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High cadence less power/low cadence more power - same heart rate

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High cadence less power/low cadence more power - same heart rate

Old 07-08-15, 07:23 AM
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High cadence less power/low cadence more power - same heart rate

I was messing around on the spin bike at the gym with a stages power meter, and noticed that as I slowly increased my heart rate my cadence dropped. Eventually I was at 270 watts around 84 rpm and HR at 140. Held that for 10 minutes. Reduced watts to get back to normal cadence of 95-96 and kept HR at 140. My watts went down to 235-240 avg for 10 minutes. What does this mean, and how do I use it in training/racing?
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Old 07-08-15, 07:42 AM
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Er, it doesn't mean much.

Typically, a high cadence for a given power output will be easier on the legs but harder on the CV system. So if you kept the power steady while increasing the cadence, you'd see your HR climb a bit. What you have done is simply the converse of that - you've increased the cadence but maintained a steady HR, so your power fell, which is exactly what I would expect.

When people describe a high cadence as more efficient, they are right only up to a point. Actually, a high cadence is less efficient in terms of oxygen consumed for a given power output, because there is an energy cost to simply spinning the legs faster. That's why you'll typically see beginners, or unfit cyclists, defaulting to cadences in the sixties - they are instinctively adopting the cadence that puts least demands on their CV systems ability to transport oxygen to their muscles.

So why use a high cadence? Because the stress on the muscles for each pedal stroke is less. And if one is really fit, one's oxygen transport system can easily cope with the additional demands - one has oxygen to burn, so to speak - so it usually makes sense to pedal faster in the interests of less fatigue in the legs.

How to use it in training? Push big gears at low cadences to build strength, push smaller gears at higher cadences to build CV fitness and souplesse. It ain't rocket science.
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Old 07-08-15, 08:13 AM
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And if you're trying to finish a course in the least time, cadence will depend on the length of the course, the type of the course, and your personal talents. Test your max 10 second power on that spin bike. I think you'll find that you can hit higher numbers at a higher cadence. So coming out of crit corners, you'd need to be spinning. On a short TT you might choose a lower cadence than on a long TT. If you have a big CV, a higher cadence is usually more competitive because you can afford to run at a higher VO2 percentage and save your legs. If not, you're forced down into the lower cadences to stay with the group because as you note, there's more short term term power there at some percentage of LT, but then maybe you'll be dropped on the 3rd big climb because you're out of legs. So it's kind of like that. Having talent is very cool. The rest of us suffer.
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