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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 10-20-11, 12:42 PM   #1
Push
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Why worry about such things...?

I am curious so please don't take this as anything other than that, I was reading the post by Allen55 on the topic of cadence, not wanting to derail his thread I thought I would start one and ask because as I was reading I found myself thinking "whats the difference really?"

It seems like its important just because we can... and what I mean by that is that I have been riding for the last 3 years and cannot think of a single instance where knowing what my exact cadence is/was would have helped me a single bit so is it kind of like just a cool gadget to have a cadence sensor on our bikes? sort of like all of the Honda's riding around with a 3 inch Monster tach hanging off of their A pillar? I mean the tach on the Honda works sure, its relevant because it is after all a car but is it really something that is needed?

I suppose I could equate it to driving a car with a stick, sure I can look down at the tach and shift at the exact moment that the manufacturers hand book says to but why do I need to do that? I know how the car sounds when it needs to be shifted, I know how the car feels when it needs to be shifted so I shift as needed. When I ride my bike I can feel when I need to drop into a lower gear or shift up into a higher one, I know when I am working too hard or can work harder by how I feel so what would the advantage be to having a cadence sensor on my bike? I have a Garmin that I use when I ride and my wife asked me if I would like to have the cadence sensor to go with it a while back and because I couldn't think of a reason that made more sense than "would be cool to know" I thought of it as a toy that I didn't really need.

I ride for fun, I ride for my health and I ride because I love being out there on the trails on the back of my bikes, worrying about my cadence I think would take away from the riding itself.

Am I missing something?
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Old 10-20-11, 12:46 PM   #2
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You can have a cadence sensor on your bike and ignore it ... that solves the "worrying about my cadence I think would take away from the riding itself" problem. That might not be the best use of your $35, but it's entirely possible. A lot of people who ride 'seriously' (meaning their goal is to get a serious workout, maybe training for a race) will do this, only caring about the average cadence at the end of a ride, or wanting to have the data to examine later, like in a cadence vs speed vs grade chart.
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Old 10-20-11, 12:53 PM   #3
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Nope probably not really going to make a bit of difference unless you are a racer... I mean I see it as more of a conditioning tool. That is my personel opinion though and I am sure others will point out why I am wrong =D
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Old 10-20-11, 01:02 PM   #4
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Like most things, it probably depends on your purpose. If you're only out to enjoy the ride, it's irrelevant. But if you're riding partly because you want to increase your cardio fitness, endurance, etc., then progression is important, and smaller increments of progression are more relevant.

Think of weightlifting. If you want to lift heavy objects just for the sheer physical thrill of lifting heavy things, then lifting natural stones and logs is hard to beat. They look cool, you look and feel like some kind of reborn avatar of Beowulf when you bring one up, and they're challenging because they're so irregular. But if you want to start lifting today and be a great deal stronger a year or two down the road, most people will get better results by lifting consistently and increasing the load by small increments so that progression can be smooth and consistent as well. That's why almost every gym has barbell plates as small as 2.5 pounds, and the better ones have even smaller plates that weigh one pound, half a pound or a quarter of a pound. Not because it's of key importance to know at all times that you're lifting half a pound more than the guy next to you, but because it's important to be able to increase your load from the same workout last week even if you can only increase it by half a pound. That's how you create progression.

Similarly, I imagine people use cadence meters (after all that long-winded bloviating, I reveal that I don't have one) to try to beat earlier performances even if they can only "beat themselves" by such small increments of cadence that they couldn't detect the difference by feel. Certainly I use the cadence and the resistance settings on elliptical trainers at the gym to do the same thing. And speaking of that . . . it's actually time to go hit the gym.
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Old 10-20-11, 02:34 PM   #5
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I'm coming to learn that just about everyone who rides a bike has his own reason for doing it, and that some things make sense for everybody, other things make sense for some, and some things are stupid no matter who does it. Keeping track of exact cadence is probably in the second category.

