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Training & Nutrition Learn how to develop a training schedule that's good for you. What should you eat and drink on your ride? Learn everything you need to know about training and nutrition here.

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Old 04-22-14, 09:46 PM   #1
tahoe_girl
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What's more important.....

....... cadence or mph? When I'm in a lighter gear, my cadence is higher but my mph is lower. When I am in a bigger gear, bike computer shows higher mph but lower cadence. Is this accurate? If so, what should I pay more attention to?

Thanks!
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Old 04-22-14, 10:20 PM   #2
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Neither really. You should be more concerned with power or perceived exertion or HR. Speed is affected by wind and cadence is easily changed by switching gears. If you find your speed is dropping at higher cadence that means your power is dropping. You can either practice riding at a higher cadence or just change to a higher gear. The downside of riding at lower cadence is a slightly higher risk of knee issues and a reduced ability to respond quickly to changes in speed (potentially necessary on a fast group ride or while racing).

Most riders will find their power drops off at higher cadence and they will find a naturally comfortable cadence range. With more experience most riders will find their natural cadence also goes up.

Personally, I find my cadence goes up when I'm riding at higher speeds and with higher power. If I'm just noodling around or riding easy a lower cadence is more comfortable.
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Old 04-23-14, 09:04 PM   #3
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Neither really. You should be more concerned with power or perceived exertion or HR. Speed is affected by wind and cadence is easily changed by switching gears. If you find your speed is dropping at higher cadence that means your power is dropping. You can either practice riding at a higher cadence or just change to a higher gear. The downside of riding at lower cadence is a slightly higher risk of knee issues and a reduced ability to respond quickly to changes in speed (potentially necessary on a fast group ride or while racing).

Most riders will find their power drops off at higher cadence and they will find a naturally comfortable cadence range. With more experience most riders will find their natural cadence also goes up.

Personally, I find my cadence goes up when I'm riding at higher speeds and with higher power. If I'm just noodling around or riding easy a lower cadence is more comfortable.
Great, thanks for the information. Typically, will my HR be higher when I am in the higher gear or the lower one? I've been riding for a few years now, but I am now getting interested in efficiency to become a better rider. I really appreciate the advice.
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Old 04-23-14, 09:40 PM   #4
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Great, thanks for the information. Typically, will my HR be higher when I am in the higher gear or the lower one? I've been riding for a few years now, but I am now getting interested in efficiency to become a better rider. I really appreciate the advice.
At the same power level HR will normally be a little higher at higher cadence. Having a higher HR doesn't necessarily mean you won't be able to sustain the power longer than you could with a lower HR. Riding at a low cadence will cause your legs to fatigue faster so even though your HR may be lower you won't be able to sustain a given power level as long.
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Old 04-24-14, 12:12 PM   #5
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^ Exactly. Training at a higher cadence will promote adaptations to sustain said higher cadence more comfortably and at a lower HR. Personally, I find I climb at a higher cadence than usual when I'm whupped and still trying to climb hard. Maybe if I'd done the whole ride that way, I wouldn't be so whupped. OTOH, maybe I'd have been a little slower. You have to experiment. Get on someone's wheel on a long climb and try different gears and see what seems to work best for you - what you can sustain most easily. Or just watch your speedo.

On the flat the effort is lower and it's almost always better to pedal 90 or so and accept the slightly higher HR. Think "oxygen is free and glycogen is limited."
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Old 04-24-14, 05:54 PM   #6
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And what is considered ideal or efficient cadence?

I finally got a computer to measure cadence and it's way lower than I thought. I struggle to keep higher than 75 and I always thought 85-95 was ideal.
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Old 04-24-14, 08:36 PM   #7
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And what is considered ideal or efficient cadence?

I finally got a computer to measure cadence and it's way lower than I thought. I struggle to keep higher than 75 and I always thought 85-95 was ideal.
"ideal" varies with the individual. "Efficient" is a problematic word with many definitions. That said, most people I've ridden with do 85-95 on the flat, with most toward the higher end. Climbing, anywhere from 75-95. People with higher VO2max seem to climb at higher cadences. That said, one of the fastest riders I know turns about 60 all the time. And many people ride outside those ranges, up to 110 on the flat. But for most folks those ranges seem to work best.

