What's your optimum cadence?

andywood

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#1
What's your optimum cadence?

Generally speaking, I think most people experience a rise in their cadence as they take up cycling seriously until it reaches a plateau or their optimum cadence.

I think I'm quite normal in that in an average training ride I record an average cadence in the mid 80s. In races this is usually 90 plus, perhaps due to drafting benefits. In HC races I aim for 80 and a specific HR. This winter I've done rollers for the first time and have found anything less than 100 to feel a bit slack.

Incidentally, after hours of spinning high cadence on the rollers all winter I was expecting to be doing the same on the road but have found the opposite to be true, turning heavier gears at a lower cadence.

So the question is, "What's your optimum cadence?"

Andy

www.jyonnobitime.com/time
 
Jan 14, 2007
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japanichiban.com
#3
slow in the off season 80 to 90 and build it up closer to races... usually average 98 in a race but try to keep it at 100. 120++ in the sprint.

If I'm warmed up and training in a group I like to stick with 100.
 

GSAstuto

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#6
This is all very interesting to me - personally I think there is no particular 'optimum' cadence. But humans all share certain in-kind characteristics in their biomechanical engine that will lead to a commonality of data points. Here's an interesting white paper http://www.noncircularchainring.be/pdf/Biomechanical study - Project 003 Dead Centre.pdf

From proponents of non-circular chainrings, so it has some bias.

Biomechanics are pretty straightforward - though complicated when you dig deep:

1) Shorter periods of high effort tend to draw heavily on uni-directional muscles.
2) Shorter periods of high effort will be more anerobic in nature.
3) You can apply high effort most effectively to a longer stick. (and bigger ring)
4) Watts is where it counts. Quite simply sustained torque. (nm/s). Human body needs to be running in aerobic mode to have the highest AVERAGE wattage.

If you're climbing a short steep hill - you'll probably do a little better with longer cranks, slower cadence and bigger gear. If you're climbing a longer hill, then you may find smaller ring, higher cadence is more favorable.

Shorter cranks have less 'dwell' and favor higher RPM work effort. Longer cranks have longer 'dwell' and favor lower RPM work effort. But you need to look at the 'pin height' ratio as well. Again - this tends to mean that longer legged person will have similar dwell characteristics on longer cranks as a shorter legged person with shorter cranks.

Optimizing stroke. As you increase RPM you will start to experience 'float' where your muscles are decreasing in efficiency on the push stroke. So - to overcome this without unneccessarily loading your 'pushing muscles' , you shoudl train your 'pulling muscles'. This must be a conscious effort. That's why it's called 'training'. The same goes with further optimizing your transfer points at the top and bottom of the crank stroke. This is where ankling comes in. When everything is working together smoothly, then you should be able to actually decrease the individual muscle effort while sustaining even the same or higher average wattage at a given RPM. As the RPM drops - then you'll naturally start moving more into slow twitch and less cooperative muscle action. As the RPM increases, then you'll override your fasttwitch muscles and start to float. The torque curve will flatten and power output will start to fall off rapidly due to inefficiency.

Since all this works together - the elite athlete MUST devote a SERIOUS AMOUNT of time in TRAINING. This is in contradiction to JUST RIDING. TRAINIGN focuses on specific muscle activity to achieve a specific goalset.

This is why I was always in favor of the Agnostic Guide to Cycling. As it focused entirely on TRAINING and very little on RIDING. Nowadays , even better approaches are available, but they all lead to the same point. TRAIN your muscles to work cooperatively with least effort requierd to achieve a given power output. Once you have the training under the belt, then I think the choice of crank arm length starts to become even more interesting - but on a very personal nature.

My point here. Don't train to the cranksize. Apply the cranksize that matches your training. And then further, use the cranksize that matches the discipline or event you will undertake. At that point, you should be well trained enough to be able to utilize the difference in cranksize most effectively.
 

GSAstuto

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#7
Anyway - I'm a complete contradiction to my own words since I ride the worst possible combination of a bike for any sort of performance or efficiency other than a very narrow bandwidth. But hey, that's what makes cycling fun! And we all do this for many different reasons.
 

