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What is your cadence?

Old 04-10-24, 01:28 PM
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Originally Posted by ScottCommutes
The problem is that overrunning clutch (it goes by different names) hidden somewhere in the back of almost everyone's bike.

If you pedal at a nice slow cadence and with decent pedal pressure, that clutch never overruns and 100% of your pedal effort is translated into increased speed. Not a bad way to ride. It works. This is how I ride.

Now, attempting to increase your cadence by gearing down brings you away from that 100% efficient comfort zone. It brings you closer to the point where your clutch disengages and you are simply pedaling for effect with zero pedal pressure and zero power transmitted to the wheels. Wasted energy.

Other common vehicles you may be familiar with don't feature an overrunning clutch. A manual transmission car, for example, locks the power to the wheels and functions essentially like a fixed gear bike. An automatic transmission car has a fluid coupling, so if the power is faster than the wheels, that fluid starts to drive vanes in a torque converter, and the car accelerates.

If you really want to develop a faster cadence, you have three options. You could simply accept that you will spin out the overrunning clutch from time to time and lose power. Second, you could increase your momentum (typically by going faster). This makes it easier to keep from spinning out because physics will encourage your bike to keep moving at the speed it is at. Finally, you could learn to sense the pressure on that overrunning clutch and pedal just slowly enough to keep it engaged.
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Old 04-10-24, 01:45 PM
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Originally Posted by PeteHski
Originally Posted by rchung
If you've run out of gears going up a steep climb, then slow down. In that case, decreasing cadence will decrease, not increase, crank torque. (To be fair, crank torque in that case is almost independent of cadence -- but to the extent that it's not, decreasing cadence will lessen crank torque; it definitely doesn't increase crank torque.)
Of course decreasing cadence will decrease power in the same gear if the slope is a constant. But if you are maintaining power as the slope increases then pedal force will increase at a constant cadence or often increase even with a falling cadence. The whole point of gearing is to balance cadence against pedal force for a given power output. Running out of gears means you lose that flexibility and pedal force inevitably ends up higher than you would prefer when you have no more lower gears. Slowing down is often a limited option by that point.
In *any* gear, not just the lowest, reducing cadence while climbing decreases crank torque -- it never increases it.

Whether or not a high pedal force and low cadence actually hurts your knees is really a different argument. It certainly hurts my leg muscles and increases joint loading.
The argument made here to which I was responding was that low cadence hurts your knees. My argument (and, I think, the evidence) shows that cadence per se is not the cause. If you have pain and want to avoid future pain, the first thing to do is to identify the proper cause.
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Old 04-10-24, 06:18 PM
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I'm of the opinion that cadence doesn't matter much. High cadence was stressed in the early 80s, but I think it was overblown. Sure if you want to be as fast as you can be, you need the ability, and training at high cadence can be useful. For every day riding, I'm not convinced. And hill climbing at low cadence is fine, at least for most people. When I stand to pedal, my legs are not so bent.

I occasionally ride a fixed gear bike with about a 72 inch gear. When I get up to 20 or 25 mph (downhill), my legs go pretty fast, confirming I can still do it. I guess that's good.

Sometimes when I ride, I worry (unnecessarily) that I'm pedaling too slowly. I look down and estimate; I realize I'm actually going about 90 rpm, so I'm good.
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Old 04-10-24, 06:29 PM
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Originally Posted by PeteHski
Of course decreasing cadence will decrease power in the same gear if the slope is a constant. But if you are maintaining power as the slope increases then pedal force will increase at a constant cadence or often increase even with a falling cadence. The whole point of gearing is to balance cadence against pedal force for a given power output. Running out of gears means you lose that flexibility and pedal force inevitably ends up higher than you would prefer when you have no more lower gears. Slowing down is often a limited option by that point.

Whether or not a high pedal force and low cadence actually hurts your knees is really a different argument. It certainly hurts my leg muscles and increases joint loading.
This is the reason I have really low gears. It's a PITA that it's so far between them, but better that than the alternative if you're over, say 50. OTOH, I do low cadence intervals, but that's not the same as a pass climb. Seems to me they build up rather than tear down, more like a gym workout. rchung is of course correct.

