Go Back  Bike Forums > Bike Forums > Road Cycling
Reload this Page >

Climbing: tempo vs rhythm?

Road Cycling ďIt is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.Ē -- Ernest Hemingway

Climbing: tempo vs rhythm?

Reply

Old 02-11-19, 03:46 AM
  #1  
Thunder Horse
Senior Member
Thread Starter
 
Thunder Horse's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2012
Location: NSW, Australia
Posts: 90

Bikes: S-WORKS

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 16 Post(s)
Climbing: tempo vs rhythm?

Recently read in a book that the best climbers pedal at a rhythm as opposed to a tempo.
Could somebody explain the differences, or explain what is meant by pedaling at a rhythm. And how to develop such a rhythm.
Thunder Horse is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 02-11-19, 04:55 AM
  #2  
gregf83 
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
Location: Vancouver, BC
Posts: 8,620
Mentioned: 8 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 817 Post(s)
No idea, but climbing hills you’ll soon figure out what cadence works best for you. There’s no shortcut to doing the work required to build your fitness. Fancy pedaling techniques will not help a low power/weight ratio.
gregf83 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 02-11-19, 05:03 AM
  #3  
colnago62
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2014
Posts: 1,206
Mentioned: 1 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 171 Post(s)
I canít remember where I read it, there was great article explaining the difference between how climbing specialists and time trialists climb. Smaller guys are generally explosive; have huge increase in pace, then slow back down. Bigger, strong guys tend to ride at a steady pace, that pretty fast overall.
colnago62 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 02-11-19, 05:30 AM
  #4  
jpescatore
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2017
Location: Ashton, MD USA
Posts: 319

Bikes: Trek Domane SL6 Disc, Trek 520

Mentioned: 3 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 97 Post(s)
My guess: tempo is mostly cadence/RPM, rhythm is how you breath and adjust to the changes in grade as you go up. There is rarely a constant grade in the climbs I do (riding up to Logan Pass on Going to the Sun Road in Glacier Park was close) so the mix of power you apply, how fast you turn the pedals, how you breath change constantly. Doing long climbs on Zwift you can really get a feel for this - getting into a "rhythm" to me means all those things are kinda working together without me having to think about it and the climb seems easier when that happens.
jpescatore is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 02-11-19, 06:46 AM
  #5  
rubiksoval
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2015
Location: Music City, USA
Posts: 2,570

Bikes: Felt AR

Mentioned: 44 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1482 Post(s)
Maybe they're musicians? "In simple terms, tempo is how fast or slow a piece of music is performed, while rhythm is the placement of sounds in time, in a regular and repeated pattern."

The very best climbers vary their effort anyway; hit it, hit it again, hit it a third time, until everyone drops away...then you fly. At least with others around.

On your own, you go to your limit and just hold it there. Make sure it hurts as much as it can and you're pretty much there.
rubiksoval is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 02-11-19, 08:40 AM
  #6  
sdmc530
Heft On Wheels
 
sdmc530's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2014
Location: South Dakota
Posts: 1,553

Bikes: Specialized,Cannondale

Mentioned: 8 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 407 Post(s)
GCN did a video on "specialist" climbers and how their pedaling style is usually not smooth or even they just have a technique that works and they put in the very hard work to make them superior climbers, heck superior athletes!

I think gregf83 said it best, you will find what works for you quickly by doing climbs. You learn fast...climbing effectively takes work and effort. Some people are natural climbers....most are not I don't think.
sdmc530 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 02-11-19, 09:25 AM
  #7  
DaveSSS
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: Loveland, CO
Posts: 5,145

Bikes: Look KG461, Colnago C-RS

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 52 Post(s)
I've done a lot of mountain riding since I moved to Colorado in 2003. My regular route that I did about 100 times a year for 7 years had 10 miles of continuous climbing at various grades. On a moderate grade, I might feel comfortable at a cadence around 80-85, but the steeper the climb, the lower the cadence. I always have a computer that displays cadence and heart rate. It doesn't take long to figure out the maximum heart rate that you can maintain for a considerable amount of time. If I want to do the fastest time, I keep my heart rate at that point, with the proper gear selection. My lowest cadence is usually 65-68 rpm. If I can't maintain that, then my lowest gear isn't low enough. If a steep section is short enough, you can always get out of the saddle, but that nearly always raises heart rate. If you don't increase or at least maintain speed when out of the saddle, you're doing something wrong. I see that a lot. A guy ahead of me gets out of the saddle and climbs slower, rather than the same speed or faster.

