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cadence/gearing for weight loss

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cadence/gearing for weight loss

Old 04-26-11, 06:16 PM
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cadence/gearing for weight loss

Hi all
I LOVE my bike and getting out for long rides but I'm trying to figure out the BEST way to lose weight.
I've had ppl swear to me that high cadence low gears is the way to go and other who say high gears with a lower cadence is the best....

Needless to say I'm confused

Any help would be greatly appriciated.
Thanks!
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Old 04-26-11, 06:24 PM
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Low cadence will tend to build muscle in your legs, high cadence will tend to get your heart beating faster. Both will burn calories. Low cadence will likely make your knees sore. So in the long run high cadence will for most people be better.
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Old 04-26-11, 06:55 PM
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Even among those who want to build leg muscle or otherwise develop the ability to push big gears, the general thinking is you need a lot of high-cadence spinning miles in your legs first in order to keep from blowing out your knees. They always said the first part of your season should be spent in lower gears.

Or so I've read.
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Old 04-26-11, 07:20 PM
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And now for somthing completely different . . .

Cadence is going to depend on what's comfortable for you (genetic make-up), but I always thought this was a better way to do it: Assuming you have a bike with a range of gears, find some FD/RD combo where you can pedal & breathe comfortably (breathing faster than normal, but able to carry on short conversations if there's someone around you). That'll allow you to ride for distance (depending on current conditioning), but not wear you out too quickly. If you want to get in a better workout you can always throw in a few sprints or crank up a few hills where you can make it a little tougher on the cardio/muscle systems and up the breathing rate.
 
Old 04-26-11, 07:35 PM
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I agree with the above posters. Spin, Baby Spin. I have developed a personal workout after researching this very topic. I use a local MUP which is three miles, end to end and start by taking a leisurely low gear lap first to warm up. On the next laps, I then pick-up the speed by increasing cadence on a straight-away toward the end before turning around. This straight away is 1 mile long. Once I turn around, I then blast as fast as I can for 30 seconds then pedal at a quick rate for a minute or longer (recovery) then Blast again. It is my form of High Intensity Interval Training. This gets my heart rate up but doesn’t kill me. The other two miles I spin at a high rate as traffic permits and start the process over again. I try and do this routine 3 times a week. Today I did 33 miles of this on a fixed gear bike and I feel great. My pounds are falling off. At my current rate of progress, I expect to be back at my College weight (34 years ago) in 45 days or so. I have to walk my daughter down an isle

You can read more about High Intensity Interval Training HERE or Google it for other opinions.

Last edited by Deaver; 04-26-11 at 07:49 PM.
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Old 04-26-11, 09:24 PM
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A high cadence will develop your muscles and (more importantly) your ligaments & tendons. Their new strengths will allow you to later push bigger gears. However, if you try to push big gears before your muscles, ligaments & tendons are ready, you're just courting pain, and not the good kind.

A high cadence will also "teach" your muscles/body to do this normally. (I don't subscribe to a genetically programmed cadence that is "just for you", which allows some to promote a slow, mash-big-gears cadence.) When using a high cadence, your body will get more of its energy from aerobic pathways. This will put less stress on your muscles/ligaments/tendons and allow you to ride farther before tiring.

As to which burns more calories? Over time, a higher cadence will. Why? Because you can ride for a longer duration. A slower cadence will tire your legs more quickly, limiting the amount of time you spend exercising. On a short ride, aka: intervals, the anaerobic pathways will consume more kcals but you will tire more quickly and ride for less duration.
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Old 04-26-11, 09:41 PM
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This is what I do.... pedal at the rate your legs want to go and if you are bouncing in the seat, shift gears. If you bounce in that one keep going until you are in a gear that you don't bounce in. Ta-da that is probably the one you want to be in. That's my general rule but I let my body tell me how fast it wants to spin at right now. And with all that you have to spin fast enough to get your heart rate in the right range to burn fat and be able to do it for as long as possible.
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Old 04-26-11, 09:56 PM
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Just do what your legs will let you do, the bike will let you do and the terrain will let you do. For confidence sake and otherwise, I've found that you might have to go research flatter or less hilly terrain until you prove you can graduate up to tougher things. The key is to not push things. Spinning is better when you can, but you can't always. This is because there are some things where you can spin up, and others where you just have to let strength win the day or walk up.

