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Old 05-22-08, 05:20 AM   #1
Gyro
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Cadence, gearing question

Hi all, another old fart new to pushing the pedals. My present bike has a triple 48/38/28 in the front and 14-34 cog in the back. Iím finding using a gear combo of 2/4, with a cadence in the mid-eighties. My legs seem to be wind milling or Iíve run out the useful rpm range for that gear. Up to now my reaction has been to up shift to 2/5 or 3/4 to get a firmer feel from the pedals. Of course my cadence drops off and Iíll need to down shift back down for a bit to rest. Back and forth I go. Am I doing the right thing moving away for the wind milling sensation, or is that the sweet spot?
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Old 05-22-08, 05:27 AM   #2
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Its actually the sweet spot. It takes a while to get your cardio fitness up to a level where you are comfortable spinning your legs at that speed. It may however same you problems with your knees later.

To much torque is hard on the body.
To high a cadence is hard on the heart/lungs.

A balance between the 2 is essential.

Cadence also depends on the type and location of the riding you are doing. It is easier and more useful to maintain a higher cadence on the road but not quite so useful or practical when maneuvering in/on dirt.
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Old 05-22-08, 05:33 AM   #3
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Hi, Gyro. I'll try to give a simple answer to a complex situation.
Sounds like you are doing basically the right thing. If it gets so easy to spin that you aren't keeping up with the bike, it's time to shift to a slightly taller gear. If you shift the front to a larger ring, you may need to also move to a larger cog in the rear, so the jump is not too large. It might help to create a gear-inch chart to illustrate how your gears are arranged.

But it is also good to work on being able to spin a little faster so that you can get more use out of your lower gears. Mid 80s is a good cadence, but you want to get to where you can spin upwards of 100 rpm effectively for a short time if the situation calls for it.

But the biggest thing is to keep riding, keep thinking about how different things you do work and keep asking questions.
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Old 05-22-08, 05:37 AM   #4
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I love that feeling where you can either change by one gear, or by one ring, and do so as you need to rest or as a hill or some head wind begins to tire you. It feels like you are in the zone but also keeps you paying attention to your speed and cadence, it is a bit of a high, if I may say so....
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Old 05-22-08, 05:37 AM   #5
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Pedaling faster tasks your heart and respiration more, while pedaling too slowly uses up your legs faster. Since you're new to this, you shouldn't overdo either one. You will gradually feel what's right for you at your stage of fitness. You don't want to exhaust your legs too quickly, but you also want to be able to breathe. I would suggest aiming for a cadence of 60 rpm to start. That's not too bad, sort of moderate, and it's easy to count if you aren't using a computer. Just count 1001. 1002, 1003 - same foot down each time. Gradually, as the fitness of both your cardiorespiratory system and your leg muscles improve, you can speed things up. If you cycle a lot, you will speed up your cadence anyway without thinking about it. But remember, you always want to be in a gear where you don't have to pedal too hard, while on the other hand, you don't want to be pedaling fast and going only 2 miles an hour. When you go for a ride, start out slowly and easily for the first 15-20 minutes. I hope that helps.
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Old 05-22-08, 06:15 AM   #6
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This is an interesting thread for me as I've been sort of struggling with the same questions. Eventually I'll be investing in a computer that shows cadence and heart rate. I think that will help a lot, but I'm still getting over the investment in a half decent bike and buying stuff like peddles and shoes, and I've got a computer that does time/speed/distance so it hasn't been a priority.

As Maxx said, it does take a while to get the cardio up to the point that spinning ~80 RPM is comfortable and sustainable. I'm getting there slowly, but have a way to go yet. For me the cue to shift gears is when I start feeling the wheel "getting ahead" of my cadence, i.e. when I feel the bike start freewheeling a bit during peddle strokes. (I know, if I had a smooth stroke I shouldn't feel that! I’m working on that as well.) But as long as I'm still pushing the peddles I feel like it isn't yet time to up-shift.
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Old 05-22-08, 06:28 AM   #7
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The key to effective riding is maintaining even power output regardless of environmental factors. This is whole point of having gearing. Once you get your fitness level to the point you have good power output you then need to keep within the band of maximizing the power without running out of energy. You can do this most effectively with a power meter but a heart rate monitor works as well. So for instance in my situation my optimal power is at about 83% of my max heart rate for tempo riding. I wear a monitor and I watch my HR and keep it at this level by shifting as necessary. My cadence stays in a band of 85-95 I only get to 100 if I am in a group ride and pushing the speed up.
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Old 05-22-08, 10:11 AM   #8
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If your legs are getting tired, shift to an easier gear. If you're breathing too hard, shift to a harder gear.
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Old 05-22-08, 11:18 AM   #9
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It takes awhile to get in condition and to learn to ride at a high cadence. It is a good thing to work on when you feel like it. But for now, when you start spinning out, just shift to a higher gear.

