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Gears and Cadence

Old 07-15-19, 09:58 AM
  #26  
jadocs
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Cardiovascularly (is that a word?) you need to be able to handle the increased RPMs. Depending on the level of effort, there is a line where increased RPMs are not necessarily more efficient because it's peaking your HR too quickly.
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Old 07-15-19, 10:52 AM
  #27  
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I think I remember someone saying (GCN?) that cadence and gearing preferences may be in large part a matter of genetics. For example, the ratio of fast twitch muscle fibers to slow twitch is genetically determined, and slow twitch dominated leg muscles do better with mashing while fast twitch does better with spinning.
Also, people generally have different cadences for going uphill vs. flat, and some of this is due to the fact that the geometry of the bike--the slope of the hill actually changes the rider's orientation to the bike, effectively raising the handlebars.

I'm a big advocate for try things and see if they work for you rather than listening to someone telling you what should work best for you.
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Old 07-15-19, 12:13 PM
  #28  
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This year I increased my cadence from the 80-90 range to the 90-105 range, with 95 rpm being a comfortable cruising along pace. My average speeds on my well-beaten path have increased by 1.5 mph at least, but I am also riding a lot more than I have in recent years--so it's hard to know exactly what is most responsible.

I also find myself more able to do short climbs without downshifting, which is nice. I just power through. It seems a lot easier to maintain cadence through hills at a higher rpm.

I am not built like a bike racer... More like a linebacker. And I was a sprinter in track in field as a younger person (and was also a linebacker).
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Old 07-15-19, 12:26 PM
  #29  
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OP, in your reading have you got to the part where you learn we're each an "experiment of one?"

My expression on reading about higher cadences was the same as your -- "Holy smokes!" But I tried it. It took a while to get comfortable with cadences in the 80-90 range. Lo and behold, my knees stopped hurting after hills. I'd even say the cadence on my Cateye Astrale was one of the keys to finishing my cross country ride ten years ago -- I wouldn't have made it without the gears and the reminder to gear down going over the Appalachians and the Ozarks.

Even now, it's funny how often I feel bogged down, can't maintain speed on this low grade, then I look down at the display and shift down. Next time I look, my cadence has gone from 70, not just to 80 but up to 90 rpm, because I sped up as the hill got steeper. That's my motivation to keep my cadence up (besides my knees like higher cadences better!).
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Old 07-16-19, 07:10 AM
  #30  
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Ride the way its comfortable for you. I used to ride at high rpm, but now prefer lower cadence. I like the feel of riding a big gear, even up hill. Get out of the saddle and stomp up a hill in the big chainring, feels great. As I have gotren older the legs just dont want to turn over as fast as they used to.
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Old 07-16-19, 07:47 AM
  #31  
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I am a grinder at 6'2", 220# up long 4% to 8% grades. I hangout in the 34-23, 25, 28 combos on a 17# road bike and my cadence is in the 70's uphill.