I think my approach is more like the OP's.
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Old 10-20-11, 02:45 PM   #6
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Am I missing something?
No. Just like in a car you want to be in the right gear because that's most efficient. But just like a car, you can do it by feel, and good sense, rather than looking at a rev counter. Congratulations on having some common sense, it can be rare around here.
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Old 10-20-11, 02:58 PM   #7
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Hey Push,

I agree many worry far too much about cadence, but it can be very useful. On a long not too steep climb it is very easy to realize yuor cadence is slowing but not realize just how much it is slowing. Having it show can alert you to shift while it is still easy to do so.

And many beginners really have a rather low cadence, realizing this can he helpful.

Both these are far different than deciding you have to always be between 85 and 95 rpm or whatever.

It should be your tool, not your master.
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Old 10-20-11, 03:11 PM   #8
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- I am a beginner with no idea what my cadence was or what different cadences do.
- I want to learn how to bicycle effectively, not just putz around.
- I wanted to avoid injury to my knees.
- My motivation comes from quantifying solid data like miles, mph, and cadence and improving my numbers over time.
- I already had the GPS watch for my running, and the cadence addition was pretty cheap.

At least those are my reasons for upgrading my forerunner 301.
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Old 10-20-11, 03:45 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Push View Post
I am curious so please don't take this as anything other than that, I was reading the post by Allen55 on the topic of cadence, not wanting to derail his thread I thought I would start one and ask because as I was reading I found myself thinking "whats the difference really?"
Knowing what effects riding above and below your natural cadence has on your fatigue can make your life a lot more pleasant when you go on a 420 mile supported tour with 30,000 feet of climbing or ride with the office park masters racers three days a week.

Being able to spend an extra hour on non-rest weeks at your lactate threshold can't hurt the rate you get faster and will shrink you an extra three pounds per year.

Being able to break 30 MPH on level ground because you can sprint that fast shifting at 120 RPM can save time waiting at traffic lights, especially where you have three or four in a row timed for car speeds.

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I ride for fun, I ride for my health and I ride because I love being out there on the trails on the back of my bikes, worrying about my cadence I think would take away from the riding itself.
You don't worry about it all the time. It's more like you try something and see what effects it has (you sprint faster, can ride more intervals without fatigue, etc.) or a post-game review (Training and Racing with a Power Meter has an anecdote about a rider who got dropped every time he spent five minutes at power he could otherwise sustain for an hour but less than 70 RPM. Bigger cassettes did wonders for him).
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Old 10-20-11, 03:57 PM   #10
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I made that post because I kept reading about cadence. I was hoping i wasn't being stupid with the question. Really, I am like a sponge when it comes to doing something and doing it right so I ask questions on things that I am curious about. I want to do this thing right and have it be something that is a life changer for me. Im tired of my sedentary lifestyle and want to ride. I just want to make sure I am doing it right at the same time.
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Old 10-20-11, 04:20 PM   #11
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I made that post because I kept reading about cadence. I was hoping i wasn't being stupid with the question. Really, I am like a sponge when it comes to doing something and doing it right so I ask questions on things that I am curious about. I want to do this thing right and have it be something that is a life changer for me. Im tired of my sedentary lifestyle and want to ride. I just want to make sure I am doing it right at the same time.
I feel ya on that! I wasn't making the point about you in specific, as I read through some of the responses I just kept saying to myself "whats the difference really?" and didn't want to jack your thread so made this one

all of the other replies in this thread, just soakin em up guys
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Old 10-20-11, 04:51 PM   #12
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I had many riders ask hat my cadence was years back. I didn't know. I received a nice cateye computer with a cadence sensor blah blah blah. I used it, the batteries died and I thought it was more of a hassle having to replace 2 batteries for something that didn't matter with my style.

I replaced it with the original $14 computer I had previously (still on original battery) and never looked back.
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Old 10-20-11, 05:01 PM   #13
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I know how the car sounds when it needs to be shifted, I know how the car feels when it needs to be shifted so I shift as needed.
Even for a car, at some point you have to learn at least some notion of what RPM is revving "too high", and when the engine is struggling. There is an RPM range where the engine delivers optimal torque, and you will do "better" (with acceleration AND fuel efficiency) if you try to use that RPM range as much as possible. I know I had to learn at one point to rev higher before shifting up, and I found that my car performed a lot better for me when I changed my behavior.

