Forum home Road cycling forum Training, fitness and health

Get tired easily

fuzzynavelfuzzynavel Posts: 718
Hello all,

I have a strange problem,

When riding my bike at a decent pace, my legs seem to get fatigued before my breathing gets laboured if pushing hard. This is only if I am pushing a medium cadence. I can easily get out of breath on high 90+ cadences so I avoid doing that too much and just push a bigger gear.
Should I embrace the heavy breathing and just push the higher cadence (easier gear) and learn to deal with the breathing or am I doing the right thing avoiding it? Even when heavy breathing at the higher cadence I can keep going much longer as I don't get the lactate build up that I get with the bigger gear.

What I want to know essentially is, is this normal and how can I train harder?

I have found myself a new 4 mile lap near home that includes a 1 mile 9% hill and a shorter 11% hill....did 4 laps last night and it hurt a little....these ones are actually signposted by the council so the gradients should be right!
17 Stone down to 12.5 now raring to get back on the bike!

Posts

  • BlondeBlonde Posts: 3,188
    You're thinking far too much. Just pedal.
  • terongiterongi Posts: 318
    I think the reason is:

    At low cadence high gear, you are applying a lot of force with your leg muscles - so you legs feel tired/hurt

    At high cadence low gear, you are applying less force with your leg muscles for each pedal stroke, but you are moving your limbs more quickly and more often putting a greater demand on your heart. Your heart rate goes up - which makes you feel out of breath

    Which one you choose to work on is up to you - a matter of riding style

    Famously, for climbing big mountains, Jan Ullrich always pedalled a high gear at low cadence and Lance Armstrong pedalled a low gear at high cadence.

    As I understand it, the current thinking is that the Armstrong style is more efficient and less likely to result in injury (especially knees).
  • milton50milton50 Posts: 3,856
    I always use a really high cadence for my rides because after experimenting I found that I could get into a much smoother rhythm and maintain a higher speed than when using a higher gear. Of course the downside is that I am breathing a lot heavier and earlier than I would be otherwise. It's just a personal choice you have to make.
  • rhextrhext Posts: 1,639
    Get a computer and see whether you're moving faster with high gear/medium cadence or low gear/high cadence. Speaking for myself, I have similar symptoms - but I reckon that's down to the fact that I'm can go up a steep hill 10-15% faster with a low gear/high cadence. In that case, the limiting factor is your core fitness, not the strength in your legs. Speaking for myself, I'd advocate training at a higher cadence. Your breathing will adjust.
  • Murr XMurr X Posts: 258
    terongi wrote:
    As I understand it, the current thinking is that the Armstrong style is more efficient and less likely to result in injury (especially knees).
    Lower cadences are more efficient (all things being equal).

    Find out what cadence works best for you, everyone is different. You may excel at 75rpm or 100rpm.
  • InfamousInfamous Posts: 1,130
    you answered your own question fuzzy! you say you want to get out of breath more, then say you get out of breath by riding a higher cadence!

    If you constantly push a higher gear, your legs will get tired. If you are struggling with 90 rpm, then train that weakness!

    fwiw, If I ride below 85 rpm, I start to struggle to keep the speed. Basically, whatever cadence you train most at, is what you will be best (or more efficient) at.
  • Infamous wrote:
    you answered your own question fuzzy! you say you want to get out of breath more, then say you get out of breath by riding a higher cadence!

    If you constantly push a higher gear, your legs will get tired. If you are struggling with 90 rpm, then train that weakness!

    fwiw, If I ride below 85 rpm, I start to struggle to keep the speed. Basically, whatever cadence you train most at, is what you will be best (or more efficient) at.

    I like pushing the big gear and find it more comfortable for short periods. I am not so keen on the high cadence as I start to get out of breath. The training that I do in the gym involves 1 hour at high powers (according to the bike) but at cadences around 50-60 rpm. Trying to put this into practice on the road doesn't quite work. I guess I could work on the higher cadence training as I do appear to be weak there.
    17 Stone down to 12.5 now raring to get back on the bike!
  • InfamousInfamous Posts: 1,130
    fuzzynavel wrote:
    Infamous wrote:
    you answered your own question fuzzy! you say you want to get out of breath more, then say you get out of breath by riding a higher cadence!