You can train yourself to ride higher cadences simply by doing it.
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Old 04-24-14, 09:17 PM   #8
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Like most simple questions, this is thought provoking. There is plenty of data showing the cadence of pro cyclists.

What is more important than speed and cadence is proper positioning on the bike coupled with an efficient pedaling stroke resulting in the greatest speed for any give power output irrespective of cadence, which for most recreational cyclists is a quicker cadence than their typical motion.

I think proper cadence is more important then blind focus on speed because it helps train and recruit muscles for a more efficient pedaling action.

I shoot for 88-92 rpm on the flats and if possible no lower than 65 on hills. I'm a bit of a grinder when tired.
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Old 04-25-14, 07:51 AM   #9
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I don't think the cadence of pro riders that train 6 hours a day is relevant to most people. The data mostly shows that they are spending 90% of the ride conserving energy for the last 10%. Also those cadences can be dramatically different depending on the situation, terrain and the rider.

Every time I see this question come up I remember a conversation with a couple friends about 10 years ago. Maybe ex-friends if they read this They were avid cyclists and devout disciples of one Lance Armstrong. So we're sitting around watching the tour and they are recounting all the training secrets they learned from Armstrong and Carmichael books they had read, and how Armstrong increased his cadence to 100 rpm, thus instantly turning himself into a super human climber and greatest all around cyclist who has ever lived. I thought it was a complete load of crap back then, and now I know it's complete crap.

I agree that efficiency is way more important, perfect pedal stroke, bike position, etc. It's also helpful to know what's most efficient for you, and to strive for a perfect pedal stroke at a wide range of rpm's. But trying to maintain someone else's ideal cadence is not going to make you faster or more efficient.
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Old 04-25-14, 10:16 AM   #10
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^I don't believe anyone has mentioned pro riders in this thread. The fastest spinners I know are randonneurs, ordinary folks who cover up to 750 miles in one long ride. They don't dope.
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Old 04-25-14, 06:15 PM   #11
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Thanks folks. 85 to 95 it is. I've got some work to do.
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Old 04-25-14, 08:22 PM   #12
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I think you'll find it varies. For me the sweet spot is 85-95, for some others it is different. Whether you use HR, cadence or PE the trick is finding the spot where your legs and lungs are in concert. I ride with some guys that can just crush it for hours at 75 RPMs (usually bigger guys) and others that can spin a 100 all day long. I think that those are the extremes and that is why most folks tend towards 85-95 but do what feels good to you and what you can sustain for a long ride. Once you have that bench mark you know that if your RPMs are to slow the legs are gonna go and if to fast the lungs will go.
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Old 04-25-14, 08:29 PM   #13
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Thanks folks. 85 to 95 it is. I've got some work to do.
I wouldn't make any big deal of it. The real requirements (for flat riding) are to spin fast enough that you prevent pain in your knees and feel a flow, and slow enough that you don't bounce up and down on the saddle and can maintain "pedaling in circles." Beyond that the numbers are quite arbitrary. For me, 85 feels fast early in the season. Later in the season, 95 can feel smooth. I'm neither a racer nor a randonneur.
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Old 04-26-14, 05:51 AM   #14
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^I don't believe anyone has mentioned pro riders in this thread. The fastest spinners I know are randonneurs, ordinary folks who cover up to 750 miles in one long ride. They don't dope.
Hmmm...

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There is plenty of data showing the cadence of pro cyclists.
I don't believe anyone has mentioned doping in this thread. But then maybe I didn't read all the posts either.
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Old 04-26-14, 06:07 AM   #15
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Around 70-75 is perfect for me. Ten years ago that number was closer to 65. I'm fairly comfortable anywhere between 50-110, but the upper range does tend to limit the speed due to oxygen deprivation.
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