Similarly, people "naturally" tend to have a bad intuition about their body's peak efficiency RPM for cycling. Most people instinctively pedal at about 60 rpm, which is about the rate we step when we walk. But for almost everybody, that is not the peak efficiency RPM for operating a bicycle, which has different biomechanics than walking.

Fortunately, we all have an indicator in our bodies of when we are at a peak-efficiency cadence. The oft-repeated rule of thumb is true: if your legs are tired, but you're not out of breath, gear down and increase your cadence. If you're out of breath, but your legs are spinning like crazy with no effort (and you're bouncing in the saddle), gear up and decrease your cadence. Find the equilibrium between your legs and your lungs.

(If you're out of breath AND your legs are tired, then you're going up a big hill. Gear down and do what you can to increase your cadence. If you're already in your lowest gear, sorry! Buy a bike with an easier granny gear, or HTFU, do what you have to to get over that hill, keep biking and get more fit!)
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Old 10-20-11, 05:18 PM   #14
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(Hoping this doesn't come across as antagonistic...)

Some BFers maintain that cadence doesn't really matter, that it doesn't effect the pleasant-ness of the ride. They will sometimes pooh-pooh others who try to watch or develop an efficient cadence. This can come across as a sort of reverse-discrimination, if you will.

Riders who watch their cadence watch it because they know a couple things:
  • A faster cadence relieves strain on knees and ankles and hips. This allows you to ride longer, faster, before becoming tired and having to stop.
  • Riding longer before becoming tired, or riding longer without pain allows you to enjoy riding more. And for longer duration.

Some riders have a naturally higher cadence and don't need to watch it or train it. Awesome. Wish that was me. Some riders are not them. This does not mean that naturally lower cadence riders will not receive benefits if they train a higher cadence. Some riders with a propensity to lower cadences don't want to try a higher cadence. They're happy where they are. Awesome.

But I will whole-heartedly disagree with these riders if they insist that a higher cadence is of no value and try to teach the same. Every rider (assuming non-medical issues or handicap issues) will see some benefit from a high(er) cadence. Some will try and will reap the rewards. Others won't care to. Awesome.
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Old 10-20-11, 05:29 PM   #15
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Some riders have a naturally higher cadence and don't need to watch it or train it. Awesome. Wish that was me. Some riders are not them. This does not mean that naturally lower cadence riders will not receive benefits if they train a higher cadence.
My body naturally wanted to turn the pedals at 60 to 70 rpm. And it felt pretty comfortable and normal. When I learned more about cycling, and started using a cadence sensor, I got my normal spin to around 80, and, eventually, to 90 rpm. At the same time, I noticed that I could go further (more time on the bike? awesome!), started to enjoy higher speeds, and felt less strain on my body. Fortunately I'm young enough and light enough not to worry much about my knees ... and now that I'm not stressing them, I hope not to have to for a long time. Plus, in other activities unrelated to cycling, I've got more stamina and fitness.

mkadam68 speaks the truth.
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Old 10-20-11, 05:48 PM   #16
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I found my cadence monitor to be a good tool. When I first started cycling my cadence was around 60 and I had a large amount of trouble going any distances longer than 15 miles. When I got a cadence monitor I was able to have it notify me whenever my cadence dropped below 70, so I used that to "kick" me into pedaling faster. Eventually I was able to reach around 80rpm, but that's where I reached a plateau. I suppose my legs are just too big to go any faster than that for any length of time. But I noticed that as my cadence increased so did my ability to go further and further.

I don't really look at it much anymore. I suppose I'll re-enable the alarms next year after I lose more weight, and attempt to train myself to reach 85 or so. It's still useful because sometimes my mind wanders and I lose track of how fast I'm pedaling, so occasionally I'll see I've dropped significantly below 80, drop a gear, and push on. It's easy to burn out my muscles if I stay too low for too long.