This week my Kestrel RT-1000 is being modified with a long cage and 11-34 cassette. I want to be able to spin more in the 90 range and be able to conquer some of the epic rides in the Eastern Sierra this month. It will be a test to see if I have the cardiovascular fitness to spin more at altitudes of 5,000 to 10,000 ft.
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Old 07-16-19, 08:01 AM
  #32  
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Originally Posted by terrymorse View Post
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.
+1. Higher cadence is less efficient but helps minimize fatigue in your leg muscles.
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Old 07-16-19, 10:52 AM
  #33  
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Originally Posted by terrymorse View Post
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.
Well your muscles fatigue because your lungs can't supply them with enough oxygen. But yes minimizing that fatigue is the name of the game.
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Old 07-16-19, 11:06 AM
  #34  
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Originally Posted by big chainring View Post
Ride the way its comfortable for you. I used to ride at high rpm, but now prefer lower cadence. I like the feel of riding a big gear, even up hill. Get out of the saddle and stomp up a hill in the big chainring, feels great. As I have gotren older the legs just dont want to turn over as fast as they used to.
I'm a spinner and the hubby is more of a grinder. We recognize that we could never ride a tandem together or we would kill each other. As long as we have our own bikes, we can ride happily together.
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Old 07-16-19, 11:16 AM
  #35  
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Hate grinding, so I guess I'm a spinner lol When I first hopped on a bike about nine months ago, 85-90rpm just felt natural, dropping below 80 feels weird.
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Old 07-17-19, 11:11 AM
  #36  
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Originally Posted by 63rickert View Post
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.
63Rickert, your post was very interesting. I am no where near the level of performance that you described, which is very impressive. I am figuring out what the best way for me to ride is, and I am seeking to find it in a way that maintains my enjoyment of riding. I am not yet convinced that I have to change anything but since it looks like I am "abnormal" compared to most experienced riders I am interested in giving a higher rpm a try. It is definitely a different workout. If I like it over time I will keep it. We shall see...

A quick question about your experience from the '60s: How was cadence monitored then. Today our bike computers with electronic devices record and display it throughout the ride. Did you have something similar back then? As a kid back then I had a clunky speed-o-meter on my banana seat bike, also had a generator that was spun by the wheel in order to fuel a light at night time. Would love to know what you started with in terms of equipment and performance monitoring.
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Old 07-17-19, 11:12 AM
  #37  
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Originally Posted by Rides4Beer View Post
Hate grinding, so I guess I'm a spinner lol When I first hopped on a bike about nine months ago, 85-90rpm just felt natural, dropping below 80 feels weird.
Something tells me you were not an offensive lineman in high school... Unfortunately I was not blessed with speed but I am working on it.
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Old 07-17-19, 11:25 AM
  #38  
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Update: Thank you all for your comments. They are very helpful. I have not done a couple of "high cadence" rides. It is definitely a different work out and will take some getting used to. Last night's ride (30 minutes/7 1/2miles) compared to the same ride a week ago when I was riding "normally", my cadence moved from 62rpm to 73rpm. My speed was virtually the same but a little slower actually (14.8mph down to 14.6mph). My hard beat was up 10 beats/minute and I burned about 10% more calories. So that speed did not benefit from this and I can't tell yet about improved endurance because the change is still pretty significant for me that I will need to give it a few weeks or more for my body to adjust to it. To me it is just a different kind of challenging. I was surprised at how much more gear changing I had to do to keep the cadence up. There is nothing wrong with changing gears a lot but given that I ride on rolling hills I have to really watch the cadence monitor and change the gears a lot. I am sure that when I get more experience and get used to it I will be doing that without much thought but for now it is a very different ride.

Thanks every one for your help.
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Old 07-17-19, 11:57 AM
  #39  
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Originally Posted by wobrien View Post
63Rickert, your post was very interesting. I am no where near the level of performance that you described, which is very impressive. I am figuring out what the best way for me to ride is, and I am seeking to find it in a way that maintains my enjoyment of riding. I am not yet convinced that I have to change anything but since it looks like I am "abnormal" compared to most experienced riders I am interested in giving a higher rpm a try. It is definitely a different workout. If I like it over time I will keep it. We shall see...

A quick question about your experience from the '60s: How was cadence monitored then. Today our bike computers with electronic devices record and display it throughout the ride. Did you have something similar back then? As a kid back then I had a clunky speed-o-meter on my banana seat bike, also had a generator that was spun by the wheel in order to fuel a light at night time. Would love to know what you started with in terms of equipment and performance monitoring.
The only way to monitor cadence was with a watch. Analog watch on handlebars worked fine. Focus on sweep second hand and start counting. Only reliable speedometer was to know how to convert gear ratios and rpm to speed.

