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  1. #1
    Senior Member WonderMonkey's Avatar
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    Teaching Myself A Higher Cadance

    I mash the pedals. Even on longer rides I don't get much cardio out of it. From all my reading the lack of cardio is related to my low spin rate. I know I can't go down the lowest gear and spin my brains out at 1 mph and get much out of it so I have to find an effort that gets my heart rate in the proper zone and have at it. I don't have a heart rate monitor but I will get one here soon.

    So.... today I went for a short ride (just under 13 miles) and tried to stay in gears where I felt I was spinning more than I normally would. If I felt I was powering it too much to get the spin I backed off. If I was spinning too much I kicked the gears up a notch.

    Wooo buddy my legs feel like I did a 30 mile ride the way I normally spin. Historically I'm a power guy. In baseball I was middle relief or closer. Threw hard for 3-4 innings MAX. 6'2" but played the post. Power lifter over endurance. And so on. This probably means I lean more towards slow twitch muscle or maybe it means I just never trained properly, who knows?

    Any advice, other than what I'm doing now, to train yourself to get a higher HR?

  2. #2
    just pedal donalson's Avatar
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    the obvious part is... get a cadence sensor for starters it doesn't need to be an expensive one (i used a $15 nashbar wired one that worked well)...

    I just got a cadence back on my bike a few rides ago... for the most part I don't pay attention to it but on the occasion that I look i'm supprised that once I'm warmed up my typical cadnece tends to be in the mid 80's...

    that being said I found a HRM to be more useful... it gave me a visual number to go along with how my legs and lungs are feeling
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  3. #3
    Getting older and slower!
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    You are correct you want to spin. Not only will you get more cardio, you will eventually ride further without fatigue, ride faster, and climb better. And you will also develop a smooth pedal stroke.

    I assume you have a bike computer that measures your cadence. If not, I recommend you buy one. Then ride focusing on your cadence, not your speed. (I do this the first 500 miles or so I ride every year.)

    Focus on increasing your cadence gradually, like 10 rpms at a time. And keep track of your progress. The record will hold you accountable and give you honest feedback towards your goal.

    Good luck!

  4. #4
    Senior Member the fly's Avatar
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    ^^^ cadence sensor.

    In the meantime, spin as much as you can without rocking in the saddle. If you ride clips or clipless, try to pedal in a circular motion as well.

    I'm a big guy like you and I seem to gravitate to an average cadence in the high 80's. During my rides it's not unusual for me to look down and see mid 90's. Around 100 I start to bounce. I also tire out rather easy. I have got to get my HR monitor going as well. I tend to ride hard at the beginning of rides and then blow up and limp home. FWIW, I've only been riding a year and started ridiculously out of shape.

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    Cadence sensor is much needed bro. There is a fine line between spinning 70,80, 90 plus and its hard to tell what is what without a sensor.

    With that said, mashing and spinning both have rolls in cycling. Mashing taxes the muscles and spinning taxes the cardiovascular system. This is key to know when climbing for example because you can have both which is a real nice weapon to employ.
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  6. #6
    SuperGimp TrojanHorse's Avatar
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    As above, cadence sensor.

    Also, like anything else train - do portions of your ride where you hit 80 for a period of time (or 90, or whatever number you're trying to achieve.)

  7. #7
    Senior Member CommuteCommando's Avatar
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    Short of a cadence meter, I hum to myself. The BeeGees Staying Alive is a good tempo as is Mendelssohn's Italian Symphony (drafting scene from Breaking Away)
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  8. #8
    Senior Member digibud's Avatar
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    Once you have the cadence monitor going you'll start to get a sense of what your normal cadence is when you are working at working hard. The two fundamental techniques I've used to up my cadence is to work at spinning about 5 rpm faster than is really comfortable. That's enough to be impossible to keep up for a long ride but not so much as to leave a person wiped out. Secondly, spend some short burst of time spinning as fast as you possible can. Maybe you can keep it up 20 seconds. Maybe more or less. Absolutely spin crazy fast. Try repeating this a few times when you can. It's not fun but by doing that along with simply working at spinning faster you will improve but understand it's not a fast easy thing. I've bumped my rpms by about 15 over the last three years.
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    One thing to keep in mind: in terms of sheer energy output spin vs mash doesn't really matter. Either way you're moving a given mass a given distance. It's more which muscles you work and how quickly they get tired.

  10. #10
    Senior Member WonderMonkey's Avatar
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    I'm starting to get the sense that some of you are recommending some sort of device called... a cadence sensor? Is that right? Did I pronounce that correctly? Vague suggestions but I'm reading between the lines and sorting it out.......

    OK I get it! A cadence sensor! If I can find one that incorporates a heart rate monitor then that would be awesome.

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    SuperGimp TrojanHorse's Avatar
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    Just get a garmin... all roads lead to garmin. Yes, there are other ways to skin that cat but... save yourself the trouble and get a garmin. A used 500 is probably fine, the prices on new garmins is stupid.

  12. #12
    Commuter & cyclotourist brianogilvie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JakiChan View Post
    One thing to keep in mind: in terms of sheer energy output spin vs mash doesn't really matter. Either way you're moving a given mass a given distance. It's more which muscles you work and how quickly they get tired.
    There's a fair amount of research pointing to the conclusion that the most efficient way to cycle is by mashing (in terms of input vs. output), but that mashing tires out leg muscles faster. Spinning is less mechanically efficient but leaves the legs less fatigued, which allows the slightly less efficient spinner to outdo the more efficient but more tired masher.

