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Pedalling styles

GabboGabbo Posts: 864
edited November 2012 in Road general
I've noticed that regardless of speed, many cyclists have different pedalling styles. Some prefer a high cadence in a lower gear whereas others prefer a lower cadence in a very high gear.

Personally I find a slightly higher cadence in a lower gear easier, but why is beyond me.

As stupid as the question may seem, why could this be? Is it related to mechanics or power? Or both?

Thanks

ps.. what is your pedalling style?
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Posts

  • SproolSprool Posts: 1,022
    Most agree that 75 - 85 is a good efficient cadence. If you can keep cadence high then you are using a lower gear to achieve a specific velocity. If you are using a lower gear then there is less strain on the joints and muscles don't have to work so hard, just like pulleys work to lessen the force needed to lift a mass.
  • diydiy Posts: 6,680
    Just like different engines have different efficiencies at different rpm the same is true for people.
  • SproolSprool Posts: 1,022
    faster cadence harder work on the heart and lungs, while pushing hard on the bigger gears gets your muscles working more, leading to lactic acid build up. Its about finding the midway balance between these 2 efforts that you are comfortable with.
  • FlacVestFlacVest Posts: 100
    Sprool wrote:
    faster cadence harder work on the heart and lungs, while pushing hard on the bigger gears gets your muscles working more, leading to lactic acid build up. Its about finding the midway balance between these 2 efforts that you are comfortable with.

    Depends on what you mean by "working more" and "pushing hard". If you have stronger legs in genral, you wont have that same buildup of acid and you can push that larger gear with ease; having a strong heart helps with this as well.

    Some people just push the big gear because they can and feel no need to spin; it's all relative to your fitness anyway.
  • TakeTurnsTakeTurns Posts: 1,075
    At a low cadence you'll be burning more carbs and result in greater glycogen depletion due to the high intensity of the stroke.

    Compared to slower cadences, the higher pedaling speeds are more economical and burn more fat during exercise. Ultimately, the high pedaling rates also preserve greater amounts of glycogen in fast-twitch muscle fibers, leading to more explosive "kicks" to the finish line in closing moments of races.

    I used to ride around the 75 mark but have started to improve my cadence since I've gotten a garmin to track it. 80-85 is the sweet spot for me.
  • drlodgedrlodge Posts: 4,825
    My average cadence is around 90, on the flat I'm pushing nearer 100, up hill it'll go as low as 60-70. Everyone is different - I hate grinding big gears as I don't have the strength, hence I tend to be more of a spinner.
    WyndyMilla Massive Attack | Rourke 953 | Condor Italia 531 Pro | Boardman CX Pro | DT Swiss RR440 Tubeless Wheels
    Find me on Strava
  • Much, much more of a spinner than a grinder here. The knees won't let me do the latter, or at least they will at the time but the after effects aren't exactly enjoyable. I suspect it's also in part down to the mountain biking and the need to avoid combining things like climbs, dodgy surfaces, and big gobs of power.
    Mangeur
  • amaferangaamaferanga Posts: 6,789
    Sprool wrote:
    Most agree that 75 - 85 is a good efficient cadence. If you can keep cadence high then you are using a lower gear to achieve a specific velocity. If you are using a lower gear then there is less strain on the joints and muscles don't have to work so hard, just like pulleys work to lessen the force needed to lift a mass.

    Do they? 75rpm is borderline mashing.
    More problems but still living....
  • cougiecougie Posts: 22,512
    "People on bikes" do about 60 rpm. When you get into cycling more often - the cadence goes up. I think its more efficient spinning - but some people do very well on huge gears.

    http://philsroadbikingblog.blogspot.co. ... teeth.html
  • My average cadence works out between 92 and 94 and I tend to change up or down gears when I'm between 87 & 89 or 98 & 100.

    I've just always found it much more comfortable to spin rather than mash.
  • mike6mike6 Posts: 1,199
    Yes, I am a spinner. Probably because I have a good aerobic threshold, but am also light and small framed so mashing big gears is not really an option I find 90 to 100 right for me but I did a lot of practice and trial and error on the turbo one winter.

