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  1. #1
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    How fast do you spin?

    Hi Randonneurs!

    I'm working on building a nice little motor suitable for Last Chance or Colorado High Country in a few years. I've got a ways to go, but I'm able to do 80+ miles without dying or even being sore the next day, particularly if I remember to pace myself. I expect to complete a double metric by the end of the year (hoping for a dry winter, or at least that my cycling gear does what Pearl Izumi says it will).

    Right now I typically aim for 105-115 rpm on my rides, although I played with a target of 120 for 40 miles on Sunday. I really pushed my pace on that ride, and though I was pretty wrecked when I got back, I managed to sustain 18mph into a 10+ mph headwind for the return 20; I was happy with that. When I set out I paid particular attention to circular pedaling and at one point screwed around with 140+rpm for a few hundred yards (without bouncing out of my saddle).

    I've read that higher cadences (90+) use fast-twitch fibers preferentially, thus consuming glucose from the bloodstream which can be replaced by a sports drink (or so says John Forester, IIRC). Lower cadences are supposed to recruit slow-twitch muscles preferentially, which draw on fat stores for their fuel. It seems like endurance riders ought to prefer the slower cadences, because it's damn hard to replace 6,000+ calories day after day, all while on the bike. In your experience(s), is this true?

    I know this borders on the optimum cadence question, which has been beaten to death elsewhere. I just want to know what you guys and gals do on the longer events. How fast do you spin?

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    My ideal pace is about 100 rpm.

  3. #3
    Senior Member cheg's Avatar
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    About 75 rpms.

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    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Last I checked, I was about 85 rpm which is a nice comfortable spin. Although, having said that, Rowan thinks I spin faster than that now, so one day I'll have to check it again.

    I have read somewhere that the ideal for an endurance rider is somewhere between 85 and 100 rpm.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Homeyba's Avatar
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    I don't have a specific rpm. My cadence varies depending on what I'm doing and how I'm feeling. There is a simple formula that works for cadence. If your lungs are inhibiting your performance a slower cadence is appropriate and if your legs are inhibiting your performance a higher cadence is appropriate. I think if you spend too much time focusing on a specific cadence you are going to go slower over all.
    It doesn't get harder, you just go slower.

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    Have bike, will travel Barrettscv's Avatar
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    I produce more power below 90 rpm but also tend to tire more quickly below 90 rpm. I do best in the 90-100 rpm range. I'm working on increasing power, reducing cadence and staying in the 80-90 range for as long as possible.
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    Uber Goober StephenH's Avatar
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    I haven't ever tried to measure it.

    It sounds like the slow-twitch/fast-twitch theory would mean your legs would work a lot better doing whichever one you were used to.
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    Cyclists are individuals. There is no one ideal cadence. I don't think it's accurate to describe a certain cadence as dependent upon slow twitch while another is dependent upon fast twitch - unless we're talking 4 RPM and 200 RPM.

    As a very general rule of thumb a longer-legged rider will prefer a slower cadence than will a shorter-legged rider. The idea is that it simply takes more energy to turn over long legs than short ones. The theory doesn't explain why some tall riders like to spin, and some short riders like to mash, though. It also doesn't explain why every hour record since the 1920s has been set with a cadence of almost exactly 100 RPM.

    Nor does it explain why the "right" RPM range for racers has fluctuated over the decades. In the 50s/60s we were all spinning our brains out, led by luminaries like Jacques Anquetil. In the 80s we were all turning huge gears, following Bernard Hinault's lead. And then in the 90s, spinning was "discovered" by Lance Armstrong, so we all ran out to buy compact cranks.

    So in my considered opinion, a rider should let his legs be his guide. Anything between 80 RPM and 110 RPM should be considered fine. I strongly doubt there is any advantage to pedaling 120 RPM unless you are a track racer - but I wouldn't argue with the guy who claims it suits him, either.

  9. #9
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    If you're riding a fixed gear, cadence varies considerably on any ride.
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    Senior Member skiffrun's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Homeyba View Post
    I don't have a specific rpm. My cadence varies depending on what I'm doing and how I'm feeling. ... I think if you spend too much time focusing on a specific cadence you are going to go slower over all.
    + 1 re varying depending on circumstances. (Can't believe I'm publicly agreeing with speed-demon H.)

