General Discussion Triathlon Talk » Does Cadence Really Matter? Rss Feed  
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2009-06-01 6:53 AM

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Master
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Southern Ontario
Subject: Does Cadence Really Matter?
Okay - please don't throw things...

I know that we are supposed to spin between 80-100 RPM and actually - one of the roadies I rode with on the Lung Association ride commented on my cadence being very low.  I'm not sure my chain and derailleur even know that there is a smaller chainring up front...I'm always on the larger chainring.

It's completely flat here.  There's lots of wind - but no hills.

Will pushing bigger gears with lower cadence really affect my riding?  If I can sustain speeds for extended periods of time - do I really have to change my riding style?  When I spin faster it makes me feel more tired.

Thanks!


2009-06-01 7:06 AM
in reply to: #2185663

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Subject: RE: Does Cadence Really Matter?
Lower cadence works the leg muscles more. High cadence works the cardiovascular system more. If you are stronger in one or the other, you want to improve the other during training but at race-time you benefit by pedaling at the cadence that best serves you. During long triathlons, if you get leg fatigue - you're toast. But, if you get winded, you can recover. I like a cadence of 100 - 110, as I can maximize my wattage at that cadence.

http://www.trifuel.com/triathlon/bike/cycling-cadence-and-pedaling-...
2009-06-01 7:24 AM
in reply to: #2185682

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Subject: RE: Does Cadence Really Matter?
greyg8r - 2009-06-01 8:06 AM Lower cadence works the leg muscles more. High cadence works the cardiovascular system more. If you are stronger in one or the other, you want to improve the other during training but at race-time you benefit by pedaling at the cadence that best serves you. During long triathlons, if you get leg fatigue - you're toast. But, if you get winded, you can recover. I like a cadence of 100 - 110, as I can maximize my wattage at that cadence. http://www.trifuel.com/triathlon/bike/cycling-cadence-and-pedaling-... />
True stuff. If your cadence is low, not only are you more likely to cook your legs for the run, but you'll have a much harder time on hills, accelerating out of turns, etc.

I personally find my optimum cadence is 85-90. Faster than that and my HR goes up with no increase in speed. Slower than that and my legs are quickly toast. When I'm recovering, like on a downhill or something, I'll go up to 90-100 just to shake out the legs a bit.

Take what I say with an appropriate grain of salt, though--I'm still a slow triathlete but I come from a road cycling/racing background, so despite my horrible runs and swims I can turn a decent bike split.

Edited by DrPete 2009-06-01 7:25 AM
2009-06-01 8:15 AM
in reply to: #2185663

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Coach
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Boston, MA
Subject: RE: Does Cadence Really Matter?
Silver_wlf - 2009-06-01 6:53 AM Okay - please don't throw things...

I know that we are supposed to spin between 80-100 RPM and actually - one of the roadies I rode with on the Lung Association ride commented on my cadence being very low.  I'm not sure my chain and derailleur even know that there is a smaller chainring up front...I'm always on the larger chainring.

It's completely flat here.  There's lots of wind - but no hills.

Will pushing bigger gears with lower cadence really affect my riding?  If I can sustain speeds for extended periods of time - do I really have to change my riding style?  When I spin faster it makes me feel more tired.

Thanks!
As long as you are around the range you posted the answer is: not really. You will self-select your natural cadence the more you ride and based on the riding conditions, speed and gearing. Of course it is always better to prep your yourself (specific training) and bike (gearing) to allow you pedal at your optimal cadence in all conditions. Some athletes have lower cadences (i.e. 80rpm) and still run very well of the bike and others do the same with higher cadence.

The available research suggests cadence is a function of power hence the more work rate you generate in general the higher your cadence will be but what's optimal for me it might not work for you. Another thing to consider is matching biking and running cadence; while there is not evidence supporting this, it is believed if you can pedal at the same cadence you run it will help you perform better on the latter, but as I said it is more of a theory. In the end see what works for you; if you can pedal at 'x' cadence posting a solid split and still have plenty of energy to run off the bike at a solid pace then that's what really matters.
2009-06-01 11:49 AM
in reply to: #2185663

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Pro
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Subject: RE: Does Cadence Really Matter?
So what is your ~cadence?  I take it you don't have a cadence meter, so have you checked by doing 30 or 60 sec counts at all?

