Cadence on Trainer Vs on the Road

Hi, Everyone. I hope you’re having a great day today.

Early on in SSB1 I learned a valuable lesson about how slow and high cadences target the muscles and the heart respectively. (Thanks for the workout notes, Coach Chad). With that in mind, I’ve worked on keeping cadences higher than 95 while in a workout through SSB2 which I am currently repeating. I usually average between 90 and 100 on any given workout.

I am training for a climbing race (15k in elev gain) and it occurs to me that I am very likely not going to be able to maintain anything above 85 (if even that) on some of these climbs. Am I doing myself a disservice by keeping such a high cadence during my workouts? Should I be running a cadence closer to 85-90 to more closely approximate the real world scenario I am training for?

Thanks for your feedback!

Why does your race force you at below 85 rpms, can you not adjust your gearing to remedy that?


I would look at a gearing change that allows keeping any extended climbs with a comfortable cadence. I prefer to spin.

I would call 85 a perfectly good climbing cadence.
60-70 I would not call a good climbing cadence.

But as the others before have said - if you’re most comfortable at 90-100, then maybe gearing change is an option?

I’m with the others… change your gears so you can ride at a comfortable cadence for the majority of your goal event. There’s nothing that locks you in to 85 rpm other than running out of gears. That said, 85 is not the worst climbing cadence in the world. The guys on the podcast have even mentioned a couple of times how many riders in rolling or climbing events would be way better served to give up the 11 in favor of a 28 (for just one example).

By all means, explore the options to open your gearing and increase at the bottom end. I did and went with an 11-32 cassette, coupled with my 50-34 crank, for the Utah Ultimate Challenge. Hours spent between 8% and up to 16% grades.

That gearing was worth it’s weight in gold. But I also spent time training at 60-70 rpm for extended periods in the lead-up to the event. I’m glad I did because I still had times at 60 rpm and I would have been toast without the training. Buy gears and still sped some time training the slow stuff, IHMO.

The cadence changes naturally when you go uphill, because you engage your muscles differently. Nevertheless, high cadence drills will expand your range where you feel comfortable pedaling upwards, and that should apply also when you go uphill. I agree with the others that you should definitely look into adjusting your gearing. If 34/32 is good enough for Chris Froome, it is good enough for everyone :wink:

Of course, the actual gearing depends on where you intend to ride and what your power output and force output are. But even outside of racing, I think it is much more important to get the climbing gears right than the top-end gears. The latter usually means that you spin out on the downhills in excess of 60 km/h, while getting climbing gears wrong usually involves a lot of suffering. I know what side I’d err on.

How did your cadence develop recently when you are actually outside in the wild going uphill? What is your preferred cadence in terms of perceived effort? Is it different for short, punchy climbs compared to long and sustained climbs? (I know I like to force myself up punchy climbs.)

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This is something I need to figure out. My typical ride does not involve a lot of climbing so, I’ve got several long, climbing rides planned to start to hone in on this.

Message definitely received about gearing choices. That is on my list of items to tackle.

Thank you for all of your feedback. This will be my first event of this kind so I appreciate the community offering up your expertise.

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