The Atheist Training Bible for Old Bicycle Racers, Chapter 4: Intermediate Spinning

January 14, 2014 § 12 Comments

Now that you have mastered basic spinning, you have lots of questions and you’re not very pleased.

“How long was I supposed to spin for?”

“How far was I supposed to go?”

“What were my average watts/HR supposed to be?”

“How can I keep people from laughing at me when I post this to Strava?”

Well, grasshopper, that was just your first entry into the world of the Wanky Training Plan ™. Now that you have mastered the art of going out and doing something other than hammering, it is important to remember this Russian proverb: “The best way to protect yourself is to shut up. And when you finish doing that, shut up some more.”

As with excessive blather, spinning and rest must be followed by more spinning and rest. Here’s a handy-dandy self-evaluation quiz to help you determine whether or not you’ve truly mastered the art of spin.

Self-evaluation Quiz

  1. Why’m I going so fucking slow? Yes/No
  2. My legs can’t turn that fast. Yes/No
  3. Hey! There go my peeps! I’m gonna hop in and hammer for just a few minutes! Yes/No
  4. This is boring. Yes/No
  5. Can I hammer now? Yes/No

If you answered “Yes” to any of the above, you haven’t yet mastered Spinning 101. Please return to the street and repeat the lesson in Chapter 3. Once you can spin in your tiniest, itsy-bitsiest, teensy-weensiest baby gear for two hours, you will be ready for Intermediate Spinning.

Torque v. Angular Velocity

Although Wankmeister generally eschews science in favor of completely made-up bullshit, it is a proven fact that on a bicycle power is the result of torque and angular velocity. This sounds complicated, but it’s not. Torque is mashing on the pedals. Imagine that you had the leg strength of Godzilla. When you mashed on the right pedal you would shear it off from the crank, dig the teeth of the chain ring into your leg, strip all the muscle away from the bone, and shatter your foot into a billion pieces when it hit the ground. This is torque. The more of that you have, the faster the bike will go, unless you have so much of it that you end up with no foot whatsoever, in which case you’re pretty well screwed.

Angular velocity is a fancy way of saying “making the crank spin quickly.” The quicker it spins, the faster you go. So if you could twirl the cranks at, say, 4,000,000 rpm, the whole contraption would heat up, melt the bottom bracket, tear the crank out of the frame, and result in a catastrophic accident. But if, say, you could twirl the cranks at a more reasonable 160 rpm, you’d go like a bat out of hell.

Most training plans try to help you develop torque by various impossible methods, listed below:

  1. Improve muscular force by diets designed to get rid of all your flab. Diets don’t work. Please quit now and have another helping of cookies.
  2. Improve muscular force by working out in the gym. You want to be a gym rat? Dude, gyms suck donkey balls. They are nasty, microbe-infested shitholes that are filled with sweaty big people who sneer at you because you’re so tweezly. Also, there’s no empirical evidence of any kind that gym work works.
  3. Improve muscular force by S/E workouts. These workouts are stupid and ineffective if you believe in science. They are great if you want to brag about your Wednesday “Big Ring workout” on Via del Monte.
  4. Improve muscular force through intervals. These work and are a living hell. You will hate racing and riding if you do them for long, or, you enjoy them because you are batshit crazy.
  5. Improve muscular force through banned PED’s. These work, but only when combined with #4. So, you’re back to square one. Plus, they’re expensive and will get you a 2 or 4-year racing vacation when you get caught.

Since improving torque is hopeless and/or painful, that only leaves one avenue: increasing angular velocity. In other words, spin the damn pedals faster. The problem is that you’re too weak to do it in a big gear, but there’s an additional problem. Your legs aren’t accustomed to going around fast. You’re a gronker with an average cadence of 70-85 rpm, and if you can’t turn 120 rpm in your 34 x 28, how the hell are you going to do it in your 53 x 11?

Answer: You aren’t.

So the challenge is to begin with baby steps. Start with your easiest gear, go out on your bike, and ride for an hour trying to keep it at about 100 to 110 rpm. This will feel like your legs are coming detached at the hip. If you’re really unlucky you’ll tear a tendon, ligament, muscle, or your tongue. Give it a try. Then get back to me and we’ll see if you’re really and truly ready for the intermediate lesson.

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§ 12 Responses to The Atheist Training Bible for Old Bicycle Racers, Chapter 4: Intermediate Spinning

  • tunverzagt says:

    Wait… Isn’t 100-110 just normal, everyday cadence?

  • renagade69 says:

    last time I registered 122 rpm my toes were burnin’ and i swear I could smell smoke coming from my cleats… why do I have to torture myself so much? trying to reach 160? not in a Frozen day in He!!…. oh , wait that happened last week in Mich.. ;( :::::::

  • PT says:

    I am struggling to accept that you are proffering sensible, non sarcastic, on-fatal, only vaguely insulting advice but it seems that’s just what you’re doing. Who said there’s nothing new under the sun?

  • debster822 says:

    Finally, a voice of reason. Thank you!

  • channel_zero says:

    Perhaps the last chapter should be Every Body Is Different.
    Because every body IS different.

    The gym works for me. Big time. Why? When it’s me vs gravity or fscking fluid dynamics (aka AIR) I’ve got more power to defeats the forces of slowness. It’s not a 1:1 transfer. A few weeks at higher volume and less gym time finishes off the power for cycling.

    And yes, Science says this does not, will not work. I still suck, so the Science is right. I definitely suck less than years and years ago, so the Science is wrong, for me. Because every body is different.

    What’s an S/E workout? Strength/Endurance??

    • fsethd says:

      I will check the documentation on my version of Blogbot 2.1.4. S/E probably stands for Solipsistic Entropy. Just guessing …

  • emacdo says:

    Spinning? What? Are you some sort of anachronism? Next thing is you’ll be advocating spending the first 1k miles of each season on a track bike learning to spin AND handle the bike.

    All that comes of that are fast riders who are comfortable in large packs. Who wants that?

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