Cadence on threshold intervals?

Today on Kaweah I did the first 2 10m intervals at the sort of cadence I’ve developed over a few months of TrainerRoad base level work - i.e. 85-95 rmp. However, i was concentrating quite hard on pedal drills on the last 3 intervals and unconsciously my cadence dropped to 75-80, which is far closer to where I’d be on a road hill climb. The result was, the last 3 intervals felt far easier and my HR dropped significantly.

Is there a downside to having cadences this low on threshold intervals? It feels very natural to me. My leg strength is probably my strong point and I generally do well on long climbs compared to others.

No downside really. For me it just hurts more physically and turning up the cadence makes it feel easier. Only downside I can see is it would appear higher cadence is not your strong suit and it won’t get stronger if you neglect it. My plan this year is focusing on my weaknesses to make them better.

Fair point and probably accurate. I do try and keep cadence well above my habitual road level on most sessions, and it normally sits at 95+ on sweet spot and below, and on VO2max I’m happy at 100+ for shorter intervals.

It’s the longer threshold intervals that seem to suit the “grind” that simulates road climbs.

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What feels like a natural cadence on an indoor trainer is very dependent on the trainer and how you set it up. Like you said, outside it changes depending on if you ride on a flat or on a hill. On a trainer it depends on the inertia of the flywheel. Try big ring/small sprocket when in ERG mode vs small ring and see how the “natural” cadence changes up and down.

A big advantage of higher cadences at threshold is in races, it’s easier to accelerate out of turns and such (vs say 70rpm).

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I mean if you want to specifically train those slower cadences for our riding that’s one thing. If you just gravitate towards them to make life easier you MAY be doing yourself a disservice. One guy I know would always train at 100+ rpm till I reminded him that in the real world especially for MTB riding there may be times you can’t spin at 100+ all the time and it’s important to be well rounded.

I guess it’s where I come from. I’ve never raced and never will. My interest is endurance and I particularly like travelling (or used to) to places with landmark 2000+m climbs.

I hear what you say though and my average cadence has certainly increased on the road since my few months on TR.

I do experience exactly the same. I can spin at 95+ for a while, but after some time I drop back to 80ish.

I spent (wasted?) almost 2 years trying to lift my cadence. I was doing it with so much dedication that I almost never dropped below 85. But on the very few occasions I did I had a „chainless day“.

It took embarrassingly long to connect the dots and realise I must be somewhat better suited to grind. This year I happily let my candence drop to 80 during threshold intervals, and am about 30W higher on my power curve in SeasonMatch, and already touching some of my all-season PRs of last year 2 months into the season.

I reckon Lance and Froomey have really planted the seed in our collective minds that faster cadence is better, and it‘s really hard to disspell that. Coach Chad might tell us that self-selected cadence is the most efficient, but some of us try to force the self-selection to be in the 95-105 range :unamused:

So this year I embrace climbing „en puissance“, occasionally watching a climb by Jan Ullrich for inspiration. I even go so far as introducing low cadence work in my endurance rides (gasp!). I still keep the occasional 100 rpm+ intervals as well. So far the results are very good.


That’s re-assuring to hear, dmalanda. Sounds like you’ve got it sorted!

It seems to really suit my “style” and will be appropriate for the type of riding I do. As I say, I’m happy to push to higher cadences on all other workout types, and can spin at 110+ happily on many other sorts of intervals, but for long thresholds the “grind” just feels the most efficient.

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Bumping this topic as I have a question that fits here.

Been training for only a year and a half and still figuring out my strengths and weaknesses. I am consistently having trouble completing TH workouts longer than 1 hour. Today’s TH I got a bit further by slowing my cadence to 95-100. My natural cadence seems to be around 105-110 with no issues on any other workouts other than TH.

I am on top of nutrition, sleep, recovery etc so don’t feel like this is the issue.

Is a proper “strategy” for TH work to spin at lower cadences? I recognize this may just be my limiter. Any other tips or suggestions (beyond working more on this?)

Thanks, T

That seems unusually high. It might feel natural bc of the funny way ERG trainers work (if your using it) but do you spin that fast outside too?

For me, I ride z2 at 80-85 but mostly avg low 80. If I’m doing SS I drift up towards 90. Vo2 I might grind 85-90. Sprinting is the only thing that takes me up about 100rpm.
To each their own and I don’t think you’re failing due to cadence but you might try lower the cadence and pushing higher torque. Would be good for your muscular strength

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That sounds familiar. My “normal” cadence for z2 work seems to settle in at about 95 rpm. I spent a lot of time over the years working on my ability to spin - it’s a great crutch to have to fall back on when your legs are about ready to fall off…but yes, there is a downside to resorting to a higher cadence, and it’s one I continually demonstrate to myself by using resistance mode rather than erg when I’m doing vo2max intervals in particular, when I’ll happily settle in at 105rpm. I’ve demonstrated to myself time and again that when I gear up, aim for that 95 spot I have a significantly higher power output over an interval for the same RPE, a lesson I’m taking more to the road.

What’s also happened is that I’ve conciously slowed my cadence doing sweetspot and threshold intervals where developing muscular endurance is the goal. By not falling back on my habits of upping my cadence, I’ve had good results.

This isn’t an argument for really low cadence work / high force stuff, that’s a whole 'nother thing, I think - just mindfulness of where you’re working in your range with regards to the training outcomes you’re chasing.

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I’ve switched to XCM racing, and lower cadence works for steeper climbs on the MTB. So this winter I’ve done most of my SS intervals around 70 rpm; 60 off I could pull it off. Building muscular endurance at higher power levels is important to repeat steep climbs…