Cadence is a pretty individual thing. I tend to spin. But Lemond ran a cadence in the 80s and I am not going to say he did not know what he was doing. I understand that Armstrong often ran a cadence over 100. Eddie Merckx ran a cadence over 110 when he broke the 30 mph barrier for the hour time trial.
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Old 05-22-08, 11:31 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gyro View Post
Up to now my reaction has been to up shift to 2/5 or 3/4 to get a firmer feel from the pedals. Of course my cadence drops off and I’ll need to down shift back down for a bit to rest. Back and forth I go.
It's the fairly large gap between your gears that's causing this. There are two schools of thought on how to resolve it.

First is that having a gap like that is good for you as it results (eventually) in a wider cadence range where you can pedal effectively.

Second, and this is what I did, you can change your cassette to a close-ratio cassette, so that the jumps between gears are less.

My first bike came with an 11-30 cassette. I found I was using only five of the eight speeds, starting from stops in the 23 and running out of steam in the 13. Yet the jumps between them left me feeling like I wanted a 4Ĺ speed and a 5Ĺ between the 4, 5 and 6.

When I asked about this at the LBS, he whipped out an 8-speed 13-23 cassette. It was exactly what I was looking for. It made a huge difference in how comfortably I could ride. From the very first ride I knew I'd never go back. Close-ratio cassettes are it for me. No matter what the headwinds, tailwinds, uphill or down, I always have exactly the gear I need to stay in the sweet spot.
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Old 05-22-08, 02:18 PM   #11
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Check out-
http://sheldonbrown.com/gears/

I assume you have a 7 speed Free Wheel with-
34-24-22-20-18-16-14?
IF so, a shift to 2-5 seems like a logical amount from 2-4.
2-6 is virtually identical to 3-4.
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Old 05-22-08, 03:11 PM   #12
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TSL has bought up the close ratio cassettes and they do make the change from one gear to the next feel comfortable.

I ride a Tandem and we ride that on a cadence meter. We like to ride at 90. so when we reach 95- we up a gear. Down to 85 and lower gear. That does not have close ratios- but yet to find any of the gears too widely spaced for us. But I also ride a road bike with a 50/34 crank and 12/27 cassette. On the flat or slight slopes and I will be up and down the gearsto keep cadence- but that is the way I ride. I like to keep at around 85 to 90 and and changing gears is just one of the ways to save the legs. But then comes the hills and only one gear used on those- and cadence gets blown out of the window. The steeper the hill- the lower the cadence.

Cadence is an individual thing and every-one is different. Most newcomers find that they have a low cadence- which to me would be at around 70. Not a problem- providing the knees can take it but any cadence that feels comfortable is the right one.
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Old 05-22-08, 03:32 PM   #13
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To high a cadence is hard on the heart/lungs.
Really??

Personally, I feel that a high cadence builds up your heart, lungs and CV.
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Old 05-22-08, 04:23 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by maddmaxx: To high a cadence is hard on the heart/lungs.

Really??

Personally, I feel that a high cadence builds up your heart, lungs and CV.
I'd have to go along with you on that one, Fox. And a lower cadence, higher gear builds leg strength. In order to increase your capabilities in any specific area, you've got to go past your comfort zone. It's not the most efficient, and not what you'd do on an event ride, but it can be a valuable part of training.

Not to put words in anyone's mouth, but maddmaxx may be saying that overspinning is not the best way to ride all the time.

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Old 05-22-08, 07:09 PM   #15
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I'm another close ratio cassette fan. That's why I like triples. With my 26/36/48 triple crank and a 12/21 7 speed cassette, I have plenty of range and tiny steps between gears. With a double, I would have to give up one or the other.
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Old 05-22-08, 07:15 PM   #16
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Ride lots --> enjoy --> it feels better --> repeat
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Old 05-23-08, 09:07 AM   #17
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A high cadence is no harder on your cardiovascular system than a lower one. You want to start by determining the rather broad range of crank RPM over which you are most energy-efficient. This could be something like 50 to 80 RPM for a novice. You next want to try to keep yourself towards the upper end of this range whenever possible, steep climbs being an obvious exception. As you build cardiovascular fitness, you will be able to spin even faster -- I typically cruise at 90-100 RPM, but cannot sustain 120 for any length of time.

Slogging the high gears from a seated position is indeed hard on the knees.

I also vote for close-ratio gearing, favoring about a 6 or 7 percent change from one ratio to the next. I can obtain this with either a 2-tooth progression on an old school 6- or 7-speed cogset with an interleave half-step or 1.5-step shift pattern or a 1-tooth progression on a 9- or 10-speed cogset with a crossover shift pattern.
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