Author Topic: How to bike better/more efficiently?  (Read 729 times)

Zarakava

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How to bike better/more efficiently?
« on: April 19, 2017, 01:38:14 PM »
So I'm making the plunge and starting to bike to work. I'm going to do it twice a week this week and next, then increase a day every other week.

Now, it could be because I'm not in great shape, but I also just feel like I don't know how to bike well, and hills in particular kill me. I have a bike with 3 big gears and 9 little - the correct thing to do is to downshift (to like 1-4 or 1-5) for hills? But then it feels like I'm spinning wheels a lot but going slow. Is this how I should be doing it, and just need to build up stamina?

mm1970

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Re: How to bike better/more efficiently?
« Reply #1 on: April 19, 2017, 01:40:43 PM »
So I'm making the plunge and starting to bike to work. I'm going to do it twice a week this week and next, then increase a day every other week.

Now, it could be because I'm not in great shape, but I also just feel like I don't know how to bike well, and hills in particular kill me. I have a bike with 3 big gears and 9 little - the correct thing to do is to downshift (to like 1-4 or 1-5) for hills? But then it feels like I'm spinning wheels a lot but going slow. Is this how I should be doing it, and just need to build up stamina?

Yes.  At least, this is what I do.

tyort1

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Re: How to bike better/more efficiently?
« Reply #2 on: April 19, 2017, 01:56:27 PM »
Hills kill everyone.  I converted my bike to an eBike because I could never do the hills and not end up sweaty at my destination. 

Now, I can use the motor when I need it, and just pedal regularly when I don't. 
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dogboyslim

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Re: How to bike better/more efficiently?
« Reply #3 on: April 19, 2017, 02:12:48 PM »
Change to a gear where your effort/speed ratio makes you happy at your preferred cadence.  This is ultimately the answer.  What does that mean?  First let's prioritize the statement. 

"Makes you happy."  This is the most important part of the statement.  If you aren't happy, you are doing it wrong.

"Preferred Cadence."  This means how many times you turn the pedals in a complete circle each minute.  For most regular cyclists this is somewhere in the 85-95 range, but many recreational cyclists are more around 70 rpm.

If you are in a tall gear (the big ring on the front and little rings on the back) one rotation of the cranks will spin the rear wheel multiple times based on the ratio of gears.  So if the big ring is a 48 in front, and the small gear is 11 in back, then every turn of the crank will turn the wheel 4.36 times (calculated as 48/11).  On a 700-25 tire.  If your cadence is 80, then every minute, your rear tire spins 349 times around and you travel about .45 miles(2100mm*349 <convert to miles>) at 27.3 mph (.45mi*60 min).  If the small ring is 28 and the large ring is 32, these become .875 revolutions per crank * 80 rpm = 70 tire rotations, .091 miles at ~5.5 mph.  Depending on the external forces acting on the bike, these two may require the same effort, more or less.  Effort is the product of road surface, wind, elevation and a bunch of other factors.  Just to be clear, you do not need to do math for this to work, that's just to illustrate what's happening with the gears.

Now, when you start riding up the hill, try and keep your cadence going.  When it becomes too hard, change gears to a larger ring in the back or a smaller ring in the front.  Continue this process until you find a combo where you are comfortable with your effort level.  It sounds like you probably need to drop to a smaller sized ring in the back since you are spinning a lot and feeling like you aren't moving.  Add back gearing in the rear in progression until you find an effort level that makes you happy.  This will change from day to day and even from morning to evening.

I will now reiterate that the most important part of this process is "Makes you happy."

Enjoy the ride!

acroy

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Re: How to bike better/more efficiently?
« Reply #4 on: April 19, 2017, 02:17:43 PM »
Badass you!

yes, the lower gears make it possible to get up a hill. Yes you will go slower...
Practice practice!

1) try to keep a consistent cadence. this is how fast (rpm) you are pedaling. it should be around 60-80 rpm. A lot of newbies try to pound too hard a gear, pedaling slowly. this is rough on your joints.

2) try to keep consistent effort. i.e. keep pushing with the same force. Use the gears to get up & down the hills. Yes you'll have to push harder to get going from lights, maybe hustle up a hill or whatever, but a key to becoming an efficient cyclist is to manage your power output. A lot of newbies (and even experienced cyclists) will pound hard for a while, feeling good, then get winded and have to coast. They 'rubber band' and go up and down, feeling good and feeling bad., pay attention to your effort and try to make it consistent.

Final thing to remember: it never gets easier. You just get faster!!

Good luck!!!
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honeybbq

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Re: How to bike better/more efficiently?
« Reply #5 on: April 19, 2017, 02:53:01 PM »
I 'spin' up hills in as easily as possible. Some people prefer to stand and muscle it through with higher resistance. Not me. Personal preference.

Blissful Biker

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Re: How to bike better/more efficiently?
« Reply #6 on: April 19, 2017, 03:07:52 PM »
Well done.  Congratulations on your road to badassity.

