Training for long climbs at lower cadence

My A event is a multi climb (4300 metres) one day Gran Fondo in the Dolomites. I have done this a couple of times already and therefore know that my cadence on the longer steeper climbs is around 55-65 in my lowest (34/29 gear - Campag so going above 29 is problematic).
My natural trainer cadence is around 90-95 - right in @chad 's sweet spot.

I am currently in SSB 1 Low Volume and my thought for this year’s preparation is to aim to train closer to my climbing cadence (based on text in some of the later phase workouts along the lines of “ride at 85-95 or a cadence that suits your event”). So for example instead of spin ups I am doing spin downs and generally trying to ride at around 85 rpm.

My question is by doing this am I compromising some base adaptations that I will need for later phases of training or even on the event itself?


Maratona? If so then see you there. Good question though as I am going to focus my training more this way also because after having done this event twice before too and a few others which are similar I find that my best climbing cadence is around 80-85 and when it hits double figures I need to keep it in the 70’s to avoid going into vo2 or higher.

Hi Tom
Yes the Maratona. Fantastic event isn’t it?
If you can do 80/85 up the Giau then you are a better man than me!
Will wait to see if anyone has any thoughts on the lower cadence training approach

hi :slight_smile:

I have a similar issue, and here is how I’m dealing with it. This is more of a “common sense due to lack of other data” approach, so it is very possible it’s sub-optimal.

a. check out the major long climbs I will need to tackle over a course

b. single out the ones with challenging (for me) average[1] gradients

c. go to gribble and find the watts I need to produce in order to go at a certain speed. Don’t forget to factor in loss of power at altitude, and diminishing output due to a long day of climbing. If the major climb is at the end of the ride, and at high altitude, you could be looking at double-digit % losses in output.

d. go to gear calculator and check the cadence I will use for speed (that I calculated above). The link I put has your setup ready, so all you need to do is play with cadence and ask it to display speed

e. use resistance mode (probly works in erg too) and pick the watts at gearing ratio that will give me the desired cadence for the “challenging” climbs. I do a lot of my training later in the “season” like that

As I said, this is just how I think of this issue. I hope there are better ways to approach it.

On a more personal note, I don’t like loading my knees for such long periods (low cadence), so (a) I’ve changed my front gears to 46-30, so I have a “lower” ratio of 30 front - 32 back, and (b) I avoid anything that requires less than 70-75 cadence (what can I say, I’m a softie :slight_smile: )

— footnotes
[1] average is just a ball-park number … I also dig deeper into the profile in order to avoid double-digit surprises


Sorry if this is slightly off the topic. But you’re potentially spending thousands of dollars to go on a cycling holiday - why wouldn’t you spend the few hundred to go with the right gearing? Or is getting that gearing on Campag just not possible?

1 Like

Wow, Thanks Will take a look at that over the weekend…

That’s a fair question. I guess I know I can do it at a lower cadence so I was interested in whether training to put the power out at a lower cadence would have an impact.

Campagnolo does have 32 tooth option but it may require messing around with new rear derailleur or a longer cage at least.

As said above potentially smaller front chain ring might be an option!

I am facing a similar issue training for the Taiwan KOM race in about 12 days time…

Knowing I’m going to be riding for 5+ hours at around 75% of FTP I just decided to dedicate some sessions with power in the tempo/sweet spot range to lower cadence (in erg mode) to around to 75-80rpm range. Add to that, doing some sweet spot intervals with 1min standing then 1-2min seated. Finally put your bike in the lower chainring and larger cog to reduce the kinetic enery in the flywheel to “mimic” a bit more the pedalling mechanics of climbing.

Good luck


Slightly off topic but how did you go on with the front me mech with a 46/30. I’m thinking of doing the same but my mech is already right at the bottom of the hanger (running 50/34)


I got this: – Installation is very simple. The only thing extra you need is a Dura-ace 11spd chain.

Oval doesn’t feel any different to me after a couple of hours, and I don’t perceive any relevant advantage (or disadvantage).

Two things

  • It will very rarely miss a front chain-set shift (from small to large), though I think that mostly has to do with me being lazy when it comes to bike maintenance (ie indexing).
  • The only pedal based power meter I know of that -presumably- calculates for oval chainrings is the Favero Assioma.

There are other options out there, ranging from the (awesomely beautiful) Sugino to FSA and more. I picked this particular set because it required the least installation effort and -I think- money.

Otherwise, this is a game changer for me.

Thanks @dhaines83 I have done some internet trawling (thanks Trianta) and maths and I reckon a 30 front 32 rear combination would give around 16 rpm improvement for the same speed. So that would bring my cadence up to 70 or so. A lot better but the the original issue remains and I still feel it worthwhile training at a lower cadence.


Thanks Phil that’s great advice. The longest single climb should be just over an hour so I think I could fit what you are suggesting into a workout. Good Luck in Taiwan!

My knees feel so much happier for you that you’re up at 70 now :slight_smile: