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Cadence on tour?

Old 07-04-10, 02:59 PM
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mthayer
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Cadence on tour?

I am curious if others use a cadence while on tour? I try to use a cadence while I am doing my regular rides, and I find my self doing it while on tour also. I normally like to keep my cadence in the mid 80s, so is that good for touring also? I got back home today after 19 miles of riding loaded with 40 lbs, with a 20 mph head wind most of the ride home and my legs are burning. I normally do this trip every other weekend, and this is the worst I have felt since I started doing it.
I am trying to prepare for a 280 mile, week long trip so I am trying to push myself harder than normal. I am trying to ride longer rides, and carrying more weight on my overnighters. This weekends trip I averaged 10.6 to the site and 10.3 back home. It was 18.7 miles with 300 feet of climbing. I am wanting to get my average up is there anything else to do other than getting in miles of riding?
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Old 07-04-10, 03:10 PM
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Personally I think the modern obsession with cadence, even for roadies, is absurd. Ride in the gear that feels comfortable and that allows you to maintain your momentum. /end.
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Old 07-04-10, 03:25 PM
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Originally Posted by mthayer View Post
I am curious if others use a cadence while on tour?
If you are pedalling, you have "a cadence". I suppose you are asking whether tourers use a high cadence?

Generally, people won't use a different (that is, lower) cadence while touring.

Originally Posted by mthayer View Post
I try to use a cadence while I am doing my regular rides, and I find my self doing it while on tour also. I normally like to keep my cadence in the mid 80s, so is that good for touring also?
Use the same cadence (basically) whether touring or not. Note that it's likely you will be going slower while touring and using a lower gear.

Originally Posted by mthayer View Post
I got back home today after 19 miles of riding loaded with 40 lbs, with a 20 mph head wind most of the ride home and my legs are burning. I normally do this trip every other weekend, and this is the worst I have felt since I started doing it.
For things like large head-winds, you are either going to go slower or take more effort doing your "normal" speed. I'm going to guess that you haven't done a lot of riding.

Originally Posted by mthayer View Post
I am trying to prepare for a 280 mile, week long trip so I am trying to push myself harder than normal. I am trying to ride longer rides, and carrying more weight on my overnighters. This weekends trip I averaged 10.6 to the site and 10.3 back home. It was 18.7 miles with 300 feet of climbing. I am wanting to get my average up is there anything else to do other than getting in miles of riding?
There are a lot of red flags here.

19 miles is a very short ride, even with 40 lbs, and 300 feet is flat. Head-winds can take a lot of effort.

Your planned trip is like 40-50 miles per day. You don't indicate whether you do one 50 mile trip (let alone 6 or so of them back-to-back). You don't indicate when you plan to take this trip.

You really need to do some longer rides and use the same cadence touring as you do otherwise.

Last edited by njkayaker; 07-04-10 at 03:33 PM.
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Old 07-04-10, 04:39 PM
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On my first time out fully laden, I tried to "use gears to maintain a consistent cadence" like the books dictate, and it nearly killed me on the first day. On hills, with a full load, I find it MUCH easier to select a slightly harder gear and plod along at something like 45rpm.
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Old 07-04-10, 04:43 PM
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Originally Posted by chasm54 View Post
Personally I think the modern obsession with cadence, even for roadies, is absurd. Ride in the gear that feels comfortable and that allows you to maintain your momentum. /end.
Nail on the head
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Old 07-04-10, 04:53 PM
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Originally Posted by mthayer View Post
I am wanting to get my average up is there anything else to do other than getting in miles of riding?
Is this 19mile every two week ride the only ride you have to prepare yourself for a 50mile/day 280mile trip? If so then your concern over raising your speed is misplaced. You should be getting in an easy 50 mile day. Not a hard 19mile day. It's time on the saddle you need to get used to. Not a faster time in the saddle. Learn to take it easy, not take it hard. If you are pushing it for 19m. at 10.3mph you'll be killing yourself trying to go 50miles at 10mph.


To get comfortable riding a 50 miles a day you have to go ride a 50mile day, rest, ride easy for a couple days then do it again. When it comes time for your tour you TAKE IT EASY so that you aren't starting Day 2 recovering from Day 1.

