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Cadence Help

Old 06-26-13, 09:04 PM
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Cadence Help

I'm a self confessed masher who is working to improve my cadence, which seems to be all the rage. I've done a couple ride monitoring only my cadence and not speed with a goal of an average of 90. I find it difficult to accept spinning is better when I loose on average 2 MPH when spinning and not mashing.

Here is where I need help so I don't too frustrated, how to I best maintain my cadence goal? Specifically do I mash to maintain the 90 cadence, or do I spin comfortably just above the bouncing off my seat gear? Also, I often find it hard to maintain my goal in the wind or up hill; too much spinning or mashing with no sweet spot.

I also focus too much on the cadence. Can anyone provide guidance on how to improve maintaining my cadence goal and wether or not focusing on cadence will improve my long term speed gain.

Thanks!
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Old 06-26-13, 09:22 PM
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Cadence is just a tool/technique/skill, one of many things that you use to try to optimize your cycling. A faster cadence magnifies your pedaling flaws. If you bounce at 90 rpm then you're not pedaling very efficiently and you're not getting as much out of your fitness as you can. Cycling is a form-oriented sport. Bad form is very hard to correct because it's hard to focus on something so fast and repetitious as pedaling. The better your form the broader your potential. Poor form is an immediate limiter in potential. It doesn't mean you'll be bad, it just means you won't be as good.

To work on improving cadence you can spin well above your goal cadence. Just like intervals improve speed you can do "cadence intervals". Try to sustain a much higher cadence, smoothly and fluidly. When I started racing I tried to finish an hour with a 120 rpm average. This meant spending most of my time at 125+ rpm. After that 90 rpm felt slow.

You can also use a trick where you overgear first then shift down. Push a bit at a lower cadence (relatively speaking), so use a bigger gear at, say, 80 rpm. Then shift into a lower gear. It'll feel a bit easy. Don't look at your computer, just maintain perceived speed. You'll fine that your cadence is higher than you expect.

Ultimately cadence itself doesn't improve your cycling. It's just one part of your whole cycling repertoire. However a fluid and efficient pedal stroke will improve your cycling, allowing you to increase your speed and efficiency dramatically (I'll say that for an average rider in their 20s to 40s I've seen about an 8-10 mph increase in maximum speed after doing speed work, and we're talking normal riders). So will putting less load on your muscles during a ride - spinning faster puts the load on your aerobic system, allowing you to respond quickly to pace changes and such. You want your legs to be "cadence-elastic", able to pedal from 50 rpm to 130 rpm under load, up to 200+ rpm with little/no load.
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Old 06-26-13, 10:07 PM
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Another great post by CD. Shocker.

Care to elaborate on specifics of the "speed work" you refer to?
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Old 06-27-13, 04:40 AM
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Just from my experience: it takes a while to meaningfully change avg cadence. It took me 6 months to go from 62 avg to 72 avg, and another 4 to get to the 82-85 range. A 90 avg isn't an overnight thing, and may not be the right goal.

As far as going slower spinning, you still have to put force into the pedals, and not just whip your feet around in circles. Output speed is a factor of force, rpm, and gearing, and if you want to be faster, you balance the three. There are times to mash and times to spin. You just have to figure out which is which.
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Old 06-27-13, 04:47 AM
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Originally Posted by Rthompson55044
I'm a self confessed masher who is working to improve my cadence, which seems to be all the rage. I've done a couple ride monitoring only my cadence and not speed with a goal of an average of 90. I find it difficult to accept spinning is better when I loose on average 2 MPH when spinning and not mashing.

Here is where I need help so I don't too frustrated, how to I best maintain my cadence goal? Specifically do I mash to maintain the 90 cadence, or do I spin comfortably just above the bouncing off my seat gear? Also, I often find it hard to maintain my goal in the wind or up hill; too much spinning or mashing with no sweet spot.

I also focus too much on the cadence. Can anyone provide guidance on how to improve maintaining my cadence goal and wether or not focusing on cadence will improve my long term speed gain.

Thanks!
What is your current cadence?
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Old 06-27-13, 05:43 AM
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I'm shooting for 90, but the computer is telling me my average is only 85, which is odd since my real time was 90-100, not sure why that is. Anyways 90 is my goal which seems to be the best cadence. Thanks
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Old 06-27-13, 05:45 AM
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Nothing wring with 85.
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Old 06-27-13, 06:23 AM
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It's also important to remember that you're training for higher cadence, so you don't need to spin 90 all the time. It's not as though you wheel it up to 90rpm and you're suddenly a better, faster rider; you'll need to practice and build other techniques, not the least of which is power. Practice increasing your leg speed, and over time, you'll spin faster; practice low cadence power building exercises and you'll get stronger in time; train at your max, and your max will move up.