    I have been on a short, intended-to-be fast ("fast" is a relative term) ride where I was going nowhere, so I stopped trying to be fast, relaxed, my legs found their comfort level, and I was almost immediately going faster "without working" that I had been going when I'd been working-my-butt-off.

    --------------------------------------------------------

    This past summer, I ended up riding a virtual single-speed (*) for hundreds of miles. My cadence was all over the scale. At the end of rides, I found my legs often were more refreshed than before the ride (longish rides, but usually not 200k).

    (*) Had a triple and a 10-speed cassette, but I refused to change gears. It was amazing how quickly I went from automatically reaching to change the gear to automatically changing my cadence.

  11. #11
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    As a Clyde and over 50 I have been doing about 70 rpm's. My legs weigh about 50 lbs each and i find much faster and it seems to be wasting energy just to move my legs. My ability to keep a fluid leg motion suffers above 80 rpm's. I average 10 mph on most rides but i am still tweaking the bike fit on all my bikes for improved comfort. I like to ride a minimum of 30 miles at a time. That is about 1,000 calories for me. I can get my exercise without overdoing it.
    As i get more comfortable on the bike I expect to gain a few rpm's . 50 rpm's on a hill in low gear suits me with a 28/28 gear and 70 rpm's on my hybrid or touring with a 28/32

  12. #12
    cycles per second Gonzo Bob's Avatar
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    My cadence varies with effort - low effort -> lower cadence, high effort -> higher cadence. It's probably in the 80-100 rpm range most of the time, but when gearing for hills, I generally pick a low gear that might require dropping to 60 rpm on the steepest parts at my expected power output.

  13. #13
    The Left Coast, USA FrenchFit's Avatar
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    I've reduced the duration of my rides dramatically, just getting bored...so what happens over 80m I can't recall. But the last year or so I've been alternating cadence; running at 90+ for a while, then dropping to 75-80, picking gears appropriately. It seems I'm still feeling fresh after a few hours. Sometime I mash up hills, sometimes I spin. Overall speed seems to stay about the same.

    In spin class, it's always 90+.But on my bikes I've gone to longer cranks, and that seems to have knocked 5rpm off my average cadence.

  14. #14
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    Thanks for all of the responses!

    I'm still very much in training for longer events, so I figure I'll practice spinning and mashing as appropriate to ensure that I'm well rounded. I'm short (5' 6") and about 150, (with about 10 lbs left to lose. Wait, did someone say "cinnamon rolls?"), so spinning isn't a problem for me; I'm also running a 165mm triple. In the near future I think I'll try for about 30 miles at 125rpm, just for the circular pedaling and cardio aspect, maybe bumping that up over time. Today I'm trying Lookout Mountain for the first time on a road bike. I imagine I'll be mashing it a bit, which will be good practice: I'm almost never below 80 rpm, so my legs are probably spindly little things relative to many of yours. I'll work on the lower cadences if my knees will put up with it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rowan
    If you're riding a fixed gear, cadence varies considerably on any ride.
    My hat's off to you if you're riding 400k+ fixed! I've yet to try riding in that particular style (the typical "proponents" of fixed gears around hear leave me unimpressed). The more I think about it, though, the more I wonder if it wouldn't be a great training tool. Mostly I like smoking hipsters on Pistas with my 35lb touring rig.

  15. #15
    2nd Amendment Cyclist RichardGlover's Avatar
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    I normally run between 90 and 100 rpm. When I find myself running low on replacement energy, I'll shift to a harder gear and pedal around 75-80 instead. It seems to stretch out my available reserves - don't know for sure what it does to my overall endurance.
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  16. #16
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    We're all just anecdotal data points. I pedal 88-94 on the flat, more frequently in the lower end of that, 78 climbing if my gears allow it. Most of the really good LD riders I ride with pedal faster on the flat - closer to 100, though I ride with one great rider who's closer to 60. I'm using 170s on my single and 172.5s on our tandem. I should probably be using 165s and pedaling faster because I've shrunk down to about the OP's height, plus I'm short-legged anyway.