To build up fitness for a tour you need to TAKE IT EASY but put in the miles. Doing it hard risks injury. Don't bother doing it hard until you have a base level of miles on the saddle.

Think of it this way. You could get used to riding 10miles a day every day of the week but the first time you ride 20 it'll be work and require recovery. You could be used to riding 50 miles a day every day of the week but the first time you ride 75 it'll be work and require recovery time(easy riding day). You could be used to riding 100 miles any day of the week but the first time you ride 125miles it'll require come recovery. In other words if you want to get used to riding 50miles a day for your trip,,go ride A 50 mile day. Don't try and ride a fast 20 mile day. The only reason to try and raise your average speed is if you want to go faster. Faster won't get your farther if you run out of poop in 20 miles or get overuse injuries from pushing it too hard.
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Old 07-04-10, 05:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Al Downie View Post
On my first time out fully laden, I tried to "use gears to maintain a consistent cadence" like the books dictate, and it nearly killed me on the first day. On hills, with a full load, I find it MUCH easier to select a slightly harder gear and plod along at something like 45rpm.
Yuck! To each, his own (I guess).
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Old 07-04-10, 05:14 PM
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Thanks for the advice. I am still green when it comes to riding. I started back in October and I have been trying to get as many miles as I can. I normally ride 60-100 miles a week. I am looking at stepping up my week day rides up 30 miles, and then the weekend rides up to 40-50 miles.

I plan on doing this trip when the off season, September-October, begins down on the coast. I have done longer rides, 45 miles each way. I am really only concerned with the first 2 days of this trip. The only climbing is the on day 1 and 2. Day 3 Begins the flat ride to the coast. I am taking off for 2 weeks, so I will have 15 days that I can actually use to make the trip. I was looking at making in 5-6 days, and then spending the rest of the time relaxing.
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Old 07-04-10, 05:18 PM
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I'm not seeing much of a "modern obsession" with cadence, especially since the New Old Hotness is fixed-gear and SS bikes. People make a much bigger deal out of saving grams than with cadence, for example.

That said, yes you want to maintain a fairly high cadence at all times, even when climbing a hill with 40 lbs of gear. High cadence = less stress on the knees = less chance of a knee injury.

I see no particular need for a cadence meter for touring, but iirc it's not a terribly expensive addition either, so it's not a big deal.
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Old 07-04-10, 06:21 PM
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+1 to Bacciagalupe and LeeG. I use a cadence cyclometer to keep my cadence up. It helps remind me so I don't end up going anaerobic and 'bonking' later in a ride. I have a nice 78mi loop I do on my road bike, and decided to do it with my touring rig, hauling about 30# in my trailer to get ready for a century ride. Keeping my cadence in the 75 to 85 range let me do it in 10hrs. Not the best time I've had on that loop, but with the bike/trailer/load coming in at around 80#, I figure it was not too bad. I had done it in less time, BUT with lower cadence on the climbs (roughly 1200 vertical ft) and had some 'bonk' and cramping because of it.

I highly recommend a higher cadence. Easier on the knees, and helps keep you going for greater distance with lower fatigue. Of course, some will not agree, and YMMV. If lower cadence works for THEM, then I am happy for them. When I do a fully loaded self-supported tour with 50-60# of gear (not counting bike/trailer), I want to be able to go whatever distance I have planned, and not worry about 'bonking' or cramping!

It sounds like you have time to prepare for your trip, and I would also encourage more time in the saddle as a way to be ready for the planned mileage. Once you can do a 50 mile ride fairly easily, THEN you can start to haul loads to strengthen more for the planned climbs. As someone else said, you need to get a base of mileage first.

Last edited by badamsjr; 07-06-10 at 12:37 AM.
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Old 07-04-10, 06:58 PM
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A few thoughts-

Someone said 19 miles doesn't compare to 50; while I do suggest you try a 50+ mile nonstop ride sometime, as an alternative, don't push yourself into riding those miles nonstop every day. Breaking your touring days into two ~25-mile blocks with an extended lunch/relaxation/shade break in between might fit your style a bit more. Also, I think you'll find that after consecutive long days on the bike, you might find yourself naturally extending your days with less effort.

