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In my own experiments, I can always put out the highest sustained power at very low RPM: 60-ish. So low that I am right on the hairy edge of not being able to turn it over at all. When I try higher RPMs, my power just falls off no matter how hard I try to spin.
I have always been a poor climber, So, I would just think it is my own lack of or faulty training, except that I know and ride with some truly excellent climbers who use both extremely low RPM and higher RPM. There are also certain examples in the pros who are effective at low RPM (Cadel Evans).
Also, I can never produce anywhere near the same power on the flats as I do climbing, even though I naturally do use a higher cadance on the flats.
So here is my question:
Is the cadance of maximum sustained power (like 20 minutes+) a genetic thing with wide variation, or is it a product of training ?
SHOULD I be trying to increase my climbing cadence, or SHOULD I just accept whatever cadence naturaly produces the highest power output and try to increase my power by traing at approximately that cadence ?
If it is a combination of both, then why is higher cadence "better". Why SHOULD I want to increase it ?
And is there data to support any of this, or is it just opinion and experience ?
I have been training and racing for many years, so it seems like I would have decided on an answer to this, and yet I still feel like I have no clue, only confusion.
Rick wrote:In my own experiments, I can always put out the highest sustained power at very low RPM: 60-ish. So low that I am right on the hairy edge of not being able to turn it over at all. When I try higher RPMs, my power just falls off no matter how hard I try to spin.
Is this perceived power or measured by a powermeter? There is a difference between kg load on the pedals and watt and hence the perceived power seem higher at lower cadences.
Higher cadence has a lower muscular cost and a higher cardiovascular cost. You need to put more kg of force in the pedals in order to produce the same watts on a lower cadence compared to a higher cadence.
A higher cadence helps clear out lactate better, and it puss less strain on joints and muscles and is therefore less likely to cause injury. Up until a point of course. After you reach a high enough cadence (individual limit due to genetics, training etc), you will not have coordination enough to make your legs pedal efficiently throughout the stroke and have fast enough musclecontractions, causing your joints to fly all over the place.
Part of the reason this bothers me is because I didn't have a power meter until a little over a year ago. If I had been going by perceived power I would definitely have thought my max power was at higher cadence. The fact that in repeated tests over the past year my power for anything over about 2 minutes is definitely higher at very low RPM is what has made me wonder about this.
And I realize that the conventional wisdom is that "Higher cadence has a lower muscular cost and a higher cardiovascular cost. " But when I am grinding away on a long hill I am pretty much pushing both my strength and cardiovascular limits simultaneously.
That is why I wonder if there is a reason to emphasize higher cadence, or if it is just a matter of continuing to push on the pedals harder at the "natural" cadence.
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Previous posters are right - over a 3 hour ride, the low cadence numbers do fall off. I always talk about this as my numbers (FTP) is good, but with no depth (long ride / lots of matches).
It's great to train high cadences (working on a smooth spin) and low cadence (working on the force side), but when it comes to going as fast as possible, the sweet spot may be different than it is for Contador or Nibali.
Sometimes I think that I can produce higher power at low RPM just because I am so close to "stalling" that I know I have to keep it up or stop entirely, so I get little adrenaline rushes that keep me turning it over. Whereas at higher rpm I can "relax" a little almost unnoticably....and reduce the pain a little...so I do. The difference between 90 rpm and 85 rpm isn't that much, and then the difference between 85 and 80 isn't that much....until I am at 60 RPM. I just wondered if there was some deeper insights from others with similar experience.
I'm the same I start a TT at ~85rpm and by the end I'm around ~70rpm avg being ~75rpm, years ago it used to be 85 - 100rpm if I try that now I blow up early.
Only difference now is I'm much more trained and putting out way more grunt, it's just done at a lower cadence, RR's are different and avg cadence varies alot but so are the demands of the races compared to iso efforts.
Is higher cadence merely a byproduct of superior fitness, or should one train at higher cadence to gain superior fitness ?
Or stated another way: If one has attained superior fitness, then do they generally producer max power at higher cadence, or can one be in peak fitness but still just naturally produce max power at low RPM ?
Should one attempt to increase cadence as an end-in-itself, or is cadence always just a secondary parameter to where max power is achieved ?
FTP is how hard you can go and CTL is how long you can go hard for.
Crank length, terrain, % of fast vs slow twitch muscle fiber you are born with and how much time you spend training at different cadences on different terrain will determine what cadence you choose when it's time to drop the hammer.
Also even though I may choose to TT at 75rpm, I also find that during some races I will choose to climb at ~95rpm for 10-20 min because I'm fresh and the the pace is not that high, it's below threshold, as the pace lifts my HR and PE rise therefore to stay in the game I'll need drop my cadence, many do this also, others choose to stay at the same rpm reguardless, doesn't mean they won't get dropped just because they climb or TT at a higher cadence than me or you.
I've been in many many races mostly handicaps here in Aus where guys are flying up climbs early on with what seems like insane ease and high rpm only to get dropped at the 120km - 140km mark when the going gets tuff and the real selections are made, so if high cadence is a measure of fitness something is off.
Of course I've been dropped many times myself due to lack of fitness not gear selection or cadence.
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