Power to weight ratio is the key to successful climbing. I did my best when I weighed around 134. As long as my weight remains above that, I'm handicapped by excess lard. If I was at pro rider weight, it would be more like 127. I've never been that low.
DaveSSS is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 02-11-19, 10:12 AM
  #8  
cthenn
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Walnut Creek, CA
Posts: 2,254

Bikes: 2015 Trek Emonda SLR, 2002 Litespeed Classic, 2005 Bianchi Pista, 2016 Devinci Hatchet, Some BikesDirect MTB I never ride.

Mentioned: 8 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 462 Post(s)
Seems like a bunch of semantics. No one can tell you how to climb, because everyone's physiology is different. All I know is personally I cannot keep changing "rhythms", going hard, or out of the saddle, then recovering, and repeating. Steady, seated effort all the way, which feels easy at the beginning, and really difficult by the end.
cthenn is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 02-11-19, 11:05 AM
  #9  
drewguy
Senior Member
 
Join Date: May 2017
Location: Washington, DC
Posts: 315

Bikes: Trek Domane 4.3

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 120 Post(s)
Originally Posted by jpescatore View Post
(riding up to Logan Pass on Going to the Sun Road in Glacier Park was close) .
Whoa. Impressive climb! Which direction were you coming from?
drewguy is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 02-11-19, 11:07 AM
  #10  
Zaskar
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
Posts: 270
Mentioned: 11 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 148 Post(s)
As DaveSSS said (paraphrasing here) - you have to climb a lot to develop your rhythm. I know how long I can maintain various HRs. If the climb is only 10 min., I'll hang near my max HR. If the climb is an hour, I'll "set" my HR at 165. It doesn't matter if someone passes me, I lose the wheel I'm on... that's it. The throttle is open. On flats and rollers, I watch my HR, but I'm also watching the power numbers. I know what I can hold and what's going to cause me to blow up.

All of ^that^ took/takes a lot of time paying attention to the data. As a bonus, knowing I can hold a given HR reduces the perceived pain. I know that X HR will not hurt, e.g. not going to blow up, not burning too many matches, I can just settle in and let it all happen.
Zaskar is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 02-11-19, 11:23 AM
  #11  
Seattle Forrest
Senior Member
 
Seattle Forrest's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: Seattle, WA
Posts: 18,320
Mentioned: 36 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 6691 Post(s)
When the pedal comes up, push it back down.
Seattle Forrest is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 02-11-19, 11:59 AM
  #12  
canklecat
Me duelen las nalgas
 
canklecat's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2015
Location: Texas
Posts: 8,145

Bikes: Univega Via Carisma, Globe Carmel, Centurion Ironman Expert

Mentioned: 130 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 2420 Post(s)
Cyclists tend to use terms like tempo, rhythm, cadence, pace, etc., imprecisely and interchangeably. As rubiksoval noted, there are useful differences in terminology.

Humans tend to operate subconsciously and often consciously in patterns and rhythms. And who hasn't had a song stuck in his head occasionally? Some folks find it useful to imagine music playing as they ride, or actually listen to music at a tempo that suits their physical abilities. I've often found the Kate Bush song "Running Up That Hill" running through my mind while I'm climbing, although I don't pedal at 110 bpm -- probably half that, at least when I'm grinding in a 42/24 gear combo.

If you watch pro cyclists on long climbs you can get an idea of which style might suit you based on physique and weight. The little ones tend to vary between seated and standing to climb, with variations in tempo and rhythm -- almost a staccato style, to strain the musical analogy a bit farther.