As for cadence- a computer with cadence might be a nice thing to have just to find out what 80, 90, 100 rpm feels like, especially since you're new. Don't let the computer tell you what feels right, however- let your body tell you. You're probably going to ride at a similar or higher cadence when you're on tour as when you're riding otherwise, but you'll want to make sure your bike has enough options in its low gears to accommodate your cadence. To know that, you're going to need to load your panniers up and do some trial runs.

A for speed- just keep putting time in the saddle. Advanced riders talk about proper training miles- for us normal human beings, any miles are good miles. Personally, I found that selling my car helped
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Old 07-04-10, 07:09 PM
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I would agree with Raiden about not letting the computer tell you what feels right. I would add that what 'felt right' to me as a new cyclist was way lower than optimum for efficiency. (50-60 originally) As a new cyclist, I had to gradually increase my cadence AS MY AEROBIC CAPACITY increased. Becoming efficient at cadences in the 80-90rpm range will only happen if a person works at it. And before someone flames me for that, I know 80-90 is probably higher than most tourers would NORMALLY ride, but I can tell you that it is sure nice to be able to keep that cadence up while climbing a LONG hill--my knees thank me for sure, and I can still go whatever distance I have planned for that day.
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Old 07-04-10, 07:23 PM
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Especially for someone new to riding, IMO you really need to take the time/effort to learn how to ride at a proper cadence. As an end result, you will have fewer issues with knee and Achilles injuries as well as having a much more efficient output. Your body will only tell you what feels right based on your current experience; that current experience is insufficient. You've got a couple of months, use them well. Practice keeping your cadence up over 90. It is a good idea to ride with your cadence over 110 for 5-10 miles at a time. This higher cadence will help you "learn" to pedal circles instead of stomping down squares. Be aware that this higher spin rate will put a bit more load on your hiney, so beware of saddle-sore issues.
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Old 07-04-10, 07:36 PM
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Originally Posted by mthayer View Post
I am curious if others use a cadence while on tour? I try to use a cadence while I am doing my regular rides, and I find my self doing it while on tour also. I normally like to keep my cadence in the mid 80s, so is that good for touring also?
For me, cadence has recently become an important isssue. Being a relative newby to riding(5 years,) and living in an area where there are no other serious cyclist, I didn't know how important rpms were to long distance riding comfort. It's a subject that is rarely mentioned in touring forums. Learned from a fellow on yahoo answers cycling section who preaches high cadence.

I now adjust the gearing so that I can spin at about 80 rpm or higher most of the time. Less tiring and easier on the knees.

Originally Posted by mthayer View Post
I got back home today after 19 miles of riding loaded with 40 lbs, with a 20 mph head wind most of the ride home and my legs are burning. I normally do this trip every other weekend, and this is the worst I have felt since I started doing it.
19 miles into a 20 mph headwind plus the resistance of an upright position and panniers is slow, tough, and demoralizing. It would take me at least 3 hours, and my legs would be burning if I pushed too hard. I don't.

Originally Posted by mthayer View Post
I am wanting to get my average up is there anything else to do other than getting in miles of riding?
Guess you could swim, run some, do some core strengthening, lose weight, hire a coach. Ug! Might gain a couple of miles per hour eventually.

I avg about 10 mph when loaded and touring solo. But then I don't train too seriously before a tour and am 15 pounds over. A more athletic friend who does train averages about 12 mph. When touring together, my avg will go up to about 11 as I chase the rabbit. Motivation is the difference.
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Old 07-04-10, 09:14 PM
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Originally Posted by njkayaker View Post
If you are pedalling, you have "a cadence". I suppose you are asking whether tourers use a high cadence?

Generally, people won't use a different (that is, lower) cadence while touring.

Use the same cadence (basically) whether touring or not. Note that it's likely you will be going slower while touring and using a lower gear.

For things like large head-winds, you are either going to go slower or take more effort doing your "normal" speed. I'm going to guess that you haven't done a lot of riding.

There are a lot of red flags here.

19 miles is a very short ride, even with 40 lbs, and 300 feet is flat. Head-winds can take a lot of effort.

Your planned trip is like 40-50 miles per day. You don't indicate whether you do one 50 mile trip (let alone 6 or so of them back-to-back). You don't indicate when you plan to take this trip.

