|Bodies, Brains, and Confidence: 3 Ways Bicycling is Good for You
We know bicycling is good for us. The biggest, most all-encompassing metric there is — how long you live — shows the cycling literally gives you more life. A Dutch study found that every hour spent cycling adds another hour to your life. A study by the Journal of Sports Medicine showed that the more you cycle, the more longevity you receive; Tour De France cyclists live eight years longer than average. But cycling isn’t just about living more, but better. Here are three ways cycling makes life qualitatively better.
A Better Body
|A Better Brain
A funny thing happened during a study on schoolchildren’s performance that was focused on the impacts of breakfast and lunch — almost as an afterthought, scientists also looked at how kids got to school. It turned out it had a bigger impact than even what the kids ate: those who cycled to school performed markedly better than those who rode in cars. “As a third-grade pupil, if you exercise and bike to school, your ability to concentrate increases to the equivalent of someone half a year further in their studies,” said Niels Egelund, a co-author of the study. This extrapolates to adulthood: several studies demonstrate boosted brainpower in adults, so much so that cycling has been shown to prevent Alzheimer’s in the elderly.More Love Life
So it only follows if you’ve got a better brain and a better body, your love life is likely to also be a bit busier. A Mindlab study showed that cyclists are regarded by others as 13 percent more intelligent, 13 percent cooler, and 10 percent more kind — and a whopping 23 percent said they’d rather go a date with cyclist versus a runner, soccer player, or tennis player.
Written by Morgan Sliff
How does cycling impact your knees?
A big advantage of cycling is that it’s a low impact sport. This means it is easy on your joints attracting people of all ages. Repetitively spinning your leg over and over again takes its toll. Knee pain is the most frequent injuries in cycling, from professionals all the way to amateurs. So, how does low impact exercise cause this? In this article we explore some of the main causes of bad knees, and ways to fix them to keep you cycling.
Too far too quickly
Trying to do too much, too quickly can cause knee pain. The knee is supported by connective tissue. If you push yourself too much, by rapidly increasing your distance, speed or climbing, then you are putting added pressure on your knees. They will not be acclimatised to dealing with the added load. The result is inflammation of the knee, triggering pain. Just like building up muscles, you need to gradually let your knee joints get acclimate to the added load; only increase ride lengths or times by 20% when you first start cycling. Furthermore, always warm up which gets the connective tissue in your knees ready for load bearing; start out with each ride with gentle cycle at high cadence to get the blood flowing to your joints and muscles.
Poor fitting saddle
Having a bad fitting bike can cause all sorts of misgivings. Too long of a stem is bad for your back, however, for knee pain, the biggest culprit is saddle fitting. If the front of your knee is the problem, try raising the saddle a bit or moving it back in relation to the handlebars. If the back of your knee hurts, try lowering the saddle a bit or moving it forward a bit in relation to the handlebars. Imagine pedal motion is the arm of a clock; you can check positioning by placing your pedals in the 6-o’clock and 12-o’clock positions and rest your heel on the lower pedal. Your leg should be straight, which equates to a 20- to 25-degree knee bend when clipped in. When both feet are positioned parallel to the floor (3 o’clock and 9 o’clock), the forward knee should be over the ball of your foot.
If you find pain persists, we recommend getting a professional bicycle fitting. This will ensure you have a bicycle set up which puts you in the best position to eliminate pain.
Cycling works specific muscle group, primarily quadriceps. If cycling is your main exercise, it is likely you have overdeveloped quadriceps and underdeveloped glutes and hamstrings. This imbalance can put pressure on your knees, which require an equal balance for support. Cyclists should rectify this imbalance; strengthen all muscles groups, by doing resistance-training exercises for all muscles in your legs, core and back. There are cyclist’s specific routines, and also tailored to specific goals, such as longer endurance or more powerful sprinting. British Cycling and Training Peaks are good resources to find a routine to support your needs.
Too high gear
A common mistake by cyclists, particularly those starting out, is to cycle in too high a gear. It often seems that a higher gear is faster. However a faster cadence in a lower gear is now considered better. ‘Mashing’ gears with cadence below 70rpm puts a lot of strain on the knee joint. The school thought is that higher cadence gives you better endurance as you rely more on the aerobic system, which can recover faster than the muscular system. A cadence sensor may be a useful training aid to help you understand correct cycling gears. This fits ether on the crank or wheel, with a computer display in the handlebar. This displays live cadence data during the ride, so you know if to change gear, and also post ride data to analyse your pedal habits.
