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Clydesdales/Athenas (200+ lb / 91+ kg) Looking to lose that spare tire? Ideal weight 200+? Frustrated being a large cyclist in a sport geared for the ultra-light? Learn about the bikes and parts that can take the abuse of a heavier cyclist, how to keep your body going while losing the weight, and get support from others who've been successful.

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Old 06-14-11, 07:53 PM   #1
Mithrandir
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High cadence issues related to being a clyde

Hello folks!

So the other day someone on this forum pointed out to me that my 70rpm cadence was actually low, despite me thinking it was high. I went out and purchased a cadence monitor so I could get feedback in real time about my cadence (I originally calculated it by calculating tire size + gear ratio at my cruising speed... not something you can crunch in your head in real-time, heh).


Anyway, so today I took a 25 mile ride and during the ride I made a concentrated effort to stay above 70rpm. I could handle 75 with no problem, just have to keep in a lower gear, but when I reached 80, that's when problems started happening.

Basically, I felt sloppy. As a heavy guy, my legs are very massive compared to other people, so around 80 I felt the momentum of my legs lifting my whole body out of the seat on every pedal stroke, threatening my balance. In addition to that, (and not to be too graphic here, but I think it's something many of us here know about) there's actually still quite a bit of fat on my thighs so during each stroke I could feel it whipping up and down rapidly, and it was a pretty uncomfortable feeling.

Has anyone dealt with these issues before? Should I lay off the high cadence stuff until I slim down some more, or should I keep at it? Other posters seemed to imply that shooting for 110 cadence is a good goal, but honestly I am not sure that's such a great idea... Any ideas?
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Old 06-14-11, 08:00 PM   #2
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No, high cadence takes practice. I' a really big super strong guy with huge thigh muscles and very powerful and I keep about 95. It takes practice but you need to keep form in mind while heading toward your goal. Practice in one minute intervals if you have to. Good form comes with practice. I have huge powerful legs made for crushing bike components so if I can do it, so can you!

I used to practice trying to hold one minute intervals at 100rpm. You must concentrate on avoiding the bounce.
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Old 06-14-11, 08:48 PM   #3
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Yep, check out track sprinters: Gigantic legs, and they can spin up around 200rpm in a 1000m race. It's all about practicing not to bounce. Gotta work at smoothing out your pedal stroke to keep from popping yourself up on the upstroke.
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Old 06-15-11, 03:17 AM   #4
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Something else that "may" cause the bounce, or at least contribute to it, is saddle height. Make sure yours is raised high enough.
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Old 06-15-11, 04:10 AM   #5
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I felt exactly like you. This winter on the trainer I focused on getting cadence up. It made me more efficent. A mind game that helped me is imagining that my feet felt light on the pedals.I also think that higher cadence recruits more leg muscles. You actually lift your leg on the up stroke instead of using the other leg to push it up. It will take time. Don't know about the bouncing. I run 80-90 normally and average 75-80 on longer rides. I think running above 90 for very long requires clipless but I really don't like the idea of zero speed falls.

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Old 06-15-11, 06:15 AM   #6
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You're going to get both opinions here: aim for a high cadence, and don't worry about a low cadence.

In the long run, a higher cadence is more beneficial. If you can handle it, give it a try. Do have someone check your saddle height, too. In order to get used to a cadence of 90rpm, try doing workout intervals at 110rpm. It'll make 90 seem easy.

But, if you're uncomfortable with how your legs feel, and it stops you from riding, then aiming for a higher cadence would be a bad thing. Perhaps you could wait to try when you lose a little more weight? The problem with this is: cadence becomes habitual. If you "learn to ride" with a low cadence, you just might always do that.

In the end, it's gonna be up to you.
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Old 06-15-11, 08:18 AM   #7
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There is a real simple rule for your cadence. If your legs are limiting your performance you can benefit from a higher cadence. If your lungs are limiting your performance you will do better with a slower cadence.

