I've been doing lots and lots of high cadence pedalling in spin classes at VeloSF, where I go four to five times a week. But I'd done plenty of high cadence pedalling in spin classes over the years, it just never translated to spinning on the road. This time things seem to be different.
In the past, I went to spin classes two to three times a week and rode on the road two or three times during the week, and more on weekends. Though I spun in class, I mostly mashed on the road. For this reason, spinning never became a habit. Now, I am doing five to six hours of high cadence pedalling on weekdays, plus riding on weekends. The difference is two-fold: (1) I am doing more spinning than before; and (2) spinning in class is not interspersed with mashing. As a result, last couple of weekends, when I've ridden outside, I've spun rather than mashed.
To boot, I just replaced the spider on my TA Carmina crank. The old spider had 110mm bolt circle. The new one is 94mm. The old chainring combination was 50-36. The new combination is 46-30. That's right, 30. My low gear now is 30x27. On Sunday, I climbed Glorietta Road westbound. The climb is short and steep -- about 17% in the steepest section. I climbed it SEATED, spinning my 30x27 madly at close to 7mph, almost giggling, as I went up and up. I had to lean way forward to put more weight on the front wheel, to keep the bike from popping a wheelie. I felt so happy when I reached the top, as if I got a new toy. Twenty minutes later I twiddled my way up Pinehurst, passing guys who were mashing their way up the hill.
I had read plenty about benefits of high cadence pedalling. I had seen racers zoom up Pyrennean passes at 15 miles an hour, riding at high cadences. I had understood that fast pedalling uses cardiovascular system over musculo-skeletal, keeping a cyclist's legs fresher longer. I appreciated that it's easier to recover one's breath and slow down the heartbeat than to get rid of lactic acid from legs or make cramps go away. I'd known all that, but putting theory into practice is a completely different matter. I tried spinning while climbing, but it felt awkward, inefficient, slow, and silly, so I invariably abandoned these efforts. It appears that it took a consistent -- and somewhat unintentional -- commitment to spinning in a completely different environment (Computrainer spin classes) that led to my body's and my mind's adaptation to spinning. I didn't set out to become a spinner. Spinning is simply what we do in class, and over the six weeks that I've been doing it, it appears that I've become a spinner without realizing that my pedalling was undergoing such a fundamental change. For this, I'm very grateful to VeloSF.
I used to view spinners with disdain. They were somehow less worthy, as if they weren't manly enough to turn bigger gears. Now that I've joined their ranks, I'll be happy to be insufficiently manly, but ride faster and remain fresher, as I abuse my heart and lungs rather than legs, as I climb.