Good luck.
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Old 04-26-11, 11:36 PM
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Originally Posted by ithacabikechick
Hi all
I LOVE my bike and getting out for long rides but I'm trying to figure out the BEST way to lose weight.
Ride hard except when you shouldn't.

Ride often.

Recover when needed and plan for it.

Have a training plan, keep a log, and make adjustments as needed.

I can ride my 12 mile one-way commute at a threshold pace and exceed 500 kilojoules of work (1 kj = .95 - 1.2 Calories depending on cyclist efficiency making for 475-600 Calories) in 40 minutes of actual riding time or I can do it as a recovery ride in over an hour totaling just 250 kj. The former does twice as much for me immediately.

Easy riding doesn't increase your power much. If you're burning 350 Calories an hour today at a given perceived effort you're not going to be doing appreciably better six months from now although you'll be able to do it farther and more days a week. Hard riding for prolonged periods does. A few hard 10 minute efforts separated by more moderate periods may do more good sooner. You can do this with a strict plan like 3x10 with 5 minutes of rest between intervals, or be less parochial and go hard between your favorite landmarks ~3 miles apart on flat routes, up-hill, etc. When your power increases the amount you can put out for longer period or at lower perceived efforts also increases proportionally so you'll burn more calories on your easy days too.

Hard riding also increases your basal metabolic rate while low efforts don't. For example, for the 14 hours following a 45 minute exercise bout with net energy expenditure of 519 +/- 60.9 kcal test subjects' energy expenditure increased 190 +- 71 kcal compared to their rest day which is 37% more calories than they burned during their exercise period. https://conditioningresearch.blogspot...olic-rate.html

You can over do it though - riding 'hard' too often doesn't work because you remain in a fatigued state and can't go 100%. Based on your fitness level there will be times when slower is all you can sustain without running into problems. You might start with a hard day a week and get to alternating threshold/tempo days on Monday/Tuesday and Thursday/Friday.

Ride often. You can do more work in more shorter sessions than you can one long one plus you have the secondary benefits. A six hour pace might be 60-80% of what you can manage one hour at a time. Fitness also limits the daily average stress you can tolerate so you can manage more by riding more days.

Have scheduled recovery days/weeks/months so that your body can develop and you can continue to ride hard on your tough days. Waiting until you feel too fatigued will mean lower quality work-outs before you get to that point and more time before you're at 100%. A day or two off the bike each week is good especially if you lack the patience to ride slow. I need to go easy every fifth week and might do better on a traditional schedule where every fourth week is easy. There are also limits to how long you can build for after which you get some sustainable peak (maybe 3 months total) after which you need an easy month.

Have a training plan, keep a log (electronics and software make this easier), and make adjustments if you need recovery more frequently to perform. There are whole books written about this and reading one or two wouldn't hurt.

I've had ppl swear to me that high cadence low gears is the way to go and other who say high gears with a lower cadence is the best....
It's about the power you can deliver. You want to do whatever maximizes your power production now, later in the ride, and on back-to-back days.

For short efforts (30 seconds or a few minutes) there are limits to how hard you can push on the pedals and keep pushing on them. I can get going faster with higher average power if I'm shifting at 110 RPM not 95.

For longer efforts at the same power different cadences will affect how you fatigue. I can ride as fast at 80-85 RPM as I can 95-100 and would expend about the same Calories either way; but if I do it at 80 RPM today I'll be riding at an endurance pace tomorrow.

Genetic variation in the sorts of muscle fibers you have determine what works better for you once you have some training and your brain+legs have things figured out. Lance Armstrong won the Tour with reported cadences around 110 RPM and a measured 90-105 climbing Alpe d'Huez during the 2001 race; Lars Ulrich won pedaling at a reported 90 RPM and was doing 80-90 RPM in that stage.
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Old 04-27-11, 05:34 AM
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tl;dr


Pedaling faster builds your cardiovascular system.
Pedaling slower builds your legs.

CV gets stronger much, much faster.

If you're overweight, and not a complete couch potato, your legs are probably already pretty strong. Build your cardiovascular system so you can keep going and going and going and going.

