FTP Testing , cadence and Mtbing

Apologies in advance if there is an repetition I’m this question, I used the search function but couldn’t quite get what I was looking for.

So MTB with road bike on the trainer (tried to get measurements similar in saddle height, seat position etc). However I have noticed that my general riding cadence has significantly increased on the trainer since starting training. I was comfortable in the 80-85rpm range but can find myself creeping up to 110rpm now particularly in a ramp test. It’s led me to a few questions.

For background, I mainly trail ride or do long epic days through the summer with bike a hike.

  1. If I only ride indoors to keep fit for outdoors should I really bit hitting road bike worthy RPMs or sticking with a lower cadence and building the associated strength?

  2. Should I FTP at lower cadence? I’m thinking if I get higher FTP from higher RPM then potentially this is throwing off my true FTP gains out on the MTB?

  3. Is there benefit to pushing into higher cadences for MTBing? If so how do you best balance low and high cadence work for example during a low volume SSB?

Thanks in advance!

I’m not sure what your training was like before this, but you might find next time you get the mountain bike out you ride at your new cadence.

For me, I settled in the 90s and like to stay there on the trails. Keeping my legs spinning feels like it helps me accelerate out of things better, kinda like keeping an engine on a race car rev’d up.

For the trainer, I wouldn’t think to hard on it. Ride the cadence you like and the fitness will transfer.


Maybe not an exact answer to your question, but it sounds like you’ve overthinking it a bit. I would recommend testing inside when you have a long block of indoor work to do, then test outdoors for when you start transitioning outside for outdoor workouts.

To me, the trainer or rollers are so absolutely different than riding outside, off-road that I would find it pointless to try to mimic the cadence you prefer on the dirt, versus on the trainer. If for some reason you have to do the majority of your training indoors (year round), yes, then I would be slightly more concerned with working on pushing that higher gear/lower cadence. For me, it just doesn’t matter as there’s always a bit of relearning to do once the trails are ride-able. Worry about training your aerobic capacity inside then take that outside when the time is right for you, your self selected cadence is almost always the best. I’m an advocate of a higher gear, lower cadence off-road but that just personal preference as I ride with guys faster than me that spin, spin, spin…


It’s generally recommended that your cadence be similar to what you would use outside, though the trainer may adjust that a bit. If your cadence is significantly different on the trainer then it may affect RPE once outside. With a higher cadence you’re relying more on your lungs and momentum as opposed to more muscle endurance. I ride/race MTB and when I started TR my cadence on the trainer was much higher (95+ rpms). Now after 3 years my cadence on the trainer is generally 85-95 and I find that easier and more applicable outside.

Go with the cadence that feels the best, but I’d recommend you be in the small ring in the front and mid cassette in the back. For me, my high cadence in the past was a bit of relying on my lungs. However, in MTB races my lungs were generally not the limiting factor. I feel muscle endurance takes a higher priority.

If your local trails allow high cadences, then there can be some benefit. For reference, low cadence is generally referred to as below 75 rpms and even into the 60s. So I wouldn’t call anything in the 80s a low cadence. If you prefer a higher cadence on the trainer, just ensure you mix in lower cadences during intervals so your muscles and mind are comfortable at those rpms. This can be done by just adjusting your cadence for a few of the intervals.

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I’m definitely “low cadence outside; high cadence inside” but it’s a matter of contingency rather than preference. High cadence during tough workouts means I can complete those workouts. Low cadence on the trail means I can avoid killing myself from pedal strikes on mid-Atlantic rock gardens.


Yeh potentially it might change , I’ll have to wait until it thaws out a bit :joy:

It will definitely be worth testing

Yeh sorry I didn’t explain that , I will be training a majority of this year using indoor trainer as get. New baby on the way and another wee one in the house.

Understand that there I’ll be a bit of relearning, just trying to make that as small as possible to enjoy the outdoors whenever I can this year.

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