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Higher gear or higher cadence?

rowerburgessrowerburgess Posts: 16
edited August 2010 in Road beginners
I have pretty solid legs due to being an avid rower, and high gears (23/24 out of 24) seem to suit me; but I see other cyclists legs spinning twice as fast as mine, but I'm going similar speed to them. My legs don't get tired if they're pushing harder and spinning slower, so are there any advantages to either way? Is this something I need to change? Or is it just personal preference?
Specialized Allez 24
FCN ride: 3
FCN commute: 7

Posts

  • rick_chaseyrick_chasey Posts: 65,263 Lives Here
    Personal preference.

    However, the more you cycle, the more that preference will change.
  • I suppose it is a similar thing to training on a Concept II - some folks can grind it out with higher resistance, whereas others favour a lower resistance setting and an increased SPM, but ultimately achieve similar results. I was definitely a grinder when i started cycling but as my distances have increased and I started looking at ways of improving, I have moved towards a higher cadence -there are loads of threads on here with much wiser cyclists than me though.

    I always had it in my head by grinding it out, this would help me with climbing or when going into a strong headwind, and that spinning along in a lower gear was somehow cheating. However I see that differently now - not that I am an expert
  • sungodsungod Posts: 15,236
    pushing a big gear at low cadence - can be really bad for the knees, but many seem ok

    spinning a low gear - easier on the knees, not all like it though, and it is supposed to be less efficient doing 90+ than around 70-80

    but even if both deliver the same power, the less obvious benefit to spinning is ability to sprint/recover, especially on climbs...

    the leg muscles recover more slowly from overload than the heart/lungs

    so if you are already going hard pushing, it'll be really hard to sprint, and take ages to recover - your muscles were already close to the limit

    if you are going hard spinning, you'll have spare capacity in the muscles to go extra hard, and your heart etc. will recover faster from the overload, so you can do it all again much sooner

    it isn't simply technique though, physique, cv capacity and genetics are biggies
    my bike - faster than god's and twice as shiny
  • StillGoingStillGoing Posts: 5,207
    I much prefered pushing a big gear to spinning but I now realise I'm tiring my legs much quicker than if I was in a lower gear spinning a high cadence. It's a false economy to think you're conserving energy by pushing big gears and pedalling slower. As someone said, you get the same results, just different techniques.
    I ride a bike. Doesn't make me green or a tree hugger. I drive a car too.
  • vorsprungvorsprung Posts: 1,953
    There is a high degree of "personal preference" involved. But the current consensus is that fast spinning/smaller gear is usually "better" than slower spinning/bigger gear. See url below for the science bit

    "High Pedaling Cadence" by Michele Ferrari
  • Monty DogMonty Dog Posts: 20,614
    I think anything that quotes Michelle Ferrari as a justification for a certain type of riding has to be treated with a degree of suspicion, particularly as it could be a 'smoke screen' for other means of achieving higher performance - nuff said.

    However, it is about economy and the optimisation of the ability to deliver oxygen to the muscles and not to create undue overload which induces fatigue. The ability to adopt a different pedalling styles can help different muscle groups to recover on long rides and likewise, adapt to changes in pace in a racing situation if required. Your muscle make-up does impact on your style, but developing a more fluid pedalling technique helps to give more even power to your pedal stroke and therefore reduce fatigue.
    Make mine an Italian, with Campagnolo on the side..
  • ride_wheneverride_whenever Posts: 13,279
    As a rower you were conditioned to have an optimum cadence (strokerate) of between 20 and 30 for sustainable stuff, it is only natural that you are finding a lower cadence suits you currently, but as others have said, this will probably increase with time.

    If you look at top lever rowers who've gone onto cycling they end up as high cadence monsters eventually.
  • shisaashisaa Posts: 82
    I'm not an expert but as others have said, with experience you may find your cadence increases. I think basically it's about the balance of muscles fibres being used, slower cadences/higher gears will tire the legs quicker, and will take longer to recover from. Higher cadences/smaller gears, depend more on your CV system, so efforts are easier to recover from and won't fatigue your legs so quickly. However I guess it's ultimately about efficiency, and everybody will vary in the cadence at which they produce power most efficiently. 90 rpm is often recommended as a target cadence, on the flat anyway, but track riders will go as high as 120 at times.
  • vorsprungvorsprung Posts: 1,953
    Monty Dog wrote:
    I think anything that quotes Michelle Ferrari as a justification for a certain type of riding has to be treated with a degree of suspicion...

    ok how about this
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8775571
  • sherersherer Posts: 2,454
    i've always felt there is no right or wrong just what works best for you.

    Try spinning in a low gear and see if it works. As long as you are getting over the hills that is the main thing.
  • vorsprungvorsprung Posts: 1,953
    sherer wrote:
    i've always felt there is no right or wrong just what works best for you.

    Try spinning in a low gear and see if it works. As long as you are getting over the hills that is the main thing.

    There is evidence for that too

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10483797
  • rakerake Posts: 3,204
    it always helps to have a higher gear and higher cadence. :wink:
  • kelihkelih Posts: 3
    high gear AND high cadence 8)
  • DunkeldogDunkeldog Posts: 138
    I've always had pretty strong legs but, after having hit a plateau, a wiley old cyclist recommended I spin an easier gear at a higher cadence. Took a little getting used to but my average speed, cadence and general feeling of being in control improved and i've never looked back.
  • Thanks, this has all been really helpful. I think I'll attempt a lower gear every twice I go out and ride, until I get some real speed with my legs (and hopefully the bike).
    Specialized Allez 24
    FCN ride: 3
    FCN commute: 7
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