Ease into the harder gears over the course of six+ months. You want to build strength in tendons and ligaments around your knees before you start hammering them and end up with a TKR thread of your very own.
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Old 04-27-11, 05:56 AM
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Here's my advice - don't make a science project out of it, just go ride. Your body will let you know what is working for you. If something hurts, dont' do it. Riding should be smooth, not jerky or painful. Ok, hills are painful, but you already know that if you live in Ithaca!
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Old 04-27-11, 05:58 AM
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I'm a sports physiologist. If you want to lose weight, I'd suggest you focus more on your diet than exercise for the first 3-4 months.

To lose 1kg (2.2lbs) a week requires a Calorie deficit of 7700 Calories or 1100 a day.
To burn 1100 a day would require a female around 5'6" to cycle 60 km at 30kph (38miles at 19mph).
That's 425km per week or 266 miles.
If you are deconditioned and don't have the ideal skeletal frame, you are very likely to end up with overuse injuries at that level.

I'd recommend you rely on a Calorie restricted diet for 60-75% of the Calorie deficit. i.e. a -750 Cal deficit in your Calorie intake. and 350 Cals of additional exercise a day. After 6-8 weeks, you could increase your exercise duration and intensity to burn 500 Cals a day.

Messing with your cadence will be limited until you get a good base of fitness - better O2 delivery and stronger tendons. Though you could vary your cadence for 30 second intervals. I doubt you will feel comfortable riding at >85rpm until your fitness and mileage improves, and delayed onset muscle soreness will be an issue at lower cadences.

Last edited by BruceGr; 04-27-11 at 06:05 AM. Reason: add info
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Old 04-27-11, 06:00 AM
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I don't believe either is at choice. determining cadence is governed by specific ergonomic factors depending on fitness level and terrain.
Also, one doesn't lose weight while riding (or any other exercise). what loses weight is:
- increased metabolism through regular aerobic exercise and increased muscle mass from strength training (lifestyle change)
- working that important equation between calories taken in and calories burned (lifestyle change)
- changing the food items ingested (lifestyle change)
- nutrition timing in relation to your training (lifestyle change)
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Old 04-27-11, 07:33 AM
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All of the above is good advice. But, calories burned is a function of speed, distance and your weight. Work (measured in calories) = F (amount of Force) x (or in calculus terms "dot") dl (or, the distance.) Force is determined by overcoming rolling resistance (i.e. your tires and their pressure), wind resistance (how windy it is, your "projected frontal area", etc), and the power you put into pushing the pedals).

So, you will burn the same number of calories regardless if your cadence is high or low, as long as your time and all other variables are constant). The advice above is absolutely correct in that the lower the cadence the more muscle mass you will build. For a good example of this, just look at the muscle mass difference between a sprinter and a marathon runner.
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Old 04-27-11, 11:31 AM
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here's a fun fact that may be interesting on this topic. one burns the same number of calories walking a mile as one would running a mile. it just takes longer.

that said, I believe running does some other things to your metabolism; fitness and muscle development that walking doesn't do
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Old 04-27-11, 11:56 AM
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Originally Posted by ithacabikechick
Hi all
I LOVE my bike and getting out for long rides but I'm trying to figure out the BEST way to lose weight.
I've had ppl swear to me that high cadence low gears is the way to go and other who say high gears with a lower cadence is the best....

Needless to say I'm confused

Any help would be greatly appriciated.
Thanks!
Go for a long ride, and do some of both. The important point is it's calories per hour, so the best way to lose weight is to spend more hours on the bike.
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Old 04-27-11, 12:41 PM
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I guess in the end, you do whatever cadence allows you to ride the longest - that'll be the most beneficial one. Like Seattle Forrest said, the best thing is to spend more time riding.
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Old 04-27-11, 01:10 PM
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I agree that it does not have to be a science project. Lots of other things are at play as well.

The heavier I am, the heavier the gears I like to push. If you have big legs, like me, there comes a point where it takes too much energy to move your legs past a certain speed. Less of that power is going to the pedals and the wheels, than to lifting my big-fat legs.

I've also noticed that pushing a bigger gear takes more weight off of my hands and saddle pressure to the front of my seat bones. Numb hands and numb/sore nether regions become the limiting factor in how far I ride above a certain weight.
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Old 04-27-11, 02:47 PM
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Oh my goodness! I am overwhelmed by all the great infomation you have all given me!!
Thank you!

