Cadence/gearing query

Hi everybody, first post and looking for some input.

I do all the TR workouts on sportcrafter rollers (with the Overdrive drum which has internal magnets) with a Power2Max crank so rely on gear changes to control the power and cadence. I’m quite happy with this setup as it’s useful to learn how much the power can change by simply increasing/decreasing cadence or changing gear.

I was doing Palisade today and due to the power target and cadence I was at 98rpm for the 1 minute under and changed up 1 sprocket (but crucially 2 teeth difference) to get 95rpm for the 2 minute over.

I’m comfortable at higher cadences, they feel natural. On the fourth interval I changed up 2 gears, so 4 tooth difference which dropped cadence down to 90 and I found this to be quite a push. It seemed incredibly slow and could feel the effort in my knees.

I have never been a strong rider but wonder if there is any mileage in persisting with this lower cadence. It brings my heart rate down but does it cost too much somewhere else?

Is it better to stay with the higher spin to tax the aerobic system instead? Or a combination of both?

I’m hoping that makes a kind of sense. Thanks

I’ve found time on the trainer has slowly pushed up my ‘natural’ cadence though I’ve always been more of a spinner than a grinder.

That said I think it’s useful to have control and the ability to use a very wide range of cadences.

My old badminton coach always told us to think of the back hand like a nuclear weapon… You never really want to use it but you damn sure had to have it. So I like to apply the same thinking to various things in cycling…including cadence ranges.

Assume you know this already - but the general rule of thumb is higher cadence means higher heart rate and less muscle fatigue and lower cadence means lower heart rate and more muscle fatigue. This is why endurance athletes tend to chase high cadences - your cardiovascular system recovers faster than your muscles.

So, with that as the baseline…

As @brenph mentioned - you do need some cadence range for riding outside. In particular when you’re going up a steep hill you won’t be able to happily spin away at 100 RPM and need to be able to put out sustained power at lower cadences.

I’d recommend that you gain the ability to ride comfortably at a variety of cadences where your lower limit is close to what you regularly run into on your outdoor rides. You don’t need to spend a TON of time at those lower cadences, but you should occasionally drop down into that range just to get used to it.

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Don’t forget, if you’re going up a steep hill, you probably won’t be able to hold that 90+ cadence. Some of the steeper hills round here, i’m grinding at 45-50rpm on a 25% grade using a 28 on the back.

It’s worth practising a wide array of cadences so you don’t get caught out :slight_smile:

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Hey, thanks for the input.

I like your badminton back hand analogy brenph.

You all confirmed what I suspected but I was just curious to hear what others thought.

Power is a function of both force and speed, ie how hard and fast can you turn the pedals. You can train both. Low cadence efforts can increase force, but to increase power you need to generate that force quickly. Therefore you need to also do some high cadence/low resistance efforts. Low cadence work is done at around 50-60 rpm, high cadence stuff is like spin ups in an easy gear.

So long story short, yep, mix it up with some low cadence work. On my long (3-4hrs), I’ll do 3 mins low cadence (53/11) every 30 mins.

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