It's completely flat and also windy where I live too (FL) and I'm the opposite, my chain and deraileur don't spend a lot of time in the big ring! Over the years my natural cadence has risen to ~95-105 rpms on sustained rides.  Lower and I tire more quickly. With a 39/14 combo at 100 rpms I'm good for 22mph, if wind aided or sustained down slopes only then do things change (btw I ride  a 13-25 cassette).  When I started tri training in 2003 on my MTB my cadence was in the 60's and 70's.  Within the first two weeks of being on BT in 04 I found articles and threads on this subject and started experimenting with increasing my cadence.  I immediately picked up speed and was able to sustain it longer.  I find I pass a lot more people with lower cadences on hills (bridges and the handful of hills we have) maintaining the higher RPM.  

That being said, I know two people that crank along at 75-80 rpms all day long.  All I know is that we are each given certain percentages of muscle fiber types (Type 1 (slow twitch), Type 2 A /B (fast twitch)).  True or not, I've read that Type 2B can be influenced through endurance training to become Type 2A acting fiber (based on biopsies of elite endurance athletes as stated here).

So what's this mean for you.  Perhaps after your season is done you can adapt a training plan to include more higher RPM training.  Like anything it all takes time to see effects form training.  Perhaps it would be best to use or ask a coach that is familiar with your type of physiology.

2009-07-23 5:30 PM
in reply to: #2185663

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Master
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Subject: RE: Does Cadence Really Matter?
I had my first ride with my cadence sensor, and it was an eye opener.
My average speed was the same, but my heart rate was 20+ bpm higher.

I want to see what how my legs feel tomorrow.


2009-07-23 11:31 PM
in reply to: #2185663

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Master
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Subject: RE: Does Cadence Really Matter?
I was listening to a podcast today where they interviewed one of the top female Ironman triathletes ( I listened to a few so I forget exactly who) but she said she almost always rides at cadence of 65 on big rings. I was a little surprised but whatever works best.
2009-07-24 8:42 AM
in reply to: #2305102

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Master
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Breckenridge, CO
Subject: RE: Does Cadence Really Matter?
losta - 2009-07-23 10:31 PM
I was listening to a podcast today where they interviewed one of the top female Ironman triathletes ( I listened to a few so I forget exactly who) but she said she almost always rides at cadence of 65 on big rings. I was a little surprised but whatever works best.


The best climber that I personally know has a very low cadence while climbing. It appears to be around 60-65. And these aren't 100' foot climbs. Where he lives is surrounded by 2000-4000 foot continuous climbs. He grinds up them in a huge gear and can do it on multi-hour climbing rides, day after day (and then pull off a 10 mile run at 6:30 pace afterwards).

As has been said above, your body naturally selects its most efficient cadence and so no, IMO, generally it doesn't really matter. "Calories and cadence" are what I've noticed beginning cyclists being overly concerned with. IMO, they should be concerned with:

* speed (riding the same routes faster. High cadence, low cadence, doesn't matter.)
* endurance (holding that speed for longer and longer distances eventually up to and exceeding their race distances.)
* recovery (being able to do tough rides day-after-day without significant performance degradation).
2009-07-24 10:16 AM
in reply to: #2185663

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Subject: RE: Does Cadence Really Matter?
For a race and much of your training I would agree that you should go with whatever seems to work best for you. However, if it were me, I would occasionally work on an area that gave me trouble. If I almost always ride with a low cadence then I would work on spinning that up sometimes, and if I was a natural spinner then I'd try some big gear efforts now and then. I'm usually between 85 and 95 myself but I'm also comfortable getting down towards 60 on a climb or up over 120 during short accelerations.
2009-07-24 11:23 AM
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Subject: RE: Does Cadence Really Matter?
I typically ride between 95-105 depending on the terrain. As others have said everyone is different and need to find their own sweet spot.