    If you constantly push a higher gear, your legs will get tired. If you are struggling with 90 rpm, then train that weakness!

    fwiw, If I ride below 85 rpm, I start to struggle to keep the speed. Basically, whatever cadence you train most at, is what you will be best (or more efficient) at.

    I like pushing the big gear and find it more comfortable for short periods. I am not so keen on the high cadence as I start to get out of breath. The training that I do in the gym involves 1 hour at high powers (according to the bike) but at cadences around 50-60 rpm. Trying to put this into practice on the road doesn't quite work. I guess I could work on the higher cadence training as I do appear to be weak there.
    I remember you said that you train at 50 rpm in the gym! That's probably what's happened, you have trained yourself at low cadences, so obviously you are better at lower cadences. And 50-60 rpm is way too low to be much use (as you say yourself, it doesn't quite work).

    Why bother training on the bike in the gym when you have a bike to ride on?

    I think you should definately train some higher cadence work, even if you still grind, at least you will have the ability to change cadence. You might even prefer to be a twiddler, but you just don't know it yet!
  • terongi wrote:
    Famously, for climbing big mountains, Jan Ullrich always pedalled a high gear at low cadence and Lance Armstrong pedalled a low gear at high cadence.

    As I understand it, the current thinking is that the Armstrong style is more efficient and less likely to result in injury (especially knees).
    A Famous myth that has been famously hyped by some famous media commentators.
  • Infamous wrote:
    Why bother training on the bike in the gym when you have a bike to ride on?

    I think you should definately train some higher cadence work, even if you still grind, at least you will have the ability to change cadence. You might even prefer to be a twiddler, but you just don't know it yet!

    I use the gym if I judge the weather outside to be too dangerous for me to be comfortable on the bike. Things such as high winds, driving rain and ice usually get this reaction from me as I tend to ride in the dark at this time of year. I am paying for the membership so may as well make some use of it. On the plus side I can use the sauna, steam room, jacuzzi's and the pool afterwards. The gym workout tends to be a lot more structured than the road work as I can set the levels that I want to work at. I do a lot more intervals watching the power readings and I think I actually work myself harder as I have a way to gauge my effort, hence the other thread a few weeks ago about the cheapest way to train with power.
    The power readings seem to motivate me to work harder.

    I will drop the resistance a bit and see if I can up the cadence to 75rpm for the hour....a 25% change should make it a little harder on the lungs without going too mad.
    17 Stone down to 12.5 now raring to get back on the bike!
  • Gav888Gav888 Posts: 946
    Being a total newbie to cycling and fitness in general, im knackered after 4 / 5 miles.... bad i know.. but at present I do a high gear with lower cadence until my legs hurt, then low gear at high cadence until im knackered and my legs have rested, then swap again, so im trying to work both areas. Ave is about 11/12mph.
    Cycling never gets any easier, you just go faster - Greg LeMond
  • InfamousInfamous Posts: 1,130
    fuzzynavel wrote:
    Infamous wrote:
    Why bother training on the bike in the gym when you have a bike to ride on?

    I think you should definately train some higher cadence work, even if you still grind, at least you will have the ability to change cadence. You might even prefer to be a twiddler, but you just don't know it yet!

    I use the gym if I judge the weather outside to be too dangerous for me to be comfortable on the bike. Things such as high winds, driving rain and ice usually get this reaction from me as I tend to ride in the dark at this time of year. I am paying for the membership so may as well make some use of it. On the plus side I can use the sauna, steam room, jacuzzi's and the pool afterwards. The gym workout tends to be a lot more structured than the road work as I can set the levels that I want to work at. I do a lot more intervals watching the power readings and I think I actually work myself harder as I have a way to gauge my effort, hence the other thread a few weeks ago about the cheapest way to train with power.
    The power readings seem to motivate me to work harder.