Core is not just about strong abs; your core, is actually group of muscles including abs, hip and glutes. These help stabilise and support body movements. The core supports riders in the saddle providing a platform to push off and balance. Over a long ride, just as leg muscles fatigue, so do core muscles. A weakened core results in less support and cyclist legs becoming lazy and moving side to side while pedalling.
It is important to train your core off the bike. You can find specific training exercises for cyclists, aimed at core strength. You should train your core at least once a week, and ideally when you have time away from the saddle to allow sufficient recovery.
Throughout the pedalling rotation, leg muscles remain slightly contracted, and not at full stretch. Over time, this shortens the muscles and connective tissue, causing reduced flexibility. If you have poor range of motion, your pedalling may end up causing pain as your kneecap is unable to track in a healthy fashion. You can minimise this by doing a warm down stretch after every cycle. Additionally, foam rolling all leg muscles can keep legs feeling flexible. If you have long standing pain, getting a sports massage can help break any knots or tensions areas in your legs.
Where you put your feet on your pedals has a big effect on your knees. Cleats should be positioned so the ball of your foot is directly over or even a bit behind the pedal axle. Your cleat angles should be aligned with the natural angle of your heels, since unnaturally toeing in or out can stress your knees. Road cleats can also have float adjusted. This is the amount the shoe can move before unclipping; too little and the knee can be forced into painful positions too much float allows the knees to toggle all over the place which not only wastes watts, but stresses your joints. Nikola Innovation Pedals have taken this a step further with revolutionary ZIVO technology by allowing your legs and knees move in their intended position.
Feel free to give us a call or drop a note if you have additional questions or comments on your knee health.
Guide to maintain, service and fit pedals
Pedals have a thankless job; they get stepped on, rained on, dragged through mud and smashed against rocks. One could be forgiven for not looking after them, and buying cheap replacement after replacement. However, investing in a quality pair of pedals can dramatically enhance your cycling experience. Take care of your pedals, and they’ll last a long time too. This article presents some instillation and maintenance techniques that will help extend the life of your pedals.
Bike pedal axles thread into the crank arms of the bicycle. To remove them you will either need a pedal spanner or hex key. The right (drive side) pedal will loosen anti-clock wise, while the left pedal will loosen clock-wise. They are threaded this way so any cycling tends to wind them on tighter, instead of dropping off mid ride! This does mean that if they’ve been ridden for some time they may be hard to remove. There is a few techniques to remove a seized pedal; you can try using both a spanner and hex key at the same time. You can use penetrating oil in the thread to loosen up the bind. As a last resort heating the crank arm will expand the metal however this is not recommended for non- mechanical types.
It’s good practice to get your pedals clean before servicing as it reduces the chance of introducing dirt into the pedal body. Give the pedals a good rub down with degreaser. Alternatively, wash with hot soapy water and ensure you take the time to dry thourougly before servicing.
Greasing the bearings
At this stage it’s worth knowing if you are able to actually re-grease your pedals; Many cheap standard flat pedals are not serviceable. They are designed with sealed inaccessible bearings, the whole pedal is to be simply thrown out and replaced when worn.
More expensive platform and clipless pedals are serviceable. You may find a grease port on some designs, where you can top off grease with a grease gun. Other models require the axle to be removed from the pedal body, grease applied and then tightened up again. Many manufacturers offer rebuild kits with new bearings, seals, hardware and instructions. Depending on conditions, you should re-grease every few thousand miles.
Now it is time to reinstall the pedal. If the bike pedals are single sided you can tell which is the left and right pedal. Modern pedals are usually marked ‘R’ and ‘L’. Older French or Italian pedals may be marked ‘D’ and ‘G’ or ‘D’ and ‘S’.
Before threading the pedals on it’s recommended to clean the pedal thread and the thread in the crank arms with a bit of degreaser. You can then lightly grease both sets of threads which will help the next time you remove them for servicing. To install, you’ll need a pedal spanner or hex key. The material of the pedal axle is usually harder than the materials of the crank so take care as it’s easy to damage the soft thread of the crank.
