Sunday, September 19, 2010
For most of my 11 years of cycling I've been more of a "masher" than a "grinder." That is, I tend to choose a bigger gear and push hard at a slow cadence (rpm) rather than choose a smaller gear and spin at a high cadence. But as this cycling year progressed I noticed that I was having a lot more pain in my knees than normal, in fact it was hard at times just to walk up a flight of stairs or what have you without experiencing sharp pain. So after my annual 300-mile, 5-day ride (which was actually 352 this year) I decided to experiment with the "grinding" technique and see what would happen.
No matter what the style, every cyclist draws on his or her muscular system and cardio-vascular system. "Mashers" draw more on their muscular system and "grinders" draw more on their cardio-vascular system. The muscular system tends to wear down faster than the cardio-vascular system, but grinding really does pull on the latter system and so it takes time to develop the ability to grind for a long time.
So 4 or 5 weeks ago I started doing a bunch of workouts designed to develop my ability to grind and I immediately discovered a few things. First, although I felt tired after each ride I didn't feel as fatigued as normal. My muscles had more "umph" left in them, and my knees were not nearly as sore as before. Second, I was producing higher average speeds even though I felt that I wasn't working quite as hard. Third, it will take time to perfect this technique because it requires a more wholistic pedal stroke, that is, a better balance between pushing and pulling with each revolution. The higher the cadence the more important "smoothness" in each stroke becomes. Fourth, this technique draws more on certain muscles than mashing (e.g., my hamstrings) and therefore it will take some time to develop strength and endurance in them.
Overall, I feel very good about this change and I'll be devoting the rest of this season, and the first half of next season, to perfecting the technique. By then I hope to be comfortable with my new style and perform all the better on my big annual rides.
Thanks for reading, hope you have a great day.