    I also find spinning a small gear on hills to be better for me than mashing or riding out of the saddle. Most of the pro's spin high cadence. The exceptions seem to be the more powerfully built riders in the peloton, so if you are that body type, naturally, pushing big gears might work for you.
  • hstileshstiles Posts: 414
    I made a conscious effort to increase my cadence. I tend to keep it hovering round the 95-100 mark. If I'm working on the turbo I will maintain a cadence of around 120rpm with a few very fast efforts, pushing it up to 150+ for short bursts

    Benefits
    I've developed much better seated acceleration, which is far more efficient than trying to accelerate out of the saddle in a high gear.
    Much less fatigue, which is important for me as I typically ride 6 days a week (commute plus weekend ride).
    Better aerobic workout. If I want to focus on strength training, then I do specific workouts to improve strength.
  • racingcondorracingcondor Posts: 1,434
    Mine seems to average out at 88 on rides up to about 50 miles. Long rides (like Dragon Ride) fatigue (and bloody big hills) sets in and it will drop to 80. Crits I tend to find I spin closer to 100 (helps match the accellerations without building up too much fatigue).

    I need to get back to working on it though as I took up track this year and found myself spinning out on one of the club bikes (48-16 I think and trying to hold 130ish for 1/2 lap. Bounce, bounce, bounce...).
  • sub55sub55 Posts: 1,025
    Sprool wrote:
    Most agree that 75 - 85 is a good efficient cadence. If you can keep cadence high then you are using a lower gear to achieve a specific velocity. If you are using a lower gear then there is less strain on the joints and muscles don't have to work so hard, just like pulleys work to lessen the force needed to lift a mass.

    :roll: Most agree that 75 - 85 is on the slow side
    constantly reavalueating the situation and altering the perceived parameters accordingly
  • sub55sub55 Posts: 1,025
    Sprool wrote:
    faster cadence harder work on the heart and lungs, while pushing hard on the bigger gears gets your muscles working more, leading to lactic acid build up. Its about finding the midway balance between these 2 efforts that you are comfortable with.

    NO
    lactate acid is produced when your muscles are burning more fuel " glucome" then can be supported by the available oxygen delivered to the muscles within the hemoglobin .
    Spinning at a high cadence when you haven't got a cardiovascular system developed enough to support it will produce lactate acid. Not pushing big gears.
    constantly reavalueating the situation and altering the perceived parameters accordingly
  • SproolSprool Posts: 1,022
    that'll teach me for plagiarising someone else's earlier post in another thread :D
    Seriously though - 85 cadence on the slow side?
  • karlthkarlth Posts: 156
    sub55 wrote:
    Sprool wrote:
    faster cadence harder work on the heart and lungs, while pushing hard on the bigger gears gets your muscles working more, leading to lactic acid build up. Its about finding the midway balance between these 2 efforts that you are comfortable with.

    NO
    lactate acid is produced when your muscles are burning more fuel " glucome" then can be supported by the available oxygen delivered to the muscles within the hemoglobin .
    Spinning at a high cadence when you haven't got a cardiovascular system developed enough to support it will produce lactate acid. Not pushing big gears.

    This is absolutely true. I have a low lung capacity (stove in chest*) and find that my legs ache more at a higher cadence than at a lower. Fortunately I have many years fell-walking behind me which have given me relatively strong leg muscles. Hence I'm a bit more of a grinder than a spinner, especially uphill where I'm actually more comfortable at 45-55 RPM up a 12% than doing the same speed at 70-80.

    *did worse even than the smokers at underwater swimming at school.
  • SproolSprool Posts: 1,022
    strangely opposite for me, grinding tall gears uphill make my thighs and knees burn, I soon run out of energy. I'm better keeping momentum going with a faster cadence and a smaller gear.
  • I'm like Karlth in many ways, much prefer being in a slightly higher gear and grinding it out, it's much more comfortable for me than spinning my way to the top.

    I also like the option to change down and spin more if I feel I won't make it grinding. Much easier to go from grinding > spinning than the other way around.
    Hills are like half life - they wait until you're 50% recovered from one before hitting you in the face with the next.

    http://www.pedalmash.co.uk/
  • mike6mike6 Posts: 1,199
    I'm like Karlth in many ways, much prefer being in a slightly higher gear and grinding it out, it's much more comfortable for me than spinning my way to the top.

    I also like the option to change down and spin more if I feel I won't make it grinding. Much easier to go from grinding > spinning than the other way around.

    I beg to differ. One of the sports best ever climbers, cant remember if it was Charlie Gaul or Lucien Van Impe, who said it is best to start a climb in a lower gear than you think. It is physiologically easier to shift up a gear, If it feel too easy, than to shift down when the climb becomes too much, as by them you will already be struggling and have to ease off.
  • Ahh I didn't think of it that way. That makes sense actually.