    The research seems to support the age-worn advice that if your legs feel tired, spin faster in a lower gear, and if your lungs feel tired, shift to a higher gear and pedal more slowly.
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  13. #13
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    I'll buck the trend. Get a fixed gear bike. Gear it low like a 46 or 44 x 18. You will be spinning like a hamster in no time.

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    Okay. you got it. Everyone recommends a cadence sensor.
    Then what?

    Well, then you need to use it.
    The way I learned to raise my cadence was just to ride known routes and my regular distances for a week to determine what my existing cadence was. After that, a few days where I rode portions of my normal rides at a slightly higher cadence - 7-12 rpm higher - tuckered me out. Aka intervals but not INTERVALS, you know what I mean? Then, I lengthened the portions ridden at the higher cadence, took a week off to just ride without the cadence sensor and then repeated the entire sequence.

    After about two months, I was ~17 rpm higher in the same gear(s) over a 50 mile flat "course" (we don't have hills where I live).

    Try it. YMMV.

  15. #15
    Lover of Old Chrome Moly Myosmith's Avatar
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    Former mashers often get bouncy at higher cadences. Work on a smooth pedal stroke by thinking circles rather than stepping down on the pedals. Some cyclists compare the bottom of the stroke to the motion you would use to wipe something off the bottom of your shoe.
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  16. #16
    Cat 5 field stuffer bbeasley's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by brianogilvie View Post
    There's a fair amount of research pointing to the conclusion that the most efficient way to cycle is by mashing (in terms of input vs. output), but that mashing tires out leg muscles faster. Spinning is less mechanically efficient but leaves the legs less fatigued, which allows the slightly less efficient spinner to outdo the more efficient but more tired masher.

    The research seems to support the age-worn advice that if your legs feel tired, spin faster in a lower gear, and if your lungs feel tired, shift to a higher gear and pedal more slowly.
    I like this research especially where the distinction is drawn between moderately trained athletes and elite cyclists.

  17. #17
    Senior Member WonderMonkey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TrojanHorse View Post
    Just get a garmin... all roads lead to garmin. Yes, there are other ways to skin that cat but... save yourself the trouble and get a garmin. A used 500 is probably fine, the prices on new garmins is stupid.
    I will start my search there, thanks for the point.

  18. #18
    Senior Member WonderMonkey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 20_700c View Post
    Okay. you got it. Everyone recommends a cadence sensor.
    Then what?

    Well, then you need to use it.
    The way I learned to raise my cadence was just to ride known routes and my regular distances for a week to determine what my existing cadence was. After that, a few days where I rode portions of my normal rides at a slightly higher cadence - 7-12 rpm higher - tuckered me out. Aka intervals but not INTERVALS, you know what I mean? Then, I lengthened the portions ridden at the higher cadence, took a week off to just ride without the cadence sensor and then repeated the entire sequence.

    After about two months, I was ~17 rpm higher in the same gear(s) over a 50 mile flat "course" (we don't have hills where I live).

    Try it. YMMV.
    I've considered that and it seems like an approach that allows one to keep focus for small periods of time until you can extend which eventually becomes a habit.

  19. #19
    Senior Member WonderMonkey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Myosmith View Post
    Former mashers often get bouncy at higher cadences. Work on a smooth pedal stroke by thinking circles rather than stepping down on the pedals. Some cyclists compare the bottom of the stroke to the motion you would use to wipe something off the bottom of your shoe.
    I've been working on my circles for about a year and I'm certainly improving with room to grow. However I still found I bounced when spinning "too much" so I backed off until I bounced just a bit and worked to control it.

  20. #20
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    I love that, spinning like a hamster. Anyway, spinning is my big problem.

    I have noticed that big guys like me tend to have super powerful legs from hauling around 300-400 pounds of weight all day long so we mash. I mash, my son mashes, etc.

    I have noticed that when I try to spin, i feel like that the crank motion isn't smooth like almost jerky. Is that common and just something I have to work on?
    "When dealing with stuff like this consider that this is a bicycle, not a spaceship." -- FBinNY

  21. #21
    SuperGimp TrojanHorse's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bobotech View Post
    I have noticed that when I try to spin, i feel like that the crank motion isn't smooth like almost jerky. Is that common and just something I have to work on?
    Yes indeed.

  22. #22
    Senior Member DiamondDave247's Avatar
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    one thing that helped me increase my cadence, with a low learning curve, was a spin bike. I have a spin bike for winter training, but I believe fitness centers also have them available on a daily use basis for a small fee. the spin bike allows you to concentrate on faster pedaling without having to worry about shifting gears, or hills, or descents, or twists and turns in the road. after practicing on the spin bike, the higher cadence came much more natural and easy for me on the road. just my two cents worth. good luck!
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  23. #23
    Senior Member WonderMonkey's Avatar
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    Thanks, I appreciate the input. Everybody!

  24. #24
    Senior Member IBOHUNT's Avatar
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    On those days when I work(ed) on raising my cadence I would not leave the small ring on the crank.A 36 crank and 11 cassette gets me to ~25mph at 100rpm, more than fast enough to train at.


    You have to go out with the mindset that you are working on cadence and not care how fast you are going.
    Using the infinite wisdom of Chasm54 (paraphrasing)- have a plan and execute it.


    Good luck

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