The final piece of the performance puzzle.
Finally, pedal-stroke analysis made possible. Let’s talk about a critical tool in the RacerMate One™ package that's been designed to make you a more powerful rider - this software is called SpinScan.
When you begin riding your RacerMate® trainer in SpinScan mode, you’re presented with a few unique pieces of information beyond standard readouts like MPH, Watts, and RPM. These specialized readouts are ATA (Average Torque Angle), Power Split, and the SpinScan graphs (both in "polar" and "bar" formats) along with their corresponding SpinScan values.
The SpinScan polar graph is the best display for demonstrating your ATA and Power Split values, and the bar graph is key for zeroing in on the actual degrees in your pedal stroke where torque drops to or near zero. Simply put, SpinScan is a visual representation of how the rider is applying force during their 360 degree pedal stroke. The SpinScan visuals and values are important as they can help a rider identify key weaknesses in their pedal stroke, presenting a previously unimaginable resource for athletes seeking to become more efficient. Wattage and cadence are basic metrics that have been available for years, but they are not able to help an athlete completely evaluate their pedaling technique alone - be it a "gear masher” or a “spinner”.
So how does analyzing your pedal stroke help? It’s actually demonstrable that a rider with a smoother pedal stroke will outpace another rider who steps hard to pedal, even if they both pedal with the exact same average wattage and pedal cadence. A gear masher will create fluctuations in their speed that would normally go unnoticed without a SpinScan reading. You can imagine it as a oscillating pedaling speed with speed dips between pedal strokes and speed peaks where the rider pushes down hard with their leg. This actually yields an overall higher level of air resistance, since wind drag increases exponentially with an increase of rider speed, meaning that a faster speed yields a disproportionately higher drag factor. On the other hand, a spinner will work to maintain a constant wattage when pedaling, and will be able to avoid drag penalties from variance in their speed. These drag penalties become apparent over the course of longer races, when a rider's endurance is pushed to the absolute limit. To illustrate this point, consider the technology and costly investment in aerodynamic bike frames and helmets over the past few decades. With competitions won by fractions of a second, speed increases gained from lowering air resistance becomes even more paramount. All of this is made possible by the unique algorithmic precision of our road physics and wind resistance calculations, helping you precisely recreate sport-specific forces felt on the road when you train indoors.
SpinScan is a tool for biofeedback, allowing the rider to visually see pedaling technique and tailor it according to their training goals. Any changes made to hardware and pedaling smoothness are instantly shown in real time, and are demonstrated by higher wattages or lower heart rates. Your SpinScan values are defined as each legs' average torque divided by maximum torque multiplied by 100. The SpinScan values and their averages represent overall efficiency: the more efficiently you pedal the higher these numbers will become, the rounder the polar graph will get, and flatter in the bar graph. Though it is unlikely you will ever achieve 100 for SpinScan, it is not uncommon to hear of riders able to the reach a SpinScan value in the mid-80s, over 30% improvement in their pedal efficiency. A smoother pedaling style requires not only the down-step motion of the leg, but also the use of muscles that push the leg forward when the foot is at the top of the pedal arc, back when the leg is at the bottom of the pedal arc, and even pull up when the foot is at the back of the pedal arc. The benefits are the lowered air resistance penalties as described above, but also a full-leg workout that helps build underutilized muscles in the riders leg, all of which can help increase your competitive edge in a race.
ATA (Average Torque Angle) represents the angles in a rider’s pedal stroke where they apply their average force, and values are shown for both the right and left legs. Though a smoother pedaling style is advantageous, there is a certain point in the pedal arc where a rider should be applying more of their force. When the crank arm is forward and fully horizontal, a rider is offered most torque potential when they step down with the powerful downward-pushing muscles in the leg. This concept is easy to understand, since when you’re getting your bike started from a full stop, it’s far easier to push your legs down and pedal when the pedal bars are horizontal as opposed to when they are nearly vertical. In fact, it’s not even possible to push the pedals downward when they are in a true vertical position, as they need to move slightly forward to begin accepting downward push. Because ATA values are shown for each leg, you’re able to see instantly whether the legs are firing early or later than the other, serving as another point of biofeedback for the user’s training.
Power Split is the final key component of SpinScan, and displays the balance of power output from your individual legs. It’s an invaluable resource for physical therapy, as it can reveal an imbalance in leg power. We’ve encountered many seasoned and experienced athletes who try SpinScan for the first time, only to watch their surprise as the Power Split reading caught an imbalance in their leg power. Often it was able to identify a leg that had previously experienced injury or surgery, as ironically the other leg had become weaker. The athletes had been unknowingly overcompensating for the injured leg for years, and wouldn’t otherwise have been able to catch this phenomena.
Working towards a smoother pedaling stroke requires patience and awareness, but the benefits are there for the taking if you’re willing to achieve them - because of this we see SpinScan to be one of the most important elements of the RacerMate experience. We also believe that RacerMate's engineering and the physics behind it are why CompuTrainer® athletes historically place more often on podiums in major competitions around the world than any other cycling trainer. Not only is SpinScan an important tool for sports-science facilities to gauge the improvement of leg therapy sessions, it’s also an open-ended tool for any rider seeking to understand and improve their pedal stroke for better speed and endurance on the road.