In wet conditions, the cleats retention mechanisms on clipless pedals can become clogged with mud and grime. Some pedals are designed to minimize clogging with ‘wide cages’ yet no pedal will ever escape all bad weather. Wearing shoe covers can help block mud. However, the best tip is to spray your cleats and pedals with a thin lubricant such as WD40 which will fling off while cycling, taking any grime with it. Adding too much or thicker oil will just attract excess crud to the area. Some say kitchen cooking spray is surprisingly the best for blocking mud and crud. We will leave that up to you. Either way, make sure you spray into the spring mechanism too.
Cleat replacement for clipless pedals.
The most important maintenance with most clipless pedal systems is not actually the pedal but the cleats on your shoes. These are very prone to wear with the inevitable walking that you do. Worn cleats in turn wear out your pedals faster, making it double as bad to not replace them. You can buy ‘cleat covers’ to wear over your cleats and protect them from excessive wear which can help extend life.
On racing shoes, where the cleats protrude from the sole, expect to replace cleats at least once a season. If you use touring, or MTB, shoes, which have the cleat recessed into the sole, your cleats will last much longer, with some people claiming years of service!
Whatever cleat, the first sign wear is when it becomes difficult to either click your shoe in or out of the pedal. You should consider a new set when this happens. Also, replace your cleat if the front edge of it becomes thinner than about 1mm. Don’t forget, use anti-seize grease on the mounting bolt threads when fitting new cleats – it’ll be much easier to remove them later!
Cycling is known for its dichotomy of innovation in design and upkeep of traditionalist ways. There is no better example than the humble bicycle pedal; Perhaps taken for granted by the average cyclist, the once simplistic metal platform was at the centre of a technology race. A race which built the reputation of many of today’s household brands, and even snatched companies from other sports. Yet, the cycling community was slow to adopt unfamiliar designs. Pedal innovation has not stopped, as it remains an integral part of improving performance. Through their own research, Nikola are continuing this pioneering legacy.
From no clips, to clips, and back to clipless again?
The first bicycles used simple flat pedals, which today are still the norm on many bicycles. It wasn’t until the 1890’s that anything really changed; around this time toe clips and straps were adopted and fixed to pedals. These devices attached to the pedal and allowed the shoe to slide into and stay secure to the pedal. Such set ups are still common today, with the advantage of not needing specialist shoes. As these became popular, purpose built pedals with toe clips attached as standard were designed. For a long time these pedals remained the only choice for professional riders to aid their pedalling performance.
And this is why modern pedals you ‘clip into’ are confusingly called ‘clipless pedals’; before the clipping in system, professional riders all rode with the preferred metal toe clips which were secured to the pedal platform. When early pioneering manufactures of ‘clip in’ pedals were adopted by professionals, they were missing the distinct metal toe clips – they were indeed clipless pedals. In the place, a pedal with a small platform allowed for a specialist shoe to lock into through a cleat on the sole.
So now we know how the cycling world got to the ‘clipless pedal’ and the reason for its confusing name, lets have a look and some iconic designs which helped innovate the pedal:
Cinelli M71 (1st Generation) 1970
Cinelli claim to have invented the first clipless pedal – The rare 1st generation Cinelli M71. This early version pedal replaced toe-clips and straps with a sole-mounted cleat that locked the shoe in position. Its cleat was originally made of aluminium, but later versions of M71 pedal cleats were made of moulded plastic for durability. Also, the pedal platform was made of chromed steel and looked quite different from the aluminium platforms with a round hole found on later M71 pedals. Designed by Cino Cinelli. The rider would clip out using a hand operated lever.
NaturaLimits Quick Release Cleats 1980
These novel “clipless” pedal adapters attached to the bodies of typical quill flat racing pedals and the cleats would attach to ordinary cycling shoes. This retro-fit system was intended as a replacement for toe clips and straps and turned ordinary quill pedals into clipless pedals. Before this, you would have had to change the whole pedal to be able to run clipless. The idea of adapting pedals and shoes for clipless did not take off however.
Look #PP65 1984
While Cinelli claim to have invented the clipless pedal, Look rightfully are seen as the key catalysts to making clipless technology successful. The French company produced the first commercially successful clipless pedal. As a ski binding manufacturer, Look began designing what it termed pédales automatiques – a style of spring loaded pedal from which you could release your foot with a sideways twisting motion. This feature meant a rider could safely detach from the bicycle ultimately accepted by professional riders and teams. This in turn kick started the pedal revolution, as other manufacturers followed suit. This design included the three-hole cleat mounting standard, which remains the standard design for racing pedals today. A testament to Look’s design.
