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Spinner to a fault

Old 04-28-11, 03:11 PM
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Spinner to a fault

It seems like the majority of competitive cyclists have the opposite problem as I do, spinning so much that power/strength is lacking. I can out-spin just about anyone I encounter on the road or in a race. And I often get comments from people about my high RPM. This has it's benefits on all but the longest climbs and for accelerations, especially in crits. I can avoid the dreaded lactic build-up longer at a high cadence.
But the limitations are obvious in the flat out hammering department, when higher RPMs can't beat higher FTP. I'm assuming here that a lower cadence with a higher power output will cause less fatigue than a higher cadence with a lower power output.

Any specific advice on how to not rely on high cadence so much and how to build more power, especially now that I'm midway into the racing season? Or is it acceptable to just play to my strengths?
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Old 04-28-11, 03:16 PM
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You can generate the same power by either spinning more or applying more force.

You build more power by training FTP not by deciding to switch to low cadence.
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Old 04-28-11, 03:28 PM
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I see two options:

a) shift up and start grinding

b) play your strengths and keep on spinnin
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Old 04-28-11, 03:29 PM
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Originally Posted by ridethecliche
You can generate the same power by either spinning more or applying more force.

You build more power by training FTP not by deciding to switch to low cadence.
Are you saying that if, as an example, I train more in Zone 4 to train FTP, my overall speed and race endurance will increase regardless of whether I spin or mash?
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Old 04-28-11, 04:10 PM
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Originally Posted by BudFox
It can out-spin just about anyone I encounter on the road or in a race.
I wouldn't worry about it.
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Old 04-28-11, 04:50 PM
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watt is a watt
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Old 04-28-11, 04:57 PM
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Spinning and power are not mutually exclusive, if anything, they go together. Track sprinters have a very high cadence and are extremely poerful. Sounds like you need to work on powwer, but don't try to get more power by altering your cadence. It sounds like you have a good spin.
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Old 04-28-11, 05:15 PM
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I used to actively try to keep my rpm at 95+ and never really noticed it hurting me in hard group rides or races. I've since gone completely without a computer and don't pay any attention to my cadence beyond doing what feels good. I think I may have dropped a good 10 rpm in the process. Bottom line (for me at least) is don't overthink it

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Old 04-28-11, 05:19 PM
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Originally Posted by BudFox
Are you saying that if, as an example, I train more in Zone 4 to train FTP, my overall speed and race endurance will increase regardless of whether I spin or mash?
Yes. I also think you should pick up a book about training so you can figure some of this stuff out. It seems like you know very little about the topic and it would really help you out as you start training for next season!
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Old 04-28-11, 05:37 PM
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Originally Posted by BudFox
I'm assuming here that a lower cadence with a higher power output will cause less fatigue than a higher cadence with a lower power output.
Not for me. And Ferrari and others have studies that show for most people a higher cadence provides less fatigue.

Originally Posted by BudFox
Any specific advice on how to not rely on high cadence so much and how to build more power, especially now that I'm midway into the racing season?
Most people have a optimum cadence. There is no such thing as an optimum cadence. Understand? I've watched guys beat me spinning 70 rpm up a climb. And I've watched guys beat me spinning 100 rpm.

Originally Posted by BudFox
Or is it acceptable to just play to my strengths?
If it wasn't acceptable, I'd never win a thing.
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Old 04-28-11, 07:35 PM
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Keep spinning....The goal is to push the next gear at the same cadence...you go faster
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Old 04-28-11, 08:40 PM
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Originally Posted by BudFox
I'm assuming here that a lower cadence with a higher power output will cause less fatigue than a higher cadence with a lower power output.

I think you may be confusing the term "power" with the term "torque". Like someone already said above, a Watt (measure of power) is a Watt. So, if you are generating less power, regardless of cadence, you'll likely experience less fatigue than if you were generating higher power. However, to generate the same power at lower cadence requires more torque (force applied to pedal). Because of the higher torque, many people's legs tend to fatigue sooner at lower cadence than at higher cadence. However, to spin at a high cadence requires cadiovascular fitness and neuromuscular adaptations, both of which are trainable. . . in the end, every rider is unique in all these areas, so "optimal cadence" is very personal.
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Old 04-28-11, 09:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Racer Ex
Ferrari and others have studies that show for most people a higher cadence provides less fatigue. ...
At low to moderate workloads that makes total sense; more repetitions with lower force puts more of the total work on the fatigue resistant slow twitch fibers.

