Training for moderate cadence

I’ll probably answer this in the question, but would be interested in others thoughts.

Many of the in session instructions talk of trying to actively focus on working higher cadences, and how for many riders 85-95rpm may feel unnaturally high.

I find myself the other way around, and for harder efforts (SS upwards), especially on the flat, if my cadence falls below 95 I’m going to quickly start to struggle to maintain sufficient torque. This isn’t so much of an issue on the fairly smooth environment of the turbo, but it’s noticeable on rough surfaces or in gusty conditions how much harder it is to maintain these higher cadences. Every bump or gust tries to stop me holding this cadence and push me to use some force, and at 55kg it bounces me around quite easily.

So I’m wondering that despite in the rarefied environment of the turbo, I naturally seem to gravitate to around 100rpm+ for harder efforts, should I be consciously aiming for a cadence of closer to maybe 85rpm, in an effort to stimulate some ability to sustain torque and not just cadence? It may produce lower power and higher RPE in the short/medium term, but wonder if it could produce long term improvements. Are there any other ways to improve either power at moderate cadence or be able to sustain the higher cadence when it gets rough and blowy? Interested in anyone’s thoughts.

I’m pretty similar, I used to do threshold efforts at about 100rpm sweet spot a bit less and endurance averaging about 92. After a winter on the turbo it was hard to translate the power outdoor where I had to use lower cadence.

Are you doing strength training? For me after 1+ year of strength work my threshold cadence is now about 95 now and endurance hovers around 87.
And if I need to go lower when the terrain changes it doesn’t feel so fatiguing anymore and transitioning outdoor in the spring is much easier.

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I have done a bit of strength work, but mostly focused on core stability through body weight or light kettlebell work, rather than with any significant added weight. I may look to add more concerted strength work into the plan. Cheers.

This time of year i do a lot of cadence work, low and high. Its easy for me to spin under load, so anthing below 85 rpm is harder for me.

One example: tempo intervals at 80 rpm with a lower threshold surge at 70-75 every few minutes. This is not to build strength, but to get you body use to making power at different cadences.

You need to work a wide range of cadences, so if high is easy for you, incorporate some lower cadence work on some intervals. And do some at high cadence to as you need to keep sharp up there too


on my direct-drive Kickr it is easier to do lower cadence in sim mode or standard/level/slope mode (because of Erg death spiral). FWIW I do most low cadence work in upper endurance and lower tempo, and my legs can generate a lot of torque so usually 40-60rpm. But you are a fast spinner and so I’d suggest bumping that up and start in the 60-80rpm range. Break it up into intervals, here is an article from my coach: Muscle Tension Intervals – FasCat Coaching and if you have knee issues then stop immediately.

Muscle tension intervals are not a replacement for strength work in the gym, they complement it. Another article worth reading: Improve Muscular Endurance and Fatigue Resistance: The VO2 Slow Component and Cycling | EVOQ.BIKE

Hope that helps!

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I do low cadence work, but I do it outdoors as my turbo sucks once cadence drops below about 70 rpm. Like you I’m am a natural spinner.

I aim to ride in Sweetspot at 40-60 rpm outdoors for 10 minute intervals (at moment). The number of intervals varies week to week in progressive overload. You have to be careful to pick the right roads for the length of interval and power outputs.

Here’s the cadence graph from one such outdoor session. I’m certainly finding it is helping to improve my torque generation.

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I am going to be the contrarian here. Just ride what cadence feels best to you for your intervals. Good to do some higher and lower cadence drills every now and then, maybe in an endurance ride. Just to expand the range of cadence you are comfortable at. But otherwise, I wouldn’t get hung on up cadence. Your not drastically higher than the average.


Another reason to train for low cadence - hill climb events. I’ve done the Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hill Climb 4 times. The course averages 12% for 7.5 miles, with nothing below about 8%, and a 22% wall at the end.

My best time was 82 minutes, at mostly sweets spot effort levels. Every time my cadence has averaged in the mid 70’s. And every time I’ve had significant cramping starting at about the 60 minute mark. I can, and have, averaged the same power for the same time on the road and trainer without issue. But I’m a spinner, and my normal cadence is 95-ish, and goes up for sustained hard efforts. At 80kg, I just can’t do that on a 12% grade without some creative gear modifications (which I’m exploring).

I must do long duration, high power, low cadence training if I want to avoid the cramps and improve my times. The trainer in erg mode is close to perfect for emulating the Rock Pile. The erg mode death spiral happens there too. I just have to work on keeping my cadence low as fatigue sets in.


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I find that the rougher / more unstable the surface, the lower my cadence gets. So road - gravel - MTB - fatbike have declining cadence in that order.

If you ride primarily road, it’s less of an issue. But if you ride off road, IME it’s easier to get power down with lower cadence - high cadence you just bounce around too much and/or lose traction.

Don’t feel boxed in by the 85–95 rpm recommendation, just translate it to “my natural cadence range.” In my case that is 90–105 rpm when the inertia is high (= high speeds on the flats), but I feel comfortable at 70 rpm when the inertia is low (= simulating climbing).

It also depends on the power zone: sometimes I can lean on my fast twitch fibers (= higher cadence) to get an interval done, other times I let my slow twitch fibers take care of it (= lower cadence). Just experiment and see what feels good at what power level.

In my mind you should work to increase the cadence range at which you can pedal comfortably. You don’t want to be a cadence diva who can only feel comfortable at 96.8 rpm.

I thought slower cadence with higher torque required recruited more fast twitch fibers? I could be wrong though.

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Yes, you basically the right idea. Henneman’s size principle.

As far as I understand you need the same muscle fibers as for fast, explosive movements such as sprints. E. g. if you are willing to test this (caution: this might incur some fatigue with your fast twitch fibers!), do all out cadence “sprints” at low power. The latter is super important. Do this 5–6 times during an easy endurance workout. Fast twitch fibers are also taxed when you lift very heavy weights.

However, I don’t think “regular-low cadence” work (60–75 rpm) counts as high force in the same way that doing squats in the gym with high weights does.

Slow cadence recruits more motor units. It has to, to provide that higher force and hence torque production

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… which may (or may not) mean hitting a larger proportion of fast-twitch fibres. :+1:

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If you can achieve the same force production by only recruiting slow twitch fibres then great as you’ll be able to get a higher contribution from fatox and your muscles won’t fatigue as fast.