High vs Low cadence results

I did Spruce -2 today. Sweet Spot 1 hour workout of two 20min intervals at 85%. I thought it would be an interesting opportunity to compare the outcome of two very different average cadence.

First 20min interval: Cadence 97, power 87.5% of FTP, HR 130
Second Interval: Cadence 77, power 90% of FTP, HR 129.

Some observations. I surprised that my average HR was lower for the 2nd interval, as usually my average HR rises 1-2-3 beats with each repeat of intervals. The lower cadence produced more power!! I actually felt more comfortable in the second interval. My long term average cadence is close to 87, ie, half way between these two. But over the last 6 weeks have been doing the workouts with cadence in the 95-102 range. So, I was surprised about feeling more comfortable at the significantly lower level, and producing a better output.

Not sure what I should take from this. It seems to fly in the face of all research over recent decades?


Nor me. It could just be that the lower cadence suits you better, but the confounding factor could be that the higher cadence work you’ve done before has improved you to allow the better performance at all cadences, including the lower one.

Also, it’s a trade-off between cardiovascular work and muscular work. It’d be interesting to see if your legs could manage BOTH intervals at low cadence.


So you are suggesting I trial doing the same workout, 3 more times. One with both at 77, the next both at 97 and the 3rd with 77 first and 97 second. I feel like I am being set up. :slight_smile:

1 Like

Sure, but first I’d want to send you back in time and clone you.

Then You 1 does all their 2023 Sweetspot work at low cadence. You 2 does it at high cadence.

THEN we run your experiment on both of them!


PS Time travel and cloning: how hard can it be?


I know, right!? It always feels counter-intuitive with respect to perceived exertion that HR would be lower at lower cadence. But most people find this to be true and it is supported in the lit.

I’m not a big believer that cadence work provides any material benefit. Except to say if you are going to time trial, it’s probably better to ride at a little higher cadence than most riders self-select. More like 100 than 90. But only because that’s what I see really successful TT specialists doing…I’m not sure Jan Ulrich would agree. ;-D

I always experience this - lower HR at lower cadence. Personally, I think the muscular fatigue would get you sooner at the lower cadence.

Try the same experiment at 120% of FTP and see how it works!

1 Like

Nope, unless you’ve been reading the wrong research.

That said, freely-chosen cadence on a trainer doesn’t translate to freely-chosen cadence outdoors since the way load scales on a trainer doesn’t mimic the way it scales outdoors.


What’s mind boggling is that a pro spinning a 100rpm at 400w is applying the same torque as I would be grinding away at 75rpm at 300w.


easy torque math if anyone is interested in playing with numbers:

Torque ~= 9.6 x power / cadence


Seems in line with the research I’ve paid attention to, and about what I’d expect as a result lol.