The draft horses like Indurain and Merckx tended to remain seated, plowing ahead at a steady, relatively slower tempo and steady rhythm, like a marching band.

The in-between sized riders tend to vary between the styles, sometimes with syncopated or erratic rhythms. Watching guys like LeMond, Armstrong and other mid-weight riders was almost like watching Ginger Baker playing drums.

More useful to most of us ordinary humans, check out this video from last year with Miguel Indurain and Davide Cassani climbing the Tourmalet. It's an extended ad for Enervit but product placements aren't intrusive and it's mostly a chat between friends as they climb, including talking about the concessions to aging -- more user friendly gear combos.

Note the differences in styles. Cassani is no slouch but he's obviously working hard, out of breath more often, rocking side to side, a little faster cadence, changing tempos, occasionally climbing out of the saddle. In contrast Big Mig rides like he always did, mostly seated, plowing ahead smoothly, chatting easily.

canklecat is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 02-11-19, 02:22 PM
  #13  
jpescatore
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2017
Location: Ashton, MD USA
Posts: 319

Bikes: Trek Domane SL6 Disc, Trek 520

Mentioned: 3 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 97 Post(s)
Originally Posted by drewguy View Post
Whoa. Impressive climb! Which direction were you coming from?
My wife and I went to Yellowstone and Glacier in late May/early June of 2017. We lucked out at Glacier - they were still plowing snow on Going to the Sun Road and on the weekend it was open to bikes and hikers, closed to cars - with temperatures in the 60s while surrounded by snow!

So, we rented hybrid bikes and biked up from the Avalanche camp ground area, which is 16 miles up to Logan Pass. If I remember right, the first 5 miles you gained just 500 feet or so maybe less. Then you hit the 11 mile stretch where you go from 3000 feet up to 6600 feet at a nearly constant 5.7% grade, supposedly the maximum grade cars could do when it was built.

They remove the guardrails over the winter to keep avalanches from just tearing them away and then don't put them back until they are done plowing - some scary turns that were like those infinity pools where the edge seemed to merge with the horizon. The rental hybrid weighed a lot more than my Trek Domane SL6, but it also had a great granny gear - I was talking to granny the entire way up. On the way back down, I have the disc brakes a workout.

My wife got me a commemorative coffee mug from somewhere online for Christmas:


A bucket list ride up Going to the Sun Road in Glacier Park to Logan Pass
jpescatore is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 02-11-19, 02:37 PM
  #14  
drewguy
Senior Member
 
Join Date: May 2017
Location: Washington, DC
Posts: 315

Bikes: Trek Domane 4.3

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 120 Post(s)
Originally Posted by jpescatore View Post
My wife and I went to Yellowstone and Glacier in late May/early June of 2017. We lucked out at Glacier - they were still plowing snow on Going to the Sun Road and on the weekend it was open to bikes and hikers, closed to cars - with temperatures in the 60s while surrounded by snow!

So, we rented hybrid bikes and biked up from the Avalanche camp ground area, which is 16 miles up to Logan Pass. If I remember right, the first 5 miles you gained just 500 feet or so maybe less. Then you hit the 11 mile stretch where you go from 3000 feet up to 6600 feet at a nearly constant 5.7% grade, supposedly the maximum grade cars could do when it was built.
Sounds about right - here's a longer segment to the summit - https://www.strava.com/segments/15803985 Does sound like you hit it just right!
drewguy is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 02-11-19, 06:50 PM
  #15  
Doge 
Senior Member
 
Doge's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2014
Location: Southern California, USA
Posts: 9,064

Bikes: 1979 Raleigh Team 753

Mentioned: 130 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 2727 Post(s)
Originally Posted by Thunder Horse View Post
Recently read in a book that the best climbers pedal at a rhythm as opposed to a tempo.
Could somebody explain the differences, or explain what is meant by pedaling at a rhythm. And how to develop such a rhythm.
Tempo is normally an effort just below what you cannot maintain for an hour. It is a exertion level.
Rhythm is better describe in my words - a groove. Just get into it and go. You can blow up, but that is what experience is about. Get a bob and weave you feel good about.
Speed is more important than effort or power. Get the grove that makes you go faster and forget about "spin", "smooth" or "straight".