I wanted to add that I think it is important to explore different cadence and gears from time to time though so you do not fall into what feels good but may not be the fastest. I do one shorter, higher intensity ride a week were I try different combinations searching for speed. Sometimes when I get outside my comfort zone I'll pick up an extra mph or two. That may mean climbing a familiar hill one gear lower reducing my cadence and seeing what happens or dropping down a gear and increasing my cadence. I've only been riding for about a year and a half so I am still learning. There may be other cyclists out there that have this all figured out but I learn by trying new things.
2009-07-24 12:05 PM
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2009-07-24 12:07 PM
in reply to: #2305437

Champion
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Subject: RE: Does Cadence Really Matter?
breckview - 2009-07-24 8:42 AM

losta - 2009-07-23 10:31 PM
I was listening to a podcast today where they interviewed one of the top female Ironman triathletes ( I listened to a few so I forget exactly who) but she said she almost always rides at cadence of 65 on big rings. I was a little surprised but whatever works best.


The best climber that I personally know has a very low cadence while climbing. It appears to be around 60-65. And these aren't 100' foot climbs. Where he lives is surrounded by 2000-4000 foot continuous climbs. He grinds up them in a huge gear and can do it on multi-hour climbing rides, day after day (and then pull off a 10 mile run at 6:30 pace afterwards).

As has been said above, your body naturally selects its most efficient cadence and so no, IMO, generally it doesn't really matter. "Calories and cadence" are what I've noticed beginning cyclists being overly concerned with. IMO, they should be concerned with:

* speed (riding the same routes faster. High cadence, low cadence, doesn't matter.)
* endurance (holding that speed for longer and longer distances eventually up to and exceeding their race distances.)
* recovery (being able to do tough rides day-after-day without significant performance degradation).


Well, I disagree with this... only because as a new rider, I was COMPLETELY LOST as to what gear to be in... and when to be in that gear, until I started watching my cadence.

I would just get out there, put it in a gear and mash away. I had no clue what gearing did what... I was LOST!

Then I got a cadence meter on my bike computer, AFTER I got severe knee pain from mashing... and the gearing made sense!

I then started keeping my cadence at 90-100 and knew when to shift based on my cadence. Shift up if I was above 100 cadence... shift down if I was below 90 cadence.

The cadence meter is what made the light go off in my head. AND if the bike shop guy hadn't said, "OH, cadence is ONLY for RACERS- you don't need it"... I probably would have been spared knee pain on the bike and being lost for a good 6 months on when to shift.


2009-07-24 12:28 PM
in reply to: #2185663

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Toledo
Subject: RE: Does Cadence Really Matter?
I am reading these and trying to follow along... cadence is the number of times you pedal per minute? I am super new to this and have ran and swam before but this bike stuff is jibberish to me! Should I have some kind of a goal for when I bike? I just read a post about someone's knees hurting and I'm thinking.... ouch, my knees kinda hurt after my ride the other day!
2009-07-24 1:24 PM
in reply to: #2306026

Champion
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Subject: RE: Does Cadence Really Matter?
Jessie15 - 2009-07-24 1:28 PM I am reading these and trying to follow along... cadence is the number of times you pedal per minute? I am super new to this and have ran and swam before but this bike stuff is jibberish to me! Should I have some kind of a goal for when I bike? I just read a post about someone's knees hurting and I'm thinking.... ouch, my knees kinda hurt after my ride the other day!


Yes, cadence = revolutions (of the crank) per minute.

If your knees hurt, I'd suspect your fit on the bike or your pedaling technique rather than your cadence as the likely culprit.
2009-07-24 1:35 PM
in reply to: #2306195

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Subject: RE: Does Cadence Really Matter?
Experior - 2009-07-24 12:24 PM
Jessie15 - 2009-07-24 1:28 PM I am reading these and trying to follow along... cadence is the number of times you pedal per minute? I am super new to this and have ran and swam before but this bike stuff is jibberish to me! Should I have some kind of a goal for when I bike? I just read a post about someone's knees hurting and I'm thinking.... ouch, my knees kinda hurt after my ride the other day!


Yes, cadence = revolutions (of the crank) per minute.

If your knees hurt, I'd suspect your fit on the bike or your pedaling technique rather than your cadence as the likely culprit.
I think that some people that push too big of a gear (low cadence) put more strain on their knees and can get knee pain even if their fit is fine.
2009-07-24 1:54 PM
in reply to: #2305955

Master
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Breckenridge, CO
Subject: RE: Does Cadence Really Matter?
KSH - 2009-07-24 11:07 AM
Well, I disagree with this... only because as a new rider, I was COMPLETELY LOST as to what gear to be in... and when to be in that gear, until I started watching my cadence.

I would just get out there, put it in a gear and mash away. I had no clue what gearing did what... I was LOST!

