Silvio working different leg muscles than conventional bike?

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cycleguy's picture
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Hi all

Had another session with the trainer today, and was being told that with a recumbent, different muscle groups are worked then on a conventional road bike. Specifically how on a recumbent, the hamstrings are worked differently due to the angle that the legs are extended. I tried to go into how the Silvio preserves from what I can tell, the same leg position as on a DF bike, you are just rotated around the back of wheel in a sitting position etc....

I had also thought that on a DF, the extension of your legs are controlled by the height of the seat and how this same adjustment is possible with the telescoping shaft on the Silvio. So on either setup, it is possible to have an "improper" hamstring extension.

Are others aware of this mechanical argument the trainer was talking about and does simply adjusting the front end on the Silvio address the problem in the same way adjusting the seat does on a DF bike?

Thanks
Harold

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Re: Silvio working different leg muscles than conventional bike?

You can adjust the front end of the Silvio to get the proper leg extension like you would on a road bike and to that extent, yes, you are mostly just rotated backwards. However, on a road bike, your riding position is more closed which puts more power to the pedals. On most recumbents, the riding position is opened up more and you cannot stand to accelerate, so you have to get the hamstrings, glutes and calves much more involved in the pedaling process and "spin". The word "spinning" is most often misinterpreted to mean turning high RPMs and that is not the literal definition. Spinning is the process of powering both pedals the full rotation; pushing over the top, wiping your feet and pulling the pedal on through. After riding a recumbent for awhile, your body pretty much figures all this out if you're pushing yourself. On a road bike, you really have to concentrate to make spinning a habit. The tendancy is just to push the pedal and not really spin. To test yourself, unclip one foot and try to pedal. That is a spin. Try the other foot. If you are a spinner, your pedal stroke should be pretty smooth, even with just one foot clipped in.

I would have to agree with your trainer. The angle of the legs vs the torso means you are involving different muscle groups working in chorus with those you would ordinarily use.

Mark

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Re: Silvio working different leg muscles than conventional bike?

It's not as simple as just being down to the degree of leg extension, all recumbents have some way of adjusting that (telescoping boom or sliding seat, usually) and so there's no reason why it would have to differ from what you'd use on an upright bike. There are a number of other factors that can make a difference though, with hip opening angle being an important one. This can be closed (legs close to chest) or open (legs out straight). Upright road bikes use a fairly closed riding position which gives reasonable aerodynamics and good maximum power output whereas a lot of recumbents (especially those designed for high performance) use a considerably more open position in order to maximise the aerodynamic benefits of the recumbent configuration, at the expense of some reduction in rider maximum power output. This may be why most people will say that recumbents use muscle groups slightly differently, and in my experience it's often true. It took me months to fully develop my 'recumbent legs' when I started riding my first recumbent (a Bacchetta high racer with an open riding position). The Cruzbike design philosophy is different to most performance recumbents though, it provides a hip opening angle close to that of an upright bike in order to get maximum power rather than chasing the ultimate aerodynamic position. As a result muscle use on a Silvio is probably closer to that an an upright bike than is generally the case for a recumbent.

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Re: Silvio working different leg muscles than conventional bike?
Hotdog wrote:
As a result muscle use on a Silvio is probably closer to that an an upright bike than is generally the case for a recumbent.

I believe that is the intention. In my case, because of my leg length, I have to extend the TFT farther than normal, so I think I'm still in more of an open riding position. I think.... I really need to post some riding pics/videos.

Mark

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Re: Silvio working different leg muscles than conventional bike?

This "closed" position that generates more power is probably what is being experienced on a Silvio when you pull your back off of the seat and bring your chest closer to the handlebars. I use this position going up hills, and it generates a noticeable increase in power. When you pull forward like that, the glute muscles seem like they would be pulled tighter and this must translate into the muscles generating more power somehow. Taken to the extreme, if you're body is straight, you can't exert as much pressure with your legs as you could if you were more bent over and more "closed". From what I have seen, the Silvio position is definitely closer to a conventional road bike position then other recumbents.

Harold

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Re: Silvio working different leg muscles than conventional bike?
cycleguy wrote:
This "closed" position that generates more power is probably what is being experienced on a Silvio when you pull your back off of the seat and bring your chest closer to the handlebars. I use this position going up hills, and it generates a noticeable increase in power. When you pull forward like that, the glute muscles seem like they would be pulled tighter and this must translate into the muscles generating more power somehow. Taken to the extreme, if you're body is straight, you can't exert as much pressure with your legs as you could if you were more bent over and more "closed". From what I have seen, the Silvio position is definitely closer to a conventional road bike position then other recumbents.

Harold

Yes, I agree. I believe the Tour Easy comes pretty close, too. It sits you straight up, though and requires a fairing to get back the aero advantage.