Responding to the OP, my best climbing cadence is 80-83, my best flats cadence is 88. If I'm riding competitively or just having fun, coming into a hill, I like to downshift early, to ~100 cadence and then shift again at ~90 until I get low on gears, then I just drop down to steady state and suffer. I have my best luck at going over the top of short steep hills doing that and not suffering, just blowing my HR up for a little bit.
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Old 04-11-24, 05:22 AM
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Originally Posted by RChung
In *any* gear, not just the lowest, reducing cadence while climbing decreases crank torque -- it never increases it.
This is indisputable, but doesnít imply that low cadence leads to low crank torque. If I ride in a higher gear at low cadence then my crank torque will be higher than if I ride in a lower gear at the same road speed. This is also indisputable.

Unless Iím just soft pedalling on a descent or sitting in a draft, low cadence usually implies a relatively high torque for me. It certainly does when I have run out of gears on a steep climb.
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Old 04-11-24, 05:33 AM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy
This is the reason I have really low gears. It's a PITA that it's so far between them, but better that than the alternative if you're over, say 50. OTOH, I do low cadence intervals, but that's not the same as a pass climb. Seems to me they build up rather than tear down, more like a gym workout. rchung is of course correct.

Responding to the OP, my best climbing cadence is 80-83, my best flats cadence is 88. If I'm riding competitively or just having fun, coming into a hill, I like to downshift early, to ~100 cadence and then shift again at ~90 until I get low on gears, then I just drop down to steady state and suffer. I have my best luck at going over the top of short steep hills doing that and not suffering, just blowing my HR up for a little bit.
Itís very similar for me. If I stay seated coming into a steep climb I do the same as you. If the climb is very short and not seriously steep then I might stand and big ring it over the top. But not if itís going to take longer than a minute. If the climb is steep and long then I inevitably end up seated, suffering at a low cadence in my lowest gear. Pedal torque is relatively high and I would be using a lower gear if I had one available!
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Old 04-11-24, 07:52 AM
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Originally Posted by PeteHski
But if you are maintaining power as the slope increases then pedal force will increase at a constant cadence
Originally Posted by PeteHski
Unless Iím just soft pedalling on a descent or sitting in a draft, low cadence usually implies a relatively high torque for me. It certainly does when I have run out of gears on a steep climb.
Um, your first statement is wrong: if you are maintaining power at constant cadence, pedal force is independent of increasing slope.

And your second statement addresses a different issue: if you run out of gears on a steep climb, I'm not disputing that crank torque may be high in absolute terms--I'm saying that if you lower your cadence, crank torque decreases. That means, of course, that in any gear, lower cadence reduces crank torque: it never increases it (take a look at either the power or force equations and differentiate wrt cadence to see).
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Old 04-11-24, 11:02 AM
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Originally Posted by RChung
Um, your first statement is wrong: if you are maintaining power at constant cadence, pedal force is independent of increasing slope.

And your second statement addresses a different issue: if you run out of gears on a steep climb, I'm not disputing that crank torque may be high in absolute terms--I'm saying that if you lower your cadence, crank torque decreases. That means, of course, that in any gear, lower cadence reduces crank torque: it never increases it (take a look at either the power or force equations and differentiate wrt cadence to see).
Ok, you are right. Increasing slope will actually reduce cadence at the same power, but crank torque will increase to maintain power. Maintaining cadence on a steeper slope also requires more crank torque, but power also increases. I was wrong to state constant power in that scenario.

Iím certainly not disputing that lower cadence reduces crank torque in any gear. But it would be misleading to suggest that low cadence = low crank torque when it is often the opposite. For example riding in a higher gear vs lower gear at the same road speed.
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Old 04-11-24, 12:09 PM
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Originally Posted by MoAlpha
Swole is a good look for the elderly, or so the longevity people say. Might erode those great P/W numbers, though.
So it comes down to this: Live longer and look better, or snag another KOM.

Tricky.
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Old 04-11-24, 12:26 PM
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Originally Posted by terrymorse
So it comes down to this: Live longer and look better, or snag another KOM.

Tricky.
Agree: tough choice, but since absolute power goes up, maybe you'll start totally slaying the lower grade KOMs.
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Old 04-11-24, 12:34 PM
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Cruising on relatively flat terrain, I'm generally in the 90-93 range. My average over a ride is usually in the low 80's.

