just another gosling
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Everett, WA
Bikes: CoMo Speedster 2003, Trek 5200, CAAD 9, Fred 2004
Mentioned: 9 Post(s)
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Studies have shown that a cyclist puts out the most wattage at a particular heart rate at 50-55 cadence. As you find, if you hold the same wattage and increase cadence, heart rate rises. Here's the first interesting part. It's an unusual trained cyclist that can get their heart rate over lactate threshold at such low cadences. It's possible that you can pedal with Jan's style. Here's the second interesting part. It takes very efficient leg muscles to pedal very hard at low cadences because powerful contractions tend to burn a lot of glycogen and create a lot of lactate.
So most folks pedal at a higher cadence to spare the glycogen and create less lactate, if they keep the HR under lactate threshold, that is. Your legs will last a lot longer if you pedal fast. Even so, most folks climb at a slower cadence than they use on the flat, again to keep that HR down when the legs are loaded.
It's been the style ever since Lance won his first Tour to advocate high cadence pedaling. However, it's good to keep in mind that Lance was able to pedal those high cadences because he could ride for long periods at very high heart rates.
So everyone has their own favorite and most efficient climbing cadence, depending on their physiology. Only experimentation can show you what yours is. On the other hand, "most efficient" cadence is trainable. You can teach your legs to operate at both higher and lower cadences than seem natural. So that makes it a lot more complicated. What to do? Train at higher cadences, or train the cadence that seems natural? We each had to experiment to answer that question. When Jan quit, he was still experimenting.