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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hypothetically, when mashing in a downward motion only, at a a given constant pace on a hypothetically flat path, I exert X amount of pressure on the pedals.

When I focus intently on spinning to the best of my ability, I find that I can either spin a little slower, and exert the same X amount of pressure on the pedals throughout the entire revolution, or I can spin slightly faster with a little less force Y.

If I understand correctly, the idea with ideal spinning is to exert less energy (Y in this case) all the way through the pedal stroke to achieve the same relative pace. is this correct, or is there a time and place for both?

When climbing on hills that I routinely climb (which introduces another variable, I know) I sometimes get out of the saddle and use a hybrid stroke where I mash and pull, but dont really spin fluidly, and other times I sit and spin an easier gear - both with roughly the same effect. I've been practicing both so that I;m OK with either, depending on what the situation calls for. It varies based on how my body is feeling that day, but sometimes one just seems more natural than the other. Some days I nearly blow up while spinning and can turn right around and mash up the same hill with no problem, and other days its completely the opposite.

As to the first question: what is more typical/preferred (if either), and for the second: is this just the normal difference in good days vs. bad days?

I have no intentions on sanctioned racing, but like to challenge myself and to pseudo-compete with my riding buddies. My goal is to become more efficient overall, and more importantly, learn more about the art form of riding. For the first time since I was a teenager, riding is starting to consume me again, albeit in a different way, and I am more and more motivated to understand what it takes to feed/tame this beast.

thanks for your input
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
No that's exactly what I meant: the idea of spinning is to exert less overall effort to maintain the same pace. But, to choose between spinning (either lower cadence/same effort, or higher cadence less anaerobic effort) surely there's a time and place for both..

I understand and agree that it's best to let your lungs carry you (and recover quicker) than your legs, and this is my aspirational goal every time I clip in. I just wondered if there is ever an instance when this isn't the best approach for whatever reason. Most of my learning is from a "monkey see, monkey do" approach from both watching pros on TV and from watching the more experienced riders in my group.

...just a simple curiousity in order to learn every option available to enjoy my riding experience.
 

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surely there's a time and place for both..
Yes, there is. But it's not an either-or sort of thing - it's subtle. Experienced riders will increase or reduce their cadence and bring more or less force onto the pedals to fit certain situations. For example, sitting in the shelter of a large group of riders travelling at a steady speed, a slightly lower cadence drops the heart rate a bit and could allow some recuperation. It would make little sense to spin like mad in that situation.

It's helpful to remember that power to the rear wheel is the product of force x speed - in other words, the product of how hard you mash the pedals times how fast you spin your feet around. This means that a specific amount of power can be made with many combinations of force and speed. The art is to find and use the right combination of these two components to fit the riding situation, your current fitness, and your training goals. As you suspect, advice like "never ride with a cadence less than 95" is simplistic and less than helpful.
 

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Just to complicate things a little...

I'm a spinner. I BELIEVE in spinning, and I can ride longer and faster when I spin.
But I read an interview one time with either Lon Haldeman or Pete Penseyres, can't remember which (both are ultra-distance cyclists, crossed the country dozens of times), and whichever one it was said he often climbs at a cadence of 35-40. He did a lot of his training, and I think some of his RAAM rides, with a three-speed freewheel, and just ground it out over the Rockies like a man climbing stairs.
 
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