Cadence (and all my issues with it lol)

Most if not all of the workouts in TR say to keep your cadence at 80-90 and sometimes even higher. I find it hard to keep a cadence anywhere near 90. My legs prefer 80-83. Even though the resistance is less (in erg), I feel like I fatigue quicker with a high cadence. I don’t mind working on that if it will help in the long run, but I have an even bigger problem with cadence outdoors. I primarily mountain bike on a hard tail with tubeless tires and a psi of around 35. Once my cadence get above 85 my bike gets real bouncy. Is that because I have poor peddling strokes? Or is that just something I can’t change? If so then is there any reason to even work a high cadence on the trainer if it will never apply outside? Thanks

I’m also a MTB-er and I engaged various Forum members on this topic.

My takeaway from the feedback is as follows:

  1. It’s good to work to expand the cadence range
  2. It’s good to ensure that appropriate portion of the effort is at lower cadences if your training objectives are specific to MTB riding/climbs/deployment of torque
  3. Interval training offers a good opportunity to alternate cadences between intervals (I got into a habit of determining the cadence strategy per interval before each workout)4
  4. If you to the Ramp Test in a cadence range that is comfortable for you but substantially outside of the cadence range recommended for the workouts you might struggle initially with sustained sweet spot workouts. This is addressable with persistence.

What I haven’t figured out yet is how to stop doing item 3 above in an arbitrary manner. Some structure there (@Jonathan?) would be useful so that the relative focus on muscle strength and aero endurance doesn’t create or sustain an imbalance. It may be that each workout shouldn’t try to address too broad a range of fitness objectives, but in my view this would demand that either 1) more workouts are built into Base training that focus on low cadence work, or 2) there is a MTB Base option.



@LarrytheStanimal is spot on with his takeaways.

I don’t take any sort of rigid, anticipatory approach with which intervals will be at lower or higher cadences. If I am confident I can complete the interval and vary my cadence without affecting the integrity of the workout, then I’ll usually alternate between three’ish ranges (75-85, 90-95, 100-105). That said, I’ll still occasionally experiment far outside of those ranges.

I don’t see a benefit in having a specific base plan for MTB or low cadence work. Remember, cadence is the icing on the cake.


Bouncing can be down to saddle height. Unless you know it is the ideal height it may be worth lowering the saddle a bit to see if makes a difference, if only to rule it out.


I was going to say what Boombang did. If you’re bouncing at higher cadences I bet your saddle is too high.

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Bouncing can also just be a more ‘stompy’ technique, maybe a weaker core?
you should try some drills on rollers (fixed is even better), Low resistance and high cadence.

As a track rider you have to learn to spin faster if you want go faster, on rollers cadences of 200+ are doable for short spurts.
Rollers also help you smooth out your stroke as you’ll bounce off other wise :stuck_out_tongue:
Using a fixed bike will ensure that you can’t just coast, you have to keep rolling to wind down


When I first started indoor training I was much more of a basher muscling my way through workouts around 80 rpm. It took a bit of time but know I am usually 90 + and closer to 95 rpm. Muscles feel way better this way and I know I still have the power to climb at those lower rpm’s.

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Well, I won’t try to tell you what is best, cuz I don’t know. That said, I too am about 90 percent MTB, occasional road rider. My natural cadence is just about like yours. On the trainer, 80 -85 feels natural, over 90 starts to feel silly and unrealistic compared to what I do in the real world on the trails I ride, which in my area are steep, punchy and technical. I am trying to stretch my comfort envelope, but I can’t help but wonder if I’d be better off doing my trainer work at lower rpms, because that’s my reality on the trails.

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Is nobody going to address the elephant in the room!?! :point_down:

That PSI seems VERY high. I’m not sure how much you weigh or the terrain you ride/race on, but PLEASE start experimenting with lower tire pressures for a multitude of reasons (I won’t get into now). You will get much improved performance with PSI front/back starting from 20/22 - 28/30. I would say 30 PSI would be the max and even that seems too high IMHO.

For reference; I race XCO and MTB 100s, I’m 6’1”, weigh 174 (170 race weight), large frame, full suspension (rode hardtail in 2017) and my psi is 22/24 or 23/25 depending on the trail. If it’s wet, I drop that to 20/22. On a hardtail you probably need to bump up about 2 psi, but I can’t see going over 30 psi.

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I have always had to practice riding at high cadence if I hadn’t been doing it for a while. Practice at low resistance. It’s possible to will yourself to not bounce.

As far as high power at high cadence, that’s something you have to train. It’s easy on an erg trainer, just ride an interval at high cadence for as long as you can and then slow down your cadence.

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