Dropping my cadence means I can complete an interval - is this bad?

Hi - wanted to get your views on this…

I’ve noticed recently that trying to keep my cadence around 90 on something like Eclipse +3 means that I find it fairly difficult to complete the last set without having a break or completely cracking up. However, I have noticed that if I drop my cadence to 80-85 and grind it out i can complete it.

What’s your view on this. is it bad or should I call it a day if i cannot complete at cadence 90? My current view is that i treat the final set as a climb so isn;t bad… happy to be shot down :slight_smile:

I feel like completing it at 80-85 rpm is just fine!

Assuming this is on a trainer, what’s your average outdoor rpm?
What makes you not complete it at 90+ rpm…muscle fatigue, HR or RPE?

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My natural cadence is around 80. 90 and above definitely raise my fatigue and RPE. I can push intervals at 70-75 all day. I try to practice working at the higher cadences, but usually drop back down when it starts to bite.

If there is any downside to this, or if it represents a weakness in my fitness or form I would also like to know about it

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80-85 isn’t grinding in my book. I would ride at whatever cadence suits you and endeavour to gradually increase it during easy rides like Pettit.


Diff’rent strokes…

I cruise at around 90. Threshold intervals with concentration I usually bump up to 95-100. In contrast to you, my cadence starts slowly creeping up under duress to the point where I’m usually doing 110-115 in the last minute of V02max intervals. I’ve actually started making a conscious effort to bring that down to 100-105.

Sadly most of my events are MTB on technical trails, so I need to work on reducing my cadence… :smile:

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I don’t think there is any downside in the moment. Your trained cadence is your current trained cadence. Some would argue that it’s “natural.” I disagree that it’s 100% natural. I think you can push your cadence higher and that doing so would eventually lower the RPE of some efforts, but it takes time, so doing what you are doing is fine to me in the context of completing a workout.


As other have mentioned this will have to do with your “natural” cadence.

My natural cadence is somewhere between 85 and 90, but I dislike when i drop under 90… it feels slow to me.

But if you feel that 90 is FAST, then maybe your natural cadence is lower…and its actually 80.

The theory of why you want higher cadence is that higher use more cardio and lower uses more leg muscles.
So if you ride an event on a lower gear you might trash your legs faster than if you would do a higher cadence.
That said. Everyone is different and you should do what’s comfortable to you.

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You aren’t grinding at 80-85rpm. “Lower” cadences require less energy than higher cadences. Flat roads and time trials is one situation where “lower” cadences can be a benefit: Triathlon Training: Benefits of High-Gear, Lower-Cadence Cycling in Flat Triathlons - CTS


My cadence always starts in the low 90s then as I fatigue i find comfort in the low to mid 80s. I did this all through SSBHV. I never look to hold a specific cadence outside of cadence drills. My cadence just is whatever feels best at the time and I don’t think much about it.


Podcast 285 talks about cadence
Do what feels best to you is my advice

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100% okay! the higher torque will help you reduce heart rate as well and you can finish it off! If you get down to 75rpm just be careful of the knees if you aren’t used to pedaling at lower cadences for extended periods of time

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yes the knees :unamused:… not noticeable until you dismount… 40-50rpm did get heart rate as low as 104bpm for me, but yes the knees afterwards, had to walk for 5 minutes maintaining some knee bend :sweat_smile: looked like a :monkey: Try not to go below 60rpm now.

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Yep, on the trainer. Outdoor cadence usually around 90. I can’t complete because of fatigue and or RPE. Dropping the cadence on the last set defo helps!

Thanks for this - I’ll check it out

80 sure feels like grinding :slight_smile:

Someone I know covered this in a blog post, too.
Cycling Cadence: What Is It, What's Most Efficient, and Cadence Drills To Make You Faster - TrainerRoad Blog


Some of the threshold and sweet spot workouts actually suggest lower cadences in the workout text and/ or out of the saddle work (even some over-under workouts).

Mine definitely drops, but I don’t worry about it, as often mentally I’ll be telling myself “if this was a climb you’d get over it”. And there’s lots of times I’d be out of gears.

I get dragged into the ERG spiral of death at 80 rpm and me I naturally spin on the turbo around 95-105rpm. I wouldn’t call 80-85rpm a grind though if that’s where you are most comfortable/ natural it’s a :+1: from me.

All kinds of weird stuff can happen on a trainer, particularly in Erg mode.

Outside 80rpm can feel slow after some cadence drills, and sometimes it feels natural. I’m starting to ride in the hills again and grinding to me is 40-60rpm on steep 10-20% grades.

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For me the cadence you describe is hardly a grind, that is fast for me.
On another level however I experience the same as you, but if griding enables me to complete the interval I do not see the issue, for example I did Dicks +5 yesterday, 5x8minutes at 290 watts. First interval at 84 rpm, last interval 74 rpm. Had I tried to keep the cadence above 80 I would not have been able to finish.
At the end of the day I guess training at a certain cadence optimizes your performance at that cadence, but I see more value in pushing watts.
For instance if I can do 300 watts at 60 rpm for say 20 minutes, don’t you think that 200 watts whatever cadence and circumstance will feel relatively easy?
Also check this out and ask yourself if you are grinding: TDF 1989 Stage 15, LOOK Max One powermeter - YouTube

Same her. Did dade+1 today, which is 2.5-minute VO2max repeats at 120% FTP.
I start out with fast cadence 95-100 on the repeats, because the text say to try it.
But at the end of the interval i am way down on about 75 to finish it. I wouldnt be able to complete if i had to keep 90 cadence