So I like it. It's not for everyone. Part of the fun in cycling, for me, is pushing myself further and further each time I go for a ride. But like I said, it's not for everyone; if you like to pedal casually and just take in the scenery, that's cool, but you're probably not going to get much use out of a cadence monitor.
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Old 10-21-11, 12:38 AM   #17
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My body naturally wanted to turn the pedals at 60 to 70 rpm. And it felt pretty comfortable and normal. When I learned more about cycling, and started using a cadence sensor, I got my normal spin to around 80, and, eventually, to 90 rpm. At the same time, I noticed that I could go further (more time on the bike? awesome!), started to enjoy higher speeds, and felt less strain on my body. Fortunately I'm young enough and light enough not to worry much about my knees ... and now that I'm not stressing them, I hope not to have to for a long time. Plus, in other activities unrelated to cycling, I've got more stamina and fitness.

mkadam68 speaks the truth.
Yes, but we need to be careful about the advice we give to new cyclists. People keep on making the statement that a higher cadence is more efficient. Actually, in one way it is less efficient. Laboratory studies have shown that in terms of energy consumption, that is, oxygen burned for delivering a given amount of power, a cadence of about 60rpm is the most efficient. That is why most new cyclists pedal at that cadence, it is because that is the rhythm that puts the least strain on their cardiovascular system.

When you think about it, that makes perfect sense. There is an energy cost to simply moving your legs round faster. So adopting a higher cadence for a given speed will tend to develop a higher heart rate, and burn more energy, than sticking at the lower level.

Does this mean that higher cadence isn't a good thing? No, because in another sense the higher cadence is more efficient, it puts less strain on muscles and joints. And the fitter one is, the easier and more beneficial this trade-off becomes, because one's heart and lungs can easily accommodate the extra burden that they have to carry in order to spare one's legs.

It follows that there is little point in suggesting to the unfit newcomer that they should immediately adopt a cadence of 85-90. They won't be able to sustain it, it will tire them out. What they need to do is be aware that as they get fitter, rather than changing to a higher gear to go faster at the same cadence, they should try pedalling a little faster with less pressure on each individual pedal stroke. It really is not necessary to buy a cadence sensor to do this, nor should any new cyclist feel that they aren't doing it right because they can't immediately adopt a high cadence. Of course they can't, that is perfectly normal.

Last edited by chasm54; 10-21-11 at 12:43 AM. Reason: Typos
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Old 10-21-11, 08:15 AM   #18
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It follows that there is little point in suggesting to the unfit newcomer that they should immediately adopt a cadence of 85-90. They won't be able to sustain it, it will tire them out. What they need to do is be aware that as they get fitter, rather than changing to a higher gear to go faster at the same cadence, they should try pedalling a little faster with less pressure on each individual pedal stroke. It really is not necessary to buy a cadence sensor to do this, nor should any new cyclist feel that they aren't doing it right because they can't immediately adopt a high cadence. Of course they can't, that is perfectly normal.
+1.
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Old 10-21-11, 09:18 AM   #19
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That is why most new cyclists pedal at that cadence [around 60 rpm], it is because that is the rhythm that puts the least strain on their cardiovascular system.
Correct. And a lot of people don't have better-than-average CV fitness. Which most 'serious' cyclists do, including those who prefer to spin at a high rate. It takes a while to get into shape to be able to do this. And, when you do, my experience has been that there are other pay-offs that have little to do with cycling. I live in a mountainous region; last weekend I took the bike into the hills for a climb, and the following day I hiked 7 miles round trip with 2,700 feet of elevation gain. I've always enjoyed hiking, but hilly ones have become much easier as my CV fitness has improved. I've always had the legs for it - most Clydes have strong legs - but I don't have to stop and catch my breath any more. I can run now, for more than a minute at a time, although god knows why anyone would want to. A lot of enjoyable things in life make use of cardiovascular fitness, and I enjoy that they don't strain me anymore.