Then I got a cadence meter on my bike computer, AFTER I got severe knee pain from mashing... and the gearing made sense!

I then started keeping my cadence at 90-100 and knew when to shift based on my cadence. Shift up if I was above 100 cadence... shift down if I was below 90 cadence.

The cadence meter is what made the light go off in my head. AND if the bike shop guy hadn't said, "OH, cadence is ONLY for RACERS- you don't need it"... I probably would have been spared knee pain on the bike and being lost for a good 6 months on when to shift.


That's why I said (and bolded) "generally". IMO, most beginners, even if they got zero instruction on gearing, wouldn't go six months with knee pain mashing a big gear. They'd see other cyclists and wonder why those cyclists' pedal stroke was faster and they'd also probably feel uncomfortable in those big gears, shift to an easier gear, and think "that feels better".

Honestly, I can't imagine using a cadence display to choose gears. I move to gears based on many inputs but my current cadence is never one of them...

Edited by breckview 2009-07-24 1:56 PM


2009-07-24 1:58 PM
in reply to: #2185663

Elite
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Miami
Subject: RE: Does Cadence Really Matter?
lowest cadence possible, big chain in the front, smallest in the rear and i go....

i can pull at 30+ mph for 3-4 miles after that i need to recover for a min or two.
2009-07-24 2:15 PM
in reply to: #2306262

Champion
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Dallas, TX
Subject: RE: Does Cadence Really Matter?
breckview - 2009-07-24 1:54 PM

KSH - 2009-07-24 11:07 AM
Well, I disagree with this... only because as a new rider, I was COMPLETELY LOST as to what gear to be in... and when to be in that gear, until I started watching my cadence.

I would just get out there, put it in a gear and mash away. I had no clue what gearing did what... I was LOST!

Then I got a cadence meter on my bike computer, AFTER I got severe knee pain from mashing... and the gearing made sense!

I then started keeping my cadence at 90-100 and knew when to shift based on my cadence. Shift up if I was above 100 cadence... shift down if I was below 90 cadence.

The cadence meter is what made the light go off in my head. AND if the bike shop guy hadn't said, "OH, cadence is ONLY for RACERS- you don't need it"... I probably would have been spared knee pain on the bike and being lost for a good 6 months on when to shift.


That's why I said (and bolded) "generally". IMO, most beginners, even if they got zero instruction on gearing, wouldn't go six months with knee pain mashing a big gear. They'd see other cyclists and wonder why those cyclists' pedal stroke was faster and they'd also probably feel uncomfortable in those big gears, shift to an easier gear, and think "that feels better".

Honestly, I can't imagine using a cadence display to choose gears. I move to gears based on many inputs but my current cadence is never one of them...


Well I'm guess I'm a dumb duck. Without a computer with cadence, and no one EXPLAINING it to me... I didn't have a clue. Someone tried to talk to me about it, in the middle of a ride and I was like "what?". I needed a computer to tell me what my cadence was.

I had knee pain for about 2 weeks when I went to go fix it. I tried cleat placement, and finally switched pedals. I also learned more about cadence and got a bike computer with that reading on it.

I was LOST on when to shift for a good 6 months.

Cadence and knowing when to shift... when you are first learning makes sense. Sorry you don't see it that way. If your cadence is low, make it easier to pedal by shifting! Etc.

When I didn't have cadence I was just shifting all over the place.

Now, 5 years later... I can ride without cadence and I know when to shift w/out looking at my cadence meter. But my first year, yeah, I needed it.



2009-07-24 4:20 PM
in reply to: #2306327

Master
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Breckenridge, CO
Subject: RE: Does Cadence Really Matter?
KSH - 2009-07-24 1:15 PM
Cadence and knowing when to shift... when you are first learning makes sense. Sorry you don't see it that way. If your cadence is low, make it easier to pedal by shifting! Etc.

When someone is learning I'd think that using the gears to maintain a constant effort makes sense.

I usually shift to a lower gear before my cadence drops by anticipating the terrain ahead of me. The only time I'll let my cadence drop is when I plan on getting out-of-the-saddle and trying to maintain the higher gear by alternating in/out of the saddle. But everybody's different and has different styles and preferences.

I didn't mean to imply that you were dumb. Solutions to hard problems often look easy after the problem is solved.
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