I ride a fair amout, and was on a trainer all winter. I love the feel of a "heavy" pedal under my foot but I've found that my basic body "shape" never changes. I do long rides 30+ miles with hills (because they are unavoidable around here) on weekends and try to get out 2-3 nights a week for 15-18 miles. So the ride long and often I think I've got covered.
I've never had a computer on my bike so I've just always tried to keep up with fellow riders (usually 15-18 mph/avg) I can ride flats 21-24mph but I STRUGGLE on hills....I think it's half psych and half experience.
I'm a total food health nut, rarely do I eat sweets, no white flour, mostly veggies, lean protein and whole grains. I do enjoy a beer or two every now and then and the occasional glass of wine.
What I guess is tripping me up is that I can ride long and fast on the flats, I know I have strong legs bec I tend to always ride in my big ring, but I can't get my legs to get leaner....
I'm going to try for a higher cadence and see if the increased cardio helps me to drop some weight more quickly.
Thanks so much again everyone! I'll let you all know how it turns out
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Old 04-27-11, 05:14 PM
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Losing bodyfat and changing body shape are not exactly the same.
I presume you know whether you carry excessive fat.

If you want to reduce body fat, then you need to create a Calorie deficit. Just because you are a health nut, that doesn't guarantee your energy intake is not excessive.

If you want to change your body shape, then you probably still need to lose body fat, in addition to build muscle where there is a lack currently.

I have women tell me regularly they want a smaller butt and thighs. But they don't want to lift weights or cycle up hills for fear of increasing butt size. And yet, 99% have butt issues due to excess fat. Females preferentially begin storing fat in the butt and upper thighs. The solution for most is the same - generate a real Calorie deficit.

If they have issues with body shape apart from that, like they think their butt is out of proportion to their smaller upper body, then they need to build muscle mass and tone in their trunk and upper limbs.
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Old 04-27-11, 05:51 PM
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Originally Posted by ithacabikechick
I ride a fair amout, and was on a trainer all winter. I love the feel of a "heavy" pedal under my foot but I've found that my basic body "shape" never changes. I do long rides 30+ miles with hills (because they are unavoidable around here) on weekends and try to get out 2-3 nights a week for 15-18 miles. So the ride long and often I think I've got covered.
Try joining the 500 miles per month challenge. It averages to about 17 or 18 miles per day - every day.

Originally Posted by ithacabikechick
I've never had a computer on my bike so I've just always tried to keep up with fellow riders (usually 15-18 mph/avg) I can ride flats 21-24mph but I STRUGGLE on hills....I think it's half psych and half experience.
Hill repeats. You'll hate me for a while, but you'll eventually notice that the hills get easier.
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Old 04-28-11, 11:52 AM
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In my experience when I push a bigger gear I am more inclined to do shorter increments of pedal-rest, pedal-rest. This spring I have been specifically working on a higher cadence w/ a lower gear and thus far have found that my overall endurance is better, i.e., I have more left in the tank on the back half of a big ride.

Like other posters have said it is not rocket science. It's definitely something that you should at least experiment with for yourself if you ride a lot. Your approach really needs to fit you and your riding style.
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Old 04-28-11, 02:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest
Hill repeats. You'll hate me for a while, but you'll eventually notice that the hills get easier.
The hills don't get easier, you just go up them faster.

Seriously, yeah... hill repeats are awesome. I love and hate them.
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Old 04-28-11, 08:07 PM
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In addition to hill repeats, consider riding out of the saddle. Build your time up gradually. It is amazing how quickly you can progress from 1-2 minutes to 15-20 minutes (no sitting at all).

Mix the speed up a bit, and include getting on a high gear and pedalling real slow. This makes the front leg do concentric contractions, and the rear leg do eccentric contraction. Eccentrics tear the muscle more, which stimulates muscle growth better.

You work your quads (thighs) and glut max (butt) even when standing and pedaling slowly, as long as your knees are bent.

You'll soon feel accessory muscles getting worked out that normally don't.
You only want to do this 2x a week. You'll get delayed onset muscle soreness if doing it right.
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Old 04-30-11, 07:23 AM
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Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest
Hill repeats. You'll hate me for a while, but you'll eventually notice that the hills get easier.
Originally Posted by CliftonGK1
The hills don't get easier, you just go up them faster.

Seriously, yeah... hill repeats are awesome. I love and hate them.
I'll jump on the hill repeats bandwagon. I notice that I get the most leg strength and toning when I do hill repeats. Besides legs, it also really works my core (and believe it or not my arms because of the alternating motion of pulling with your arms and pushing with your legs).
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