Is a cadence higher than 85 - 95 ... cheating?

I’m doing interval training since 2 Months. Most of the workouts require a cadence between 85 - 95, while my preferred cadence is at about 95 - 105. Even before I’ve started structured training, I was spinning in that range on the road, maybe 5 revs slower – so I am somewhat used to this. On the trainer, I’ve noticed that when the load is higher (more watts), I tend to spin quicker.

Today during a training I did purposefully spin slower to get into that 85 - 95 range. And boy, that was hard! It was Warlow +2, so power was at 98% - 115% FTP. I quickly rose to 100 - 105 again, just to get through.

Now my question is: Is that 10 revs higher “cheating”, as it seems to be easier for me to do?
I’m fully aware that the fact that I’m not training at lower cadences might hurt my ability to climb (if I don’t have the right gear that is) – but is there something else that I am missing?

Its not cheating - its simply using your body differently, which may, or may not feel easier. If you speak to somebody that rides thousands of miles a year at 85rpm and ask them if riding at 105rpm is easier then you may get a very different answer!

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Your natural cadence is your natural cadence - ride as you want. Only remember to do also different cadences (higher and lower) to accustom yourself with the effort. You can also see your natural cadence will change with time.

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Ride at whatever cadence feels good to you. Depending on what type of outdoors rising you do, it might make sense to work on being able to ride at different cadence ranges though.

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In general, it’s not cheating – however, was this in ergo mode on a smart trainer where you weren’t controlling power with an on-bike power meter? Sometimes you run across a trainer whose load generator is off at very high and/or very low rotational speed so, depending on what your gear ratio is, you can actually being doing less work at cadences than the trainer reports.

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I wouldn’t read too much into cadence. I’m a muscular rider and I prefer higher torque / lower cadence. I usually ride 75-80 rpm for endurance and only go 90-95 for vo2 and get towards 100-105 when sprinting.
However, I would say there are advantages to being able to ride low cadence high torque (climbing when you simply must do this due to your gearing + the gradient). This session w such a high specified cadence isn’t focusing on that anyways so don’t worry about it

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I´m the same. hard efforts on the trainer I usually do at 110+ rpm. If I do the same workout outside, the rpm tends to be like 10 lower. I put it down to the fact that the bike is tightened to the trainer and it is easier to push high cadence in a stable manner.
Also, the resistance of the trainer feels quite a bit harder than real world resistance outside. So higher cadence = lower resistance does make it feel easier for me too.
And as others noted: a watt is a watt. Do the cadence you prefer.
And just to add: even though I don´t specifically train low cadence, I have no problems on long climbs. In fact I quite love them.

No- it shifts the load from your muscles to your aerobic system so your HR generally goes up with a higher cadence.
When doing long muscular endurance intervals, I sometimes spin a higher rpm just to give my muscles a break or if my heart rate is creeping up, I’ll lower it into the 70’s to ‘recover’ and watch it back down beat by beat.

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Thanks for the answers!
What I get is, cadence is fine, don’t worry.

@RChung: Yes, that’s on a trainer with erg mode.

Slighter build myself and I generate my high power easier via higher cadence, but I consciously try to mix the cadence up to keep it real with outdoors riding.

I use ERG indoor and try to do more work on the small ring to lose the flywheel effect, not that there is much of that on Neo.

If a high cadence is cheating, then I am cheating when I race my bike in real life.

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Cheating is a big word, but yes, I feel things get easier when I up the cadence.

On the (flat) road my natural cadence is ~90rpm. In TR I aim for 95. but I can quite comfortably do ~105rpm. Yes, it raises my HR a bit but at least until ~ 110% FTP it feels a lot easier. I have been wondering if that’s because of the flywheel effect? Using a Tacx Neo, with 42-19 gearing.

