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Gears and Cadence

Old 07-14-19, 02:30 PM
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wobrien
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Gears and Cadence

I have been riding for a while and not really "schooled" in riding techniques etc. I focus mostly on building distance but I do watch the progression of my speed, I just don't focus too much on maximizing it. I am generally in the 15 +/- mph range. I also look at my cadence but never really worked to change it until recently. It has gone from the low/mid 50s to about 60. For the most part my only change has been to go up hills in lower gears/faster cadence. I have seen references that cadence should be in the 70s to 90s, some say even higher. - I say "holy smokes" that will be a big move for me. So now I am going to work on riding in lower gears with higher cadence (hope it doesn't make me nuts), I am sure that it will take a few weeks to get used to it. What should my expectations be for its impact on my speed and endurance? I expect that my endurance will go up and that I will be able to add miles and get over hills more confidently, which would be great. I don't know what to think about the impact on my speed. I would expect my speed to go down with the lower gears but I hear it should go up. I am sure that physical condition is a factor. I am in my mid 50's, 6' 0' and about 230#s. I ride a Cannondale CAAD 8 - 2 rings in the front and 8 cogs in the rear. Thanks for your comments.
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Old 07-14-19, 02:57 PM
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I dont monitor my cadence as much as most might, but what I can say is that my cadence is not averaging above the 70. However, my hill climbing is good & I don't find myself needing to spin in the creeper gears like most.

Essentially, if you have the leg strength, you could power up the hills at a lower cadence rate as that is what I tend to do. If you're going for a longer than normal climb, then a higher cadence might be more beneficial than shear leg power. To me, having the torque [leg power] is more important than horsepower [cadence]... just work on endurance to help achieve the sustained torque needed for those climbs.
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Old 07-14-19, 03:03 PM
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By all means, try different things, but cadence is a very individualized thing. Spinning fast at a high cadence is a racer's technique that I find doesn't work well for some of us who are not built like racers.

i generally ride with moderate cadence (I have never measured it, but I estimate 60-75) on very high gears, and I cruise in the low 20s.
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Old 07-14-19, 03:04 PM
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There is a foot race in New York City to the top of the Empire State Building. Imagine trying to win that race by taking the steps two at a time. Not one would last to the top. As I understand it, higher cadence saves the legs and for me it is true. On several occasions, though normally very slow, I've had my moments, (fortuitous alighment of the planets?) where I've held 18 MPH and once 20 MPH. On those happy occasions I have found myself pedaling at very high cadence. This did not happen automatically without some work. Early in my cycling I would shift to a lower gear than normal and spin the pedals for a while and then shift down again and spin furiously. When shifting back to a higher gears, the legs found that to be a sleepy pace. I still do this in spring after the slow winter season. There are some You Tube videos of track cyclists practicing on rollers. They get up way over the cadence of normal humans.
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Old 07-14-19, 03:28 PM
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Originally Posted by berner View Post
There is a foot race in New York City to the top of the Empire State Building. Imagine trying to win that race by taking the steps two at a time. Not one would last to the top. As I understand it, higher cadence saves the legs and for me it is true. On several occasions, though normally very slow, I've had my moments, (fortuitous alighment of the planets?) where I've held 18 MPH and once 20 MPH. On those happy occasions I have found myself pedaling at very high cadence. This did not happen automatically without some work. Early in my cycling I would shift to a lower gear than normal and spin the pedals for a while and then shift down again and spin furiously. When shifting back to a higher gears, the legs found that to be a sleepy pace. I still do this in spring after the slow winter season. There are some You Tube videos of track cyclists practicing on rollers. They get up way over the cadence of normal humans.
Yeah, for me riding in high gears doesn't feel anything like climbing stairs two at a time. My legs are built for high torque, so spinning at low gears just wastes energy. I'm slower and I get tired faster in low gears.
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Old 07-14-19, 03:30 PM
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I don't have a credence sensor on any of my bikes, but they are on the exercise bikes in the gym, where I'm spinning pretty consistently in the mid 80's.

I seem to ride at probably the same pace on a real bike, unless the road or trail tilts up.
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Old 07-14-19, 03:53 PM
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For me, I prefer higher gears. True, lower gears make it easier to climb hills and/or ride against the wind, but if the sloop is less than 50% and the wind is less than 20 MPH, I opt to peddle harder. I go about the same speed if peddling faster in low gear or slower in high gear, but for distance (30 miles) slow and steady works best. My cadence averages about 70 and peaks in the 90's, but those are numbers I don't worry about too much. Finishing my 30 mile commute reliably on schedule is what is most important.
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Old 07-14-19, 03:53 PM
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Cadence is all about training and being attentive.