Time TBT 1988
This was the first commercially successful clipless pedal that had float (spring-recentered). Float is the ability for the foot to move in the pedal without un-clipping. This reduced the strain on knee joints and became an integral feature of future designs. This model was created by the original inventor of the Look #PP65 pedal – Jean Beyl.
Speedplay X 1989
The Speedplay X Series’ innovative design and unrestricted float changed the shape of clipless pedals and proved that user-friendliness, comfort, and improved performance are all attainable in a simple, lightweight package. The unique shape of X pedals provided knee-saving lateral rotation, without the self-centering action inherent in most pedals as knees didn’t have to work against spring tension. The compact, low-profile shape of X pedals positioned your foot closer to the spindle. X Series Pedals were Speedplay’s first double-sided design. Unlike other designs, the pedal is essentially the cleat – as unusually it fits into the shoe.
Shimano PD7410 1993
Shimano’s first in-house designed clipless road pedal. Shimano named their range ‘Shimano Pedal Dynamic (SPD). They miniaturized Look’s design using a proprietary 2-hole mounting standard instead of 3.
Shimano M737 1993
Shimano also launched the M737 which was a compact 2 bolt version of its road pedal. The smaller design was aimed at mountain bikers, and was quickly adopted. This design became popular and Shimano has continued to produce pedals with the same basic mechanism. The relatively tiny SPD cleat recessed into the shoe sole, making walking a breeze. It’s little surprise that as the years went on, the technology grew from mountain bikers to everyday cyclists. This pedal brought the racing bike clipless system to the wider mass market.
AN IDEA IS BORN
I spent this past weekend working with a local university mentoring new entrepreneurs refining their ideas. A thought that won’t escape their frontal-lobe that could be the next great idea. Their concepts range form, already in prototype testing to mere sketches in a notebook. The participants spanned from college freshman to forty-something with a nudge or mental itch they desired to resolve.
The participant pitches were delivered with confidence, with fear and trepidation, with cockiness, with PowerPoint failures, and with many warts however each one presented their story as best they could. Listening to over 100 participants was an episode of Shark Tank on steroids. Seeing each person with a belief in his or her unique idea is hard to explain. The best way to describe these ideas is somewhat like a piece of art. They are unique, cherished by their owner, unfiltered, maturing, and wonderful. What is reality is most ideas remain a mental notation kept warm with hope and good intentions from the proprietor never to be seen.
The notion of mentoring and coaching is to help germinate these ideas, suggest next steps, or just encourage a person to get up and speak. Our job is removing fear of embarrassment and accepting the fact that thousands of failures are ok. Some mentors feel it’s their responsibility to judge the merits of the idea propping it up or shooting it down based upon their professional opinion. I feel an idea should be respected and treated with care regardless if its market population is one or a billion. Only the owner should have the right to progress or scrap the idea.
What is fun about these events is to see the cutting edge frontier. The new technology presented included artificial intelligence search engine optimization tool creating behavioral algorithms optimizing websites. A grill accessory guaranteeing perfectly cooked food through integrated thermometers and timers in the grates. A software/app scouring millions of dockets measuring attorneys effectiveness by case wins and type creating a rating system matching client needs with the best attorney.
We are a bike pedal designer and manufacturer, as well as promoters of innovation and improvement. If you have an idea stuck in your head then we encourage you to take a step. Do not be afraid. Several of us here are fans of Elon Musk. Yes he is smart, works tenacious hours, and able to process things quickly. But he is just a dood self-taught in programming who likes to read science fiction books. He overcame many fears and built a company that announced this week they are sending two civilians around the moon. Think about his risk and life responsibilities and compare that to your idea.
Call anyone of us at Nikola if you need help with your idea and we’ll be happy to point you in the right direction.
The idea was born while I was rollerblading with friends. After many miles of skating, I recognized the muscle fatigue associated with rollerblading, which felt significantly different, then when biking. This fatigue with my leg motion began my interest in understanding body mechanics and how to fully utilize my lower body muscles when riding a bike. As an avid cyclist who loved to ride and compete, I sought to find a better way to apply and transfer the power of the body into the bike. Realizing the similarities between skating and cycling began the theory for the idea. The hypothesis formulated was if a person can use a broader range of muscles to propel a bike, then they should realize higher speeds, or need less effort to ride with the added muscles. Think of a car out of gas and you need to push it. One person will be challenged, much easier with two people, and even easier with three. More people pushing the car require less effort from each.
