Mountain Bike | "Aero position" & lower cadence

So, I was doing Donner this morning and it got me thinking about 2 things…

  1. Aero position for mountain biking - I watched a video Specialized did for Leadville. That was interesting. It made me think about how/when I could use some of the alternate hand positions in non-technical areas where I can build or maintain a high enough speed for that to matter. If you’re solely MTB, do you practice different positions when the cues tell you to get into an aero position? (I’m training on a hardtail)

  2. I was doing most of the work on Donner this morning at 90-95% of FTP and I could maintain the power number in 2 gears.

gear 1 - 93-95 cad.
gear 2 - 81-83 cad.

Gear 1 felt way more aerobic and Gear 2 felt tougher on my muscles. As a MTB’r, I don’t think I spin a lot at 95, it’s probably more in the 80s.

Would I be better to train in that area? The cues for Donner said 85-95 cadence…

TIA for your thoughts!

I race mtb primarily, but I also dabble in gravel. :laughing:
For mtb my cadence is generally low to mid 80’s while on gravel I’m normally right at 90.
During training I have found it very beneficial to vary my cadence to simulate different scenarios. Yesterday I did Merced +1. During one interval I’d spin @ 104-106. The next I’d drop a gear and spin low 90’s. I’ve even gone down to the low 80’s on VO2 stuff before, but I think that was altering the goal of the workout (high aerobic output and high hr) so I save the slow, grinding stuff for work that is ss or below now.
Prepare yourself for a wide cadence range in training. It will pay off in many situations. Cadence for me is nearly as much mental as physical. I have to get my brain “ok” with a wide range for grinding up a hill or spinning out on a decent.

During MTB XC races, I always get in the aero position for any paved or gravel sections on course. You save many watts and gain free speed by getting low and putting your hands close together when it is safe to do so.

I practice varied cadences in training. For instance, this Wednesday I did 3 sets of 10 x 40/20secs all out. The first 2 sets I was using a cadence in the low 90’s. For the last set I used a cadence in the low 80’s. My average watts was higher for the last set at lower cadence.

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For MTB, you will defiantly want to vary your cadence in TR workouts. Sweet spot lends itself nicely for this by doing each interval at a different cadence. If it’s 4x10 min intervals your cadence could be self selected for the first interval, 10 rpm higher for the second, 10 rpm slower for the third and then self selected for the last. You will want to be comfortable at all different cadences.

The TR cues for cadence are just recommendations, your self selected cadence is generally the best way to go unless you fall vastly outside of the recommendation. If you’re grinding at 60 rpms or always spinning at 110 rpms there’s probably gains to be had at getting that closer to 85-95.

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