Like many, I started out at lower cadence and have gradually increased it as it felt more natural/efficient.
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Old 04-11-24, 03:17 PM
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What about cadence while standing?
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Old 04-11-24, 04:45 PM
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Originally Posted by bblair
What about cadence while standing?
For me standing cadence is nearly always lower.
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Old 04-11-24, 11:23 PM
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Originally Posted by ScottCommutes
The problem is that overrunning clutch (it goes by different names) hidden somewhere in the back of almost everyone's bike.

If you pedal at a nice slow cadence and with decent pedal pressure, that clutch never overruns and 100% of your pedal effort is translated into increased speed. Not a bad way to ride. It works. This is how I ride.

Now, attempting to increase your cadence by gearing down brings you away from that 100% efficient comfort zone. It brings you closer to the point where your clutch disengages and you are simply pedaling for effect with zero pedal pressure and zero power transmitted to the wheels. Wasted energy.

Other common vehicles you may be familiar with don't feature an overrunning clutch. A manual transmission car, for example, locks the power to the wheels and functions essentially like a fixed gear bike. An automatic transmission car has a fluid coupling, so if the power is faster than the wheels, that fluid starts to drive vanes in a torque converter, and the car accelerates.

If you really want to develop a faster cadence, you have three options. You could simply accept that you will spin out the overrunning clutch from time to time and lose power. Second, you could increase your momentum (typically by going faster). This makes it easier to keep from spinning out because physics will encourage your bike to keep moving at the speed it is at. Finally, you could learn to sense the pressure on that overrunning clutch and pedal just slowly enough to keep it engaged.
Un no. The problem to which you are referring is simply that many riders haven't developed the skill to push on the pedals as the go around. Which is much, much harder that it seems and takes lots of practice. Lance TTd at 110 or more. HE had to train for months to develop the skills to push on the pedals effectively at that cadence. So practice more, opinionate less.
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Old 04-12-24, 08:08 AM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy
Un no. The problem to which you are referring is simply that many riders haven't developed the skill to push on the pedals as the go around. Which is much, much harder that it seems and takes lots of practice. Lance TTd at 110 or more. HE had to train for months to develop the skills to push on the pedals effectively at that cadence. So practice more, opinionate less.
I agree with you for the case of a track bike, a fixie, or even a unicycle. Everybody else needs to train to pedal faster, but not too fast, for a given gear.
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Old 04-12-24, 08:59 AM
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Originally Posted by ScottCommutes
I agree with you for the case of a track bike, a fixie, or even a unicycle. Everybody else needs to train to pedal faster, but not too fast, for a given gear.
My experience is that the most effective training modality to affect change is to work outside your normal envelope. Hence we lift heavy weights to increase pedaling endurance even though pedaling force is quite low, etc. Thus the best way to improve one's pedaling ability is to strive to be able to pedal in a very low gear at 115-120 cadence on a trainer or rollers for 45'. Works like a charm for all cycling goals. That's not easy, took me a year of once a week attempts to increase my cadence and duration, though talented folks can do that right off.
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Old 04-12-24, 09:46 AM
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Originally Posted by ScottCommutes
The problem is that overrunning clutch (it goes by different names) hidden somewhere in the back of almost everyone's bike.
Hmmm. If you have reliable cadence and speed sensors, you could measure the extent to which this occurs at different cadences.

We know that speed (in km/h) = cadence*60*gear ratio*wheel circumference (in meters)/1000 so if you're "overrunning clutch" if would appear that gear ratio to be higher lower than it should. Gear ratios are discrete, so small deviations in the computed gear are noticeable. So, pedal first in a way that you don't overrun the "clutch" and secondly pedal in a way that you do. The extent to which calculated gear ratios differ between the first and second cases would be a measurement of the effect you describe.

Last edited by RChung; 04-12-24 at 02:42 PM.
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Old 04-12-24, 10:29 AM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy;23212371[b
]Lance TTd at 110 or more[/b]. HE had to train for months to develop the skills to push on the pedals effectively at that cadence. So practice more, opinionate less.
Yes, the Texan pedaled at an unusually high cadence, and he practiced to be able to put out high power at that cadence.

But there's scant evidence that this high cadence was any better or more effective than lower cadences.

