Thursday, October 24, 2013

Training - Spin Ups

With the off-season in full swing (for us non-cyclocross racers anyway, in the northern hemisphere), there's been the normal uptick in the training and fitness questions. With more time to think about the next season and any season disappointments fresh in their minds a lot of riders, including me, have been thinking about ways to do a better season in 2014.

In one of the posts I linked to the track clip, where I do some high rpm spin ups. I linked to it as an illustration of doing high rpm work, basically to explore the limits of possibility.

My intent was to illustrate that a normal, reasonably healthy 18-45 year old male will be able to hit 200 rpm pretty much the first time out, and improve that to 220-240 rpm in short order. Fast pedalers will hit 250-280 rpm, and the really good ones are 300+ rpm.

The inspiration came from an article about Scott Berryman, a US National Team sprinter back in the day. In a small side note the magazine (I think it was Winning) showed him astride a relatively normal looking spin bike and it said something about doing x rpm in y seconds. It worked out to 300 rpm.

One quiet winter day at the shop (back in the day) we all took turns on a Schwinn DX-900 fixed gear exercise bike. We would do max rpm efforts, trying to get the computer to read higher than the others. I managed to get a reading of 286 rpm, in sneakers using the wide loop pedal (not really toe clips).

One rule we had was that we had to stay with the pedals on the spin down - if we ejected out of the pedals we could really bump the peak number, by 20-30 rpms (I think I hit in the high 290s but I don't remember, and my normal high rpm was in the 270s). We felt that ejecting out of the pedals wasn't a true test so we collectively decided we had to ride the pedals back to normal speed.

I really enjoyed the spin ups, enough to go and buy a used DX-900 many years later. I bought and installed some 3 piece BMX cranks, to replace the very inexpensive Ashtabula one piece crank (similar to ones you see on department store kids bikes). The cranks are 175 mm cranks, to replicate my road bike cranks, not 170 mm or 165 mm, which would make it easier to spin fast.

The three piece cranks allowed me to install the SPD-R pedals on the DX-900, pedals that I ended up using on the track as well. Because I can't unclip easily from the SPD-Rs this really forces me to "pedal down" with the bike. There's no bailing out if I need to hit my shoe with my fist to unclip.

I thought that the high rpm work would accentuate any knee alignment problems, and with the then-new idea of video taping fit session on a trainer, I decided that I would do the same thing. I videotaped my knees from a few different angles.

I ended up inserting those spin ups into the track clip.

In that clip I hit a max of 244 rpms, peak, with two efforts netting a lower peak rpm, in the 230s somewhere.

One forum member questioned the accuracy of the numbers, claiming that there's no way I could have hit 240 rpm, 220 rpm, even 200 rpm, saying that I was hitting 180 rpm "if that". He linked to a clip of a national level team sprinter hitting 257 rpm, coasting at the end (i.e. the same as bailing out of a fixed gear).

I assured him that I did hit 240 rpm, peak, and agreed that it was a peak number.

Still he basically called me a liar, saying I got nowhere near 240 rpm, even 220 rpm, and stood by his 180 rpm claim.

I know I can hit close to 180 rpm on rollers, higher than that on the road, and easily hit that before making a big effort on the spin bike. Therefore the idea that this guy not only doubted the number but absolutely dismissed it grated on me. I know that stuff I post can be checked, Googled, researched, and all that, and I don't post anything that I think is inaccurate.

I was thinking of using the spin bike this winter because of my lack of a sprint this year. I was thinking of doing it later, like in November (I did this a bit in 2011), but this inspired me to make the effort a week or two early.

So when Junior was at day care I went downstairs, moved the spin bike to the spot where I normally have the trainer or the rollers. I realized that I could use the phone camera, and I thought of things I would want to see as proof. The things that I'd want to see included the following:

 - single magnet on the cranks, to avoid doubling the rpm reading on the cyclocomputer.
 - wire from cyclocomputer to the crank, so the computer isn't reading off of something else, like a derailleur pulley or something mounted on an electric motor.
 - some real time thing in the background, like a clock with a second hand, a video playing on a TV, or even audio, something hard to fake.
 - actual footage of the cyclocomputer as it reads the various rpms, from low to high, to show that it's reasonably accurate.

The length of the effort would be easy to figure out - the computer updates its display each second, so each rpm number would be a one second number.

