The capacity to turn your legs on your bicycle is a guarantee for an efficient athletic gesture, and it can’t be improvised. It should be worked on. One of my favorite Former professional cyclist, Jean-Claude Bagot, explains why. Jean-Claude was not known for winning a lot of races, but he was one of the most in-demand cyclists of his time, only because he was a powerful all-around workhorse, that could sprint, climb and sustain ultra distances without giving up. I admired him heaps, quite simply because he could push himself in all the grand races solo and for his GC all day every day. Despite the un-gratifying character of the exercises, their benefits are huge, and it’s what made him a great rider.
“The art of cycling lies in the cadence of pedaling,” confides Jean-Claude Bagot. “Once one knows how to spin well, one knows everything!” “Turning one’s legs well is a quality that is lost over the years. It’s important to work on it constantly.”
Spinning? What are we talking about exactly? “Velocity, 110 RPM, is the base. It’s the cadence chosen by Fabian Cancellara, one of the best cyclists in activity, for races against the clock.”
Jean-Claude Bagot warns, “It’s a whole lot easier to add some gears and force oneself like a mule, rather than riding loosely. Ideally though, one should learn how to spin, without becoming disorganized and blocking one’s ankles. Former pros, during the time of Bernard Hinault for example, made themselves ride their first 1,500km of the season on a fixed-gear bicycle. They were working on obtaining a harmonious, supple, and round pedaling.”
To work on velocity, the former pro advises working on flat terrain and hills. “If you climb a hill at 18km/h, force yourself to keep the same speed, using a lower gear. This will make you increase the speed of your leg rotation. You should know that your heart rate increases in general with the rotation.” So you can kill two birds with one stone, pedaling technique and cardiovascular work at the same time!
Jean-Claude Bagot adds, “On flat terrain, these spinning sequences can be very tiring. Thus, one should alternate periods between large and small plateaus, and stay concentrated on pedaling technique. It’s really important to remain coordinated. Start with a series lasting 5 minutes, and increase progressively. In the cycling jargon, we call it ‘turning legs around the heart.’ ” He offers a statement in conclusion, “80% of cyclists work on force and forget velocity. When they have a hard time keeping up, on flat terrain or hills, they add some gears. However, this is a waste of energy. A cyclist that knows how to spin saves energy. So he is the one who always has the last word. I cant continue to stress how important it is to understand how to pedal right.
I see so many cyclist’s “Rambo” themselves, on the bike probably feeling great about their proficiency to cycle, but mark my words, and that of Great (Cancellara, Claude Bagot, and the Hinault), the cyclist that spins efficiently, will always achieve better standards of cycling that of the cyclists, that ride like Rambo. See us at PBFC and hit up our pedal proficiency class, and see how much you will improve!