Ourside Cadence lower than Indoors and the ensuing cooked legs/lower backs

So I’ve discovered that when I’m riding outdoors, especially when there are climbs higher than a 6% average (and probably go up to 15% ramps) my cadence will really suffer. Part of it is due to gearing (I really should get 50/34 and 11-34 combo) and part of it I find is due to the fact that I have the tendency of grinding gears.

As a result –

  1. my legs are usually cooked prematurely – logical but from the circumstances, I cannot seem to find any other solutions.

  2. My lower back also gives out significantly earlier than on the trainer when I have a lot of momentum from the flywheel and can spin a heavy gear.

Other than consciously train to spin on the climbs, what are people’s advice on dealing with situations like this?

I’m not the feathery weight climber type at 342watts/72kg, but I also don’t consider myself overweight yet.


As you decrease cadence, you rely more on your muscles than on your cardio to generate power. Cardio comes back fast - muscles not so fast. When it really points up , we downshift to the largest cog then increase power and if that power is too high to sustain then we reduce the cadence to keep power manageable. If you’re trying to climb a 15% grade - buy a compact (50/34 ) or at least start by getting a larger cassette 11/32 or 34.

My FTP is 230 and I weigh 79kg and I climb this segment on my tribike & my road bike (with proper gearing). https://www.strava.com/segments/5799247 It peaks at 23% grade and my cadence was quite low to achieve that.

Its normal for your cadence to drop on a 15% climb. There are other things that are hard to replicate indoors too. Your body position will change, because the bike is on a gradient, and you’re likely doing more works with your arms. You’re also likely to stand up more.

Some advice from on here is too try and limit the flywheel effect when on the trainer by using the small chainring. You should lose a bit of momentum, which makes it feel more like climbing.

My cadence always seems lower outside anyway - always spin on the turbo - 100-105rpm but outside and time trialling - usually 95rpm - would say it was a me staying in sync with my ride buddies in group rides but it is the same tt ing so maybe that is just what happens for some of us - doesn’t cause me any injury though…if it does then of course you need to address it - low cadence does use the lower back more so just change down and spin - practice makes perfect!