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cadence

clunkychunkyclunkychunky Posts: 178
edited March 2011 in Road beginners
hi everyone

only been biking for a couple of years but as i look to get in to some racing i need a bit of help on cadence.

i have always churned a big gear but my bike club keep telling me i should be riding smaller gears with higher cadence. so the past month i have been trying to adapt and try this. what i have noticed is that when i was riding with a big gear (11 / 53) my cadence was approx 75-80rpm and i could comfortably ride at 20-22mph, and my heartbeat would average about 135-140bpm. when attempting to ride with a lower gear (as in a 13 or 14 /53) and a cadence between 90-100 (as the bike club have recommended) i find myself really struggling to stay above 18mph, my heartbeart is in the 150s and im knackered after just a few mins.

what should i do? i have always felt comfortable churning a larger gear and i guess i have adapted to do that. why are the bike club telling me i should churn a smaller gear? i know armstrong did it and very copied his style but is it really that beneficial to the amateur cyclist? would i be better off riding in the style i feel most comfortable? or should i listen to the club and try to adapt?

would be greatful for any help and advice

thanks

:D

Posts

  • LillywhiteLillywhite Posts: 742
    What your club mates are telling you is to practice your spinning, increase your cadence to around 90 rpm to improve your suppleness. Club cyclists always used to ride a single fixed gear in the early part of winter to improve this aspect of their cycling and avoid pushing a large gear.

    Although you can push a 53/11 for a short time this will tire you out very quickly whereas spinning a smaller gear at a higher rpm will in improve your overall cycling performances in the long run.
  • Bar ShakerBar Shaker Posts: 2,313
    53/11 with a cadence of 80rpm is approx 30mph.

    21mph would be 56rpm.

    80-85rpm is most people's sweet spot and if you can maintain 30mph plus for extended periods, you should ignore your club and sign up for the GB Olympic squad.
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  • balthazarbalthazar Posts: 1,565
    Just ride the damn gear you like and forget the numbers. Really. "Efficiency" in pedalling style is complicated and difficult to assess, and largely meaningless when your body will find it's own comfortable rhythm.

    People make all kinds of claims about these things, but it's your bike ride to enjoy however you like: remember – you're doing this for fun.
  • cougiecougie Posts: 22,512
    Yes your numbers and speeds dont seem to add up. You're confused about your gears/speed or cadence ?

    Pro racers have pretty much the same gears as you - you're in the gear they'd be hitting for their 40mph bunch sprints.

    If you're going to be TTing I think you can get away with grinding a bigger gear. If its bunch racing - then you wont be able to respond to attacks as quickly in a big gear.
  • MichaelWMichaelW Posts: 2,164
    How tall are you and what length crank are you riding?
    You cant ride high cadence on a crank that is long for your legs.
    Some people are better suited to spinning at high cadence, it depends on the balance of strength between your heart/lungs and your legs. Spinning puts more stress on your heart/lungs and less on your legs.
  • racingcondorracingcondor Posts: 1,434
    For now I wouldn't worry about it too much.

    Yes it sounds like you're riding a lower than average cadence but that suits some people (It's an average, some people have to be under it!).

    Do a few races and see how it goes, personally I find that I have to spin a high cadence in crit races because I don't have the strength to accellerate quickly if I'm in a big gear so I get gapped too easily. You won't know if that happens to you until you race.

    You may be fine as you are but you'll only know by doing some racing.
  • MichaelW wrote:
    How tall are you and what length crank are you riding?
    You cant ride high cadence on a crank that is long for your legs.
    Some people are better suited to spinning at high cadence, it depends on the balance of strength between your heart/lungs and your legs. Spinning puts more stress on your heart/lungs and less on your legs.

    im 5ft 9 and cranks are 170mm.

    thanks for all the comments.
    i think im just going to ride as i do. its what feels most comfortable to me. i have been out again this morning and i have found i can churn away in top gear quite happily and without tiring, but as soon as i change to a 13/53 or 14/53 and try to spin a higher cadence i tire ridiculously quickly and just cant average more than 18mph.

    i guess im not agile enough for the cadence speed the bike club suggest.

    is this likely to affect me in races? (i know i wont be able to respond as fast to attacks)
  • curiumcurium Posts: 815
    What distances are you currently riding while pushing 11/53?

    I was like you when I picked up a bicycle. I'm 186cm and 90kg and I have a medium build.

    My legs represent quite substantial muscle mass and it was comfortable for me to push a big gear.

    However, I found that when out riding with my gf I would struggle badly on hills (she's almost half my weight but my muscle mass should compensate right?). When I changed to an easier gear I found spinning uncomfortable as it placed a stress on my heart & lungs rather than on my quadriceps femoris.

    I since have started to spin more and now routinely ride at around 90rpm although this drops to 60rpm up long hills, but for me, this is an improvement.

