"Cheating" my way through a threshold-ordeal

Yesterday I had to cope with Black Hawk -1, a threshold workout with 4x10 minutes above FTP, with only 1 minute rests in between. A cadence above 85 (even preferably above 95) is recommended for this workout.

I find this type of workout very very hard, even harder than V02-max workouts. (FYI: I’m 50 years old and started with TR 11 months ago.) Based on my previous experiences with similar workouts (which I nailed but only just), I’ve found a way to “cheat” my way through this ordeal.

I’ve maintained a steady cadence of 90 rpm but every 2 minutes I allow myself 30 seconds of a climbing-cadence of 65 rpm. Thus I compartmentalize the workout and the occasional slower cadences give me the slight breather I need to complete the workout.

So no compromises in watts, only in cadence. My question is this: to what extent can this be considered as “cheating” and does it undermine the purpose/result of this type of workout?


That looks like a brutal workout! I’m glad it’s you and not me that had to do that workout. Any way you found to complete that is a win. The best cadence is the one that works for you and I wouldn’t call that a cheat by any definition. The cadence recommendations are just that, a recommendation but not a requirement.


I don’t know the technical answer to your question, and hopefully some will be along shortly who does, but I just wanted to say that is a seriously impressive workout. I would be happy to follow your cheating suggestion if it meant I could complete this workout!


I also have a tendency to grind at points when I’m just about getting through. How well I can hold the cadence is one of the things that feeds into my end of workout survey, and if it’s too frequent, to tweak my “FTP”. (My n=1 is that it’s a sign I’m just a bit off)


I dunno if it’s really cheating; you still made the watts to hit the targets. The only reason I wouldn’t do something like lowering my cadence is if it was hurting me, but if you feel fine I’d say just keep doing it. I dunno why there’s such a fetish around the 90rpm “ideal” cadence.

I do a similar thing. Spinning 85+ rpm and no standing is typically moderate, a little standing or strong urge to stand as cadence drops means hard, and absolutely needing to stand to complete the intervals…or standing every minute or 30 seconds or something typically means it was ‘very hard’.

Op’s case is pretty interesting. In general I feel it takes so much effort to accelerate from low to high cadence that anything gained by slowing and grinding for a bit to get your hr down and/or make it more muscular is almost immediately lost. Though mentally it probably helps chunk/compartmentalize it, which is a lot of the battle in longer intervals.

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If that’s cheating, then I’m the biggest cheater on earth. I will always manipulate cadence (up or down) as needed to survive the hard stuff. watts is watts.


Blockquote In general I feel it takes so much effort to accelerate from low to high cadence that anything gained by slowing and grinding for a bit to get your hr down and/or make it more muscular is almost immediately lost.

That’s what I find a bit weird in my case. Going through the effort to accelerate from low to high cadence wasn’t a problem at all and the ‘gains’ to lower my HR whilst grinding were marginal at best. Perhaps it’s mostly a mental thing.

You’re hitting the watts, which is the main goal right… So you are really not cheating!

Everyone has a different riding style, and the “forced sitting” doesn’t work, at least not for me. I need to stand up now and then, change cadence and whatnot.

If I am riding outside and need to respond to an attack or ride really hard, there is no way I am gonna force myself to a specific cadence or only sitting down. So it wouldn’t make sense to aim for that indoors either!

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Slower cadences means your actually activating some of the larger motor units, which is not necessarily a bad thing!

No problem here at all and good work!


I do variations of this regularly during my workouts. I agree with Jonathan when he talks about varying cadence, to make the intervals more interesting and also to develop the ability to ride at different cadences. I tend to start these intervals at a higher cadence and drop 5 each interval which covers a range of cadence for me. It also ensures my legs and knees are fully warmed up before dropping to low cadence. This also helps me understand the tipping point for myself between when things become overly aerobic or anaerobic. I don’t see this as cheating in any way.


I don’t think this is cheating. I do it as well. I don’t stand quite as frequently because I find standing at those high wattages takes a bit out of me for when I sit back down, but the standing is a good change up that I look forward to and helps with the compartmentalization. Plus it’s critical to stay comfortable on a trainer.


Only to reiterate what others have said. Watts are watts and you achieved the target. Not cheating whatsoever in my book. In fact, having a variance in cadence to support these types of efforts is probably a good thing as out on the road its very hard (especially with varying terrain) to keep a robotic like cadence all the time.

If I dropped to that low a cadence (when in the saddle at least) in a workout it would be game over and spiral of death for me :joy:

Good ride and well done on getting it done!

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Watts are watts. Sometimes you climb a pitch so steep you run out of gears and have to stand and grind, but you’re still doing the same (or more) work as the guy riding next to you with a bigger cog maintaining cadence. Congrats on finishing that truly horrible workout!

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That workout looks horrible. I’m not going to try that one anytime soon.

Changing cadence for a few seconds is the only way i survive these things sometimes.

Hooray for “cheating”

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  • If the methods you employ differ significantly from what you aim to do outside, I think it might be a bit of a cheat, or less than idea.

  • True, that we can get the physiological demand on our system and then hopefully reap the rewards of the intended adaptations. If that is the only measure here, the it’s all good.

  • However, if these alterations are something that you wouldn’t use, or even run counter to your actual needs outside, I see that as a point to review.

No firm answer here, just a recommendation to consider the how as much as the why we train in light of your eventual needs.

It looks like 2 20 minute FTP tests back to back. It’s odd that most of the black hawk + workouts seem easier.

I’m pretty sure the actual answer is “Because Lance did it”. Which is silly because every champion has their style/quirks. Should we all stare at our stems because Froome did it?

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Nah…90 rpm was the “standard” reference for cadence long before -7 arrived on the scene…and IIRC, his cadence was often >90rpm.


It looks like you are not using ERG mode. The re-acceleration in ERG can be very painful.
I would not call that a cheat in either mode though.
Solid work