altering technique. In my observation, even trained physicians are at a loss here, one simply does know very little about what is going on in a joint (and its neighbors) without opening it and have a good look :) The danger increases the older the rider is.

If the rider has issues or pain, look into everything, bike fit, seating position, pedal stroke, cadence. If performance is what one seeks, i think there is nothing (or too little to notice) to be gained to waste too much thought.

Also mind that people seeking advice on the matter may start to train more consciously (or more regular, or harder) than before, so measured performance improvements may as well be down to that. Its a difficult subject.

Fact is that all the multiple gadgets invented to help efficiency, while some of them in theory have merit, all have one thing in common: They failed to give a real-life advantage. Even in non-regulated contests, a circular pedal movement with a round chainring is used.