    Physiological changes occur from this change in technique I think. I now find I struggle to turn 50/11 (top gear on my cyclocross) I'm even considering changing the cassette to a 14-25 which will give me closer ratios on my commute as the 11 only gets used downhill.
  • Bar ShakerBar Shaker Posts: 2,313
    In simple terms, we can build two types of muscle, call them 'power' and 'twitch'. Power is what Hoy has, twitch is what the tour riders have. Power can be seen as massive quads and is a slow strong muscle. Twitch is leaner and a faster moving muscle.

    Power muscle will let you put down an explosive pace for short periods of time, twitch will let you ride at a given pace all day. Power muscle tires very quickly and can suffer from lactic acid build up. Twitch tires slowly unless used to apply high loads.

    How much of each you have depends on the training and riding you do.

    If you can average 18mph over a 45+ mile ride, there isn't much wrong with your technique.
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  • bilirubinbilirubin Posts: 225
    So am I right in saying to build slow twitch muscles you need to train with more reps using less weight? Or am I way off the mark?
  • Bar ShakerBar Shaker Posts: 2,313
    The best way to build twitch in your quads, calves and glutes is ride long distances with light peddle loads. You would have to do hours of reps, to replicate the work needed.

    Gym machines are perfect for building power muscle.

    Think of a boxer working out for hours on end on a punch bag etc, as opposed to a weight lighter er, lifting heavy weights just a few times. I recall Nigel Benn saying he would do 250 press up and 1000 sit ups a day when he was training hard.

    If you can't get road bike time, get into a spin studio at your gym.
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  • Mark BomMark Bom Posts: 184
    Bar Shaker wrote:
    In simple terms, we can build two types of muscle, call them 'power' and 'twitch'. Power is what Hoy has, twitch is what the tour riders have. Power can be seen as massive quads and is a slow strong muscle. Twitch is leaner and a faster moving muscle.

    Power muscle will let you put down an explosive pace for short periods of time, twitch will let you ride at a given pace all day. Power muscle tires very quickly and can suffer from lactic acid build up. Twitch tires slowly unless used to apply high loads.

    How much of each you have depends on the training and riding you do.

    If you can average 18mph over a 45+ mile ride, there isn't much wrong with your technique.

    This is useful to me.

    I would say that I'm more 'power' than 'twitch' and that is why I struggle with hills.

    I'll have to try spinning in a lower gear from now on to try and improve my twitch muscles for hills.
  • Simon NotleySimon Notley Posts: 1,263
    There was some research a while ago that took a sample of riders and looked at their efficiency when made to pedal at different cadences, both self-selected and dictated by the researchers. The findings were that the individual riders were most efficient when riding at their self selected cadence, however the riders with the highest self selected cadence were the most efficient of the group.

    So, whilst this supports the view that riders who spin faster are more efficient, it suggests that you personally will not become more efficient simply my pedalling faster. Perhaps in the long term you might adapt to a higher cadence, but in the short term you should expect it to be harder as your body is not used to it.
  • EyonEyon Posts: 623
    I suffer a similar problem as you Clunky.

    For just over a year (before I got injured and started cycling) I used to be a bit of a gym nut. Just before my injury (torn sholder/bi/tri/chest muscles in a oner) I was up to squatting 3x10 of 180kg without much of a problem. This has given me a decent set of quads and glutes but censored all stamina.

    When I started cycling, I would mash a big gear at low cadence and go the same speed as everyone, but would tire fast. But recently I've made a conscious effort to increase cadence, and I find for less effort I am going nearly as fast for longer.

    Try increase it slowly, if you find you cycle at 60rpm, increase it to 70 until it feels natural, then to 80, then to the magic 90. Dont increase cadence by 50% instantly, all it will do is "shock" your body. I'm no scientist and still quite new to cycling, but going from one extreme to the other in anything in life is never a good idea, I can only assume its the same for cycling

    Essentially I've had to (and you will have to by the sounds of it), re-train your legs, instead of big strength for low time, you need low strength for a long time (in relative speaking, cycling doesn't need the strength of squatting!)

    On the plus side, the great thing about knowing you have the strength to mash a big gear is sprinting is a breeze, just heave away and before you know it, you're out pacing the weight weenies! I assume we can think about someone like Cav, he was a track cyclist so has massive strength (yet still manages to have massive endurance somehow), but check out where that strength comes in handy, at the last strait, his track background means that big gear can be spun up and off he goes to the line like nobody else in the field.
  • the club seem to be sharing the conventional wisdom that higher cadences are better, probably because high cadence is said to tax your cardiovascular system more than your legs muscles and the cv system is designed not to accumulate fatigue in the way that legs might.

    on the other hand "conventional wisdom" is probably not reason enough to do something so:

    1) do your own experiments with cadence over the durations you want to race over (this is important because the issue is accumulated fatigue) and see what you come up with.

    2) keep in mind the overwhelming evidence that the majority of endurance cyclists will, regardless of what they used when starting out, tend to develop a cadence of 90 or more.
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