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    What's your cadence when you climb?

    I have a history of knee problems and I read that to save my knees I should be cycling at 90-100 RPM. Well I installed my spiffy new cyclocomputer yesterday with cadence and wow, 90 rpm is a lot faster than I realized. When I try to keep up 90 I am definitely faster with less effort on the flats but climbing just feels awkward. I have to shift into a couple of gears lower than I'm used to and then I'm spinning so fast with so little resistance that I'm bouncing around in the saddle.

    Am I missing something? Does the 90 rpm recommendation not apply to climbing?

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    Senior Member socalrider's Avatar
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    90rpm does not apply to climbing at all, especially for clydes.. The high spin mode of riding on the flats is fine.. 90-100rpms being ideal.. When you climb depending on the grade you will be between 50-70rpm's..

    Because of the Lance affect, people think that 90rpms on a climb is the norm, it is not. In order to maintain rpms above 70rpms you need to have an incredible base of fitness, which Lance has and 99% of us on BF do not..

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    I definitely have no expectations of being Lance, my main concern is pedaling in the most efficient way possible and saving my knees. But I guess what's efficient for someone in great shape is different than what's efficient for us normal folks? I definitely feel more comfortable climbing in the 60-75 range, but initial comfort over something I'm not used to is not always a good indicator of what is best.

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    i would say bump it up a gear or two and see how your knees feel.

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    I like to change it up on long climbs - if my legs hurt, I'll go for the easier gears and spin a bit. If I'm having trouble catching my breath, sometimes going for a harder gear and slowing my cadence down actually helps. My average on long climbs steeper than 5% is probably around 70rpm. On steeper stuff, my cadence can drop even lower - I averaged just under 4mph climbing Sierra Road, which is just under 4 miles long (yup, it took an hour). I don't know what my cadence was, but if I'd gone any slower I think I would have fallen over. This climb is Cat 1 in the Tour of California, and averages about 10% over the 4 miles. For perspective, the pros in the Tour of California climb it in well under 20 minutes, although more than a few did look like they were suffering on it.

    JB

    edit - I just went to the Sheldon Brown gear calculator, and at 4mph in my easiest gear (34-30) I was averaging between 50 and 60 rpm. Obviously not ideal - but I made it up that damn hill without stopping.
    Last edited by jonathanb715; 08-11-10 at 11:45 AM.
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    Senior Member damnpoor's Avatar
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    For just cruising around I try to find a gear that puts me at 85-90 rpm. For high speed runs it gets up to about 110. On hills though it's often in the low 70s. I've found that below 65 it gets increasingly difficult to maintain smooth circular pedal strokes. Sometimes there's nothing you can do about that. Anything >65 works out pretty well.
    Last edited by damnpoor; 08-10-10 at 11:46 PM. Reason: spelling

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    I was climbing around a 65 cadence today, but it was up a 10% grade on a full size (39t) crank.

    I would have much preferred to be at 70 to 80 cadence, or even 90 if possible, but I ran out of gears.

    Moral of the story, if you are worried about your knees, and you would like to climb at a higher cadence, you don't need the fitness of Lance.

    What you need is a 34t compact crank w/ a 28t cassette.
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    Senior Member JonnyHK's Avatar
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    I've got enough gears (compact crank 34 with a 28t cassette) to spin it out to 90 on the steeper hills, but my sweet spot for longer climbs is a bit slower - closer to the 70 range (down to the 26 or 25).

    The smaller guys all spin a bit more than me when we are in a group doing the same climb at the same speed.

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    Glad you bring this up. I've been working on my cadence for the past couple of weeks and here are my personal findings. On relatively flat roads, I feel most comfortable between 88 and 95 rpms depending on the road itself. On climbs I concentrate on smooth rotations and keep my cadence around 78 to 84 rpms. I try to keep it in the low 80's but smooth rotations are really the key. My legs feel fresh after climbs now. I used to have horrible form and would wear my legs out trying to power through the climbs.

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    Senior Member jr59's Avatar
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    I don't think there is a correct answer. What happens when you stand up?

    Spinning a high cadence is great IF you can do it! Mere mortals, or biggger guys have trouble keeping a 70-80 cadence up a longer type of hill.

    I would answer, whatever gets you up the climb without pain.

    @ crazy, the hills of the ATL are mostly short steep roller type of hills. If you can go up to Rome or Gainsville Ga and climb at 80+ rpm, you are MUCH better than most will ever be.
    BTW: I miss the rides in ATL! Not the ones in N Ga.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nycphotography View Post
    What you need is a 34t compact crank w/ a 28t cassette.
    Oh, I've got the gears. Due to budgetary constraints my only bike is my mountain bike with an 11-32T cassette and a 44/32/22 crank. Today I kept it closer to 70 and felt better. That's still considerably faster than I was before I got my cadence meter, but not so fast in the low gear that I feel like I'm going to bounce off the saddle. I just wasn't sure if more experienced riders prioritized keeping the cadence up over comfort or it was something I'd just get used to.

    Thanks for all the advice.