The muscle groups do not put power (force) down evenly through the circle. Spinning kinda normalizes that, but few spin up hill.
In climbing, lay down the power/torque with the big muscles - Gluts, lower back, quads. Stand up, sit mix it up. As such many great climbers bob a bit. They will often not ride as straight as the slower rider.

I'm just a big guy, but been around some great climbers, both wife and son, but others who they have competed with are great and I noticed this trait.
Junior here doing a great effort (~380W/hour) you can see his bob. No PM, no attention to HR, just a groove.
https://vimeo.com/210865020
Doge is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 02-11-19, 09:45 PM
  #16  
Thunder Horse
Senior Member
Thread Starter
 
Thunder Horse's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2012
Location: NSW, Australia
Posts: 90

Bikes: S-WORKS

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 16 Post(s)
Originally Posted by jpescatore View Post
My guess: tempo is mostly cadence/RPM, rhythm is how you breath and adjust to the changes in grade as you go up. There is rarely a constant grade in the climbs I do (riding up to Logan Pass on Going to the Sun Road in Glacier Park was close) so the mix of power you apply, how fast you turn the pedals, how you breath change constantly. Doing long climbs on Zwift you can really get a feel for this - getting into a "rhythm" to me means all those things are kinda working together without me having to think about it and the climb seems easier when that happens.
Thanks for this response. It reminded me of running. I used to get into a matched leg and breathing pace. It was almost like a dance.
Thunder Horse is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 02-11-19, 09:47 PM
  #17  
Thunder Horse
Senior Member
Thread Starter
 
Thunder Horse's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2012
Location: NSW, Australia
Posts: 90

Bikes: S-WORKS

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 16 Post(s)
Originally Posted by Doge View Post
Tempo is normally an effort just below what you cannot maintain for an hour. It is a exertion level.
Rhythm is better describe in my words - a groove. Just get into it and go. You can blow up, but that is what experience is about. Get a bob and weave you feel good about.
Speed is more important than effort or power. Get the grove that makes you go faster and forget about "spin", "smooth" or "straight".

The muscle groups do not put power (force) down evenly through the circle. Spinning kinda normalizes that, but few spin up hill.
In climbing, lay down the power/torque with the big muscles - Gluts, lower back, quads. Stand up, sit mix it up. As such many great climbers bob a bit. They will often not ride as straight as the slower rider.

I'm just a big guy, but been around some great climbers, both wife and son, but others who they have competed with are great and I noticed this trait.
Junior here doing a great effort (~380W/hour) you can see his bob. No PM, no attention to HR, just a groove.
https://vimeo.com/210865020
Getting into a 'groove'. . . I like that description. Will experiment with that idea.
Thunder Horse is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 02-11-19, 09:52 PM
  #18  
Thunder Horse
Senior Member
Thread Starter
 
Thunder Horse's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2012
Location: NSW, Australia
Posts: 90

Bikes: S-WORKS

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 16 Post(s)
Thank you all for your responses.
My mind is much clearer about the differences between tempo and rhythm. Hoping to experience a rhythm which will feel as if I am in love with a dance, where the rhythm controls me instead of me trying to control the rhythm.
Thunder Horse is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 02-13-19, 07:51 PM
  #19  
TiHabanero
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2012
Posts: 1,886
Mentioned: 5 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 502 Post(s)
Yes, tempo riding is riding a specified speed. Rhythm riding is spinning at a constant rate.
TiHabanero is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 02-14-19, 01:23 PM
  #20  
fietsbob 
coprolite
 
fietsbob's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: NW,Oregon Coast
Posts: 38,951

