Spinning - Long Distance Riding
More along the lines of cross
country riding or singletrack racing... there is a definite technique for
accomplishing long distance rides and it is called spinning. You may have
heard that places like Bally Total Fitness offer spinning classes and this
is in effect what they are referring to, although they use stantionary bikes
and the purpose is burning calories.
Essentially, spinning is about using as many muscles in your legs as simultaneously possible to minimize the effects on the primary muscle groups used in mountain biking. It's about maximizing the mechanical output of the machine you are riding. It's about using all possible means to conserve energy.
Let's talk about your bicycle first. It is a machine and can be analyzed for greatest potential output. The most obvious result of any analysis is that you need to be pedaling all the way around in a circular motion, not just pushing down. That means you should be pulling up on the pedals on the upstroke and smoothing out the transition from down to up. To do this you need some form of foot restraint holding your feet to the pedals. With the proper rolling motion of the ankles, a pedal stroke can effectively become a down, back, up and forward force; not just down, or down and up. This maximizes the output of the machine.
That having been said, we move on to the human component. Pulling up on the pedals uses a completely different set of muscles than pushing down. Once you develop these muscles well, the upstroke of one leg will nicely supplement the downstroke of the other leg, thus reducing the workload on the primary mountain biking muscles. Then we mix in the ankles for that circular motion which again improves output of the machine and also mixes in yet another set of muscles to the pedaling process, the calf muscles. Adding all these muscles into your pedaling motion will reduce the workload on your primary mountain biking muscles, keeping them fresh over longer rides and will also increase the net energy output from LESS work!
So, how do you do this specifically? It's not hard and is mostly a matter of timing that you'll get the hang of once you practice. Let's begin. Start with adding an upstroke. This is simple enough. As you push down with one foot, pull up with the other. Work on putting as much pull into the upstroke as you can. You can train to build those muscles by exerting effort ONLY on the upstroke. Get the feel of the rhythm.
Now let's round out your pedaling with the ankles.
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