I agree with the other posters, shifting to maintain a consistent cadence and relatively consistent effort is the most efficient.

However, I play a game on hills where I sit and spin for a few telephone poles and stand and power a lower gear for a few more telephone poles.  Makes the hills go by and builds strength.

When you are ready, clip in shoes will also increase your efficiency.  They let you pull on pedals as well as push.  When you first start you will fall a few times, everyone does, but a bad ass like you will get up and keep going.

And remember, your feet are not pistons.  Mentally focus on a pedal strokes that are full smooth circles as opposed to hammering up and down. 

jac941

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Re: How to bike better/more efficiently?
« Reply #7 on: April 19, 2017, 03:08:22 PM »
I'll add to the keep a consistent cadence recommendation. When I started cycling a lot and wanted to increase my efficiency, I actually added a cheap cycling computer to my ride to "practice" keeping a consistent high cadence. I was going 60 rpm or so and trained myself to get it up to 70 then 80. It was counterintuitive to me that spinning faster was easier until I actually forced myself to do it and adjusted the gears I was using to accommodate. Now I know what efficient cycling feels like so I don't need the computer anymore. It really helped me in the beginning though.

Also, about the gearing, you really shouldn't use the full range of your back gears with each front gear. You want to try to keep your chain in a line as much as possible -- so use your outer front ring with the outer 4 back rings, the middle front ring with the middle 4 back rings and your inner front ring with your inner 4 back rings. This gives you the full range of easy to hard without straining the chain at an angle. You said you're using 1-5, but 2-4 is probably equally easy and much better for the drive train so you'll get less clicking and a smoother ride.

Happy riding!

PlainsWalker

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Re: How to bike better/more efficiently?
« Reply #8 on: April 19, 2017, 03:16:49 PM »
All this cadence and shifting advice, good stuff.
Just because I am lazy and forget to do it. I will throw in the suggestion of making sure you have your tires inflated to the appropriate pressure and that you have cleaned and lubricated your chain in recent memory. An under inflated tube or a gummed up chain add some significant resistance.
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Cwadda

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Re: How to bike better/more efficiently?
« Reply #9 on: April 19, 2017, 03:27:21 PM »
PTF, novice cyclist here

Eric

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Re: How to bike better/more efficiently?
« Reply #10 on: April 19, 2017, 06:09:08 PM »
Lots of good advice so far.  I'll simply add that you want to shift to that easier gear before your cadence starts slowing down.  Don't wait until it gets hard to pedal.  And then continue to shift to the next easier gear every time you start to slow down your pedaling slightly.  Yes, you'll be going pretty slow, but you'll get faster and your knees will thank you.
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MrsPB

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Re: How to bike better/more efficiently?
« Reply #11 on: April 19, 2017, 07:09:47 PM »
Rigid soles! If you don't want to go to clip in shoes, get some rigid sole cycling shoes ( you can get ones that can be modified later if you decide to get clip in). Makes a uuuuuge difference with transferring leg power to pedals.

sw1tch

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Re: How to bike better/more efficiently?
« Reply #12 on: April 20, 2017, 11:18:13 AM »
I think the biggest thing you can do is give it time and do your best to consistently ride.  It gets easier!

When I started biking to work last June, I thought I was going to die going up hills.  My butt was sore, my legs were wobbly, I'd get nauseous and would barely be able to get up hills even in the lowest gears (1-1 or 1-2).  I rode on the sidewalks a lot because going that slow with a car behind me was terrifying.

After a couple months, it got a lot better.  The hills no longer scared me (I'm usually in 2-4 or 2-5 going up most hills around here).  Also, the longer you keep at it the more stamina you build.

Finally after about 8 months, I was confident enough to ride on the streets.  I also learned which streets to avoid and to look for bike paths where I can.  I'm even going out of my way to take longer routes.
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The Guru

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Re: How to bike better/more efficiently?
« Reply #13 on: April 20, 2017, 08:26:59 PM »
Also- be sure your seat is at the proper height. At the bottom of your pedal stroke, your leg should be almost- but not fully- extended. Just a slight bend in the knee.

Stupendous

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Re: How to bike better/more efficiently?
« Reply #14 on: April 20, 2017, 09:53:06 PM »
What type of bike? I'm assuming road but if not it'll be harder.

Laserjet3051

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Re: How to bike better/more efficiently?
« Reply #15 on: April 21, 2017, 09:20:07 AM »
Also- be sure your seat is at the proper height. At the bottom of your pedal stroke, your leg should be almost- but not fully- extended. Just a slight bend in the knee.

This has a TREMENDOUS impact on biking efficiency. Even raising the seat height by as little as 1 cm, can change leg/pedaling geometry so much so as to be very noticeable. Just keep raising the seat 1 cm on each ride, until you hit that sweet spot. Pelvis should not rock back and forth on each crank rotation; if so, you've gone too far/high. Small angle in the knee is all thats needed for optimum.