Bouncing in the saddle

Discussion in 'Cycling Training' started by Mouse Potato, Jun 28, 2003.

  1. Mouse Potato

    Mouse Potato New Member

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    Hello all... I wonder if you could give some advice to a total beginner.

    I bought a second hand hybrid about 6 weeks ago for general fitness purposes, for an alternative to treadmill jogging and walking over winter (I also bought a mag trainer), and to learn how to ride (sad but true :D) so that in spring I can test ride road bikes without falling off (that's what I want to get into; the hybrid is temporary and disposable).

    At first I could only sustain about 80rpm in low- to mid-range gears (legs not coordinated enough to go faster), but after a week or so 95-105rpm felt "right" (rpm determined by the high-tech counting method, by the way). I had a problem where it felt like I was bouncing up and down while pedalling at that rate, but I dialled the suspension seatpost up to maximum stiffness (the bike shop had left it close to maximum softness) and the bounce went away. At that time I could only manage a few minutes in top gear or high resistance without my thigh muscles complaining (there's a bigger difference in muscle usage compared to running than I expected) so I've been putting some effort into improving that. The trouble now is that when I want to do ~100rpm back in the low- to mid-range gears again, the up and down bouncing is back with a vengeance. Aside from probably looking dumb (I'm used to that :D), it feels weird and it's got to be inefficient.

    I can do ~100rpm without bouncing in top gear (such as it is: 48 on the front, 14 on the back), but I can only keep that up for half an hour or so and I want to do some easy sessions on the mag trainer where I sustain that rate for at least an hour and preferably a lot longer (general fitness/aerobic conditioning comparable to what I do on the treadmill).

    I've tried moving the saddle up and down, back and forward, tilted up and tilted down, and it doesn't seem to make any difference to the bounce factor. So I'm sure it's due to a total lack of technique. The hybrid has ordinary pedals (not even toe clips) and I'm riding in cross-trainers so I guess it's because I'm applying too much pressure too abruptly straight down. I can pedal smoothly at low speeds but when I try to repeat that same motion quickly my feet lift off the pedals on the "up" part of the stroke.

    What should I be doing to improve my pedalling, bearing in mind that work hours plus winter weather cowardice mean mainly indoor training at the moment?

    Should I concentrate on smooth and slow pedalling and gradually work on speed? (I gotta admit I don't have much patience)

    Should I keep up the higher pedalling rate but try to work on getting it smoother, and if so, how should I go about that? (Bracing myself by pushing strongly back on the handlebars -- effectively wedging myself between them and the saddle -- stops the bouncing too but my arms get tired and I feel like it's just masking the problem rather than fixing it)

    Is there a particular foot orientation (horizontal, toe down, toe up) that might help? (This one just occurred to me... it's not something I've paid any attention to before)

    Would fiddling with the handlebars help? (they're as low as they go at the moment although it's still very upright compared to a road bike; however the stem(?) has an angle adjustment that I can use to lower them further, and obviously raising them is possible)

    Should I try toe clips (I don't see any place I can attach them to the current pedals so I'd have to change them too) and/or is it worth putting clipless pedals on an el-cheapo disposable bike? If so, what kind should I look at? And if I have clipless pedals, can I still ride them in sneakers if I just want to pop down to the local shops for a video?

    Should I get a set of rollers?

    Should I just resign myself to being unco? :D

    Any suggestions would be appreciated! (Even rude ones... I can always save them to use on other people ;))
     
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  2. late

    late New Member

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    Hi,
    you have a number of options. The first thing to try is to replace the suspension seatpost with a standard one. Ask the bike shop if they have a used one you could try. If it works for you, ask to buy that post, cost will be about $10.
    The second thing on our agenda is spinning classes, these are cycling classes done in a gym, very good workout. The third thing to consider is The Heart rate Monitor Book by Edwards and Reed.
    Get the logbook, too. This will give you dozens of different workouts, some of them are just lethal. The fourth is going clipless, ask your LBS about clipless pedals and shoes. Most spinning bikes have SPD pedals in any case. That should give you something to think about.
     
