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I often hear people argue that it is very important to maintain a high cadence when training/racing, especially when going up hill. What is the reasoning/logic behind this?
 

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NeoRetroGrouch
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LyncStar said:
I often hear people argue that it is very important to maintain a high cadence when training/racing, especially when going up hill. What is the reasoning/logic behind this?
It's like lift a lot of little weights or a few heavy weights.

The low cadence/big gears (heavy weights) put serious strain on your muscles. Muscles take 24-48 hours to recover. The high cadence/easy gear (low weights) puts serious strain on your cardio-pulminary system. Recovery takes minutes (or even seconds).

TF
 

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And furthermore

In addition to the muscle issues noted by TurboTurtle, lower cadece/higher force tends to put more strain on the joints and can more easily lead to overuse injuries.
 

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not all bad

Low cadence isn't all bad. I did 40-50 rpm intervals pretty regularly last month. I'm toning it down now b/c the season is upon us. Low cadence mashing helps build joint and overall muscle strength. Just don't do it very often, and make sure you recover fully from whatever kind of interval you may be doing.
 

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Squirrel Hunter
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Engine

Ever drive an automatic transmission in the mountains? The engine shifts to be efficient and effective. Then drive a manual transmission where you can choose the best gears for performance, which gears do you choose?
 

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gastarbeiter
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cal me old school, and if you're really 16 you probably will, but mashing the big gears in the off season seems pretty stupid. I tend to keep it in the 39 until my first race, which means that tomorrow will be the first time i use it since autumn.



sgt_hedgehog said:
Low cadence isn't all bad. I did 40-50 rpm intervals pretty regularly last month. I'm toning it down now b/c the season is upon us. Low cadence mashing helps build joint and overall muscle strength. Just don't do it very often, and make sure you recover fully from whatever kind of interval you may be doing.
 

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Keeping up with Junior said:
Ever drive an automatic transmission in the mountains? The engine shifts to be efficient and effective. Then drive a manual transmission where you can choose the best gears for performance, which gears do you choose?
a low gear until it overheats and blows up!
 

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Ride..

bas said:
a low gear until it overheats and blows up!
Ride what cadence works for you. While we have seen these things in the past where people (Lance) have talked about how high cadence works really well, and it does for him, it takes an immense cardiovascular system to get good speed out of high cadence, you can train yourself that way, but most of us mere mortals, high cadence doesn't work all that great. Pedal where you feel comfortable, and when it comes right down to it, when you're racing, you'll do whatever it is you need to do to stay in the race, so the last thing you should be thinking about is, "Is my cadence OK? Is my HR OK?" Hammer down, hammer down.
 

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magnolia is right. i spent two hours yesterday with a researcher who has been studying sports performance for years. she reminded me that the human body has a fantastic ability to self-select the levels that are most efficient for each individual. in other words, go with what feels natural for your body, including staying alert to any signs of unusual pain or discomfort.

amid all the talk among cyclists about high-cadence, i was tested last year. at 75 rpm, i use 48.7 mL of oxygen per kilo to produce 290 watts of power. at 85 rpm, i use 54.2 mL of oxygen per kilo to produce 290 watts of power. so, in a controlled lab setting, i seem to be more efficient at a lower cadence.




magnolialover said:
Ride what cadence works for you. While we have seen these things in the past where people (Lance) have talked about how high cadence works really well, and it does for him, it takes an immense cardiovascular system to get good speed out of high cadence, you can train yourself that way, but most of us mere mortals, high cadence doesn't work all that great. Pedal where you feel comfortable, and when it comes right down to it, when you're racing, you'll do whatever it is you need to do to stay in the race, so the last thing you should be thinking about is, "Is my cadence OK? Is my HR OK?" Hammer down, hammer down.
 

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High vs Low cadence is somewhat individualized. Not all pro's spin the same cadence over the same course. Even for a given individual, relative cadence may change. As your leg muscles get stronger with training, they may be able to produce more power at a lower cadence without significant strain. OTOH- If your cadence is too high your efficiency can decrease (e.g. jerking/ bouncing rather than spininning the pedals). With training most can learn to increase their "effective" max cadence somewhat. In the end, magnolialover is right- you'll do whatever you need to to stay in the race (or finish your century, or whatever your goal is). Spinning a better cadence throughout the race, however, may minimize the stress of the ride & leave you with more energy/power to finish. If you mash a low cadence real hard at the start, your leg muscles may turn to noodles for the rest of the ride.
 

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Low Cadence/ hi gear training can be very uselful for improving technique as well as strength. What kills you is the trying to accelerate in a hard gear. Exert only enough energy to keep the pedals revolving. Don't try any quick burst. Be like a diesel. Combined with high cadence training hopefully you will find a happy medium come race day.
 

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Those poor coaches

While no one here has mentioned specific numbers when they referenced high or low cadence, when people talk about pro riders with "big gears" or "low cadence" they're still talking well above 80 rpm except on the steepest climbs. Spinning is a learned skill, and those who haven't learned it indeed may produce more power at lower RPM - that's what all the early "studies" showed because they tested non-cyclists. That does not mean that this is the best long term strategy. If it was, all those poor cycling coaches would have been wrong for the past 100 or so years.
 

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team_sheepshead said:
amid all the talk among cyclists about high-cadence, i was tested last year. at 75 rpm, i use 48.7 mL of oxygen per kilo to produce 290 watts of power. at 85 rpm, i use 54.2 mL of oxygen per kilo to produce 290 watts of power. so, in a controlled lab setting, i seem to be more efficient at a lower cadence.
This would be true if it were not possible to derive energy from non-oxidative glycolysis. So while you may be more "efficient" in terms of oxygen usage, the real question is are you more efficient in terms of overall energy usage or at which cadence is performance better (time to exhaustion or some similar measure).

For years exercise physiologist have known that lower cadences are more "efficient" in terms of oxygen usage at lower cadences yet people almost always self-select a cadence of 80-100 rpm and that is what racers generaly pedal as well. However if you understand how muscle recruitment is related to force/power and how this relates to muscle fatigue it makes perfect sense that at lower cadences you would consume less oxygen yet performance would probably suffer relative to higher cadences.
 

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SoCal--S Beach to the Dam
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Are'nt you building up different muscles in the legs from mashing to 90+ cadence? Also higher cadence is just a better workout. I try to keep it at 90 and above.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Thanks all!

I tried a higher cadence on a 65 mile ride in Denver yesterday (it was unseasonably warm). I think I normally turn around 70 rpm and yesterday I tried going higher (85-95) when I thought about it and definately felt I had more energy toward the end of the ride. Thus, for me, a higher cadence seems to work a bit better.

Again, thanks for all the input!!
 

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120?

how about 120 rpm, on climbs? is that generally considered too much cadence to sustain?
 

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Too high

TrailNut said:
how about 120 rpm, on climbs? is that generally considered too much cadence to sustain?
Yes. A fast climbing cadence would be 90 rpm. 100 rpm when climbing would be very fast. If you're going 120, you'd better be on the attack and shredding the competition.
 
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