    The idea of training at much higher cadences is a good one. I do that and it helps. I also train at much lower cadences, which also helps, just different systems. Homeyba is of course correct, with the understanding that one can train to have a different "natural" cadence than the one we might be born with, which almost all of us have in fact done.

    I don't think there's anything to the slow/fast twitch theory as regards cadence.

  17. #17
    Senior Member The Octopus's Avatar
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    I tend to end up around 75-80 on very long rides, averaged over the course of the whole ride.

    For TTs -- 15K to 40K -- I'm in the high 90s/low-100s.

    Seems that the longer the ride gets, the lower my preferred cadence is.

    After a few years of doing brevets (and 3 1200Ks) fixed, I've found that my cadence tends to stay pretty much same, no matter what gear I have on. It's gotten to the point where I can predict my finish time within minutes based on what gear I've selected. Weird.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Octopus View Post
    After a few years of doing brevets (and 3 1200Ks) fixed, I've found that my cadence tends to stay pretty much same, no matter what gear I have on.
    Have you tried a 53x11? At 75-80 RPM that should make for an impressive 1200K!

  19. #19
    Senior Member Homeyba's Avatar
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    I usually run a between a 56 and 60x11 on all the 1200ks I've done.
    It doesn't get harder, you just go slower.

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    Trying to start that one again, eh? I'll just remind everyone that at "The Octopus's" 75-80 RPM, a 60x11 will have you going 32 to 34 MPH. That should get you across the finish line at PBP in maybe 25 hours, assuming you don't stop too much. You might want to notify La Societe Charly Miller...
    Last edited by Six jours; 11-16-11 at 10:17 PM.

  21. #21
    Senior Member Homeyba's Avatar
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    No. Thought you'd appreciate it though. I did PBP in somewhere around 88hrs using that big gear, and all of my 1200ks between 80-89hrs. While I don't race my 1200ks I do prefer to get plenty of sleep . For me they are for fun, not racing. The thing I really like about the big gear (actually there are several things I like) is that I can get in the flats and lope along in the mid 20's for mile after mile. It's a recovery time for me. My heart rate comes way down and its just very peaceful and I make pretty good time. I do run a triple though so I have a pretty wide range of gears for whatever terrain might come up on a 1200k. That big gear is a tool, just like every other gear.
    It doesn't get harder, you just go slower.

  22. #22
    Senior Member The Octopus's Avatar
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    Eh, biggest I've ever run on a brevet is 49x15, which isn't all that big. It did have me set up nicely for a 6:30 200K, though, until I caught a bad mechanical that took an hour to get resolved.

    Talked with some UK riders at PBP this year who spoke of a guy they knew who was running 100+ gear inches on brevets in Wales. Hats off to that guy!

    I agree with Homey re: the huge gears having their place on long rides. On a long ride on a geared bike, I like throwing it a huge gear on flat terrain and turning over a lower cadence while still keeping up a good speed. For me, that just gives everything a rest. Spinning all the time gets tiring. Heck, if you're brining all those gears along, might as well use them. Most randonneurs I see ought to just remove their front derailleur, for as little as I see them use it.

  23. #23
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    That is probably Steve Abraham aka teethgrinder, a good bloke. Usually runs about 86" fixed, with big gears either for fun or specific training. It was good fun watching him climb during 2010's Mille Miglia, seated at 40 rpm solid as a rock.

    You might be able to talk him into a fixed tandem ride at the next PBP, he was on the Brit triplet in 2003.

  24. #24
    Junior Member Stinky C's Avatar
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    I like an average of 85-90 for my long rides. I'll do shorter recovery rides at a high spin (110+) as well. I've also found that my high rpm days are really good at helping my muscle memory in terms of applying pressure to my entire rotation. You can't get away with just pushing down when you're spinning that fast, and have to push & pull through for all 360 degrees.

    And I agree - everybody's different. One of my riding buddies is pretty husky with thick legs, and he's always north of 95 while our "senior" rider is never above 75.

  25. #25
    Newbie justin_jiang's Avatar
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    150KM,an average of 100-110,that's mine,when climbing the mountain,i‘d like keep 80-90.

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