Nobody is suggesting that unfit newcomers should immediately start pedaling at 85 - 90 rpm. We're saying that there are enough benefits to a high cadence that it's worth knowing about, knowing what yours is, and improving your fitness with a goal in mind, if need be. There's really a giant chasm between what people are actually suggesting, and how you summarized it.
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Old 10-21-11, 09:52 AM   #20
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It follows that there is little point in suggesting to the unfit newcomer that they should immediately adopt a cadence of 85-90. They won't be able to sustain it, it will tire them out. What they need to do is be aware that as they get fitter, rather than changing to a higher gear to go faster at the same cadence, they should try pedalling a little faster with less pressure on each individual pedal stroke. It really is not necessary to buy a cadence sensor to do this, nor should any new cyclist feel that they aren't doing it right because they can't immediately adopt a high cadence. Of course they can't, that is perfectly normal.
The counter-point to this argument is that the longer you spend conditioning yourself to ride at a lower (or unknown) cadence, the more difficult it will be when you later decide you want to change your cadence. I, for one, wish that I had started focusing on cadence much earlier in my riding career. I would have had a lot more fun that first year on the bike if I'd been able to ride without the constant knee pain and burning quads that I got while mashing along at 60rpm...

I'm sure some people have the mental discipline to adjust their pedaling without knowing their cadence, but for myself I found that having a computer with cadence was an essential reminder as I was trying to adjust my cadence. That doesn't mean that everyone has to buy one, nor does buying one mean that you suddenly need to adopt a 120rpm Tour de France cadence, but they are a very useful tool to have in your arsenal... if increased fitness is your ultimate goal.
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Old 10-21-11, 10:12 AM   #21
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On a single bike, I'd ride with a cadence of 75 at the beginning of the season, and closer to 90 by the end of the season. Knowing my cadence really improved my ability to survive and thrive on longer distances. I would tell other riders to spin their target cadence, and shift to make the workload what they can sustain at that cadence.

Now on a tandem, I have to keep the stoker happy, so I'm more in the 72-81 range nowadays. She can handle brief visits to 90 courtesy of the shorter crankarms we installed, but if I'm not formulating a plan/reason to recover that cadence soon, I'm usually left without one motor.

Taking it to the next level, we installed twin powermeters on our tandem. They're an excellent predictor of upcoming HR changes, and just really useful to manage my exertion. Now I ride at my target cadence, and shift to get the power in the range I want. HR and speed all follow from that.
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Old 10-21-11, 10:23 AM   #22
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This discussion and the other thread about cadence reminds me of one of the first pieces of advice on cycling I received. I was told I needed to spend hours riding a trainer to get used to the demands of riding outside. Can you tell it was a roadie who told me that? I suppose he wanted me to develop a proper cadence before I could ride.....
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Old 10-21-11, 11:10 AM   #23
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The counter-point to this argument is that the longer you spend conditioning yourself to ride at a lower (or unknown) cadence, the more difficult it will be when you later decide you want to change your cadence. I, for one, wish that I had started focusing on cadence much earlier in my riding career. I would have had a lot more fun that first year on the bike if I'd been able to ride without the constant knee pain and burning quads that I got while mashing along at 60rpm...

I'm sure some people have the mental discipline to adjust their pedaling without knowing their cadence, but for myself I found that having a computer with cadence was an essential reminder as I was trying to adjust my cadence. That doesn't mean that everyone has to buy one, nor does buying one mean that you suddenly need to adopt a 120rpm Tour de France cadence, but they are a very useful tool to have in your arsenal... if increased fitness is your ultimate goal.
Exactly my point. If one does not aim for a high cadence immediately, their slower cadence will then become habit. Ingrained habit. Very difficult to change. (For example, it took cancer to change Armstrong's cadence.)

Now, if someone is unfit, yeah, riding a faster cadence will be difficult at first, at least cardiovascularly. But, that is no different than someone struggling with the muscular demands of a slower cadence. Going uphill, for instance. How many Clydes walked up their first "real big" hill because they didn't have the strength for it? In the end, riders will get fitter and adapt to a fast cadence and they will then have a habit of such and not have to overcome it.

