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Another benefit--it works the opposing muscles to those active when you push down, so more balance strength work. Yes, you will feel it after the first time you do single leg drills!
I totally agree with the others that in order to work on spin properly you need clipless pedals. That said, toe cages do work but not as well (and I hate them with a passion).
Your friend is right, spinning is moving your foot in a circle rather than just stomping down on the pedals. So you push down, slide your foot back (like scraping mud off your shoe) and then bring it around and up (think of throwing your knee towards the toptube). The pullup basically unweights the opposite pedal somewhat so that it's easier for your other leg to push down. You also end up turning the crank over slightly faster too.
I love single leg drills for this, and I'll combine them with high cadence work for a great trainer workout. I've been known to do them on a (very) quiet road but the trainer (or stationary bike) is your best bet. You can't to single leg stuff with normal platform pedals, however.
As PERRYR says, you basically unclip one leg and pedal with one leg. You'll notice a "dead spot" where you're most inefficient - mine's right at the top of the stroke - but concentrate on having a nice smooth stroke all the way round. After doing this for, say 1', clip the other leg in, spin easy for a couple of minutes, and then repeat with the other leg. Do this 4x per leg and then build number of reps and frequency as it gets easier.
This will be hard at first and your cadence will drop way down but stick with it and it does get better. For me, the key to going faster is to pedal faster rather than pushing a bigger gear and a good pedal stroke will help a lot. I've also found that I can get a quick burst of speed on hills by actively engaging my hamstrings to "pull up" my leg faster - it doesn't last very long but if I time it right I can get a decent gap pretty quickly.
Edited by: WONGERCHI at: 11/4/2008 (16:12)
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It took me awhile, but when I catch myself mashing I make myself ease-up on the pressure and "think" about moving my legs faster without the pressure.
It's counter intuitive that putting less force into what you're doing can increase your speed...but it works for me.
Started with clips...
Now I can spin with straight platforms.
I'm just this GUY, ya know?
Starting Weight 385
(397 pre SP)
The idea is to "spin" smoothly. Clipless pedals are a great improvement over platform pedals. They allow you to pull up with one leg while pushing down with the other. I've read that overall power improvement is 30%. Not verified by me but the smooth spin and ability to pull up certainly improve your performance.
At the bottom of the stroke the action is similar to scraping mud from your shoe... So it's not just push down, pull up..
You can improve your pedal stroke by unclipping one shoe and pedaling with just one foot. Of course you can practice this on a trainer. I took the platform pedals off my cheap exercise bike and installed clipless pedals. This will also help practice clipping in and out.
I've heard clipless pedals and shoes help with that. I'm thinking of giving them a try.
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I have no shift key and I must scream.
I had a friend IRL explain to me that spinning is moving your foot in a circle rather than mashing on the down stroke while pedaling. Does anyone have any advice on how to get my body to do that?