Even with a gadget on your handlebars, odds are quite high that your "average cadence" that you see on your computer is much lower than your 50 or 75% median cadence. IME.
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Old 07-14-19, 04:05 PM
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If doing 15mph at 60rpm that would mean a gear ratio of approx 50x16. If I tried to start a ride in a gear that large it would feel like lifting weights. It would feel like pushing against a wall. Ride would be over and I'd be tired very quick.

I went to school fifty years ago and was incredibly fortunate to have great teachers. Guys who had done their best racing from 1910 to 1940. When cycling was the top money sport. When cycling paid way better than boxing and sports with balls were largely amateur. When everyone who wanted to make money in sport was riding a bike my teachers won races. We warmed up at 18-20mph. Try again. We always warmed up. Rides always started easy and no one dreamed of attacking or picking up pace first ten miles of any ride. Warmup was done on the flat and was mostly on 42x17 or 42x18. When warmup was over gears went up, cadence never went down. 100rpm was normal. Some of us would gear even lower and warm up at 110 or 120rpm.

Racing in 1960s mostly meant track. Standard track gear was 46x14 fixed. Very few geared any differently. Most common reason to gear higher would simply be that the rider in question was a big guy. And then it would be 47x14. If you couldn't do 40mph in a gear of 46x14 you weren't racing. In other words if you didn't have 150rpm on tap there was no reason to line up at the start.

There is no 'should be'. There is only what is. Basically no one rides or trains as described above any longer. Very few go to school in any significant way. Gears are much higher and cadence is much lower. And there are no rules or standards at all.
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Old 07-14-19, 04:07 PM
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As a beginner, myself, I find that I do between 60-110 rpm. If you're doing less than 60, that means you're straight chillen AND on flat ground. At your age/weight, I would suggest bumping up the effort to progress or create strength/endurance. I tend to ride only climbs, and I push while descending in order to fast-track my progression; I'm 37yo, for reference- late to the game.
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Old 07-14-19, 04:08 PM
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I started riding with groups off of the base when I was a Ft Lewis. I was told to increase my cadence. My cadence has stayed at or near 95rpm since. Even though I am older and fatter it is still relaxing to keep this cadence. I have never hurt my knees doing this. I rode with the Tacoma Wheel men who were attached to the League of American Wheel men.
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Old 07-14-19, 04:18 PM
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Monitoring my cadence has resolved my knee problems. I used to ride in the low 70s and had terrible knee problems. Now I try to stay within 90-100 (unless I'm climbing steep hills) and my knees are super happy.
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Old 07-14-19, 04:19 PM
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There is a power aspect to this. As you develop more power it will be easier to maintain a higher cadence and actually not slow to a crawl when climbing or going against the wind. It sounds like you are compensating for that with low cadence.
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Old 07-14-19, 04:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Princess_Allez View Post
As a beginner, myself, I find that I do between 60-110 rpm. If you're doing less than 60, that means you're straight chillen AND on flat ground. At your age/weight, I would suggest bumping up the effort to progress or create strength/endurance. I tend to ride only climbs, and I push while descending in order to fast-track my progression; I'm 37yo, for reference- late to the game.
I would not say that I am chillen and I ride on rolling hills, definitely not flat ground. My max Cadence is mid 90ís. I also push on the down hills. I have had the best improvements in my time by working on my up hill speed and technique.
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Old 07-14-19, 04:59 PM
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Originally Posted by jadocs View Post
There is a power aspect to this. As you develop more power it will be easier to maintain a higher cadence and actually not slow to a crawl when climbing or going against the wind. It sounds like you are compensating for that with low cadence.
If I understand your comment correctly I probably am. Like I said I am not trained as a cyclist and just did what seemed natural. Now I am try g to get better. I donít know if I will ever ride a century but if I do I would like more speed and endurance so I am working on my technique.
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Old 07-14-19, 06:10 PM
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Originally Posted by wobrien View Post
I have seen references that cadence should be in the 70s to 90s, some say even higher. - I say "holy smokes" that will be a big move for me. So now I am going to work on riding in lower gears with higher cadence...I am in my mid 50's, 6' 0' and about 230#s. I ride a Cannondale CAAD 8 - 2 rings in the front and 8 cogs in the rear. Thanks for your comments.
O'Brien, cadence is very personal. Everyone has an optimal cadence. I can tell you what works for me. I am 5'10", 160 lbs, and have moved from a cadence of low 90's to 100 RPM over the years. I am not a strong rider, but a high cadence makes it possible for me to conquer any hill, in a suitably low gear. If you have the strength to mash the pedals and it gets you where you want to go, rock on! But be open to pedaling a little easier (faster cadence, lower gear) and see if it works for you.