I popped a DVD in (a Ghent Wevelgem), the clock with the second hand was broken, and I moved the cyclocomputer to the side of the bars for easy videotaping.

The last bit bothered me. I get pushed when I have a visible goal, like sprinting for a line at a race, sprinting after a truck, or, in this case, sprinting to hit a particular minimum rpm. Moving the computer to the side meant I had no idea what I was doing because I couldn't see the rpm reading.

I was running out of time so I had to hurry things up. I got on my Sidis with the SPD-R cleats, put on a current Expo kit (because I was videotaping this), and got on the bike. It took me a minute or two to figure out that the pickup was a bit out of alignment. I fixed that, made sure the computer read a number, and started soft pedaling.

Since I needed some idea of how many seconds I could hold - I was guessing 5-10 seconds - I put the timer display up on the screen of the TV. I waited for it to reach zero seconds and ripped out an effort.

I had no idea what I did so I was a bit curious. It felt slow, that's for sure, and I was hoping that I wouldn't have to go back and post that, yeah, I hit 198 rpm, not 240 rpm.

On review I'd hit 241 rpm, with other seconds being 238, 234, with 225 rpm straddling them. My effort lasted 7 seconds.

241 rpm, max.

Because it looked sort of dark I decided to bring in another lamp - my bike room is intentionally very low in illumination so I can focus on either the TV or on nothing visual while I'm listening to music.

I did another effort, my legs slightly warmer, and with a huge 45 seconds for my second warm up I lashed out again.

247 rpm, for 3 seconds, preceded by 230 and then followed by 241, 240, 234, and then 222 rpm. This effort lasted 9 seconds.

247 rpm, max.

I knew that if I kept going I might increase it a bit but hitting higher than 244 rpm (the "claimed" max) I decided to stop. I knew that if I did more than a couple efforts my legs would be super sore the next day.

I posted the two pictures and transferred the video to the computer in case the forum poster questions my Photoshop skills or something like that.

My future plans include finding a cheap drop bar and maybe bolting on something (top half of a broken fork?) to hold a normal stem and bar. The bike, as it is now, has the super short stem really close to the saddle. I can't replace it because it's not a standard stem diameter thing, and I'd like to move the bars forward a half foot or so.

Ideally I'd be able to use a threadless stem and one of my old bars - I have a track bar I'll probably never use on the track and I'm sure I could fit it to some stem. If I can get drop bars on the thing that would be awesome.

The other thing I want to do is to get a better saddle set up on the DX-900, a two step thing. First, even in just 3 minutes the saddle was extremely uncomfortable, to the point that it was painful (a Turbo saddle). I'll put one of my other saddles on there.

The second bit on the saddle is that the effective seat tube angle is like 60 degrees. Great if you're plodding along on the original tractor seat type saddle but not great for someone doing max rpm sprints. I need to move the saddle forward some crazy distance, like two or three inches. I haven't done any measuring since, at this point, moving the saddle forward would put my bars in my stomach.

If I can get those things done I'd be using the DX-900 a lot more.

And maybe one day I can hit 286 rpm again.


kendogz161 said...

Hey Sprinter, I did ten spin ups on today's ride.
The spin where about 45 seconds long, done on my road bike with the gearing on the bike was a 36/17.
The first spin was about 130 rpm with my highest coming in at 162.
This was the first time that I have ever done this workout and the rpm's where going up the more I did them.
I keep trying through the winter and see what happens.

Aki said...

Awesome! On the road you'll top out at lower rpms than on a trainer, and on a trainer lower than on a spin bike. Realistically if you get close to 180 rpm on the road that's really good. As you probably figured out you need some resistance but not a lot. Trainer, 200-210 rpm, due to the lack of momentum. The fixed gear spin bikes, with the weighted wheel, are ideal for higher rpms.

Keep in mind my efforts were extremely short. I understand that you need to accelerate the bike, but for me I was holding my max effort for only 7-9 seconds. Actually I was unable to go longer, that was my limit.

Finally keep in mind that although this is a good abstract exercise I don't have a specific thing in mind that it helps, other than making 120 rpm seem slow. The idea is to engage new/other muscles, ones you don't engage normally, so you develop those. Also you learn the different feel of the higher rpm efforts, adjusting your pedaling as you accelerate.

However I don't sprint like this and it's probably not the fastest way to finish a race. Working on sprint form out of the saddle, in slow motion, is good too. Combining the two gives you a more complete feel/idea on what you need to do in the sprint.