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Cadence when climbing

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Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

Cadence when climbing

Old 12-29-19, 04:28 PM
  #101  
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Originally Posted by swag72 View Post
I'm 47 and have been riding for about 18 months. My maximum heart rate? I really don't know, but I do feel that my heart rate is low for the amount of exertion that I sometimes do! The maximum I have ever got my HR is 161 and I felt sick! On the ride overall my average HR was 130, going up to a max of 152 (https://www.strava.com/activities/2964641599 ) regarding my saddle height, I have had a bike fit, so that should be OK?
If your Strava effort levels are to be believed - you can increase your cadence, but you are higher than I thought by your posts. I wouldn't been too concerned, those graphs look pretty normal, you averaged 68rpm. You can find a lot of Stava racers ave cadence is not so high. The junior women's world champion did a ride today and averaged 77 rpm. Her uphill was 75-85. Another early 20s pro female on the same route, about the same. https://www.strava.com/activities/2966476119/analysis

You held a good speed on that grade. You were 90rpm @152 BPM before the flat before the summit and on the final assent, not quite the effort on the very final assent 70rpm @140BPM. Estimated power was about the same, but it is very hard to work with estimated power. That final 7% you drop to 10-11kph. Cadence goes just under 60. I'd focus more on constant effort (HR) than cadence. Your HR is swinging 30-40 beats on that climb. See if you can hold about 140-150BPM and hold that 75RPM. Tricks like going max breathing through nose (depends on your nose), or counting breaths get you used to what certain efforts are.
If you are fresh you might (maybe you did) just stand that last part. Your best time on that route will be by punching it hard at the end of the climb and recovering on the decent.
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Old 12-29-19, 04:33 PM
  #102  
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Strava is a great place to get data. When comparing - compare like age, like gender, like event. I like to see pros in a race - and training - and the type of ride. As this thread is hills - yes, I agree, most drop about 10rpm on a hill vs flats.
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Old 12-29-19, 04:36 PM
  #103  
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With 5 and 6 speed there was a trade off to low gears; Lack of high gears. If one was touring, it probably wasn’t a big deal. If one was racing, lack of high gears meant running the risk of getting dropped when the pace increased. Triples we not feasible for serious racing.
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Old 12-29-19, 04:53 PM
  #104  
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Originally Posted by colnago62 View Post
With 5 and 6 speed there was a trade off to low gears; Lack of high gears. If one was touring, it probably wasn’t a big deal. If one was racing, lack of high gears meant running the risk of getting dropped when the pace increased. Triples we not feasible for serious racing.
They weren't fashionable, but there was nothing "unfeasible" about them.

As I mentioned, q-factor on my Fuji's triple is still narrower than most current-gen racing cranks. Downshifting to the small ring can baulk occasionally under heavy load, but shifting between middle and big ring is very snappy and consistent, just like vintage 52-42 doubles. The arms are profiled as near-copies of the old Campy Record cranks, so it's not heavy besides the weight of the extra chainring.

Last edited by HTupolev; 12-29-19 at 05:02 PM.
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Old 12-29-19, 07:00 PM
  #105  
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Originally Posted by HTupolev View Post

As I mentioned, q-factor on my Fuji's triple is still narrower than most current-gen racing cranks. Downshifting to the small ring can baulk occasionally under heavy load, but shifting between middle and big ring is very snappy and consistent, just like vintage 52-42 doubles. The arms are profiled as near-copies of the old Campy Record cranks, so it's not heavy besides the weight of the extra chainring.
which was the problem; greater chance of throwing the chain, which was easy to do back in the days of friction shifting. “Baulking occasionally under heavy load” and “besides the weight of the extra chainring” is pretty much the death blow to the triple being used as viable drivetrain for racing.
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Old 12-29-19, 07:40 PM
  #106  
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Originally Posted by colnago62 View Post
which was the problem; greater chance of throwing the chain, which was easy to do back in the days of friction shifting.
"Baulk" doesn't mean "throw", it means "hesitate." When I said it "baulks occasionally under heavy load", I meant that the rider needs to let off tension a bit more in order for the chain to leap off the ring. I'm also comparing this to how the setup manages the shifts between the 52 and 42 rings, which are very snappy and work consistently even under considerable load; the middle-to-small shift comparatively requires gentleness, but it's hardly bad. (And I've never thrown the chain while performing it.)

and “besides the weight of the extra chainring” is pretty much the death blow to the triple being used as viable drivetrain for racing.
Compared with setting that crankset up as a double, the inner ring costs somewhere around 50g. On an hour-long climb, that 50g is going to cost somewhere in the ballpark of two seconds at like-for-like wattage. For someone whose gearing is otherwise badly bottomed out, that 2-second penalty is going to pay for itself many many many times over.