The other thing about a Cruzbike is you don't just gain recumbent legs. I'm of the opinion you gain a Cruzbike body. That is; your full body orchestrates to power and control the bike. For that reason, I don't think crosstraining on another type of bike will help much other than cardio fitness. I don't see there being any true comparison.

Mark

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Re: Silvio working different leg muscles than conventional bike?

Now it makes sense that when you stand on a regular bike, you get the extra power because you bend your body even more. It's that angle between the upper and lower body that makes the difference. Standing allows you to have a 90 degree bend... The Silvio allows you to close up that angle more then other recumbents and when you pull your chest closer to the handlebars, you also get that similiar boost in power you get when standing on a DF bike.

Sound reasonable?

Harold

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Re: Silvio working different leg muscles than conventional bike?
cycleguy wrote:
Now it makes sense that when you stand on a regular bike, you get the extra power because you bend your body even more. It's that angle between the upper and lower body that makes the difference. Standing allows you to have a 90 degree bend... The Silvio allows you to close up that angle more then other recumbents and when you pull your chest closer to the handlebars, you also get that similiar boost in power you get when standing on a DF bike.

There's a bit more to it than that, standing on an upright bike (or pulling your chest closer towards the handlebars on a Silvio) enables your upper body to get involved, by pulling on the handlebars on the same side as the downward/forward moving foot you can add power to your pedal stroke. The change of body position also recruits different (i.e. fresh) muscle groups in the legs, so alternating between the two helps control muscle fatigue. These two benefits of standing are the normally given reasons for road bikes out climbing recumbents (even when both weigh the same and have fit and acclimated riders), however the MBB FWD design of the Cruzbikes gives you these advantages too Smile

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Re: Silvio working different leg muscles than conventional bike?
cycleguy wrote:
Now it makes sense that when you stand on a regular bike, you get the extra power because you bend your body even more. It's that angle between the upper and lower body that makes the difference. Standing allows you to have a 90 degree bend... The Silvio allows you to close up that angle more then other recumbents and when you pull your chest closer to the handlebars, you also get that similiar boost in power you get when standing on a DF bike.

Sound reasonable?

Harold

Yeah, reasonable. It also allows you to use your body weight and your upper body to throw the bike from side to side. More importantly, it allows you to rest your tender flesh covering your sit bones.

Mark

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Re: Silvio working different leg muscles than conventional bike?

Wow, you guys are getting right into this, great thread and congrats to the contributors.

Could I add, on a road bike the rider when working hard, the body is closed, yes and the arms are about parallel to the steering axis, which means no matter how hard you work the handlebars you don't introduce uncontrolled steering inputs (except when you try too hard, get too much of a weave going and bring down the pack 200 meters from the finish line of an important tour stage!). Silvio allows the body to do the same thing - work the pedals against the bars. Further, keeping a tight, stable, smooth cadence and line requires you do this with good technique as well.

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Re: Silvio working different leg muscles than conventional bike?
johntolhurst wrote:
Further, keeping a tight, stable, smooth cadence and line requires you do this with good technique as well.

Technnique that depends on acquiring a Cruzbike Body! Laughing out loud

Mark

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Re: Silvio working different leg muscles than conventional bike?
Mark B wrote:
johntolhurst wrote:
Further, keeping a tight, stable, smooth cadence and line requires you do this with good technique as well.

Technnique that depends on acquiring a Cruzbike Body! Laughing out loud

Mark

Well, some of us have to learn spinning technique in consistent application. I started out as more of a masher.

On a side note, it might be a side effect of my being way unfit for bike riding in general, but I don't seem to be having any problems gaining "recumbent legs" or anything else. I did have trouble with the usual bike riding muscles (top of thighs and butt) when I started riding, but nothing special I've noted.

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Re: Silvio working different leg muscles than conventional bike?

When I was going up some really steep climbs (13-14% grade), I noticed if i made a conscience effort to use different muscle groups, like alternating between primarily quads and gluts), that helped the climb... probably by giving the groups an alternating rest.

Harold

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Re: Silvio working different leg muscles than conventional bike?
cycleguy wrote:
When I was going up some really steep climbs (13-14% grade), I noticed if i made a conscience effort to use different muscle groups, like alternating between primarily quads and gluts), that helped the climb... probably by giving the groups an alternating rest.

Harold

Yes yes yes! You can't change your ability to consume oxygen, but you can put more muscles into debt, as long as you get over the crest. Then when the speed is easily up at 20 mph on the down side of the hill you make up your oxygen debt. Good times are about good averages, and the least amount of energy spent, which means keep speed as even as possible, as extra speed uses a lot more energy than what is saved at lesser speeds. Or if you keep within your aerobic capacity, it is still very helpful to alter the technique to introduce other muscle groups.