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    The hills around here (some are only hundred or so feet per mile, but at 5500+ feet elevation, it's no fun!) I bounce anywhere between the mid 40's rpm, to 60's-70's depending on how I feel that ride, wind, heat, etc. None of the hills are under a half mile, with most climbs over a mile or more. I try my best NOT to use to last gear, so mentally I have a "bailout" if I need it.

    I'm still working on it, but my sole goal of every climb is to make it to the top. And I do.

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    Interesting.. I must be doing it wrong. I run a cadence of 75-80 on the flats and then jack it up to 85-90 on hills. It may just be in my head, but I feel like I climb better (sitting down) with a higher cadence. Mostly everyone that posted here climbs at a lower cadence then the flats... 85-90 doesn't tax my aerobic system too much, yet still allows me to keep the resistance fairly low.
    Long story short, I see a hill, drop a couple gears and spin up it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by grandjeanius View Post
    Interesting.. I must be doing it wrong. I run a cadence of 75-80 on the flats and then jack it up to 85-90 on hills. It may just be in my head, but I feel like I climb better (sitting down) with a higher cadence. Mostly everyone that posted here climbs at a lower cadence then the flats... 85-90 doesn't tax my aerobic system too much, yet still allows me to keep the resistance fairly low.
    Long story short, I see a hill, drop a couple gears and spin up it.
    i'm in a similar boat on this. I dont understand this talk about high cadence revving up the cardio system. I guess its because I come from a background of playing basketbal, football, and baseball, high cadence never gets my heartrate through the roof so i gear low and go

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    Have bike, will travel Barrettscv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by socalrider View Post
    90rpm does not apply to climbing at all, especially for clydes.. The high spin mode of riding on the flats is fine.. 90-100rpms being ideal.. When you climb depending on the grade you will be between 50-70rpm's..

    Because of the Lance affect, people think that 90rpms on a climb is the norm, it is not. In order to maintain rpms above 70rpms you need to have an incredible base of fitness, which Lance has and 99% of us on BF do not..
    I also agree with this. My hills are short ( 1 mile ) and steep (15 to 22%). Producing power while keeping my heart-rate under 160bpm is my goal on longer rides.

    I try to turn the cranks while seated in the 60 to 80 rpm range. On the very steep stuff, I’ll spin smoothly as slow as 40 rpm while seated. I'll stand also, just to use another set of muscles and increase circulation (you-know-where).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Barrettscv View Post
    I also agree with this. My hills are short ( 1 mile ) and steep (15 to 22%). Producing power while keeping my heart-rate under 160bpm is my goal on longer rides.

    I try to turn the cranks while seated in the 60 to 80 rpm range. On the very steep stuff, I’ll spin smoothly as slow as 40 rpm while seated. I'll stand also, just to use another set of muscles and increase circulation (you-know-where).

    Holy crap! I don't think I'd like a hill with a 15% grade, much less a 22% grade! I can't imagine me being able to get up that at all. That's like what, 1000 feet of climbing for every mile or so?! No thank you.

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    Quote Originally Posted by asforme View Post
    Oh, I've got the gears. Due to budgetary constraints my only bike is my mountain bike with an 11-32T cassette and a 44/32/22 crank. Today I kept it closer to 70 and felt better. That's still considerably faster than I was before I got my cadence meter, but not so fast in the low gear that I feel like I'm going to bounce off the saddle. I just wasn't sure if more experienced riders prioritized keeping the cadence up over comfort or it was something I'd just get used to.

    Thanks for all the advice.
    Ah, another clue. If you're bouncing at higher cadence, then your seat is probably too low.
    5 out of 5 people think the other 4 are idiots. - me
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    Quote Originally Posted by socalrider View Post
    90rpm does not apply to climbing at all, especially for clydes.. The high spin mode of riding on the flats is fine.. 90-100rpms being ideal.. When you climb depending on the grade you will be between 50-70rpm's..

    Because of the Lance affect, people think that 90rpms on a climb is the norm, it is not.
    I'd say 90 rpms in a climb is the ideal to shoot for ... but whatever you wind up with is fine. On a long, but gentle climb, less than 5 %, I'll spin at 90 rpms and go 20 mph. Once the grade picks up, though, even a little bit, it slows me down a lot. On a moderately steep ( around 8 % ) hill I'll slow to down to 60 to 70 pretty quickly, but manage to keep the pedals spinning in the low end of this range. As the hills get steeper, I do worse; a lot of the hills in my neighborhood reduce me to 35 rpms or so, struggling my way up in the granny gear.

    The big, bad hills that have me slowly mashing on the pedals, put all the strain from the effort on the leg muscles and the knees. The gentler ones and the flats are easy on the legs, because they shift the burden onto your heart and lungs ( CV system ).
    Don't believe everything you think.

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    As far as pros go Lance is a Clyde and he spins faster than most pros up hills, so I believe high rpm is the way for clydes to take hills. I try to spin 90 at the bottom, but when I run out of breath I shift up 3 gears and stand on the pedals for half a minute or so. By the time I get to the top I dont try and maintain any cadence but am just happy to still be moving.

