How to improve your SpinScan

29 12 2008

For those who know the Computrainer, it is a very good tool to analyze your pedaling. Two key measurements are:

  • SpinScan: The SpinScan number is defined as: Average Torque divided by Maximum Torque multiplied by 100. In essence, the SpinScan numbers represent efficiency of the muscle groups in the legs to produce power evenly through the stroke. The more efficiently you use the muscles in your legs to “pedal in circles”, the higher the SpinScan values will become and the flatter (bargraph) or rounder (polar) the SpinScan Torque Profile will become. If your legs could produce power like an electric motor, the graphs would be perfectly flat (or round) and the SpinScan values would be 100, as in 100% efficient.*
  • ATA (Average Torque Angle): displays the average point in degrees that represent efficient crank arm length usage.*

One of the main reasons I bought the computrainer was to be able to measure my technique so that I could improve my pedaling efficiency. The first problem though, was to understand what good looks like. The manual does mention:

What is an Optimum SpinScan?

As a general rule, higher numbers are better than lower numbers. It has been our observation that roadies produce numbers in the 70’s to mid 80’s range, while mountain bikers may see much lower values because they spend more time standing on the pedals. Clearly, staying in the seat as long as you can while increasing the grade and eventually you will produce higher SpinScan numbers.*

OK, but what is a real good realistic SpinScan number? Moreover, what is a good ATA? The manual never mentioned anything about a good ATA…

When I started to play with the computrainer, I didn’t have a clue if I had a good or bad technique. So I jumped on the bike and did my best. Let me tell you, I wasn’t thrilled. Fortunately, a few days later, Caca came to my place and tried it out… Bruno came here last weekend and tried it out too.

bad-spin-scan

Nice 8, but not what one would like to see!

One thing was pretty common among us, our SpinScan was pretty mediocre and we had no clue what the ATA was supposed to look like:

  • Hans: SpinScan 63, ATA around 105
  • Caca: SpinScan 58, ATA around 106
  • Bruno: SpinScan 61, ATA around 108

Well, misery likes company! I wasn’t sure if we were all just bad riders, or if SpinScan of 70’s was just hard to achieve. But, I started to really concentrate on my technique, trying different ways of getting the number up and eventually I got to an average of low 70’s. I started to concentrate on the end of the cycle, when I was pulling just when feet hit the bottom of the cycle, but it didn’t really feel right. So I started with the best improvement tool around: google!

I found a great video on youtube that explained what good looks like (i.e. SpinScan of 80 is pretty good and 85 is awesome!) and it also explains that a good ATA is 90 degrees (up to 100 is OK)! Moreover, the author (Coach Mark Evans) tells you how to improve your technique by concentration on your pedaling when your feet are between 11 and 3’clock. It didn’t really make sense to me initially, but… What happened?

I just jumped back on my bike and tried it again, you tell me:

good-spin-scan

Even I was impressed. I averaged of 80 after 30 minutes!!!

You know what, that makes me think if I shouldn’t be looking for a coach. I wish I had something like this for my running technique.

* Definitions from the Computrainer CS manual

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6 responses

22 07 2009
Brad

Thx Hans,
I am experiencing the exact SS & ATA #’s that you did – I will work your (Marc Evans) recommendations
Brad – Sydney Australia

30 12 2008
Beatriz

For swimming there are master’s clubs, there, you got a coach.
For the bike a computrainer is promissing, and I have to say, at this point I am surprised it’s not only entertaining but might even work the technique.
So I would focus on something for the run. If anything, starting now, not when the weather is nicer.
How much is too much, well, how much is that budget? (it increases each time I ask…)

30 12 2008
Hans Winter

Bruno, you have a good point… would it be too much? Probably you’re right. Having said that, Caca and I spoke to a guy in Muskoka that is like us, works, has a family and does triathlons as a hobby. We looked him up and he completed the race in 5 hours or something. He is like 10 years older then us!

Anyhow, he mentioned that he improved a LOT using Mark Allen programs, which are pretty customized and you can contact the coaches to get some question answered, etc. It did look quite interesting. Check it out: http://www.markallenonline.com. That is something that I might consider for next season (i.e. 2010).

30 12 2008
Bruno

There’s a lot that can be achieved by focusing in technique, and I agree – a coach is really the person that can help on that – tough to have real improvements without a coach. But you should get a coach that would be with you, not one of these virtual coaches, since you are looking at improving technique, not developing a training schedule (which you already have).

Would’t it be too much? You may be going too professional for a hobby… unless it’s no longer a hobby for you…

29 12 2008
Beatriz

Now that you read all that… (if it was too much don’t worry, really, this is more to whoever have tried a computrainer a couple of times and now is thinking how to make the most of it)… so, minding all that, Spinscan ranges and ATA stuff, check again the ‘How it started’ part, the picture of the June 2007 Try-a-tri, on his mountainbike 🙂
who could tell…

29 12 2008
Hans Winter

Yea, I’m pretty sure my SpinScan was negative back then! 🙂

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