I havent had a car since 91, my '68 Saab 96 V4 sounded good at 3000 RPM.
so I often drove at that tach reading .
It's about 55 in 4th .. down hill I coast, at an Idle , then open the throttle again to get over the next hill ..
Saab Transmission of that era, has a freewheel bearing to do that easily .
I miss cars with rain-gutters on the roof edges ..
Everyone's different even from ourselves over time.
Early in the season, my max sustainable cadence is low, as the miles pile up my sustainable cadence goes up as does my speed. If I feel unwell, cadence drops, same with dehydration, fatigue and fueling issues.
You can train for higher cadence, just as you get used to pedaling harder.
I would argue, that as long as you're happy, then you're right for you.
If you're trying to do something different then what you normally do, you should consider doing things differently.
Low cadence / high torque stresses primarily muscle. Muscle tires. Muscles can be developed to a pretty amazing degree, but only so far.
High cadence / low torque stresses your cardio vascular system (and lungs). CV can be improved to a pretty amazing degree, but again only so far.
Just ensure what you do matches what you're trying to do.
traditionally the answer was something like this,
If you wish to go fast, you're likely best off developing higher cadences... 85->100
If you want to go far, you're likely best off developing moderate cadences... 70->85
But there are those that do amazing things with low cadences <60. Watch video from anywhere that the bicycle is the standard means of transport or utility vehicle and you'll see mostly low cadence...
I noticed the last couple years that I can actually go faster spinning an easier gear faster than mashing a harder gear slower. When I first starting riding that wasn't the case. I'm not a strong climber but I feel like I have a lot of fast twitch muscles and can spin like crazy.
Something that hasn't been highlighted in this discussion is that it's not just fast vs. slow, it's also that pedaling technique is affected by cadence. I find, for example, that it's easier to approach pedaling good circles at a higher cadence. So when I think about it and remind myself to pedal circles, I usually also go to the next-largest cog if I am going to maintain the same speed.
I know - people will now weigh in and say that they prefer to mash because it works better for them. Whatever works for you is good, but I definitely have better performance when I concentrate on good pedaling form.
If you study the history of the sport in detail you will note that beliefs about rpm are cyclic. Over the past hundred years or so there have been times when the popular cycling press suggested 90+ rpm as the only reasonable approach, and also times when 80 rpm or even lower has been the gold standard. You will also note that these cycles correspond strongly with the pedaling style of whoever is winning pro races at the time.
I suspect that the 90+ rpm fad right now has a lot to do with Lance Armstrong. I also suspect that if not for really good drugs, we'd actually be experiencing a low rpm fad right now: Lance's main competitor (Jan Ulrich) was a gear masher. So was Bernard Hinault and Eddy Merckx. I was not racing when Merckx was active, but I do remember the 175 cranks flying off the shelves when Hinault was a champion. But then, during the Anquetil years, if you did not have a smooth 100 rpm cadence you were considered some kind of clodhopper.
Short version: You are probably best off doing what your body tells you to do and ignoring the folks who think you are better off doing what somebody else's body tells him to do.
FWIW, today was a just ride around kind of day. I thought a lot about the cadence issue, and I kept my cadence in the 80 range with low leg pressure while riding about. I set a PR on a pretty flat Strava segment.
Now this is a segment I don't take seriously and I certainly wasn't out trying to set any PRs. It just happened.
If you want to get faster, or increase your range, "pick the gear that feels right" is bad advice. Most people will settle in around 70 rpm if they're not thinking about it and just doing what feels right. The best advice I got from another bike forums member last spring was get a bike computer with cadence and kick it up. I started out shooting for 85, got faster, and had better endurance. By the end of the season I was riding flats at around 95, and continued to get faster and increase my endurance.
I believe the better cardiovascular base would be built at the higher RPMs if that's what you're focusing on. At least I remember reading that somewhere when I started riding in the late '70s. Doesn't mean that I don't get dropped by low RPM mashers though.
I started riding in the 70's. I didn't know anyone else who rode then. In the late 70's or early 80's I started paying attention to the "cycling community". That was partly inspired by the fact that then I had associates who rode. I started reading cycling magazines, I talked bikes, I upgraded components. But I noticed one thing at that time that really turned me off to the concept of "being a cyclist". No one ever smiled. Not in ads, not in person, not at races I watched. No magazine article ever mentioned or showed anyone enjoying themselves. Well, my associates did when I had the chance to ride with them, which wasn't often.
My point is this. If you want to endure pain or force you cadence to be whatever or go beyond or race against your own mythical best time, then be my guest. However I intend to enjoy myself. I'll get better if I get better. I'll stay in shape one way or another. But I will not not enjoy the ride. Life's too short to not enjoy the ride.
One mistake in evidence here is that folks are finding a thing that works well for them and then extrapolating to mean that it must work for everyone else too. If not everyone agrees, well, they must be stupid or something.
If you are happy with how you ride and uninterested in the topic of cadence, why are you reading this thread in the first place if it isn't simply to scold those of us who have priorities different from yours?
One set of posts says, "you can go faster, have less fatigue, etc. if you spin at higher cadence".
Another set of posts says, "no, you can do all of those things with lower cadence" or "well, some find that they optimize performance at lower cadence"- and I have no problem with this second set - it's a constructive on-topic contribution to the discussion, though it doesn't conform with my personal experience. (Your post about cadence fashions being correlated to the success of prominent contemporary racers falls in this category)
A third set of posts says, "those of you who are trying to go faster/do better through higher cadence or whatever don't have the right priorities because you should just "enjoy the ride". Or they disparage the desire to do better because, for example, we are "racing against our own mythical best time". These are the posts that I find insulting.
I no longer mash along in the big gear.... but I will likely never buzz along at a smooth effortless high-speed cadence ether. But I do think a little knowledge and a bit of training has made me a tiny little bit better... fitter and faster cyclist.
Thanks again for sharing.
Big OOOPS....I edited out the wrong quote. This is in response to Jimmuller's comments on cyclists that cant grin....
I pity those who cant laugh or smile when riding. It is certain they have let the cares of life pour over into a most enjoyable experience.
One early spring a few years back I stumbled out the door with my quick and agile Trek. This was the ride I waited all winter for. Being the only biker on the streets of our small town I attracted many strange looks. The light turned red, there was one car in front of me.as the light turned green I had become glued to the car bumper as I upchained and shifted to high gear, out of the saddle. My first ride of the season, 30mph. Nothing in the world can match that. Was I smiling? Nope. I was laughing with pure joy and trying to catch my breath.