  3. Shibumi

    Shibumi New Member

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    Mouse Potato

    For a complete beginner, you sound as if you are doing too much too soon. Good technique is fine and all that, but don't start worrying about your cadence at the moment.

    Anyway, I think a lot of people would have trouble pedalling at 100 rpm without their feet being attached to the pedals in some way. I'm sure I'd be bouncing around as well. I'd recommend clipless pedals. Go to your bike shop and ask them to recommend some. I started off with a cheap set of Look pedals, which are probably one of the most popular. Just because you have a cheap bike shouldn't make any difference - you can always transfer them to something else if you trade up.

    Bouncing in the saddle can also be caused by having the saddle height incorrect, so get your shop to have a quick look at it, and then modify only in small increments after that. I really don't think that this is the main problem, but if you've been moving it around a bit, it's worth getting some advice.
     
  4. Mouse Potato

    Mouse Potato New Member

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    Hi late, Hi Shibumi,

    Thanks for the suggestions, guys! I'll get hold of a standard seatpost and check out clipless pedals and cycling shoes on the weekend. That'll be entertaining. I haven't figured out which of the local(ish) bike shops are good for what yet, I suspect I'm susceptible to being jargoned, and I know I've a terrible weakness for gadgets! :D

    I'll have to see what the local gyms do for spinning classes (I wish they didn't close so early), but I'll keep an eye out for that book. Lethal sounds good! I presume the workouts will be organised similarly to the few in the mag trainer booket, with combinations or so many minutes at so many rpm in such-and-such a gear... Is there a good way of measuring rpm (I take your point about not worrying about cadence yet, but I'm curious) that doesn't involve a sensor on the front wheel (since I'll be on the mag trainer during the week) or counting?

    With seat height, I've currently got it set according to what the guy at the LBS said was a general guide: that when I put my heel on the pedal my leg should be basically straight at maximum extension, and that when I put my toes on it there should be a slight bend at the knee. But I'll take myself and the bike down there and see if it needs adjusting.

    A bad habit of mine, I'm afraid. No patience. If I start something in the morning I want to be an expert by the afternoon. Or the day after at the very latest. :D
     
  5. J-MAT

    J-MAT New Member

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    Mouse Potato:

    Riders bounce in the saddle due to a lack of neuromuscular coordination. All riders suffer from this, it's just that some can spin faster than others before the bounce becomes obvious.

    The only way to get better at not bouncing is to spin faster and bounce. Eventually your muscles will start firing in more coordinated patterns, leading to a smooth stroke and no bounce. A good rider can spin on any bike and not bounce.

    Work up to 5 minutes seated at 120 rpm for a few sets. Also do some max cadence spinning. From 100 rpm in a light gear (42x17 or so), spin as fast as you can and momentarily hit your peak rpm. These workouts are best done on a trainer.

    You must equip your bike with a cadence computer. Cateye, Sigma, and Avocet are some of more popular brands.

    Good luck!!!
     
  6. Mouse Potato

    Mouse Potato New Member

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    Heh heh. That sounds about right.

    Thanks, J-MAT. I'll give that a go as well. A bit more variety for the trainer will be good, and I haven't really done intervals on the bike yet.

    How do those cadence computers work? Is there a sensor on the crank, or are they the type where a sensor goes on the front wheel to measure speed and cadence is derived from that plus the current gear? (If it's the latter, are the cables long enough to stick the sensor on the back wheel for trainer use?)
     
  7. Shabby

    Shabby New Member

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    There's been some another thread on the cadence computers, but I still think that the ones with a sensor on the crank are the best. Some people swear by the Flight deck type ones that infer a cadence from your gear, but I don;t think much of them.

    As for the speed on the wind trainer, it's not a useful figure. Look at your time and heart rates - the speed that a sensor on the back wheel would give is meaningless.
     
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