Originally Posted by Racer Ex
Most people have a optimum cadence.
Yep, your self selected cadence for a given power output is best; forcing people to pedal faster or slower often results in a decrease in performance. The human body is inherently lazy; you apply a given workload and it will find the easiest way to do it with what it's given.

That said you can “spin to a fault.” Leg flapping takes energy, and at some point it’s just a waste. Imagine riding a bike with no chain on a trainer at 120rpm...

Furthermore, much of racing is dependent on maximal fiber activation, so super spiny guy may get dropped even though his legs are freshest because he can’t produce sufficient force.
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Old 04-28-11, 09:49 PM
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play to your strengths but train your weaknesses. The only way to get the torque you lacking is to ride in the bigger gears. you get stronger by lifting heavier weights periodically, not by lifting light weights a million times.

Obviously this is where you have to be careful to do the right amount because you will be overloading your legs. spinning is more playing it safe.

Last edited by Nick Bain; 04-28-11 at 09:53 PM.
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Old 04-28-11, 09:53 PM
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Keep a your high cadence, but shift 3 gears up.

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

Incidentally, if you can maintain a high cadence without losing biomechanical efficiency (i.e. no 'leg flapping'), there are mechanical advantages. For a given speed, you'll be in a bigger rear cog, and the bigger the rear cog you're in, the more efficient a chain drive system is. It might only be 1/2% gain or less, but it's something.
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Old 04-28-11, 10:09 PM
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you can be efficient as hell but efficiency has nothing to do with torque. example: honda engine. If you shift up 3 gears, you will have to lower your cadence to match the output of high cadence riding style. the first couple times you do it, you will probably be going slower and feel less efficient. It will pay off. Hill climbs are when most people get dropped. Lance beat everyone on a hill because he could turn the biggest gear at 80 rpm.
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Old 04-28-11, 10:23 PM
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Originally Posted by BudFox
It seems like the majority of competitive cyclists have the opposite problem as I do, spinning so much that power/strength is lacking
There was a guy like you at our crit practice the other day. Every time up the hill we was spinning like crazy while most everyone else was somewhere around 70-90. He could stay with us at race pace but when someone attacked he couldn't react because he was too close to spun out already and didn't appear to have the muscle to grind out a bigger gear. Overall he didn't appear very fatigued. I got the impression someone told him the key to cycling is spinning really fast and he hadn't taken the time to build up a little more strength.

While out doing intervals on a flat course I always come to the point where I need to spin faster or shift and grind a bigger gear to get into the zone I want. Lately I've been grinding a bigger gear because it seems like there is more growth potential for me there. My strength has been improving and I've slowly been able to spin that bigger gear at higher cadence.
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Old 04-28-11, 10:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Nick Bain
If you shift up 3 gears, you will have to lower your cadence to match the output of high cadence riding style
No, you missed my point. Shift up and still turn the same cadence. Some guy named Ed had the right idea. "It's better to spin a big gear"
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Old 04-28-11, 11:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Enthalpic
At low to moderate workloads that makes total sense; more repetitions with lower force puts more of the total work on the fatigue resistant slow twitch fibers.

Yep, your self selected cadence for a given power output is best; forcing people to pedal faster or slower often results in a decrease in performance. The human body is inherently lazy; you apply a given workload and it will find the easiest way to do it with what it's given.

That said you can spin to a fault. Leg flapping takes energy, and at some point its just a waste. Imagine riding a bike with no chain on a trainer at 120rpm.

Furthermore, much of racing is dependent on maximal fiber activation, so super spiny guy may get dropped even though his legs are freshest because he cant produce sufficient force.
Originally Posted by chicagogal
I think you may be confusing the term "power" with the term "torque". Like someone already said above, a Watt (measure of power) is a Watt. So, if you are generating less power, regardless of cadence, you'll likely experience less fatigue than if you were generating higher power. However, to generate the same power at lower cadence requires more torque (force applied to pedal). Because of the higher torque, many people's legs tend to fatigue sooner at lower cadence than at higher cadence. However, to spin at a high cadence requires cadiovascular fitness and neuromuscular adaptations, both of which are trainable. . . in the end, every rider is unique in all these areas, so "optimal cadence" is very personal.
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Old 04-28-11, 11:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Fat Boy
No, you missed my point. Shift up and still turn the same cadence. Some guy named Ed had the right idea. "It's better to spin a big gear"
I respectfully disagree with your point because I think your output would increase or become unsustainable to the training zone.