Last edited by HTupolev; 12-29-19 at 07:54 PM.
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Old 12-29-19, 09:27 PM
  #107  
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Originally Posted by HTupolev View Post
"Baulk" doesn't mean "throw", it means "hesitate." When I said it "baulks occasionally under heavy load", I meant that the rider needs to let off tension a bit more in order for the chain to leap off the ring. I'm also comparing this to how the setup manages the shifts between the 52 and 42 rings, which are very snappy and work consistently even under considerable load; the middle-to-small shift comparatively requires gentleness, but it's hardly bad. (And I've never thrown the chain while performing it.)


Compared with setting that crankset up as a double, the inner ring costs somewhere around 50g. On an hour-long climb, that 50g is going to cost somewhere in the ballpark of two seconds at like-for-like wattage. For someone whose gearing is otherwise badly bottomed out, that 2-second penalty is going to pay for itself many many many times over.
While your easing off tension, three other riders jump away from you never to be seen again. I forgot, the fashionistas would quickly be reeled by in by the guy on the triple who easily spins back on their wheel, except he threw the chain and had to stop at the side of the road. You crack me up 😂 😂😂
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Old 12-29-19, 09:43 PM
  #108  
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There's a racing forum on this site, and we're not in it.
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Old 12-29-19, 09:46 PM
  #109  
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Originally Posted by colnago62 View Post
While your easing off tension, three other riders jump away from you never to be seen again.
It's a little less force for a fraction of a second. In my experience riding this setup on spirited road rides, it's not really any worse than the usual slight pedaling disruption while making the 16-tooth downshift on modern wide-range doubles. I was only even bringing it up to acknowledge that it's not as nice as the 52-42 shift, which is to be expected since the FD height is referenced to the big ring.

Last edited by HTupolev; 12-29-19 at 10:28 PM.
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Old 12-30-19, 08:18 AM
  #110  
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Originally Posted by HTupolev View Post
Lower gearing was available in the vintage steel days. For example, late-70s SunTour New Winner freewheels could be fitted with up to a 32T cog in the large-sprocket position, even in 5-speed. Similarly, cranksets have pretty much always been available that can fit chainrings far smaller than 42T, like the 50.4BCD TA spider that can be built into just about any chainring combo imaginable, or the 3-bolt 70BCD spider that Stronglight introduced in the 1930s (which is hilariously still being made today due to its licensing by Rene Herse).

Take my '79 Fuji:


The crankset is a Sugino Mighty Tour 110BCD triple fitted with 52-42-34 rings, and the current freewheel is a 14-28, which is actually smaller than the 14-30 that the bike came with. The front derailleur is the same as doubles used at the time, and the rear derailleur is a lovely 190g part that can clear up to a ~34-tooth cog and wrap about 36 teeth of chain. The q-factor is wider than some singles and doubles of the era, but at 142mm, it's narrower than most modern road racing cranks. Shifting both front and rear is excellent. Aside from the weight of the large cogs and extra chainring, this drivetrain isn't giving up much of anything to its contemporary high-end racing setups.

Similar setups have been buildable well into the distant past, albeit with fewer ratios. For instance, the Cyclo rear derailleur of the 1920s can wrap at least 30 teeth of chain, and its geometry prevents shifting from being significantly affecting by chainring selection.


I think the GCN presenters get a lot of things wrong, but I'd disagree that that's one of them. If your pedaling is frequently going lumpy due to insufficiently low gears, that's a significant bike setup problem. Even if there was sort of a reason for it in Merckx's case, it was still a bad thing. Merckx got away with it because his competitors struggled with the same thing.
Wide ranges like that have been available for decades, but generally only came stock on touring bikes with eyelets for panniers and very laid back geometry, or mountain bikes as they started to appear in the 80s. If you bought a 105 road group in 1995 it probably had a 42/52 crank and a cassette option that went up to 25t (but the shop probably tried to get you to take the 23t option)

Until mountains like the Angliru and Zoncolan started bringing 10+km of 20% climbing to the pros, the standard road setup available to most mortals was the imitation of what the best were riding. And in those days in the peloton, if they adjusted their chainring at all it was to add teeth on the outer ring (54 and 56x12).
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Old 12-30-19, 10:23 AM
  #111  
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I think it is clear, average cyclist cadence up a hill is lower than on the flat.
Recent posts that is due to gears is not the reason IMO.
I think when folks have lower gears, they will still choose a lower cadence up a hill.