    I will drop the resistance a bit and see if I can up the cadence to 75rpm for the hour....a 25% change should make it a little harder on the lungs without going too mad.
    ah fair enough I bet it's braw cold up where you are.

    Next time you are out on the road, try some spin outs. Put it in a low gear and see how fast you can get your legs to go. I got up to 152 rpm with hill assistance (@30+ mph).

    Gav888: sounds good! keep at it and you'll be doing centuries in no time.
  • Generally a lower cadence is more efficient but higher cadence has some advantages that might be relevant :

    - Allows you to accelerate more quickly (within reason. If you're already at 120rpm your physical ability to increase leg speed is going to be rate limiting)
    - Puts less stress on your joints (knees, hips and ankles)
    - Puts less load on your muscles so for a given duration they are less likely to be sore the following day
    - Uses more slow twitch muscle fibres which conserves glycogen which your fast twitch fibres might need in a sprint at the end of a race!

    The most efficient for any individual depends on - amongst other things - the composition of their muscles (fast/ slow twitch fibres) which is dependent on genetics and their training regime.

    Training your respiratory system (ability to inhale, absorb and transport oxygen) is useful so some heavy breathing workouts are likely to be beneficial however you achieve it! As you say, pushing hard at 50-60rpm isn't that useful to train as it's not that useful on a bike!

    This is interesting reading:
    http://www.bikeradar.com/fitness/articl ... -pro-12772
  • InfamousInfamous Posts: 1,130
    Cue alex simmons:

    Cadence doesn't effect fibre type, intensity does. Same with how "sore" your muscles are the following day, it's intensity not cadence that determines this.
  • Infamous wrote:
    Cue alex simmons:

    Cadence doesn't effect fibre type, intensity does. Same with how "sore" your muscles are the following day, it's intensity not cadence that determines this.

    I only meant that at a given power output ('intensity'), leg force will be greater at lower cadence and lower at a higher cadence. I don't think Alex will argue with that.

    This all presumes the OP is training at appropriate power levels. I'd taken the question to be 'for a given power', what's the right cadence.

    The power reading on gym bikes isn't at all reliable (on any one bike or comparable between them) but you can still end up doing the right training without all the right information in front of you - you just don't know it for sure.
  • InfamousInfamous Posts: 1,130
    I only meant that at a given power output ('intensity'), leg force will be greater at lower cadence and lower at a higher cadence. I don't think Alex will argue with that.
    You clearly don't know alex simmons :D
  • You're right - I don't know him from Adam! His posts are normally on the mark though.
  • Infamous wrote:
    Cue alex simmons:

    Cadence doesn't effect fibre type, intensity does. Same with how "sore" your muscles are the following day, it's intensity not cadence that determines this.

    I only meant that at a given power output ('intensity'), leg force will be greater at lower cadence and lower at a higher cadence. I don't think Alex will argue with that.

    This all presumes the OP is training at appropriate power levels. I'd taken the question to be 'for a given power', what's the right cadence.

    The power reading on gym bikes isn't at all reliable (on any one bike or comparable between them) but you can still end up doing the right training without all the right information in front of you - you just don't know it for sure.
    While force and cadence for a given power are inversely proportional, the forces are still pretty low and fibre type recruitment is more a function of power than it is of leg speed or pedal force alone.

    Fast twtch fibres fatigue quickly, so if you were recruiting them, you would be forced to slow down very soon. Since we see people riding big gears for long stretches, then it's not really recruiting fast twitch fibres much.

    Nevertheless, what people feel is what they feel.

    What happens when people ride a bigger gear is that they are generally producing more power overall than when they choose a smaller gear. The bigger gear is kind of encourging you to keep the pressure on the pedals. That's what is likely to be the cause of fatigue (more power, than the cadence per se). And a little more power may not show up much in overall speeds, it can be quite subtle.

    In road racing, the typical cadences are 85-100 rpm and 70+ on the hills. These are generally the most effective ranges for road racing. Efficiency has very little to do with it. (while it's a bad analogy, race car drivers generally aren't worried about fuel consumption/efficiency, just about crossing the line first - same with cyclists). Perhaps if I was looking at an ultra-endurance athlete, then I would begin to consider efficiency.