FarEast

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#8
Have to agree with Tim.

Many people that knowme and have ridden with me know I have a supper crazy ability to spin high cadence..... Best I've sustained is 188rpm for 5 minutes.... Keirin riders can do higher for longer.

But I lacked power last season so over the winter focused on building on that.... slow methodical pedal strokes with in 53-11 making sure every part of the stroke actually went into powering the bike. It felt more like gym work then riding. The results have been impressive with a huge jump wattage and sustained wattage, my sprints have also gained while little work was needed to refine my ability to spin.

I notice a lot of people get the start of the season off to a good start doing the LSD religously but after that they tend to get lost and contiune to ride with the empthasis on just increasing the speed of the ride rather than focusing on refining technique, cardio building, strength building and so on which doesn't require massive 200km rides or gut busting hills.

In fact some the bigest improvements I saw was on my 30km flat sprints.... 4 minutes full on in 53-11 and then 4 minutes recover..... keep repeating. I only did this twice per week with at least 2 days recovery between.
 

Sikochi

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#9
Not having a cadence sensor, I do the `count for 10 seconds and times by 6` approach and normally find I`m doing 13-14, sometimes 15 so 78-90.
I always find that if I go for a higher cadence my perceived effort levels shoot up - much harder breathing, higher heart rate. I could of course train specifically at a higher cadence to see whether my system adjusts but I`ve been riding so many years, I figure there must be a reason why I default back to this cadence range - I`ve always been lower cadence/higher gear, possibly from doing sprinting (athletics) when I was younger. I just like to `feel the gear` when I`m pedalling and I also don`t find pedalling fast enjoyable. Though I think my cadence was higher when I tried my recent time trial.

With my CAAD 9, I specced it with 165 cranks as the combination of my short legs/lower cadence/high gears was causing slight knee pain from what I figured was over-extension of the knee (on my old bike with 170 cranks). Supposedly having the shorter cranks is supposed to increase cadence, but I pedal the same cadence as before. Anyway, I have no knee-pain now so the 165`s serve their purpose.

PS: It was pointed out to me a while ago that all this high cadence malarkey has dovetailed very nicely with the EPO generation and now blood transfusions.
 
Dec 31, 2009
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#11
Wow

Nice piece GSAStuto! I have read so many books on training I cant keep track. They are all different and enjoyable. I have not touched fiction for years (unless it is fiction if the training doesnt work LOL) I cant wait to find this one! I hope I can find an old copy that has notes from another cyclist scrawled over it with coffee and blood stains garnishing a torn cover.

I had been attempting to train with higher cadence for 4 seasons. The one season I rode a track bike for early season base (varying cadence according to gear ratio and terrain) I gained the most power and climbing prowess. It seems to me that a mix of high cadence low power and low cadence great power while incorperating standing often has been building me up alot faster this year. ( I used to tell my self stay seated or be cheated and always sit even on the toughest climbs, but then realized whilst racing, bridging, climbing, sprinting and chasing I was standing very often so know I realize there is a great need to train these muscles as well as find a perfect balance relating to fit when standing on the pedals on a slope and sitting in the saddle on a level plane.... kops is a myth to sell bikes and satisfy the masses while anyone who has spent a decent amont of time on a bike has had to question its reasoning... sorry that is completly off subject)
And before messing around with any funny stuff I did my LSD for 8 weeks. Indoors I always do intervals and extremly high cadences and on long outside rides I just ride at whatever I feel will allow me to keep as much energy as possible (usually around 85 to 90 adv. in the southern alps territory) so I can simulate the end of the race pace at the end of my rides. On flat territory I adveradge around 100 to 110 if just riding and enjoying but if I am doing a TT specific workout it is much lower at around 80 to 85. I am a strong TT rider so I go for max power on every stroke if it is a short ride and I will go much higher cadence the longer the tt. To me using a high cadence is for storing energy. If I want to get across a short distance asap I will mash and stand and take no prisoners. It seems in every hill climb race I have ever done the stats are similar, I am using a low cadence and standing often so why not train like I race? So, this year instead of spinning all the time, and having no wins, I will see if my new formula can help me win. After all no one is the same so we all shouldnt train the same and what works for some will not work for others. I am FAR from an elite level performace, but have raced a fair amount (30+ finishes) so I am mostly just telling you what little info I have gathered based on what works for me.