I think given the choice the average rider would raise the seat up a hill too - and pedal a lower cadence.

So my question is - who thinks it should be the same - and why?
I'd point out that maybe flat cadence is encouraged to be higher than needed for max efficiency.
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Old 12-30-19, 10:36 AM
  #112  
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I have three climbing modes:
1. fast: sitting forward on saddle, hips and elbows flexed, hands on hoods or drops—in other words like riding on flat;
2. slow: ass back, sitting up, hands on tops, legs more extended, point of max pedal force a few degrees earlier and;
3. out of the saddle.

Biomechancs and cadence are different for all 3. I have also read that simply accomodating to the gradient changes biomechanics a lot. I think I can feel that and it's why that Wahoo tilty thing isn't a complete gimmick.
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Old 12-30-19, 10:56 AM
  #113  
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Originally Posted by Doge View Post
I think it is clear, average cyclist cadence up a hill is lower than on the flat.
Recent posts that is due to gears is not the reason IMO.
I think when folks have lower gears, they will still choose a lower cadence up a hill.

I think given the choice the average rider would raise the seat up a hill too - and pedal a lower cadence.

So my question is - who thinks it should be the same - and why?
I'd point out that maybe flat cadence is encouraged to be higher than needed for max efficiency.
I don't know about efficiency or how I could prove it either way but I do slow my spin on climbs, especially several hours into a mountainous ride when I am struggling to climb the next hill. The way I feel that day has more to do with it than what low gear I have. I do, however, use lower gears than most of the riders I ride with.

As to the seat height, I have a dropper post on my mtb and when I am on a long grueling climb I sometimes lower the saddle a bit, maybe 10mm. Also, when on a technical climb when I am bouncing through stuff I will lower it about an inch to help with control and balance.
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Old 12-30-19, 11:13 AM
  #114  
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Originally Posted by big john View Post
I don't know about efficiency or how I could prove it either way but I do slow my spin on climbs...
The proving is tough. I'm inclined to think recreational riders are being encouraged to spin faster than needed on the flats, due to the copy what racers do philosophy. That article posted above basically says that and that a lower than racer cadence is likely the "better" one.

I'd define better as the one that lets the recreational rider go the fastest and farthest for the least fatigue / effort. I guess that could be measured with a clock over distance and HR, or total distance doing one cadence vs the other, or just RPE. But recreational spinning 95 on the flats seems more the thing to be corrected than spinning 70 on hills. I think they should be different, but more like a 10%-15% reduction. Proof - I have none, just experience watching.

Note we did not discuss crank length here. I assume that as it does not change on a ride that reduction in RPM is not going to be any different between 165mm and 180mm and most are right sized cranks anyway. But there is a difference in knee bend based on these. I don't think it matters, but it may. I can say I was doing a lot of hill climbing on 180mm and I used a slower RPM, but so were my flat RPMs.
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Old 12-30-19, 11:52 AM
  #115  
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Originally Posted by Doge View Post
I think it is clear, average cyclist cadence up a hill is lower than on the flat.
Recent posts that is due to gears is not the reason IMO.
I think when folks have lower gears, they will still choose a lower cadence up a hill.
You misread my posts. I wasn't saying that self-selected cadence on climbs is the same as on the flats, in fact I explicitly pointed out that most people don't climb at a high spin even if their gears allow them to. I was arguing that the change in climbing cadence over the years has been heavily driven by changes to how bicycles are equipped, since people were more frequently bottomed out in the past.

Self-selected cadence does seem to drop on climbs at like-for-like intensity, probably due to some nebulous combination of posture and inertial load.

Originally Posted by Doge View Post
The proving is tough. I'm inclined to think recreational riders are being encouraged to spin faster than needed on the flats, due to the copy what racers do philosophy.
This definitely happens, although I think it's a very case-by-case thing. Some "experienced" cyclists will tell newbies to watch their cadence and give them specific cadence targets, rather than actually explain how gearing works as needed.

