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Slower cadence = faster time, that's what happened(30 posts)

Slower cadence = faster time, that's what happenedsurf
May 13, 2002 12:11 PM
Slower cadence = faster time, that's what happened

This weekend I rode in a big gear a slow cadence (about 65-75) for a short ride along the beach (15miles). What's strange is that I averaged over 20mph on a trail that I usually cant break 19 because of all the stops from all the people traffic.

For me it's very natural to spin over 100 and I thought I would grind out some higher gears to build a bit more strength and or muscle so spinning at 70 was really weird. Also, I have taken a brake from training for tri's due to other commitments so I only ride about 2 days a week. So I was really surprised because on this trail to average 20 I was spending most of my time in the 23-25 range.

So what do you guys think, should we stop trying to be Lance?
re: Slower cadence = faster time, that's what happenedMrCelloBoy
May 13, 2002 12:16 PM
A.) There were less traffic stops than usual.

B.) You're a dag blasted masher!

Whatever works!
Remember even Lance had to train himself higher cadence...JBurton
May 13, 2002 12:46 PM
What's more, his superhuman lung capacity, VO2 max, and other freakish things about his physiology allow him to run with a higher heartrate for longer and thus a higher cadence. It isn't for everyone...Ulrich, for instance. Like another post said, whatever works for you. Now 65-75 may actually be a tad too slow. I found that I work best around the magic 90 mark...maybe a bit faster or slower depending on terrain, my condition, etc.
The singlespeeders are smiling ...Humma Hah
May 13, 2002 12:54 PM
... Yes, grasshopper, it is definitely possible that you are faster at lower RPM. It is actually physically possible to ride a bike at other than 80-100 RPM cadence!

I try to stay somewhere between 25 and 140 myself.

I've been riding my single in a slightly higher gear since December than I rode most of last year. The result has been a definite increase in leg strength, and a surprising increase in climbing speed on shorter hills.
me too...EpicX
May 13, 2002 1:16 PM
after a few years basically off the bike, i decided to try the 'lance method' and spin more (around 100rpm). I used to ride in larger gears, but i figured this is a good time to 'unlearn' a few habits. i got in shape, but i didn't get much faster after a point. so, this year i've gone back to a slower cadence (75-85 rpm) and larger gears, and what do you know? my avg speed has increased and i just feel a lot stronger. i lowered my saddle a touch a few weeks ago since i'm riding bigger gears and i feel great.

I guess the point is you just have to find what works for you (and what doesn't.)
me too...Indiana Rider
May 13, 2002 1:22 PM
I too am faster in a lower gear, but my knees cant take it.
re: Slower cadence = faster time, that's what happenedSnowBlind
May 13, 2002 3:27 PM
I'd like to know if you could keep that speed up for a Metric, or even 30 miles.
Slower cadence speeds mean more anarobic sprint energy used. So yeah, you go faster, but not as long (very generally). High cadence trades raw power for sustainablity, because high cadence relies (again, big wide strokes here) on pure aerobic power, and the big sprint muscles don't come into play as much.
Your personal slow twitch to fast twitch ratio will be the major factor here.
I've got a pretty middle of the road mix myself, so I generally do 25-32km on the flats and anything less than 5% grade. Get into the 36km+ range or 5%+, and I start to suffer. In pacelines I do better, but serious climbs are tough.
I suspect if I had got into serious racing in my teens/20's I would have ended up a domestic, and been a leadout or enforcer, but not the money shot guy.
Neurologically grinding is more effecient for most peoplePODIUMBOUNDdotCA
May 13, 2002 4:41 PM
In my experience for most people unless your a perfect pedaller slowing your cadence drops your heart rate and uses more muscles than spinning at 100 RPM.

Everyone should TRY to be like Lance... but look at Jan Ullrich when he won the tour. He just grinded his way through the apex of the switchbacks on climbs.

Its partially genetics but its partially just how much you work at perfecting your spin so thats why I love my Power Cranks. ( However, unless your aspiring to be a superstar they aren't really work if if you just ride 2 days a week. Although I'm noticing a cross over between Power Cranks and running just because they work your hip flexors so much.

My 2 cents,
Neurologically grinding is more effecient for most peopleJBurton
May 13, 2002 6:22 PM
Man, really ARE paid by Power Cranks, aren't you?? (Say, can you get me a good deal on a pair??)
Not at all...PODIUMBOUNDdotCA
May 13, 2002 8:23 PM
I'm not getting paid... I'm giving my 2 cents...I believe in them and I've always had the strength and power to excel in sprints but my pedalstroke always used to go to shit. So I used to be a grinder. I wish the owner of PowerCranks would pay be I don't think he even pays Kevin Livingston or Ryder Hesjdel. But then again why would you pay someone to use something that makes them faster?