In short, keep practicing and don't get too fixated on the cadence number. Build it, and it will come!
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Old 06-27-13, 08:19 AM
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Agree 85 aint bad, but one thing that helps at higher cadence, and higher cadence helps, is circularizing your pedaling. If you find yourself slower at higher cadence, up shift and speed up to regain the cadence. Seriously. You'll find you'll need to circularize your pedaling and engage more muscles. This also reduces the tendency to bounce in the saddle at higher cadence.
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Old 06-27-13, 08:52 AM
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Old timers concepts to get more cadence... you have to do like a couple of months of fix gear, but nothing but fix gear in hilly road. 42x20 or 18... thats how was done back in the day, you guys have power meters and stuff now a days.
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Old 06-27-13, 09:04 AM
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If your average cadence is 85, you are probably over 90 most of the time. Slowing down for turns, coasting momentarily, climbing, all that will bring the average down. CDR will tell you that during a race his most frequent cadence is zero, because of the drafting. But when he's pedalling, he'll spin.

Just push a gear that is one lower than you think is "normal" for the speed you are maintaining. You'll be surprised how quickly the lower gear, and higher cadence, becomes the new "normal".
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Old 06-27-13, 09:38 AM
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Originally Posted by mshred
Care to elaborate on specifics of the "speed work" you refer to?
Couple different things, not really having to do with fitness per se (I won't tell you to go 30 seconds hard or whatever). First is what I termed Maximum Optimum Sprint Speed:
https://sprinterdellacasa.blogspot.co...sprinting.html
Basically what you're doing is getting a pretty repeatable and consistent fast sprint in. I've seen friends/teammates go from 30-31 mph to 40-41 mph in 2 months. One guy was a super skinny, climber type rider who couldn't sprint to save his life. He ended up a phenomenal leadout man. Some will be going faster. To put things in perspective if I'm seated and not doing an all out sprint I can do a 35 mph pull, depending on the wind. This is long before I actually try to sprint. I'm not "fast" per se but I can go hard if I need to go hard.

Go to about 10:00 to set up for a 35 mph pull. Go to about 14:00 for a sprint.

Another thing you can do is race, do fast group rides, or motorpace. They all do the same thing - they give you a chance to draft at speed. This really improves your speed because you can work at a much higher level but with smaller deltas. For example in a variety of races I'll be doing 35 mph on flat roads due to certain variables - slight downhill before, protected from wind in general, etc. I can accelerate within the group from 35 to 38 mph and not use a lot more energy - I might be able to sustain the higher speed for 30-45 seconds and then "slow down" to 35 mph without going into massive oxygen debt. However if I was going 35 mph on my own it would take a huge effort to go to 38 mph, and in fact I'd blow up within 30 seconds or so. The idea of making low level effort changes (relatively speaking) at high speeds is what makes training while drafting so useful. This means you can fluctuate your speed without constantly blowing yourself up. This in turn means you can hold a very high level of effort for a longer time.

You can also do cadence specific work. The 120 rpm average thing is good. Keep in mind that longer cranks means lower cadence. I could do 120 rpm on 170 mm cranks, with a lot of effort. On 175s I'm more like 105-110 rpm. My cruising cadence is about 105/100 for 170/175 mm cranks respectively. I push at 80/85 rpm.

I'll do max rpm efforts on a mostly unloaded resistance flywhel unit. In the clip below I'm on 175s and hitting 235-245rpm. On 170s I've done 285+ rpm but haven't seen that in a while. I'm guessing I'd be able to hit 255 rpm, maybe 265 rpm. Doing this a few times a week (3-5 efforts, no more than 10 seconds each) will let me improve my max cadence by about 20 rpm in 6-8 weeks.

First part of the clip below shows three efforts on the flywheel thing (I was checking position and in particular my knee for any weird movement, hence the angles).

Finally you can go out and do really, really long rides. I get criticized for doing 5-8+ hour rides when I primarily race hour long crits. The long rides aren't necessarily for the crits per se, they're to try and force my main cycling muscles to exhaustion. Just like you will go out and use a lot of energy when you're fresh, you can also use that energy to mask pedaling deficiencies. After 3-4-5 hours you're fatigued, sore, and you tend not to flagrantly waste energy. This means pedal deficiencies start to surface. I find myself tilting my pelvis, not flexing my ankle as much, flattening my back, etc. Do rides like this while focusing on pedaling smoothly and a lot of stuff becomes automatic. I had one guy comment on my pedaling style while we were bombing through some single track in the woods. He was amazed that I could pedal smoothly. It wasn't that it was a gift or anything - I worked at it really hard.

In another life I was a much better violin player than I ever was as a cyclist. There were two reasons why I was good at the violin - I had good intonation (I made the right tones) and my teachers drilled technique and form into me. The latter allowed me to maximize my potential because I wasn't doing stuff like holding my violin up with my left hand (you hold a violin up with your chin, freeing your left hand so it can move around quickly and smoothly), grabbing the bow with a crushing grip (such a grip prevents you from using the bow in an elastic manner, killing your tone), etc. When I started cycling, maybe 5 years before I stopped playing violin, I realized that the technique drills applied to both. Therefore I went and did technique drills on the bike, even as a kid. I understood just how much they help in the long run.
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