Last edited by HTupolev; 12-30-19 at 11:56 AM.
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Old 12-30-19, 01:00 PM
  #116  
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Originally Posted by HTupolev View Post
You misread my posts. I wasn't saying that self-selected cadence on climbs is the same as on the flats, in fact I explicitly pointed out that most people don't climb at a high spin even if their gears allow them to. I was arguing that the change in climbing cadence over the years has been heavily driven by changes to how bicycles are equipped, since people were more frequently bottomed out in the past.

Self-selected cadence does seem to drop on climbs at like-for-like intensity, probably due to some nebulous combination of posture and inertial load.
Sorry for the mis-read I got caught up in the gear discussion. I agree with your comments.

Originally Posted by HTupolev View Post
... Some "experienced" cyclists will tell newbies to watch their cadence and give them specific cadence targets, rather than actually explain how gearing works as needed.
Is there a cadence you think is always too low, or too high on 170ish mm cranks?
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Old 12-30-19, 01:42 PM
  #117  
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Originally Posted by Doge View Post
Is there a cadence you think is always too low, or too high on 170ish mm cranks?
Not without consideration to the rider and circumstance.

For instance, if I'm in a steady paceline going downhill, and I only need to put out 10W to stick to the next wheel, I'd need very little torque to put out adequate power even at stupidly low cadences. So in that case, what gear I choose will probably depend on what gears I have and how rapidly my legs feel like they want to be lazily turned in circles, which may or may not be extremely slow in that moment.

On the high end I've self-selected cadences up to around 140rpm before, while trying to sprint with a blown-up downstroke. Usually I don't choose anywhere near that high.

Different people's legs are different, though.

Some riders shouldn't be pedaling at any cadence on 170mm cranks, because they could benefit from shorter cranks.
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Old 12-30-19, 02:38 PM
  #118  
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Originally Posted by HTupolev View Post
Not without consideration to the rider and circumstance.

For instance, if I'm in a steady paceline going downhill, and I only need to put out 10W to stick to the next wheel, I'd need very little torque to put out adequate power even at stupidly low cadences. So in that case, what gear I choose will probably depend on what gears I have and how rapidly my legs feel like they want to be lazily turned in circles, which may or may not be extremely slow in that moment.

On the high end I've self-selected cadences up to around 140rpm before, while trying to sprint with a blown-up downstroke. Usually I don't choose anywhere near that high.

Different people's legs are different, though.

Some riders shouldn't be pedaling at any cadence on 170mm cranks, because they could benefit from shorter cranks.
I was asking in context of thurs thread. Climbing. Got a range too low, or too high...assume they have the gear.
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Old 12-30-19, 02:59 PM
  #119  
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Originally Posted by Doge View Post
I'd point out that maybe flat cadence is encouraged to be higher than needed for max efficiency.
Efficiency decreases for cadences above a fairly low number. For most people that's 60-65 rpm. References are plentiful.
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Old 12-30-19, 04:42 PM
  #120  
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Originally Posted by asgelle View Post
Efficiency decreases for cadences above a fairly low number. For most people that's 60-65 rpm. References are plentiful.
Efficiency =/= power.

Being efficient at 100W is useless when everybody else is doing 300+.
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Old 12-30-19, 04:44 PM
  #121  
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Originally Posted by Cypress View Post
Efficiency =/= power.

Being efficient at 100W is useless when everybody else is doing 300+.
Thanks for that totally irrelevant piece of information.
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Old 12-30-19, 04:50 PM
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Originally Posted by asgelle View Post
Thanks for that totally irrelevant piece of information.
You're welcome. Keep reveling in your "efficiency" as everyone else rides away from you, using V^2 to their advantage.
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Old 12-30-19, 04:51 PM
  #123  
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Originally Posted by Cypress View Post
You're welcome. Keep reveling in your "efficiency" as everyone else rides away from you, using V^2 to their advantage.
You need to try to follow more closely and watch your attributions.
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Old 12-30-19, 04:55 PM
  #124  
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Originally Posted by asgelle View Post
You need to try to follow more closely and watch your attributions.
I'm glad you are choosing to ignore my facts. Makes it easy for people to see through your garbage posts.
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Old 12-30-19, 05:34 PM
  #125  
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Could we agree on this definition for cycling?

Efficient is the measure of how a person can achieve a given speed on a course with the fewest calories burned.

"the measure" being vague of course. I use speed as it takes into account that the same power is not needed to maintain the same speed.

As this is not about racing, it is still covering a set distance, in a set time for the least calories.

Last edited by Doge; 12-30-19 at 05:37 PM.
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