The other thing that matters for me is that I have a tight cassette with small jumps between gears (8-10%) and this allows me to really tailor my gears to my best cadence. I have a mountain bike with wider steps, and it is harder to keep my best cadence. Good luck.
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Old 07-14-19, 06:52 PM
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1) don't obsess over cadence
2) that said, if you're thinking about your cadence, chances are you could spin a bit faster
3) nobody ever regretted improving their spin
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Old 07-14-19, 06:53 PM
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When folks talk about their cadence, it is often what they see at the most spinny moments, or even what they wish they saw.

Average cadence depends on the amount of hills, as very few climb at 80 or more, and many don't have the gears to.

I live in a pretty hilly area, but also follow folks in flatter ones, & I can't recall ever seeing average cadence over high 80s- but it probably happens on flat rides.

I'd suggest that you get an 11/32 cassette, and if necessary a Roadlink bit to make the RD work- that gives more range to spin up the hills which

can set the tone for higher cadence elsewhere.
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Old 07-14-19, 07:23 PM
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To the OP, I'm over on the other side of town -- in flatter Lorain County. My work commute is 12.5 miles each way, and I try to ride my trusty old steel steeds at least twice/week in our too-short Summer riding season. I've always maintained a 80-95 cadence since attending Ohio State and riding with the OSU Cycling Club. I was also introduced to riding old-school rollers back then as a tool to not only for maintaining conditioning during the Winters, but also to develop a smooth pedaling technique. Smoothness begets efficiency! With that added efficiency comes speed for the same energy expended. With my 'natural cadence' and my commuting terrain, I'm usually in a 75-85 inch-gear, that gives be riding speeds of right around 20mph. I don't think that's too bad for an over-60 that is 40 pounds overweight! Spinning at my 80-90 is easier on my old knees as well.
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Old 07-14-19, 07:40 PM
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I ride for pleasure and commute, so cadence is interesting, but strange to me.
For the repetitive commute, I have an almost physio-kinesis of pedal and shift to minimize time and energy spent, while arriving in the least sweat soaked mess possible and on time. So my cadence is probably slower than most. I'm into "bang for the buck" on a purely intuitional level.
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Old 07-14-19, 08:03 PM
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Spin to win. If mashing was more efficient racers would do it.
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Old 07-15-19, 05:38 AM
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Originally Posted by woodcraft View Post
When folks talk about their cadence, it is often what they see at the most spinny moments, or even what they wish they saw.
Can't speak for others, but I have an old-school Cateye Astrale computer on my bar. I keep the main display on Cadence. Very informative- I can attach a real number to what I feel in my legs. More than 105rpm and I bounce; under 90 and I bog down. Am most comfortable around 100. Data, not wishes.
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Old 07-15-19, 08:39 AM
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Originally Posted by AlmostTrick View Post
Spin to win. If mashing was more efficient racers would do it.
Racers generally aren't built like the OP. A lot of this "one true way" mode of thinking comes from trying to emulate the strategies used by freaks of nature (professional racers' spinning abilities are many standard deviations from those of the average person) and people who may have been cheating.

I ride double centuries almost every weekend in the summer. Spinning a low gear is completely inefficient for me. I'm no racer, but I don't get passed a lot, and I fly by plenty of people spinning low gears.
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Old 07-15-19, 08:59 AM
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Originally Posted by BCDrums View Post
Can't speak for others, but I have an old-school Cateye Astrale computer on my bar. I keep the main display on Cadence. Very informative- I can attach a real number to what I feel in my legs. More than 105rpm and I bounce; under 90 and I bog down. Am most comfortable around 100. Data, not wishes.

I was pointing out the difference between average cadence, and a 'cruising' one.

Yes, those are numbers that you see when you look, but if you had a computer that tracked average cadence for the ride,

it would likely be under 90.
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Old 07-15-19, 09:51 AM
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The most important reason to increase your cadence is to spare your legs from muscle fatigue. On a long and hard ride, it's always your leg muscles that get tired. Heart and lungs can go on forever.

As an example, consider weight lifting. 10 reps at 100 pounds is more exhausting than 20 reps at 50 pounds.
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