    If someone was continually pedalling at 50rpm, I would certainly suggest they begin to chose smaller gears and learn to adapt to riding at difference pedal speeds. At 50rpm you'll run out of gears pretty soon! That's only a bit over 30km/h in a 53x11.
  • Thanks all for your replies.

    The 50 rpm thing is just in the gym. rightly or wrongly I pedal where the machine shows the highest (personally sustainable) power figures .... I can keep going at 50 rpm at the highest resistance that the bike offers for well in excess of an hour. I find this less tiring than dropping the resistance a bit and pedalling faster with less wattage shown(does this mean that power is calculated and not measured??).. Maybe I have trained the wrong type of muscles. I am slowly seeing my sustainable wattages going up and the cadence has increased by about 5 rpm to 50-55 rpm over the last few months but as I am discovering this is no use for proper road riding.
    I can see the point of the faster cadence and lighter gear. I have found a sweetspot a few times but have difficulty replicating on different days.
    I need to get a proper power device and see where I fit in with the coggan/hunter power profiles for 5 sec, 1 min, 5 min and FT efforts and then set up a program accordingly.
    Since we see people riding big gears for long stretches, then it's not really recruiting fast twitch fibres much.
    Since I am untrained....would my body know not to use fast twitch for harder efforts?
    What happens when people ride a bigger gear is that they are generally producing more power overall than when they choose a smaller gear. The bigger gear is kind of encourging you to keep the pressure on the pedals. That's what is likely to be the cause of fatigue (more power, than the cadence per se). And a little more power may not show up much in overall speeds, it can be quite subtle.
    So essentially I need to find my ftp by reliable means and then try to train myself to cope better with a higher cadence within my chosen training zone (eg 75-85%% ftp)??
    This all presumes the OP is training at appropriate power levels. I'd taken the question to be 'for a given power', what's the right cadence.

    The power reading on gym bikes isn't at all reliable (on any one bike or comparable between them) but you can still end up doing the right training without all the right information in front of you - you just don't know it for sure.

    James_London.....I have had this discussion with Alex on (possibly more than) one occassion. Due to funding at the moment I can't get a powertap but insurance money from an accident a few months ago should sort that after christmas some time.
    I have to work with what I have and the gym bikes are the best way that I have to measure performance whilst minimising variables. If I use the same bike every time then hopefully it will be out by the same margin constantly and any gains/losses in performance should be noticeable. I suppose I could go by lap times or heart rates but they both depend on so many different conditions that getting reliable resullt could be difficult.

    I am babbling and probably only making sense to myself...(that is what half a bottle of wine does for me!) so I will stop here.. cheers again.
    17 Stone down to 12.5 now raring to get back on the bike!
  • fuzzynavel wrote:
    The 50 rpm thing is just in the gym. rightly or wrongly I pedal where the machine shows the highest (personally sustainable) power figures .... I can keep going at 50 rpm at the highest resistance that the bike offers for well in excess of an hour. I find this less tiring than dropping the resistance a bit and pedalling faster with less wattage shown(does this mean that power is calculated and not measured??)
    It is possible the device in the ergobike is not consistently showing power at different cadences. IOW you may actually be producing a smilar power at a higher cadence but it is not reporting it that way. Hard to say when you have a device you can't calibrate/validate.
    fuzzynavel wrote:
    Since I am untrained....would my body know not to use fast twitch for harder efforts?
    Your body will recruit what it needs to.
  • obob Posts: 36

    In road racing, the typical cadences are 85-100 rpm and 70+ on the hills. These are generally the most effective ranges for road racing. Efficiency has very little to do with it. (while it's a bad analogy, race car drivers generally aren't worried about fuel consumption/efficiency, just about crossing the line first - same with cyclists). Perhaps if I was looking at an ultra-endurance athlete, then I would begin to consider efficiency.

    I was reading a quote once from a paper where they'd studied pedalling efficiences and found that 90 to 100 rpm was the most efficient. I don't have any more information than that, so it could well be that 60rpm or 110rpm is only 1% less efficient, but it's interesting that the 85-100 rpm that you quote is in the same range.