  20. #20
    The cat says Merry Xmas Pamestique's Avatar
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    Of course alot of this depends on the gearing on your bike. I have very low gears (I used a mountain bike cassette and derailleur) and so can spin up most stuff. I like a high cadance (90-95) and try to stay at that range even while going up hills but... if the grade is steep and long I do what is comfortable. There is no set formula for getting a Clyde up hill. You just get yourself up one as best as possible. If I weighed 120 lbs I'm sure I would be able to maintain my high cadence, but I don't. It's not usually to fall down into the 60, or maybe even lower, when the going gets tough. But bottom line, I get up the hill. That's what is important.
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    The cat says Merry Xmas Pamestique's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by grandjeanius View Post
    Interesting.. I must be doing it wrong. I run a cadence of 75-80 on the flats and then jack it up to 85-90 on hills. It may just be in my head, but I feel like I climb better (sitting down) with a higher cadence. Mostly everyone that posted here climbs at a lower cadence then the flats... 85-90 doesn't tax my aerobic system too much, yet still allows me to keep the resistance fairly low.
    Long story short, I see a hill, drop a couple gears and spin up it.
    If you can do that, those are't hills but instead are bumps. I can power up most bumps. The hills here can be steep ( 5 - 10%) and very long (going 10 - 15 miles at times and in the case of Bear Mountain for instance, 30 - 40 miles). You would blow out your heart and your knees trying to maintain a high cadence up anything pass several hundred yards or so.

    The actually key to climbing is to attack a short hill but "rest" up one that is long. Put the gearing low and maintain an easy not stained cadence. I sometimes start in a low gear but once I hit a comfortable stride, will move the gearing up higher. The point is to 1) keep the bike moving forward and 2) not run out of stream.
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    Senior Member jr59's Avatar
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    Everyone defines hills differently !

    To me my mount levee is 20ft high and 40ft long. When I lived in ATL. I had a BUNCH of steep rollers.

    I thought I was tough, I moved to Denver, they have hills and long climbs there.

    The guys who waited for me on every ride, (god bless them), told me they wouldn't ride in Boulder.
    Heck I rode around Denver and wondered what was I doing.

    The point is that for some, a short hill is a mountain, for some, the mountain, is a small hill.

    There is no easy way up those hills, or any hills. You just try, and HTFU up the hill the best you can.
    If I could spin 80-90 rpm's up a 5 mile climb, belive me I would. I can't so I don't, I may have a 30 rpm, but I won't give up and I'll make it. When I do, I feel great, after puking that is. If I can, I will go back the next day and try that SOB again, and after a while, that hill doesn't seem so big.

    Just keep on turning the cranks, the top is coming.

    BTW: I think everyone would like to climb better That includes Lance, Contador and Schleck.
    Last edited by jr59; 08-12-10 at 12:24 PM.

  23. #23
    Have bike, will travel Barrettscv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by abqtj View Post
    Holy crap! I don't think I'd like a hill with a 15% grade, much less a 22% grade! I can't imagine me being able to get up that at all. That's like what, 1000 feet of climbing for every mile or so?! No thank you.


    Most of these hills are 200 to 800 vertical, the climbing last from 200 yards to 2 miles. The longer ones average 10-15% but have 16 to 22% grades in them for 100 yards or more.

    You might be shocked to know that I'm describing a corner of SW Wisconsin!

    We have three challenge events known collectively as the Horribly Insane Dare.

    Horribly Hilly Hundreds: http://www.horriblyhilly.com/course.html
    “The 200K version of the HHH offers 124.2 miles of wonderful riding… and a total of 10,700 feet of elevation gain”.
    “The 100K ride offers a very challenging opportunity to test your riding skills, with 5,700 feet of elevation gain over 67.1 miles”.

    Insane Terrain Challenge: http://www.vikingbikingclub.com/insa...rain/about.htm
    Provides 12,400 ft of climbing over 121 miles.

    Dairyland Dare: http://www.dairylanddare.com/routes.html
    50, 100, 150, 200, 250 and 300k distances. The 100k provides 6,519 ft of climbing. The 200k provides 13,547 ft of climbing
    Last edited by Barrettscv; 08-12-10 at 12:14 PM.

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    There is no such thing as the perfect cadence that works for everybody. Everyones physiology is different. Just because Lance does it doesn't mean that it will work for everyone. Why not emulate Jan Ulrich??? Just because he was 30 seconds slower up Alp D'uez means that 90rpm is better than 80rpm for everyone???? Doesn't make much sense to me.

    Because everyone has a different physiology they also have different optimal cadences. Sure you can "train" yourself to have a higher cadence if you are having an issue like knee problems on steeper climbs. Climbing can put a lot of pressure on the knee. Changing your cadence in that situation makes sense but if you are not having a problem why change? The objective here should be to find the optimum cadence for your riding style not Lances or some other pro rider. Changing your cadence may make you faster or it may make you slower. The only way to find out for sure is to actually keep track of your training. With a little time and effort you will know what is your optimum cadence, not what someone else says it should be.
    It doesn't get harder, you just go slower.

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    On long 20 mile climbs, I spin my 39/25 at about 120 rpm.















    Not really, I really don't keep track but I'd guess 65'ish.

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