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Once again I am trying to improve my climbing. It has always been my weakness and I've been working on it for years...I do ok on long uphills but I get dropped in races with real sustained climbs. I like climbing..like racing uphill..enter races that are 'all climbing' but I don't do very well and never have. Still, I try hard and enjoy it.

I do fine in crits and ok in TTs. I have a good sprint but in uphill TTs...Mid-order is where I always finish, at best. I am not your 'climber type' at 6'1" and 165-170lbs, but I am in good shape and do fine in flatter races.

So once again, I am trying to up my cadence on climbs. I gave this a half-hearted try before last racing season but I didn't find it felt right to spin, so I revered to being a masher...I feel good pushing a slow cadence, but it just doesn't seem to keep me in touch with the leaders in races, no matter how good my form is. I usually 'blow up' about half way up when my legs cry 'uncle'...

I switched to a compact early this summer...but I did my one RR this late sesaon with my standard gearing...because I know I am not familiar yet with going at race pace uphill with compact gearing.

I live and train in a climber's area...The Columbia River Gorge through the Cascades mts in the Pacific NW of the US. Every ride has some sort of substantial climb...A 'normal' climb around here would be about 7% average over maybe 2000' vertical. You might have a couple of lesser climbs on each ride also or do a steeper and longer ride with a couple of those 6-8mile 1500-2000 footers tossed in. There aren't any flat rides here. So I have been training on a 34-23 or a 34-25 if it is real steep (today was at 14% for 1/4 mile or so)

So what kind of cadence should I target in my intervals? What do most people try to maintain for RPM at race pace up say 8% gradient? I can usually go about 85 cadence up 5-6% sustained, but when it tilts up much more...I fall to 70--even 60...and today (at about 2hrs into a ride) I couldn't stay above 50rpm on that 14% pitch, (which did come in the middle of a 10 mile climb of about 7% gradient)

I read anywhere between 70-110 for climbing cadence..I would need a 27 cog to stay above 70rpm on most of our mountains...and sometimes I probably couldn't do that every climb..

It has been about 5 weeks since I switched over to this "new program" of upping my cadence....and my uphill times seem about the same...but my legs feel better at the top of climbs. Am I on the right track here?

I've beat myself to death in past seasons trying to build leg strength, lose more weight, ride more hills, ride less hills, get lighter bikes, rest more, train more, everything I can think of...and now I am finally coming to realize that all the guys who beat me up the climbs are spinning ....much higher cadence than I do....so, Join em, right? Or try that high cadence climbing style again, but a bit more seriously than my previous attempt.

Sorry for the lengeth of this post.
 

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Do you do any lactate threshhold training?

It is fairly well accepted that your performance on sustained climbs will be determined primarily by your power to weight ratio at lactate threshhold. Getting your gearing dialed in is of course important, but in the end if its a long climb you are going to need to ride close to lactate threshhold and either not go over it very often or if you do (such as for that 14% grade) then to be able to recover and still put out a high effort.

By the way 14% is tough as hell and it is probably a small percentage of riders who can actually ride that stuff without red lining.
 

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Higher cadence is nice, but sometimes you gotta do what you can. As noted, with a 14% grade, even the light weights are grinding away. I don't quite have the capability to measure gradient with my bike, but I think around 10%, I start to drop my cadence at 120lbs with a 34/23. I can still spin, but I drop below my 100-110, for obvious reasons.

If simply increasing your cadence is your goal, you could try to find some smaller hills and try to stay at higher cadence, but then completely recover before attempting this on the next hill. If you can, then try to do this with slightly longer hills.

Plenty of non-climbers can utilize the pack slide to avoid losing too much ground and blowing up, although this obviously doesn't work for a hilltop finish.
 

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I'm about the same size. I'm pretty good up to about 8%, but when it gets higher, especially in the teens, my form falls apart and the climby guys roll past me. How is your core strength and upper body strength?

In general, I'd say higher cadence is probably the best direction.

PS: I love climbing in my big chain ring - until I can't...
 

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Spinning seems to be the easiest, but I don't have the lungs to hold 100-110 rpm for more than 5 minutes. We have this 2 mile climb in my area that we ride every week, and every week, I make it just a little farther before having to drop my cadence. Repeats would probably help us both out I think.
 

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Do you have a power meter? Reason I ask is, just riding with one for a while in race conditions, you'll notice that your power band is in a certain cadence range.