You really need to do some longer rides and use the same cadence touring as you do otherwise.
+1

I ride with the same cadence when I tour as when I do any other cycling (85 rpm). Why should there be any difference?

And as mentioned, if you are pedalling, there is a cadence. If you are walking there is a cadence too. If you sit down and swing your legs back and forth, you will be swinging them at a certain cadence.

Now ... get out there and get riding longer distances. Work on your distance first so that you feel comfortable covering 50-60 miles a day for 2 or 3 days in a row, then add in work on speed and strength.
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Old 07-05-10, 07:23 AM
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Two things here...

There is a natural tendency for most new riders to mash too big of a gear most of the time.

There is an overboard reaction to the gear mashing problem that creates a dogma about spinning a high cadence all of the time.

I think both are a bad trap to fall into. Even the pro racers don't spin a high cadence all of the time. I have often counted a cadence as low as 60 or so when watching top pro cyclists. They will spin a high cadence where it makes sense and push a bigger gear where that makes sense. So if the real go fast types don't constantly spin a high cadence I don't see the need for touring riders to. That said they don't plod along at 40 rpms much either.

Personally I think it makes sense to match the cadence to what feels right in the situation. That probably means I will be at somewhere between 60 and 100 rpms most of the time depending on the conditions at the moment. The majority of the time I am at 80-90, but might spend a fair amount of time at 60 in some conditions.
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Old 07-05-10, 08:00 AM
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My "normal" cadence is between 75 and 85, riding that on a loaded bike requires judicious use of the gears so you don't end up overworking your leg muscles. There will be times when you run out of gears and have to use a lower cadence. FWIW I seldom exceed 50 miles in a day touring and will usually try to do 30 miles before lunch, take a long break then do the remaining 20 miles in two stints getting in around 4-5 pm. I usually hit the road by 8am. I am also prone to shortening the day up on a whim if there is something interesting to see along the way.

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Old 07-05-10, 08:08 AM
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Why does everyone keep citing RACING as the benchmark of best cycling technique, in the context of a touring forum?? Racing is all about getting from A to B in the fastest possible time - those guys are super-fit athletes who train specifically to increase strength and endurance with one view only - to be faster than anyone else. Me, I cycle to see interesting things and like to take my time over it, being as economical with my effort as possible. Yes, if I'm out on a training ride for exercise only, or if I'm late for work I'll keep a high cadence and get there as fast as possible, but if I know I've got 15 days of fully-loaded mountain climbing ahead of me, the last thing I want is to feel any pressure to keep my cadence up! Maybe it was just an altitude thing but, seriously, 45rpm and I could go on all day, chatting at the same time, without any knee problems or exploding lungs.
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Old 07-05-10, 08:17 AM
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Originally Posted by mthayer View Post
Thanks for the advice. I am still green when it comes to riding. I started back in October and I have been trying to get as many miles as I can. I normally ride 60-100 miles a week. I am looking at stepping up my week day rides up 30 miles, and then the weekend rides up to 40-50 miles.

.
oh heck you've got more miles than I first thought. Cadence rpm is a very specific unit that really doesn't have much practical feedback utility compared to developing your own feedback techniques that make for a smooth pedaling style.

Whether you are riding with toe clips, clipless pedals/shoes or plain platform pedals you want to develop a pedaling style that spreads peak loads around to underutilized muscles and reduces peak loads on the major quad groups. That way you can reduce the burning feeling in your legs and reduce peak loads on ligaments and tendons that will take LONGER to recover when overused compared to your muscles. You can walk out, ride off lactic acid and sore muscles but strained joints and ligaments will really shut things down.

On a gross level that means less big gear mashing at low rpms with high torque, climbing stairs, and instead use slightly higher rpm with less torque. But instead of focusing on rpms which is just as likely to make you go to a particular aerobic limit anyway focus on picking a lower aerobic effort than you normally take and play with HOW you're pedaling. How your upper body is postured. HOW you're breathing. Imagine your knees are floating as a way to reduce muscle effort, play with how your calves take up the load or how you transmit effort at the bottom of the stroke. You may find that a slight shift in pelvis angle will open up a little extra leverage on the power portion of the stroke although it might put more weight on hands. All this assumes you've got your saddle at the right height.
For example if you're used to putting out 80% effort ALL THE TIME, drop it down to 70% and take advantage of moments on easy descents to shake the legs out and shift position around. The increase in efficiency in your pedaling stroke and breathing can come from an accumulation of little 1% improvements but what they will do is allow you to put on miles comfortably, recover more quickly. What you do OFF the bike also becomes important for recovery. Elevating your legs and massage, taking a walk after a long ride. What you don't want to do is immediately get sedentary after a hard ride.
Take it easy, listen to the chain, the gears. If you can change a gzzshgzzsh sound to zzshzzsh sound you might be reducing uneven power output to more even power output. Don't go harder, go easier.