As a personal example, I look to my son. Started when he was 12yo. But I emphasized a nice, fast cadence for him. He couldn't keep up because when it came to crunch time, he couldn't drop it into a large gear and just push. But his muscles adapted over time. Now, as a 15yo, he's dropping me (no easy task), and only has trouble on the hills keeping up with the really skinny mountain goats. He has an incredibly smooth, fast pedaling style. Beautiful to watch. And I can tell, his musculature is still developing. Scary. In talking with his coach (a former track world champion), we did it the correct way. Cardiovascularly speaking, we're born with what we have, with only room for little improvement. Muscularly, however, we have lots of room for improvement. His advice? Strengthen the muscles slowly over time so as not to do damage to the structure.

As for Neil's friend & the trainer.... that makes no sense to me. And I consider myself a roadie.

In the end...
Riding w/good cadence > Riding w/poor cadence > not riding.

But why not aim for good form right at the start? Cause they can't ride for hours on end right away? Posh.
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Old 10-21-11, 11:11 AM   #24
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I was told I needed to spend hours riding a trainer to get used to the demands of riding outside.
That's obviously false. And nobody in here is saying anybody has to ride at 90 rpm; we're saying there are benefits to doing so. I'm surprised that's creating so much controversy.
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Old 10-21-11, 11:25 AM   #25
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Exactly my point. If one does not aim for a high cadence immediately, their slower cadence will then become habit. Ingrained habit. Very difficult to change. (For example, it took cancer to change Armstrong's cadence.)

Now, if someone is unfit, yeah, riding a faster cadence will be difficult at first, at least cardiovascularly. But, that is no different than someone struggling with the muscular demands of a slower cadence. Going uphill, for instance. How many Clydes walked up their first "real big" hill because they didn't have the strength for it? In the end, riders will get fitter and adapt to a fast cadence and they will then have a habit of such and not have to overcome it.

As a personal example, I look to my son. Started when he was 12yo. But I emphasized a nice, fast cadence for him. He couldn't keep up because when it came to crunch time, he couldn't drop it into a large gear and just push. But his muscles adapted over time. Now, as a 15yo, he's dropping me (no easy task), and only has trouble on the hills keeping up with the really skinny mountain goats. He has an incredibly smooth, fast pedaling style. Beautiful to watch. And I can tell, his musculature is still developing. Scary. In talking with his coach (a former track world champion), we did it the correct way. Cardiovascularly speaking, we're born with what we have, with only room for little improvement. Muscularly, however, we have lots of room for improvement. His advice? Strengthen the muscles slowly over time so as not to do damage to the structure.

As for Neil's friend & the trainer.... that makes no sense to me. And I consider myself a roadie.

In the end...
Riding w/good cadence > Riding w/poor cadence > not riding.

But why not aim for good form right at the start? Cause they can't ride for hours on end right away? Posh.

+1.....As my trainer post suggested, it takes time and practice and doesn't happen over night. I agree that the roadie's comment is not correct but riders do benefit from doing drills, indoor and outdoor. The trainer is a good method because it allows you to concentrate on things that need attention. More advanced riders may prefer to do them outside but then you run the risk of hitting a curb, other riders, maybe even a tree if you happen to be concentrating on the wrong thing at the wrong time....Meaning advanced experienced riders may have more skill when it comes to doing such things.

I myself have no problem doing them on the trainer. I can look at stopwatches, count revs in my head etc.

Again I disagree with the roadie's advice but do encourage trainer drills. Anyone that thinks the drills don't improve your ride, think again. There are plenty, One legged spin to smooth out your stroke. All out hard intervals. High rev intervals, TT efforts and I am sure there are more that benefit any rider.


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Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
That's obviously false. And nobody in here is saying anybody has to ride at 90 rpm; we're saying there are benefits to doing so. I'm surprised that's creating so much controversy.
+1
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