People always think what they are doing is best but what works for one person may not be best for another. I believe that everyone has a natural cadence that works best for them and it isn't always high. I tried for several years (very hard by-the-way) to increase my cadence but I always end up reverting back to my natural cadence(usually 80-90) when I'm racing. Probably because I'm racing and not paying attention. One advantage to my high cadence training is that I make a great tandem captain now because I can ride at a wide variety of cadences when I want to so I can accommodate myself to most stokers.
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Old 06-15-11, 08:49 AM   #8
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Tour de France winner Jan Ullrich used to grind out 80rpm in a high gear.
Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong used to spin at 110 in a lower gear.

You have to take into account your strength of heart/lungs and legs.
The mass of your legs (bone as well as muscle)
The length of your cranks: A small-legged rider can spin on short cranks. A tall rider will not spin as fast on his longer cranks but it doesn't matter.

It cant hurt to train your legs at a faster cadence but ride how you like.
To train at high cadence, forget all about power and speed, just spin against low resistance, ramping up the cadence over a few minutes until you are spinning stupid fast.
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Old 06-15-11, 09:04 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Homeyba View Post
There is a real simple rule for your cadence. If your legs are limiting your performance you can benefit from a higher cadence. If your lungs are limiting your performance you will do better with a slower cadence.
Exactly! Cadence is the way you trade-off muscular power against cardiovascular power. Lower cadence requires more leg strength/endurance. Higher cadence requires more cardiovascular strength/endurance. The "right" cadence depends on the person and the situation. When I'm riding on flat ground, my cadence is 90-100rpm. Climbing out of the saddle, I drop down to 60-70rpm (maybe lower on a really steep climb). Trying to spin at 120rpm like Lance Armstrong only works if you are Lance Armstrong...
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Old 06-15-11, 09:13 AM   #10
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I does take a a bit of practice to get a high cadence but like others have said you need to do what works for you. I agree with MichaelW and I think practicing a higher cadence is a good idea regardless of where your natural cadence is. I average about 90-95rpm for my rides and I start to feel myself "bounce" when I get above 110rpm (unless I really really focus then I can get about 115rpm) which has taken some work to get that high but it has payed off when I am racing down a hill to catch someone that passed me going up the hill.
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Old 06-15-11, 09:46 AM   #11
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I ride mostly singlespeed, between 65 and 70 gear inches. On flat ground with no headwind I like to keep about a 90rpm cadence.
However... When the wind picks up or the road tilts skyward, that number will drop. I think my cadence on the long climb on my route home bottomed out below 50. Maybe below 40. What's the rpm calculation for 70 gear inches and 8mph? Right around 40rpm, I think.
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Old 06-15-11, 10:58 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Mr. Beanz View Post
No, high cadence takes practice. .
I agree - I spin fairly high, around 90 rpms, but that took practice and years to perfect. Bouncing is a real issue and that generally means cadence is to high for the gearing. You have to play around with the right gear to keep yourself level on the seat and to avoid bouncing. That means, it will "hurt" a bit when you start to improve your cadence speed. You need to use a large enough gear so that there is some wattage being generated while you spin.

Interval training is the best way to improve. Take a short course, say 10 miles. Do one block at your normal cadence and then the next move the gearing up higher (harder)and try and spin alittle (don't try and go from 70 to 90 right away. 70 - 75 or 80 is better until you get the feel and hang for spinning) and then next block back off.

It's funny I try and slow my cadence at times but its hard for me I am used to such a high cadence for so many years. This is especially a nuisance while mountain biking when mashing at times (up steep technical terrain) is actually better. Between the two sports, I get alot of cross training!
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Old 06-15-11, 11:01 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Mithrandir View Post
Should I lay off the high cadence stuff until I slim down some more, or should I keep at it? Other posters seemed to imply that shooting for 110 cadence is a good goal, but honestly I am not sure that's such a great idea... Any ideas?
It's just like riding a bike: it takes a bit of time and practice to get the skill down, but, once you do, it's with you for life.

( Your saddle may be a bit too high, though? )
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Old 06-15-11, 11:12 AM   #14
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You can always do cadence drills.

get warmed up good, then shift to an easier gear and spin as fast as you can; until you start bouncing on the saddle,
then back off, just a hair; Maintain that for as long as you can, (it won't be long).

Recover at your normal pace, and then do it again.

Over time you will increse your normal cadence.


Everyone is not the same. Some will naturally be higher and some lower.
It takes some work to improve.
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