Bikes: 8

Mentioned: 155 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 6016 Post(s)
Want a Musical answer ?
fietsbob is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 02-17-19, 06:26 PM
  #21  
Sy Reene
Advocatus Diaboli
 
Sy Reene's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2015
Location: Wherever I am
Posts: 4,226

Bikes: Merlin Cyrene, Nashbar steel CX

Mentioned: 8 Post(s)
Tagged: 1 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1882 Post(s)
Why is climbing any different than riding on flat ground, if you have the gearing to allow you keep spinning at the same wattage and cadence in either scenario?
Sy Reene is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 02-17-19, 09:50 PM
  #22  
colnago62
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2014
Posts: 1,206
Mentioned: 1 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 171 Post(s)
Originally Posted by Sy Reene View Post
Why is climbing any different than riding on flat ground, if you have the gearing to allow you keep spinning at the same wattage and cadence in either scenario?
It isnít really, if your goal is to get to the top of the hill. What makes it more complicated is when riders of different sizes and fitness levels are all trying to make it to the top of the hill first. For me, I can produce more wattage at 78-85 rpm than than I can at 90+ rpm on a hill. There is a lack of momentum when climbing that requires a rider to overcome much more resistance.
colnago62 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 02-18-19, 01:34 AM
  #23  
canklecat
Me duelen las nalgas
 
canklecat's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2015
Location: Texas
Posts: 8,145

Bikes: Univega Via Carisma, Globe Carmel, Centurion Ironman Expert

Mentioned: 130 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 2420 Post(s)
GCN delved into the whys and whatfors of climbing being harder than flat terrain despite measured power output. Almost everyone agrees that climbing feels harder, regardless of data. But the GCN video didn't really clear up the mystery.

My theory is that it's not just that lighter cyclist tend to climb better because they have less weight to lug uphill. After watching maybe more than a hundred videos going back as far as pro cycling has been filmed, my best guess is that it's a total body effort.

It's not just strength to weight. It's balance, position, weight distribution, everything. It's akin to the fine tuning swimmers, downhill skiers and speed skaters need to win by nths of a second.

The strongest climbers, regardless of size and weight, seemed to have an economy of motion and a tight form that didn't fall apart under extended effort. You can see it in Contador, Armstrong and Indurain -- each as different as they could be in physique and style, but at their peaks with an economy of motion, smoothness and connectedness with the bike, all contributing to forward motion, rather than flailing around or wasting energy.

It's probably possible to measure every contact point and refine climbing ergonomics, including measuring whether the rider is pulling back on the bar, offsetting forward momentum; the ideal balance point depending on the climb angle. No idea whether anyone is actually doing it, but if any team is -- or was -- it would have been Sky.
canklecat is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 02-18-19, 01:58 AM
  #24  
Seattle Forrest
Senior Member
 
Seattle Forrest's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: Seattle, WA
Posts: 18,320
Mentioned: 36 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 6691 Post(s)
Originally Posted by canklecat View Post
GCN delved into the whys and whatfors of climbing being harder than flat terrain despite measured power output. Almost everyone agrees that climbing feels harder, regardless of data. But the GCN video didn't really clear up the mystery.
I'm the odd man out. I'd much rather climb for 20 miles than do 20 on the flat. Not just the scenery and the decent, it's also harder to force yourself to put out the effort when you don't have to. I'd also rather do 20 rolling miles; if I'm not going full gas, the down hills are a chance to coast for a moment. Finally, there's this idea about people having a different FTP for climbing, and it seems to be true for me.

Same thing in the winter, skiing 20 flat miles is noticably more fatiguing than 20 rolling miles.
Seattle Forrest is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 02-18-19, 02:43 AM
  #25  
Dean V
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Posts: 2,199
Mentioned: 2 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 662 Post(s)
I always thought climbing felt easier.
That is if you are trying to maintain a certain heart rate or power output it seems easier up a hill than on the flat. Downhill being the hardest.
Dean V is offline  
Reply With Quote

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us Archive Advertising Cookie Policy Privacy Statement Terms of Service