    It makes sense to me that there is a range where the most efficient pedalling will occur. Too low an rpm with high gear is the same as doing squats at the gym - that won't last you very long. And too high an rpm is just not sustainable. Our bodies didn't evolve with either situation in mind, so it's sensible that there would be a point in the middle which allows you to put out the most energy over a given period of time.

    Needless to say that this will vary to a degree for individuals as everyone is slightly different, but we were all built from the same mould!
  • ob wrote:

    In road racing, the typical cadences are 85-100 rpm and 70+ on the hills. These are generally the most effective ranges for road racing. Efficiency has very little to do with it. (while it's a bad analogy, race car drivers generally aren't worried about fuel consumption/efficiency, just about crossing the line first - same with cyclists). Perhaps if I was looking at an ultra-endurance athlete, then I would begin to consider efficiency.
    I was reading a quote once from a paper where they'd studied pedalling efficiences and found that 90 to 100 rpm was the most efficient.
    I'd suggest either you recalled incorrectly, the quote was wrong or the paper referenced goes against most of the sensible scientific findings on the topic.

    The most efficient cadences aren't typically the most effective.

    The most efficient cadences (~55-60 rpm) are typically much lower than what road cyclists actually train and race at. Metabolic efficiency being the ratio of mechanical work done by the muscles relative to the energy expended by the body.

    cf. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9309635
  • obob Posts: 36
    ob wrote:

    In road racing, the typical cadences are 85-100 rpm and 70+ on the hills. These are generally the most effective ranges for road racing. Efficiency has very little to do with it. (while it's a bad analogy, race car drivers generally aren't worried about fuel consumption/efficiency, just about crossing the line first - same with cyclists). Perhaps if I was looking at an ultra-endurance athlete, then I would begin to consider efficiency.
    I was reading a quote once from a paper where they'd studied pedalling efficiences and found that 90 to 100 rpm was the most efficient.
    I'd suggest either you recalled incorrectly, the quote was wrong or the paper referenced goes against most of the sensible scientific findings on the topic.

    The most efficient cadences aren't typically the most effective.

    The most efficient cadences (~55-60 rpm) are typically much lower than what road cyclists actually train and race at. Metabolic efficiency being the ratio of mechanical work done by the muscles relative to the energy expended by the body.

    cf. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9309635

    OK, that makes sense. I guess we're talking about different types of efficiencies then - from a personal point of view it doesn't bother me whether it costs my body 4 joules or 5 joules to stick 1 joule through the pedals (I don't know what the actual figures would be), what matters to me is what cadence and gear combo I need to put the most joules through the pedals in a given time period and be able to sustain it for as long as is required. I think that's the where the 90 to 100 rpm came from that I mentioned, some kind of pedalling efficiency measurement as opposed to a metabolic efficiency.

    Or you could look at it another way. Say you had an FTP of 300W and you wanted to go for an hour cycle and go as far as you could. You have 3 gears to choose from, call them A, B and C. To put out your 300W at any given moment, you would have to do one of the following:

    Gear A at 65rpm
    Gear B at 90rpm
    Gear C at 115rpm

    Which would you go for?

    ps, I'm not trying to argue here! I've been reading your blog and it's great to see so much detaill about all this and it's clear you know an awful lot! I'm just trying to look at it from a different angle.
  • ob wrote:
    Or you could look at it another way. Say you had an FTP of 300W and you wanted to go for an hour cycle and go as far as you could. You have 3 gears to choose from, call them A, B and C. To put out your 300W at any given moment, you would have to do one of the following:

    Gear A at 65rpm
    Gear B at 90rpm
    Gear C at 115rpm

    Which would you go for?

    ps, I'm not trying to argue here! I've been reading your blog and it's great to see so much detaill about all this and it's clear you know an awful lot! I'm just trying to look at it from a different angle.
    If you are putting out 300W, then your speed will be the same irrespective of the cadence.

    Didn't think you were arguing. I'm not. :)
Sign In or Register to comment.