Not at all to what was said in the post not the neuro stuff (nm)PODIUMBOUNDdotCA
May 13, 2002 8:25 PM
Sorry to bust your balls, Nick. Ah's Just Kiddin'...(nm)JBurton
May 13, 2002 10:31 PM
I never got anywhere until I intentionally tried mashing.Leisure
May 13, 2002 6:45 PM
When I started to take cycling seriously it was mountainbiking, and I never had a chance of spinning up those big hills in my granny gear. I'd spin seemingly easy cadences and then lose it every few thousand feet, panting and feeling all inadequate. I may as well have been doing intervals, yet I did this for months with no significant gains. I finally gave it up and started mashing in the middle ring, insisting on not using the granny even in sections where my cadence dropped as low as 30. Automatically I was able to do all the trails I previously had to stop five or more times on, and in a month or so I was sprinting up technical sections that I used to have to finesse through to avoid getting winded. It was only after this that my resting heart rate started to drop, ironically. Now if I were to start doing dedicated intervals I imagine it would help me a lot, but before I got this base fitness it was worthless.
I seriously believe that before you can expect to make big gains in cardio you need to increase your muscle mass enough (at least in the context of endurance) to properly strain your heart to stimulate growth. Some people have it naturally and can take it for granted (my brother is a great example, the bastard), others need to go out of their way to build it up (me). This is why I encourage foregoing triple cranks and pushing doubles until your fitness is up, and I bet that it's part of why really experienced racers encourage the same, whether they realize it or not. It's just what you're expected to do, because it seems to work, even though an empirical physiological basis hasn't been identified.
I'm a masher...I despise spinning (intresting thread)Kristin
May 14, 2002 6:27 AM
Hmmm... I've been trying to spin; but I loathe it. So, I ponder the truth of what Liesure says. 83 is my number. I love 83. Its comfortable. I feel like I have more energy and I pedal more smoothly. In the interest of "self-improvement" I often shift and spin at 88-90. I experience a little burst of speed, followed immediatly by this insane heart rate. Eventually, I must to go back to 83 so that my chest doesn't explode. So my experience backs up this idea, but I also worry about injury. One can mash too much, no?
Don't think so.muncher
May 14, 2002 6:36 AM
Depends what you mean by mashing. If you are just a slower cadence rider, that doesn't make you a masher, it probably just means you have stronger legs, different slow/fast fibre mix etc. If you are not hurting your knees/bursting your thighs, then you are not mashing IMO. It's generally unlikey that you will get an injury doing something that you find naturally easier and/or more confortable than another way of doing it.

I'm with you - I tried spinning more in a effort to find that elusive "break through", but it just doesn't work for me - I just naturally have a slower spin rate that most folk - diesn't cause me any problems at all.

I like the walking/running comparison - people have different stride lenghts and hence cadences - no-one worries about that do they?
Misnomer.Len J
May 14, 2002 6:53 AM
I think anyone comfortable at one cadence will be uncomfortable at a higher cadence, initially. A higher cadence will tax your aerobic system more than a slower cadence. In order to get more comfortable at a higher cadence, you have to train your aerobic system to handle it. I found that doing one or two rides a week at 5 rpm higher than my comfortable cadence allowed me to increase my comfortable cadence from 85 to 105 over a couple of months. Like intervals, you have to gradually extend the amount of time you are comfortable at the higher cadence.

Why bother you say? Well I am now able, during a ride to alternate my cadence to rest my legs (by spinning faster), or rest my cardio system,(by spinning slower). This allows me to ride faster longer than I could with only one cadence to ride at. In addition, extensive base riding at high cadence has increased my cardio endurance well beyond what it ever as before. I still do strength intervals in a high gear/extremely low cadence to maintain leg strength.

As with most things, there is no one right answer, however, consciously working on increasing my cadence has allowed me to do both, which gives me much flexibility when doing long hard rides.

My experience.

May 14, 2002 7:03 AM
if you can ride at a higher cadence, then you can respond better (faster) to spikes in speed if racing or riding with a fast group. One other benefit I forgot to mention earlier.
How so?muncher
May 14, 2002 7:31 AM
Why not just change up a gear?
May 14, 2002 7:54 AM
higher RPM = more power.
just like with your car engine max power comes at higher RPM (and lower then max torque)
Err - no, don't see it.muncher
May 14, 2002 8:06 AM
There is a power band of max power - my engine runs out of puff above a certain rpm - same with cycling. Some engines - diesels, large V8's etc, power most a lower revs and better there than, say, a small capacity GP car. If you have large powerfull legs you are wasting your energy trying to get them to pump 19 to the dozen when they will push at least as hard slower.

