Is there a workout that is designed to identify what is the best cadence for an athlete to use?
Am asking because, most workouts endeavour to train us all to increase our cadence. Essentially operating above 85, but finding more workouts suggesting over 100.
My own observation is when I pedal over 100 vs say 90 for a given power, my heart rate increases, and remains elevated. Many of my current workouts are Threshold. I don’t know if that elevated HR is any way associated with best performance, but gut feeling is that a lower HR for a given power level, is possibly more effective? But, I know our bodies are complex things, so such simple logic may not be the most important aspect of the story.
If there is a best cadence for each of us, does it transfer directly to all aspects of our cycling, indoor vs outdoor, road vs MTB riding, long events vs short time trials, etc?
TL;DW: cyclists tend to naturally choose most optimal cadence for any given terrain/power.
I personally think about it only during VO2max intervals.
Best cadence? It depends
For performance, the consensus seems to be that self-selected cadence is best.
For training, it depends on what the objective of the workout is. If it’s to increase aerobic capacity, higher cadence is likely to be better. It works the cardiovascular system a bit (sometimes a lot) harder and induces less fatigue. If you’re after muscular endurance or want to work bigger motor units, time to sprinkle in some low cadence work.
Ride, do de interval and don’t look at cadence. Whatever cadence you ride, that is your best cadence.
What a funny coincidence, I was just about to ask the same question.
TL:DR - Is 108 too high.
I recently did 2 1h time trials, full gas and was surprised how high my cadence was. It was flat terrain, same route both times, similar conditions and my average cadence was 108 for both times.
Now I do not usually pay much attention to cadence, but I had a feeling it was rather on a high side. I think I do not force myself consciously for this high cadence. Even during spring base training it regularly hit 103 without trying.
But, I checked first 7 highest ranked pros with uploaded race from this years Giro Stage 9 ITT on strava, which was completely flat, and none of them had cadences over 101.
Above 0 and less than 140.
Cadence will change with fitness. So for outside events, intervals or races I think self selected cadence to stay on top of the gear that yields the speed/power to stay on the wheels and/or power target in the case of intervals works best.
If higher (than self-selected) cadence induces less fatigue during intense intervals, then wouldn’t one naturally self-select that cadence?
Maybe we read their post differently, but I immediately thought of using cadence drills during training to expand the gamut of cadences you feel comfortable at (≠ optimal).
I was thinking more of accumulated fatigue across, say a 3 week VO2 Max block, rather than intra-workout.
Thanks for this link. He actually talks about the topic I raised
No one has commented about the impacts of cadence on heart rate, ie, does that happen to you, and whether elevated HR is beneficial/detrimental to performance.
This is related to your fitness at a particular cadence and not necessarily a permanent result of higher cadence. If you continue to practice at a higher cadence, you will adapt, and that heart rate will come down. I used to spin between 85-95, but now sit between 100-105 comfortably.
Personally I came from a strength background so I was a slower cadence and would push a bigger gear. I have since come to realise that this isn’t how I can get repeated efforts out well. The higher the cadence the higher my heart rate but it takes less toll on my legs and I can recover and repeat better. Since doing track I have found my cadence has gone up a lot, as too has my seat heat which has helped with my pedal stroke. MTB and gravel will be a little less though, but road I tend to sit at the 95-105 mark, track is higher again. Gravel 85-90.
Make all cadence your best cadence
For me I self-select around 85rpm for z2 and tempo. Sweetspot I tend to spin a bit faster, but it’s not always critical. But any serious threshold or vo2 I have to pedal 100-105rpm or my legs will nope out too soon (must be the torque) and also lose repeatability. Yes, the higher rpms drive my HR up more, but the goal is to finish the work and the higher rpms are necessary for me. Also, standing at lower cadence for a given power also raises my HR. Ultimately I’m positive this is all trainable, but suspect the trend will persist, just not be as pronounced. The focus required for 100+ rpms is just far more than I want to spend on my z2 and so I don’t consider it worth it. But high end work and races, it totally is.
Here I gathered few data from Strava from Giro stage 9 ITT, first 7 available rides:
Yup, when we look at a full range of power levels, ride durations, road grades up & down, then add in potential for different surface conditions… the best cadence is rarely a single value.
I’m a strong advocate for people to expand their range overall, then work to be better than competent within that broad range as much as possible. This takes deliberate practice but I find it’s worth the effort.
yes, work all the cadence. Thats one of the main reasons I don’t like Erg, because it encourages mono cadence. Sure it doesn’t have to be that way, but its unlike outside / sim mode where you constantly change cadence.