His coach, Chris Carmichael, noted that the Texan tended to bulk up his muscles, increasing his body weight, so Carmichael hoped that using a high cadence would keep the Texan from putting on weight.
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Old 04-12-24, 11:04 AM
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There is another advantage of a high cadence in racing. To increase speed, you can either increase force or cadence. Increasing force puts additional strain on the gears, chain, and bike that must be accounted for with a beefier design. Increasing cadence, by contrast, put essentially no extra stress on the bike.
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Old 04-12-24, 02:24 PM
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Muscle has to be trained to operate at the rpm that you want to pedal. If all you do is strengthen your legs to push higher gear ratios, you'll still not gain any ability to push faster cadences except for a very brief sprint at the higher rpm.
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Old 04-12-24, 07:09 PM
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Originally Posted by ScottCommutes
There is another advantage of a high cadence in racing. To increase speed, you can either increase force or cadence. Increasing force puts additional strain on the gears, chain, and bike that must be accounted for with a beefier design. Increasing cadence, by contrast, put essentially no extra stress on the bike.
I donít see any beefier bike designs for low cadence riders or vice versa.
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Old 04-12-24, 09:48 PM
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Originally Posted by terrymorse
Yes, the Texan pedaled at an unusually high cadence, and he practiced to be able to put out high power at that cadence.

But there's scant evidence that this high cadence was any better or more effective than lower cadences.

His coach, Chris Carmichael, noted that the Texan tended to bulk up his muscles, increasing his body weight, so Carmichael hoped that using a high cadence would keep the Texan from putting on weight.
In his case, it's actually a bit on the funny/not funny side. As you know, leg speed eats oxygen, leg force eats glycogen. So very fast pedaling like that spares glycogen for the power produced, making his legs less wasted for the next stage. BUT it was obvious evidence of his doping. No way to get that much EPO out of his kidneys to be able to move that much oxygen. His and Il Pirata's hematocrits were at the legal limit and I bet they drank a quart or so of water before being tested.
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Old 04-13-24, 08:45 AM
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Originally Posted by PeteHski
I donít see any beefier bike designs for low cadence riders or vice versa.
You are probably right regarding individual riders. However, platform pedals (intended for low cadence) are seen on beefier bikes, while clip pedals (intended for higher cadence) are typically seen on lighter bikes.
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Old 04-13-24, 12:14 PM
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Originally Posted by ScottCommutes
You are probably right regarding individual riders. However, platform pedals (intended for low cadence) are seen on beefier bikes, while clip pedals (intended for higher cadence) are typically seen on lighter bikes.
That has nothing whatsoever to do with the strength of the bike or drivetrain. Or even cadence for that matter.
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Old 04-17-24, 01:31 PM
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Originally Posted by rowerek
I am getting ready for sprint triathlon: 600y open water swim, 10miles flat ride, and 5k run. I have spent most of my time on improving my running, and finally I feel confident about running 5k or even 10k. These days I am back to cycling and swimming. I have checked info on the Internet and it is suggested that for triathlon one should keep cadence high (90-110), and that should save your legs for the run. I have measured my cadence and it looks like I can do 90 tops for now, but not more than that.

I am curious about cadence/RPM that cyclist in 50+ group maintain, prefer or target, I am 60+.
Do you know what your cadence is? Are you using cadence in your training? Has your cadence changed with age?

For now, I measure my cadence by synchronizing my RPM with Metronome app beats/clicks sound.
The trend in time trials and track racing is the use of larger gears and slower cadence. The primary reason was that excess cadence just wastes energy - windmilling legs at faster rpms are just losses. So yeah my cadence has gone down with age. I used to pursuit at the track in an 88 and now do a 94-96 at about the same result.

I know exactly what my cadence is and for that matter every other bodily metric known to man that I can reasonably measure.

I am not a triathlete and have never run right after riding in some type of event. I suspect the good news is that your legs will have had a lot of blood flow and very little eccentric muscle contraction fatigue. Since triathletes tend to perform the events at tempo/zone 3 effort, I imagine that power level during the bike portion is more relevant than cadence. Also, which event for you, running or cycling, is stronger and what the course is like may play a role.

I am a negative split racer. I would split a triathlon reserving the most energy for the run. In general, I do not think that the biking portion of a triathlon is determinate in ones results.
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