    I might give that a try. When i'm on a Strava segment and I think i'm on for a great time I have been known to shift up a gear in the last 50 metres or so of a hill and that was never too much of a struggle.

    I suppose it's an expansion of that theory to fit further distances.
    Hills are like half life - they wait until you're 50% recovered from one before hitting you in the face with the next.

    http://www.pedalmash.co.uk/
  • grinder in a big gear for me. thats not the grinder app on the iphone by the way!
  • mike6 wrote:
    I'm like Karlth in many ways, much prefer being in a slightly higher gear and grinding it out, it's much more comfortable for me than spinning my way to the top.

    I also like the option to change down and spin more if I feel I won't make it grinding. Much easier to go from grinding > spinning than the other way around.

    I beg to differ. One of the sports best ever climbers, cant remember if it was Charlie Gaul or Lucien Van Impe, who said it is best to start a climb in a lower gear than you think. It is physiologically easier to shift up a gear, If it feel too easy, than to shift down when the climb becomes too much, as by them you will already be struggling and have to ease off.

    Tried this technique on my commute to work this morning. Heading up the big hill I started in a smaller spinny gear and increased as I got higher, even to the point of getting out of the saddle and keeping high cadence.

    When I got here I checked Strava - smashed my PB on the segment by 35 seconds :shock:

    If that's not convincing I don't know what is! Didn't feel any worse for it at the top of the hill either!
    Hills are like half life - they wait until you're 50% recovered from one before hitting you in the face with the next.

    http://www.pedalmash.co.uk/
  • mike6mike6 Posts: 1,199
    mike6 wrote:
    I'm like Karlth in many ways, much prefer being in a slightly higher gear and grinding it out, it's much more comfortable for me than spinning my way to the top.

    I also like the option to change down and spin more if I feel I won't make it grinding. Much easier to go from grinding > spinning than the other way around.

    I beg to differ. One of the sports best ever climbers, cant remember if it was Charlie Gaul or Lucien Van Impe, who said it is best to start a climb in a lower gear than you think. It is physiologically easier to shift up a gear, If it feel too easy, than to shift down when the climb becomes too much, as by them you will already be struggling and have to ease off.

    Tried this technique on my commute to work this morning. Heading up the big hill I started in a smaller spinny gear and increased as I got higher, even to the point of getting out of the saddle and keeping high cadence.

    When I got here I checked Strava - smashed my PB on the segment by 35 seconds :shock:

    If that's not convincing I don't know what is! Didn't feel any worse for it at the top of the hill either!

    Hey that's brilliant Reane. I had not done a specific trial of this method of climbing, I was merely quoting an old pro, and it made the hills seem easier for me. It's nice to have the data you got to prove that its actually faster. At least for you and me anyway.
    Cheers mate.
  • When I became interested in cycling my mate Dave, who is an experienced cyclist, gave me lots of advice. Very little of it was immediately useful as I was very incapable. One thing he explained was about cadence and the importance of spinning up climbs for ease and efficiency. Sadly, this was another gem that I could not use . My fitness was so poor than spinning simply made me out of breath. Nowadays I have better fitness and technique and can appreciate the benefit of his good advice but at well over 100kg I am never going to twiddle my way up an Alp, slow and steady works for me.
    'fool'
  • So what's the combined wisdom regarding pulling on the up-going pedal?

    Now that I've been riding with cleats for a week or so, I've been trying it a bit on some of my usual hills and it seems to make quite a difference.

    I tend to pull a bit, and thereby need to push a little less on the downgoing pedal. This seems to enable me to carry on at a higher speed for longer, and arrive at the top with less in the way of a near-death-experience.

    Only short hills though - not tried any long ones yet.
    Is the gorilla tired yet?
  • hipshothipshot Posts: 371
    It comes down to personal preference I think, although there have been a few studies that suggest consciously pulling up the pedal doesnt help that much over long periods. I do sometimes use force on the whole pedal stroke to use alternate muscles on a climb.

    I find that shifting back in the saddle and pointing my toes on the downstroke helps too, as does completely relaxing shoulders and elbows.

    Diff'rent strokes for diff'rent folks
  • keef66keef66 Posts: 13,123
    Pulling up on the pedals doesn't really help much; the muscles involved tire quickly. What cleats do help with is pedalling smoothly in circles rather than just stamping on the downstroke.
  • DavidJBDavidJB Posts: 2,019
    Dont waste your time pulling up.
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