If a "masher" operates best between, say, 80-85, then stepping up from 80 to 85 is going do do just as well as a "spinner" going from 100-110.

Not saying one is better than the other, just that for a masher to try to up cadence solely for this reason is fallacious?
any enginecyclopathic
May 14, 2002 8:25 AM
have max torque at RPM lower then max power, max power isn't the same as max efficiency.

the analogy with engine is good in other way some got powerful legs (V8 displacement) and some don't (1.3L 4-banger). The efficiency at higher cadence is highly trainable, strength isn't (at least not to the same extend).

and yes, your example is proper if you have 2 cyclists producing 400wt one at 60RPM and another at 100, going to 66 for 1st and to 110 for 2nd should have similar effect
interesting analogymuncher
May 14, 2002 8:39 AM
Not sure how far this is going with cycing, as the crucial factor is missing, that being how the rider feels best able to sustain the effort.

I picture it more like superbike - you can have those 4cyl 750s screaming away, or those 1000cc twins rumbling at lower revs - they both give each other a run for the fuel. You try to get the twin at 14000rpm and see where you end up, similarly, try to get round the track on the 750 at 5000 and you won't get anywhere near the pace.

My experience is that bigger riders TEND to push a bigger gear than the smaller riders. I am in the former camp, and I can outride plenty of spinners, but cannot cruise at 110 for toffee. Similary, there are plenty of spinners that can toast me, but can't push 42x12 into a wind for love or money....
Think about it...JBurton
May 14, 2002 10:03 AM
Think about that split second longer it takes to respond with a shift rather than with a short burst with the legs. Also, if you are already spinning fast, spinning just a bit faster isn't that hard. But, if you are mashing, shifting up a gear will require you to mash even harder, which might be hard if you are near your max output. If you shift down a gear, then you will have to adjust your leg speed, which always slows you down a bit until you catch up. I'm not talking about breakaways here, where shifting up and standing is a requirement, both to execute them and to chase them, but say the next rider in the paceline pushes up that one more notch and you are in danger of being dropped off the back. Wouldn't you rather just speed your legs up a bit? It is easier when spinning faster.
I do the same.Leisure
May 14, 2002 2:35 PM
When I'm in the better phases of my season I also swap between more spinning or mashing to rest either my legs or heart, respectively. But it seems like the beginning of each season I have to work up to it all over again.
The other half of my story is that as I progress through each season I tend to move along a bit to the spinning side of the scale. Not Lance-style spinning or anything, but certainly higher cadence than where I start each season. That transition I think is probably where my resting HR begins to seriously drop, but before I've done all the mashing stuff spinning doesn't touch my resting HR, even if I'm spinning myself to death.
I think it's just like any sort of training, some parts of the system are taxed and then stimulated to grow, and many riders stand to benefit from investing some effort in each. But for some riders, myself specifically, if I haven't developed my leg size enough, for some reason it doesn't tax my cardio in some mysterious way that stimulates my cardio to improve.
re: Lance? who is Lance?cyclopathic
May 14, 2002 7:52 AM
/just kidding/

for most using lower RPM would be more efficient. RAAM racers ride at 50-60RPM. They don't train for it specifically, it just happens. At lower cadence you use higher % of slow twitching muscle, which is far more efficient in converting fuel to output. Spinning uses more secondary muscles, which have much higher % of fast twitching fiber.

THe drawback your power output is limited. Lance start spinning because he was at his max so he had 2 options either to grow more muscle (and weight) or increase cadence. Despite all training he probably less efficient at higher cadence then at lower, but he can put out more and that's what counts.
re: Lance? who is Lance?JBurton
May 14, 2002 9:56 AM
good point that Lance had to train for this. I wouldn't expect to see real gains training at a higher cadence in the first season...maybe not even in the second. You have to have patience. Genetics does have something to to with it, which is why Ullrich "mashes" compared to Lance. He is larger, and probably does have a higher percentage of slow twitch muscle.
from what I readcyclopathic
May 14, 2002 10:45 AM
he has disproportionally long femur (thighs) which result in higher strength. If he'd train to ride at higher cadence there would be noone to match his power.
That makes sense...JBurton
May 14, 2002 11:48 AM
He does seem to have rather long femurs. Maybe the fact that he isn't on the high cadence bandwagon is evidence of his supposed disillusionment with cycling. He may not have the commitment in him to convert his style. Not only that, but Lance had a couple of years off to perfect this new style (granted, a good bit of that was spent in bed or puking from treatments). Maybe now since his knee has been plaguing him, he will be forced to train in this way. Look out Lance!
Or maybe he'll join Sintessi's revolution! (nm)Kristin
May 14, 2002 12:23 PM
sorry for the massacre (nm)Kristin
May 14, 2002 12:27 PM