HOW IT WORKS
In 1962 General Motors introduced the first production car engine with a turbocharger. “The Cutlas Turbo Jetfire” This was monumental because they discovered by adding a turbocharger onto and engine, it increases the performance with added power and efficiency. A turbocharger increases horsepower allowing the car to accelerate faster. Since the car now has more power and can move faster, this allows car manufactures to reduce the size of the engines while maintaining the same power of larger engines. A smaller engine size uses less fuel therefore improves the cars MPG (miles per gallon). Turbochargers are used in cars, jets, boats and many performance engines.
Nikola pedals do for cycling what turbo chargers do for engines. We determined by adding new muscle groups from our legs, you can increase your power on the bike. We took the motion of a speed skater and integrated it into a bike creating a skating/pedaling motion. The new motion works just like a standard pedal except it uses more of the inner thigh and glute muscles in addition to quads, hamstrings, and calf muscles. This creates additional power because just like the car out of gas example, with more people pushing, we have more muscles working. Because a Nikola pedal has more muscles pushing and pulling, they require less effort just like a turbocharger, which in cycling is measured in joules. Think of joules like MPG. If you have a turbocharged engine you need less gas, if you use Nikola pedals you need less effort.
The sensation you experience when riding the pedal surprises everyone because they are expecting something very different. Our team spent a year studying the motion and created a natural feeling movement unnoticeable to almost all riders. The pedal skates back and forth by the developed technology inside the pedal. The second most surprising realization from riders is that you do not move the pedal side to side because it does it for you.
When your foot is on the pedal and positioned at the lowest point nearest the ground the pedal is at the outer most position away from the bike. Think of skating and your legs extending outward to move forward. As you pedal your leg begins to move inward toward the bike and is closest to the bike at the top at 12 o’clock position. The pedal moves circularly and elliptically at the same time.
I love playing the future game during our ideation sessions challenging status quo thinking and imagining what-if. The best way to put together a futuristic picture of a bike is to break it down into smaller parts. I have seen great new technologies that are a few years from market that will likely be the new norm and here is what we’ll see.
Carbon Frames fashioned by 3-D printers- Science exists today to print bicycle pedals using print materials resilient enough to withstand the weight of a person. 3D printers today are capable of printing carbon fiber materials and a bike frame is feasible. Carbon fiber costs will drop as automotive federal MPG requirements mature making carbon fiber abundant as steel. Buying your new road bike will be a simple file download onto your home printer and print your tailored bike matching your exact size.
Anti-lock breaks with automatic stopping sensors. Going over your handlebars will be an event of the past. Just like cars of today with stopping sensors, this technology will be on most bikes in the future. The basis of science for stopping is similar between bikes and cars. Bikes will automatically slow or stop using a parallel technology . Anti-lock bike breaks are being tested in the market today and will be standard equipment.
300-mile range e-bikes. A local Cleveland start-up incubator lives a company who developed an e-bike that can travel up to 200 miles using a portable hydrogen fuel cell. I love how they are thinking already proving it can be done. Elon Musk’s Tesla will probably beat them to the market punch with a small lithium ion battery fit for a bike. Hydrogen fuel cells are a bit challenging to ship so I’m betting on the lithium battery to be first to market. You can bank on this one to come true.
Direct drive bike. Chains falling off while switching gears will be an old school bikes 50 years from now. Direct drive will not only eliminate the issue, it also maximizes power transfer. Direct drive will remove the need for a chain or drive shaft aligning the rider optimally on the bike. Power transfer will be improved with direct drive appealing to the triathletes and road market with the lower body positioning. Direct drive will bring fitting challenges however likely helping prosthetic riders aligning their center of gravity above the center of power.
Saddles. No pain you say? Likely not, but seats with improved blood circulation will be more widely available maximizing riding enjoyment. Think of a seat where pressure maps look more dynamic than static. I never understood the mantra “you’ll get used to it”. I could get used to sleeping on a bed of nails too but see no reason for it. Bike seats will decrease in length and increase in width as dynamic positioning evolves.
Optional Equipment– Built in cell phone chargers. E-bike commuters will charge their phone on their prolonged battery life. Built in air bags– Bike helmets with built in airbags exists today. Airbag incorporated into the handlebars or bike frame will be likely in 2066. Hands free biking – Could happen…not sure why but it’s the same science in self-steering cars or gyroscopes in Segways and Hoverboards. Just plug in your destination on your phone and pedal away while the bike steers itself.