I’d very much appreciate your experience and advice on the situation I find myself in.
I turned 60 last year. I’ve been cycling for about 15 years now and training with a power meter and WKO since 2008. My preferred rides are those that involve hard long mountain climbs so my main focus is high w/kg during sustained sweetspot and threshold efforts along with good endurance so I can repeat these several times.
During the course of 2019 three unexpected things happened
- My comfortable cadence for sweetspot and above efforts dropped from around 70 to the low 60s
- I’ve changed from spending most time seated with occasional standing efforts to being comfortable standing and pushing a big gear just taking short seated pauses when effort needed decreases
- My power has gone up beyond my expectations to a lifetime best with mFTP peaking at 4.9w/kg before a bout of sickness (quite possibly covid-19) just over a month ago. My single best ride was quite unexpected, a Zwift race that I only entered to burn off some Xmas food where I just went hard from the start and ended up setting all time best MMP numbers from 20-45 minutes (Strava https://www.strava.com/activities/2967917754/analysis])
- I’m well into recovery now. Despite making a serious effort to do higher cadence whenever I need more power it just feels much easier to change up and standup. Yesterday I did a 2 hour race on the Zwift Pretzel (won by Romain Bardet!!) and was easily able to step up the power on the climbs. What felt hard was trying to up cadence on the flats https://www.strava.com/activities/3391077163 This ride also addressed on concern that I have that this style may be tiring for long distance. Actually I think it just the opposite.
This is contrary to much if not all of the received wisdom I have received and opposite to the approach of staying seating with high cadence that I have advocated myself.
The only example of similar that I am aware of is Nik Bowdler, who won UK time trials BBAR (best average over 50 100 and 12 hour time trial in a year) on a couple of occasions. He had a 77 tooth chainring and I can remember being passed by him during an event, his legs turning slowly while his bike went very fast. https://www.cyclingweekly.com/news/latest-news/bowdler-makes-his-mark-on-the-bbar-91973
It is not that I cannot sustain long period of hours at 80rpm plus and if needed I can hold 120rpm+ for a short while. It is just that if more power is needed it just feels a lot easier for me to change up a few gears and just mash the pedals.
Since I am training to climb not time trial then standing will have little if any impact on speed.
I can think of various reasons why I am more comfortable with this low cadence such as the bpm of the trance music I train to, the fact that I have always associated more power with pushing down harder rather than spinning faster and starting to lift heavy especially bench press, dumbbell row and deadlift (which means my shoulders are a lot more stable and my posterior chain noticeably stronger).
Both my knees are shot with ligament trouble and early arthritis. (That is one reason for the deadlifts which worked in that I can now at least walk without pain.) While I have heard that the downside of the above approach is knee trouble, it’s not an issue for me at least.
I have a few questions
- Have you or any of your athletes experienced similar?
- Any thoughts on what is going on under the hood? If it’s at all relevant my power below 60sec is terrible, I cannot manage above the mid 700s peak. So perhaps over the years I have converted what the few fast twitch muscles I was born with to slow.
- It seems to be working so does it matter? Are there any benefits or reasons for me trying to work to increase cadence?