Me, for example, 105-110 when the chips are down and it's do or die time. So I know that on a climb that's where I should be to get max power out of my heavy body.

Now, another and related subject is how long you can hold power at various wattages (intensities). Some riders are just able to drill it for 3 minutes, but can't hold a 20 minute pace that another rider can put out. This kinda stuff can be handy to understand when you are looking at a particular hill - is it a 3 minute hill or a 20 minute hill - and how does that play into your power band at that intensity.

HTH.
 

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1) Keep working at it, don't give up, and train as hard as possible. It's not the number of miles, it's the quality of those miles.

2) I'm assuming you have a cadence meter of some sorts, if you don't get one IMMEDIATELY. Work on increasing your cadence by workable increments. Instead of trying to go from climbing something at 70rpm to 90, try 75. Force yourself to pedal at that cadence, if it becomes too hard shift down and stay on top of your gear to the point where you may even slow down - but just keep your cadence at your goal. Once the cadence feels pretty comfortable, increase it by another 5 and repeat. However, keep in mind though that getting your cadence to 100+ may not be in your best interest. Cadence is sort of a balance between your cardio and strength and everyone's will be a bit different.

3) If your cadence is dropping because you've ran out of gears and the climb is difficult, get a 11-28 back cassette. I have one and will never go back.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks

No power meter. Garmin 305 with cadence is all. For years I climbed everything in my 39-25. Usually at around 60 rpm +/-. When I got cranking faster than that, I would go up a gear, climb faster over the road, but keep near that cadence. Then I began climbing at around 70, and it felt like a pretty fast cadence...

Since I began my quest to 'rotate more' I've been using 70rpms as my minimum cadence...grind down to that, due to gradient or headwind and I go to a lower gear. I seem to be most effective at around 80rpms on steeper sustained long climbs. Any faster spin and I tend to feel like I am wasting energy....on climbs. On the flat, I am pretty comfortable with a sustained cadence of 90-100...feels pretty right...Though in the past I liked to slog along in a big gear at 75-80.

I've been doing intervals on climbs...One minute at max effort/3 min recovery..Or 30second/1.5min recovery. I do maybe 10 one min intervals on some of my regular climbs, which all seem to be ~7-10 miles and a couple of thousand vertical feet...7% seems average for gradient. I do the shorter intervals on steeper climbs...as many as I can fit onto a climb...or 10, whichever comes first. This interval work, spinning like a demon uphill seems to be helping.

I may have to try a 27 rear cog for the steep long stuff. I have a cassette that I've only used in the Everest Challenge Race and on one really hot solo century, where I never actually went below my 25...

If we're talking an optimum cadence much above 75 (minimum) I should probably try that granpa gear and see.

Thanks for the advice everyone.

One of my problems is I like just riding, so I sometimes do that more often than is probably 'good training' I try to keep up my intensity and work some hard efforts into every ride...except pure recovery rides...But I would rather go ride 3-4 hrs of climbing than do 1hr of intense intervals and go home....so I do the intervals, then keep on riding..and that is probably counter-productive...
 

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I do spinning bursts/intervals. I don't change gear however, to simplify everything and perhaps get stronger along the way.

Other than those, it's just "one, two, one , two, onetwoonetwoonetwo...." in my head, counting every knee coming up faster and faster. Seems to work out well for me.
 

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Hucken The Fard Up !
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wear this bracelet, follow its instructions, that will help :D
 

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Cableguy said:
Cadence is sort of a balance between your cardio and strength and everyone's will be a bit different.
That's a fallacy.

Cadence is an outcome of the power we are (or are capable of) producing, the resistance forces acting against us and the gear we happen to choose.

When the resistance forces haven't changed (i.e. same gradient and body mass) then the cadence outcome will only increase if you produce more power or change to a smaller gear.

Cadence is a red herring. It's power that matters.
Focus on improving sustainable power to weight ratio. (and get suitable gearing for the terrain)
 

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Alex_Simmons/RST said:
That's a fallacy.

Cadence is an outcome of the power we are (or are capable of) producing, the resistance forces acting against us and the gear we happen to choose.

When the resistance forces haven't changed (i.e. same gradient and body mass) then the cadence outcome will only increase if you produce more power or change to a smaller gear.
I'm talking about someone's ideal or optimum cadence, you seem to be defining what cadence is. Are we talking about the same thing?
 