If you have more force you can spin the bigger gear but before that you have to turn the bigger gear slower. That is my opinion if that makes any sense. lol. I don't want to get into a pissing match. lol.

Last edited by Nick Bain; 04-29-11 at 12:01 AM.
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Old 04-29-11, 12:07 AM
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Originally Posted by Nick Bain
I respectfully disagree with your point because I think your output would increase or become unsustainable to the training zone.

If you have more force you can spin the bigger gear but before that you have to turn the bigger gear slower. That is my opinion if that makes any sense. lol. I don't want to get into a pissing match. lol.

Yeah, it's pretty simple. For a given power output, there are infinite combinations of torque and angular velocity to reach it:


where P is power, τ is torque, ω is the angular velocity, and represents the scalar product. (from Wikipedia, of course)
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Old 04-29-11, 04:53 AM
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Look, I'm not going to try and do the math, although it's interesting. There are plenty of coaching and training strategies for both mashers and spinners. Each of us is different and there are probably optimums for both, as there have been throughout all of bicycle racing history. The bottom line for ME is to do what is most comfortable given distance, speed, time and goals, and work toward building the potency of the other. If you're a spinner, spin like hell and work on building power during training to increase your strength so you can gradually turn a bigger gear for a longer period while still spinning and feeling good. I would think the opposite would be true, too.

Anecdotally, I'm a spinner and find my optimum cadence to be 105 rpm and when I started training, I began on my 39 tooth ring because I couldn't physically spin the 52. As I trained over the year, I worked on building power and speed and sustainability and finally was able to spin the 52 tooth ring. Now, I'm on the 52 ring exclusively so my strength increased over time. I still have the same 105 rpm cadence that "feels" good and I'm faster for longer periods of time.

By the way, spinning is something that you'll eventually lose (generally) as the fast twitch muscles that produce that effect degenerate over time with age. MY coach tells me to continue using the highest cadence you can for as long as you can because cardio-vascularly, it's more efficient FOR MY BODY. So, if you don't want to be a spinner, just wait a while. It'll go away and you'll be left a masher.
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Old 04-29-11, 12:21 PM
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Originally Posted by agoodale
While out doing intervals on a flat course I always come to the point where I need to spin faster or shift and grind a bigger gear to get into the zone I want. Lately I've been grinding a bigger gear because it seems like there is more growth potential for me there. My strength has been improving and I've slowly been able to spin that bigger gear at higher cadence.
Assuming the grinding you refer to is just one gear higher than normal, this seems like practical advice. Does this apply for only higher intensity training, or should it be applied to zone 2 rides as well? Friel always seems to emphasize spinning at lower intensities (which helps explain how I developed my spin during three months of base building).
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Old 04-29-11, 01:16 PM
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Originally Posted by BudFox
Assuming the grinding you refer to is just one gear higher than normal, this seems like practical advice. Does this apply for only higher intensity training, or should it be applied to zone 2 rides as well? Friel always seems to emphasize spinning at lower intensities (which helps explain how I developed my spin during three months of base building).
I'm not the best guy to ask about Friel. I've never read a training book. I've just picked up things here & there from the internet & other riders. I do everything by PE. I just enjoy training this way and figuring things out on my own. I've broken through several plateaus by simply chaning up my routine. Every year I improve so I must be doing something right If I ever get stuck for more than a year I'll look into getting a PM & a coach to help me out.

That being said this year was the first year I did a real "base" period. For those rides I tended to be slightly below average cadence. Right now for my longer interval workouts (5,10,20min) I'm pushing a bigger gear and lower cadence (low 80s for now). For the short intervals (1,2min) I'll spin higher (95+). I also do seated short hill repeats in an extremely big gear at about 60rpm for strength.

I switched to these types of workouts this year after realizing that my legs were never very sore after a hard ride. I had overall fatigue but not the muscle soreness I've heard other riders complain about. I'm also 40 and have asthma so I didn't think my cardiovascular system had much more room for growth.
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Old 04-29-11, 01:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Nick Bain
I think your output would increase

ding, ding, ding, ding....we have a winner. I was being sarcastic.
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