When I started out on my cycling journey I used to be a gear cruncher. I would use a gear that was too big. I was probably doing 80rpm. Over time I have learnt to spin at higher cadence. I can easily spin at 100 RPM now.
I have found over the years that as I hit around 90rpm I just change gear and I spin again. I feel that I am doing this to just make it easier and my muscles should push through the burn better.
It seems @chad wants most of the session done around 95-100rpm. Is it ok to do them at lower cadence and get more muscle endurance?
He generally says to spin above 85 RPM, so 90 is sufficient in most workouts. When spinning higher than that, it is in specific workouts to be used as a drill to improve how you handle those higher cadences. Those drills are optional for the most part. In other words, you’re fine settling into 90 RPM for basically all workouts, and use spin-ups and other similar drills to maintain that high cadence sharpness should you need it out on the road when racing or in a group ride.
Generally speaking, a higher cadence will put less strain on your muscles (you have more pedal strokes but each individual pedal stroke is easier) and shift more of the muscle load towards your slow twitch fat burning system. This system is where you have the best endurance once you’ve trained it. Conversely, at a lower cadence, each individual pedal stroke is harder and you’re relying more on the fast twitch glycogen burning system which while it may have more power, it fatigues quicker and has less endurance. Of course, at low output either system can go for a long time but as you increase power, while you can put out a ton of power over a short time at a low cadence, a well trained cyclist can hold more power over time with a higher cadence.
If the workout text calls for 95-100, it’s probably a high cadence drill, so yes, do it.
Otherwise, Chad generally says “above 85 RPM” as others have already stated. That’s a suggestion. YMMV.
This past season, I developed the ability to hold FTP at very low cadence, as a result of steep MTB climbing all summer. You think 80RPM is low, I recently completed SSB averaging 69 RPM on Mary Austin, 65 RPM on Lamarck, and 64 RPM on Leconte. That’s average, meaning my 85RPM efforts were balanced out by 45 RPM efforts.
I still aim to ride at higher cadence, but the ability to sustainably grind at low cadence is like having extra fuel in the tank. Whereas I would previously have to make a conscious effort to maintain 85RPM and blow up if it dipped below 70, I can now drift all the way down to 45 RPM before standing for 20 seconds and then kicking back up to 85RPM. I can watch Youtube videos rather than listening to same damn 85-90RPM playlists every session.
Having a wide cadence range is good. And being able to grind away at low RPM is a very valuable tool in various circumstances.
But, folks, especially those new to cycling, need to avoid falling into the trap that because a low cadence might hurt more, it is a “better workout”. A high cadence might feel easier, but its working different systems and, easier can be faster in the right circumstances, especially when we’re talking power over time. Not on a steep climb where you have to grind, but definitely when you need to be in high speed cruise mode on a flat stretch of road or on a long gradual climb a higher cadence will be an advantage. So to the OP, work on expanding your cadence range.
That is what I think/thought. And yet Sebastian Weber advises low cadence Sweetspot to reduce Vlamax as the low cadence doesn’t activate the fast twitch fibres. To say I’m confused would be an understatement.
I’m not saying low rpm is not a fine part of any training regime. In fact, I just got done doing a 2x10 min set of grinding at 45 rpm. I’m just advising not to confuse what may be a good specialized type of workout to do now and then with how best to ride your bike when you need to be able to move quickly for a long time. Just about everyone who is fast is comfortable at 95+ rpm.
It’s also easier to injure your knees and lower back grinding. So you want to work up (down?) to the lower cadences while monitoring and cleaning up your pedal stroke. Learning to properly engage your core to protect your lower back is also essential.
But I’d also caution that the opposite is true; on the turbo trainer it’s very easy to fall into the trap of doing every interval at a comfortable cadence and for me this would be 90-100 rpm.
As everyone says, spinning at a higher rpm reduces muscular fatigue at the cost of increased cardiovascular load, but I feel like the problem with this is that whilst it promotes great cardiovascular fitness, your muscular strength and endurance soon becomes a limiter.
I think mixing up cadences certainly benefits me more than constantly riding at a comfortable cadence but YMMV.
I totally fell into this trap. I’ve done so many sweetspot sessions at 90 rpm that I struggle with muscular load. I’m trying to correct this while I base train this year by mixing up cadence’s more often.
Yup, if it’s foreseeable for a rider to use lower cadence due to course conditions and bike setup, it’s very wise to include that type of cadence in training. It all goes to idea of maintaining a wide functional cadence range. There are a number of reasons we may be forced to the fringe or outside of our comfortable cadence range. So, including this seems quite relevant and even important in my eyes.