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Cableguy said:
I'm talking about someone's ideal or optimum cadence, you seem to be defining what cadence is. Are we talking about the same thing?
If by cadence you mean the number of revolutions per minute of the cranks, then yes.

There is no such thing as an ideal or optimum cadence. That's also a fallacy.

There is no doubt that people tend to have a self selected cadence outcome, but that's because they tend to choose a particular gear when riding at certain power outputs and when faced with given set of resistance forces. The only time that doesn't happen is when they either choose not to ride their preferred gear, or do not have their preferred gear available.
 

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There is no such thing as an ideal or optimum cadence. That's also a fallacy.
Hmm I really can't see that as being true. If you're pedaling with a fixed power output of X, pedaling with a cadence of 70 is still different from pedaling with a cadence of 90. Just think about what is physically different here, if you're pedaling faster but with the same power, you're having to consume some additional oxygen to simply move your legs up, down, and around more times per minute for roughly the same amount of work. So it would seem pedaling with a lower cadence is more efficient, but with the side effect of requiring more power per pedal stroke which can consequently burn out your legs faster.

From what I understand, if your cardio ability exceeds your leg strength, you want to put a little more load on your cardio by using a higher cadence and take some pressure off your legs. This would mean someone's ideal cadence is an optimum balance of the two.
 

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Cableguy said:
Hmm I really can't see that as being true. If you're pedaling with a fixed power output of X, pedaling with a cadence of 70 is still different from pedaling with a cadence of 90. Just think about what is physically different here, if you're pedaling faster but with the same power, you're having to consume some additional oxygen to simply move your legs up, down, and around more times per minute for roughly the same amount of work. So it would seem pedaling with a lower cadence is more efficient, but with the side effect of requiring more power per pedal stroke which can consequently burn out your legs faster.

From what I understand, if your cardio ability exceeds your leg strength, you want to put a little more load on your cardio by using a higher cadence and take some pressure off your legs. This would mean someone's ideal cadence is an optimum balance of the two.
You are making the following mistakes:
- thinking efficiency is important in performance (what matters is power, not how efficient we are in producing it)
- confusing force and power
- thinking the forces in cycling (even uphill) are all that large (they're not)
- that strength is a limiter (it isn't, it's not even close to being a limiter in endurance cycling - and it's often not a limiter in sprint cycling either)
 

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This SRM diagram of a world-class 500-meter track time trial might help to clarify the point that there's no "ideal" cadence. Cadence is 117 at maximum watt (power), then moves into the 130 -137 band, in which it stays for quite a while. Because there's no shifting, the cadence curve parallels the speed curve, but power steadily declines. It's safe to say that on another 500-meter run with a different cog, the power and speed curves would look virtually the same with the cadence curve obviously different.

Because I'm old, the 500-meter track time trial (young males have to ride 1,000 meter) is near and dear to my heart. I can tell you from personal experience that within the limits of reason, cadence doesn't matter. I've tried to ride the event in a 48 x 16, a 15 and a 14. While the differences in cadences seemed huge to me, my times were very close to one another. The limiter is simply sustainable power, not "gear" and the associated cadences. "Wrong gear" does get blamed a lot for bad performances, though! :D
 

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very interesting analysis wim.

This corroborates what I have experienced, the only way to increase your performance is to increase your power output and this comes with training ( in my case repeats the same circuits pushing my own limits so I could grown progressively )

that's why I have criticized the phallacies disseminated here that advices people about getting lower gearing and going higher cadence.

My cadence got higher not because I lowered my gearing, but just the opposite, I kept my standard gearing and pushed my own limits to get stronger.

in conclussion HTFU
 

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Salsa_Lover said:
in conclussion HTFU
Well, you could put it this way. Or as someone devastatingly put it to me a long time ago: "Youve got a good spin, and you can push a big gear pretty well. Now if you could only learn how to do both at the same time, you could do a lot better than you are." :D
 

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Increasing cadence should come with increased power, decreased overall weight, or both. Bragging rights for climbing in a bigger gear is novel, but putting out the same wattage and overgearing it really has nothing more than bragging rights, in case we forgot that this year's Giro mountain time trial was won buy a guy using a 34x28. Furthermore, not being bogged down by too much gear makes attacks easier to attempt or respond to.
 
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