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Re: Silvio working different leg muscles than conventional bike?
johntolhurst wrote:
Good times are about good averages, and the least amount of energy spent, which means keep speed as even as possible, as extra speed uses a lot more energy than what is saved at lesser speeds. Or if you keep within your aerobic capacity, it is still very helpful to alter the technique to introduce other muscle groups.

Very true and I agree. The only thing I might add would be; conserving energy for a long distance ride is great and that is what you want to do. The flipside is; in order to bring your average cruising speed up, you have to push those thresholds of comfort on training rides. It's a good thing to blow up on a hill. Sure, it sucks at the time, but by pushing your limits, you get stronger and faster. It's good to do intervals; push yourself to oxygen depletion, then cruise for awhile to recover, then do it again. Training rides should leave you spent at the end. The payoff is when you go out and do that metric, or century, or charity ride (conserving energy as John said), you get in with a higher average, ride with the faster guys and gals and still feel good at the end. I believe it's better to bloody yourself on short rides so you can better enjoy yourself on the longer ones. That's just me, though. Everybody is different and not everybody is concerned with how fast or how far they go, so your milage may vary.

Mark

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Re: Silvio working different leg muscles than conventional bike?

I have been trying something different on a couple of rides recently. On a slow uphill stretch of my ride home, I've been playing around with pushing rather than pulling on the handlebars. The technique goes like this - my arms go fairly rigid and straight, while my back is planted firmly back against the seat with my shoulders right back. It's a more open position, but you are still using your upper body to contribute to the effort. IMHO this is worth exploring further as an alternative to the get-up-and-pull method (though I still use that more often). As other folks have said, varying technique and position might be a good thing regardless of which is actually optimal. YMMV

Cheers,
Rob

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Re: Silvio working different leg muscles than conventional bike?
Robert Stewart wrote:
I have been trying something different on a couple of rides recently. On a slow uphill stretch of my ride home, I've been playing around with pushing rather than pulling on the handlebars. The technique goes like this - my arms go fairly rigid and straight, while my back is planted firmly back against the seat with my shoulders right back. It's a more open position, but you are still using your upper body to contribute to the effort. IMHO this is worth exploring further as an alternative to the get-up-and-pull method (though I still use that more often). As other folks have said, varying technique and position might be a good thing regardless of which is actually optimal. YMMV

Cheers,
Rob

This is a very good description of the hill climbing method I use, I haven't been able to get on well with the pulled forwards, closed position, as I found the extra effort used in my arm muscles to pull my body forward was counter productive (perhaps my technique is wrong though).

With the 'laid back method', I have found I have been able to almost lock my arms straight, with the heal of my palms (is there such a thing) pushing on the upturned, far end of the brake hoods, then with a slight shoulder / torso twist (which doesn't seem to use so much energy), I have been able to give a counter peddle push on the bars and weave nicely up the hill.

On grinding up one very steep section, I have actually found my behind raised out of the seat, so the only points of contact were between my shoulder blades, the pedals and the bars. This had the effect of raising the centre of gravity and giving a pivot point behind my shoulders, making the bike very light and easy to counter steer, as well as give a smoother (less wheel slippy) power delivery, from me pushing forwards on the pedals, gravity pushing down and me pulling back with the clipless pedals. But my fitness (or lack of) means I cannot maintain this for too long....yet.

It seems there is more than one way to skin a cat.

Cheers.
Stuart.

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Re: Silvio working different leg muscles than conventional bike?

John, well put! I started off sprinting up the hills, and coasting down, and found myself exhausted. Now I just put a reasonable amount of effort into pedaling all the time (with lots of shifting), and my average velocity is up, and I'm not exhausted at the end of my ride. I've almost worked up the courage for clipless pedals.... any day now.

As for for a Cruzbike working different muscles, here is what my experience has shown: conventional bike = sore back, sore neck, and a piece of plastic wedged in my ass. Cruzbike = comfort & buns of steel Laughing out loud

johntolhurst wrote:
cycleguy wrote:
When I was going up some really steep climbs (13-14% grade), I noticed if i made a conscience effort to use different muscle groups, like alternating between primarily quads and gluts), that helped the climb... probably by giving the groups an alternating rest.

Harold

Yes yes yes! You can't change your ability to consume oxygen, but you can put more muscles into debt, as long as you get over the crest. Then when the speed is easily up at 20 mph on the down side of the hill you make up your oxygen debt. Good times are about good averages, and the least amount of energy spent, which means keep speed as even as possible, as extra speed uses a lot more energy than what is saved at lesser speeds. Or if you keep within your aerobic capacity, it is still very helpful to alter the technique to introduce other muscle groups.

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LEG ANGLE

I am definitely working my muscles differently on the Silvio relative to the DF bike. The more open hip angle is putting a lot more stress on my glutes and upper hamstrings. I don't notice it much just cruising along but up hills and on the trainer I certainly do. Currently when doing intervals on the trainer, I have to stop and stretch periodically to stop them screaming. Hopefully this will all work out over time.