I am 181 cm and ride 175 on my compact and 172.5 on my triple and 175 on my standard, been wanting to give a standard 180 a give though....

So I guess while pondering this very interesting subject that I am happy was threaded I will have to ask the thread berror to create categories for asking cadence levels for specific terrain as this is indeed an important aspect and the only true means to an end
 

GSAstuto

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#12
@Prorace - I really don't know shit compared to 90% of the great coaches and trainers out there. But I can say that James (FE) has his game largely together, IMO, and so do quite number of other TCC riders. In fact - I've rarely seen this level of riding in any club group, anywhere outside of very serious pro/pro-am crews. I'm learning so much, its great! But again, I have to stress, TRAIN TO A PURPOSE, HAVE A PLAN. Even you don't keep to the plan, just have it, dream it and think about it continuously. When you get to the inner game of it all you'll find its more meditation than anything. Imagine every step you take as a pedal stroke and get very very familiar with your muscle actions.

Just be purposeful and analytical in your approach. Be agile. If something is not working then adjust it - slightly - and go again. You really don't need to train for weeks or months to see the effects. That's the difference here. Use micro-cycles and agnostic shaping to get your peak points defined. Once you have base conditioning you can tweak the you-know-what out of your muscles to optimize for the event. This includes what attack zone(s) you plan to ride, power reserves, sterol recovery, ad infinitum. Adjusting crank-size and cadence is just a small part of the overall toolset you have at hand.
 

GSAstuto

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#13
Anyway - here's a ride (today's) I commonly do. Thanks to HFC Mike I finally got a GPS logger! http://ridewithgps.com/routes/327058 This is broken into 3 sections of training:

1) Ride out - mainly warm up and just get a smooth spin going - as much as possible given the traffic.

2) Low speed 'hiki' or tire pulling out and back. Standing position both ways. This is so I can work on pedal stroke and muscle behavior. Also so I can condition my upper body for longer periods out of the saddle.

3) Ride back at a brisk pace. I'm spinning pretty light gear (44/16) for this exercise so I can focus on keeping good spin rate generally above 100-110 rpm. Again, given traffic conditions.

The whole workout takes about 2.5hr and there is no wasted ride time. I never get into LAT or more than about 60-70% of my max power range. This is purely to develop pedaling and cadence along with exercise some neglected muscles. Recovery time is within hours - so I'm fresh to hit a different workout tomorrow.
 

andywood

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#14
Thanks guys. Makes interesting reading. Everyone seems to have what I consider high cadence. 100 plus seems pretty impressive. I did 70 km on the flat today averaging 87.

GSAstuto that is all interesting stuff. With regards to:

personally I think there is no particular 'optimum' cadence

What I wanted to get at was optimum cadence for the individual as opposd to cyclists in general. In hill climb races I've seen riders successful riding in the 70s and others in the 100s. Certainly, Armstrong's change to high cadence climbing was a big factor in his formation into a TDF champion.

I think based on a riders' physiology, there is an optimum cadence (specific to the individual) to ride at on the flats and on the climbs. In the most basic sense, you can ride the rollers at a fixed heart rate and play with your gears / cadence to find out what kicks out the best speed (ex: 53 x12 at 80, 53 x 13 at 85, 53 x 14 at 90 etc....)

In this sense, for me, aiming for a particular cadence on a particular terrain, is one of the most important things in bike racing.

ProRaceMechanic, with regards to:



I will have to ask the thread berror to create categories for asking cadence levels for specific terrain as this is indeed an important aspect and the only true means to an end


how about 1. flats, 2. rolling terrain and 3. hillclimbs

Andy

www.jyonnobitime.com/time