Funny, I have wondered the same thing in reverse. Sometimes if I’m struggling to get through a SS or threshold interval, I drop down to 70 and sometimes lower. Shifting more of the stress from respiratory to muscular tends to make it easier for me. Oddly it doesn’t help me for vo2 or higher though. But yeah I’d say the main thing is being able to ride in a variety of cadence ranges, and beyond that it’s really choose your own adventure.

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It’s definitely addressed in other replies, but to put simply - you get good at what you train. i.e. you train and ride naturally at high cadence, so you are good at high cadence. Low cadence seems harder because you don’t do much of it.

I am like you and naturally gravitate to high cadence (95-100). One of my training partners is the opposite end of the spectrum and typically averages around 80 rpm. Any set/workout where he tries to maintain 95 or higher, he feels like he can’t last more than a few minutes, even at sub-threshold efforts.

It’s good to be good at both. Since bikes don’t have CVT’s, which erg mode mimics, you sometimes find yourself outside your optimum window.

Do a steady state sweet spot workout and alternate between 70rpm and 90rpm every two minutes. It’s a totally different workout.

In a crit, I might average 90-95rpm because I am always accelerating or decelerating, or anticipating an acceleration. On a 3hr ride with 4000’ of climbing, I might average 75-80rpm. To hold a steady power, I’ll park myself around 80-85ish rpm, and bring it up to 95rpm via gearing to accelerate over the top of a climb or for whatever reason I need to accelerate.

I wish I could get a 100rpm cadence. I can do 90 for about an hour (when I’m fresh and its low Z2) and then I get fatigued and have to go to 70-80 (natural cadence).

I’m truly envious of people that can do 100rpm. They make things look so easy, while I’m grinding away.

I ignore cadence on workouts these days. With longer workouts, it makes it unmanageable to try and hit 95rpm.

What’s funny is that when I sprint, I wind it up to 120rpm, but that lasts only for a short period, just like the sprint. Longer sprints will be around 85-90rpm.

One thing a power meter doesn’t tell you is wheel torque, which is totally a function of gearing. This is how Superbikes, racing car, electronics and traction control systems work, because ultimately it’s the force at the wheel that propels you forward, and the effects of gear multiplication will have implications on your speed (and in their case, the grip of the tire can only support so much torque, which is happening in many directions due to cornering, etc. ie: “the traction circle”)

Setting those systems up, you take dyno power graphs (on a bicycle you’re the engine) at different throttle openings, and feed it into what the transmission + sprockets + wheel diameter is (on a motorcycle, the latter changes via lean angle) and then you come up with wheel torque curves. Very few in cycling pay attention to any of this and how it effects wheel torque, and pair it to your power curve and physiology, to come up with pacing strategies.

Remember, some engines are larger displacement and slower revving and some are smaller and higher revving, for the same power. It’s all in their architecture, just like it is in our own physiology.

Remember, watts is a unit of power, horsepower is too. Power meters measure force (torque) x rpm (cadence) to come up with a power number. Most decent cycling programs will pull torque out and plot it.

“Train your weakness, race your strength”.

That said, do what ever you like.

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This may help it is 40 minute talk about cadence

Raising your cadence 10rpm (85 to 95) will lower the torque you need to punch out about 12% (depending on your math). The torque you’re applying is about 10% of watts in lbs at 90rpm… 300w / 10 = 30lb force at the pedals… so you’re moving from ~32 → ~28lb of force at the feet average. Running faster will spare your muscle fibers a bit ,but tax your energy systems just as much.

Now… the flywheel resistance is kinder to you than the computer controlled resistance unit, as you don’t have the resistance peaks/valleys on the weak/strong parts of the spin. If you can keep the flywheel spinning faster, it’ll be easier on your legs too (but the trainer won’t be as responsive to workout wattage commands).

Another thing to think about, lower cadences means more fresh blood hitting your muscles per contraction. Higher cadence means less fresh blood per stroke. You might be getting 2 heart beats per revolution at 85rpm, while 1.8 beats at 95rpm & 1.6 at 105rpm. So, this will impact your high cadence performance.

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