Last edited by LeeG; 07-05-10 at 08:22 AM.
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Old 07-05-10, 08:39 AM
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Originally Posted by chasm54 View Post
Personally I think the modern obsession with cadence, even for roadies, is absurd. Ride in the gear that feels comfortable and that allows you to maintain your momentum. /end.
Originally Posted by 10 Wheels View Post
Nail on the head
+1000 The thread should end here.

Originally Posted by Bacciagalupe View Post
I'm not seeing much of a "modern obsession" with cadence, especially since the New Old Hotness is fixed-gear and SS bikes. People make a much bigger deal out of saving grams than with cadence, for example.

That said, yes you want to maintain a fairly high cadence at all times, even when climbing a hill with 40 lbs of gear. High cadence = less stress on the knees = less chance of a knee injury.

I see no particular need for a cadence meter for touring, but iirc it's not a terribly expensive addition either, so it's not a big deal.
But this is touring subforum, very few fixie or SS riders. For me it's all about balance: low cadence, yeah mores stress, but too high and you can pull some tendon too or just burn out. So I ride whatever feels comfortable and keeps me moving.

Another modern cycling obsession: weight. If you can pull it and are having fun you're weight is good.

Last edited by AdamDZ; 07-05-10 at 08:43 AM.
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Old 07-05-10, 10:13 AM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
Personally I think it makes sense to match the cadence to what feels right in the situation. That probably means I will be at somewhere between 60 and 100 rpms most of the time depending on the conditions at the moment. The majority of the time I am at 80-90, but might spend a fair amount of time at 60 in some conditions.
That's it. Thanks for clearly laying out the numbers.

I learned to count a few years back, so I figure cadence with the second hand on my watch and what mental math I can manage. Just takes a few times before you've got it down without any figuring. Close enough anyway.
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Old 07-05-10, 11:29 AM
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Originally Posted by Cyclebum View Post
That's it. Thanks for clearly laying out the numbers.

I learned to count a few years back, so I figure cadence with the second hand on my watch and what mental math I can manage. Just takes a few times before you've got it down without any figuring. Close enough anyway.
After a while it becomes second nature, I have been riding for over 40 years and rode competitively 30+ years ago. I bet a young whippersnapper that was giving me grief on my cadence during a recent club ride that I could tell him what my cadence was +/- 5 at any time in any gear...we bet a beer and he lost several times that day The best part was watching him trying to count my cadence then ask what it was...

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Old 07-05-10, 12:44 PM
  #23  
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Originally Posted by chasm54 View Post
Personally I think the modern obsession with cadence, even for roadies, is absurd. Ride in the gear that feels comfortable and that allows you to maintain your momentum. /end.
I must say I disagree. I find it most comfortable to ride with a slow cadence, but in a tour with hours of riding day after day, what is most comfortable at the moment is certainly not the most sustainable. Keeping a low cadence is fine for a short ride but for longer distances a faster cadence is necessary for my knees (and tour) to stay alive.
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Old 07-05-10, 01:48 PM
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I use a Cadence Meter, I keep track of what cadence does best in different cases and feel it has helped me to do better.
But, I am truck driver and tachometer is needed.
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Old 07-05-10, 01:57 PM
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Originally Posted by dubois View Post
I must say I disagree. I find it most comfortable to ride with a slow cadence, but in a tour with hours of riding day after day, what is most comfortable at the moment is certainly not the most sustainable. Keeping a low cadence is fine for a short ride but for longer distances a faster cadence is necessary for my knees (and tour) to stay alive.
OK. People differ. Personally I find it difficult to equate feeling comfortable with putting so much pressure on my knees that I will be unable to continue, but that's just me...
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