When I started top gear on any race bike was 52x14. Many riders thought Jacques Anquetil was leading us all astray by using gears that big. There were still fast guys using a top of 49x14 or even 48x14. This did not make anyone slow. If you make allowance for the fact that the mountains were gravel and all the roads were rougher there is basically no difference between race speeds then and now. Aero makes some difference in the TT, gears do not make anyone fast. Legs make you fast.

big chainring above is completely correct that getting older usually means bigger gears. There are lots of reasons some might want bigger gears. Not always wrong and maybe not wrong at all. I will continue to believe that breaking up the work into smaller pieces makes riding easier and makes long rides a lot easier. And I still remember trying to hold big chainring's wheel as he cruised along at a comfortable 30mph in a gear of 42x16. When he put it in the big chainring....
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Old 07-17-19, 12:00 PM
  #40  
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Oh yes I'm a spinner. Today's lunch hour torture was 3x8min sets. Average cadence for the entire 40 min of warmup, sets, and a minute or so spindown was 102rpm. Average. If I'm doing 3x3min sets the cadence during the work interval will probably be about 110rpm.

I advocate for a higher average cadence because I see it as giving a person a broader choice and ability of doing work on the bike. Not 110 mind you, but maybe 80's and 90.

If your max or average is 70rpm, your choices are from probably 50 to 70rpm. That's pretty limiting in your gearing. If you can spin up to 100 for a few minutes and average 90, that's 50 to 90 or 50 to 100.

90rpm is easy for anyone to ingrain. If there is somewhere safe to ride and have some music, or indoors for safety.......toss on some music with a very obvious beat at a bit above your target.

I listen to kind of popular and clubbie music for hard workouts. It helps for tough sets listening to an fast exciting song with a good obvious beat to it. I don't normally listen to it, but it's the medicine for the hard work. One Republic, Imagine Dragons, Robin Shulz, etc.....

You might be able to add a Pandora station with 90 bpm songs and rock out.

FWIW I was absolute crap a picking up a beat with music until I did trainer workouts with music and focusing on bike cadence.

Run cadence? Most joggers and runners have a cadence that is WAY too slow, to the point of injury. Meaning they overstride at like 120 bpm. Folks should be running at 160+ bpm. I run nowadays with a fast cadence just like my bike. I run probably 180 and over if it's a 5k or interval workout.

The injury mode in cycling at low cadence is the knees.
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Old 07-17-19, 12:06 PM
  #41  
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Changed Crankset... interesting....

Replaced the triple crankset on the Frankentrek with smaller rings/less teeth. I am a nearly non-technical amateur of 5 years. All rear derailleur gears seem easier now... and I am one or two gears stronger than I was with more teeth/bigger rings. It's mostly cool but, in layman terms, what am I experiencing. (Learning about all this is fun).
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Old 07-17-19, 12:09 PM
  #42  
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Ride your own natural cadence. It'll vary over time and distance anyway. As long as the bike fit is appropriate and no harm is being done to your joints, it can't be wrong.

The high rpm technique evolved to be more efficient for pros riding multi-day stage races with little time to recover. It wasn't common in an earlier era of bigger guys like Merckx, Indurain and others who didn't fit the currently vogue stringbean body type.

Among local enthusiasts I ride with who are fast but not racers, styles vary tremendously. Sunday I rode with a couple of friends who couldn't be more different in riding styles. One is a bigger guy (by cycling standards), around 6' and 185 lbs. He mashes bigger gears, around 40-60 rpm. The other guy is a little smaller than I, around 5'9" and 145 lbs. He spins effortlessly. Both own many KOMs and top tens locally. I'm sorta in between in size, weight and cadence. I have zero KOMs and only a few top tens.

I'm 5'11", 150 lbs with bird legs. No amount of training will make these matchsticks bigger. My natural cadence after warming up is 90 rpm like clockwork. I have a cadence sensor but it didn't tell me anything I didn't already know. It slows a bit on climbs, and I'll get up to 130 rpm on downhills if I'm going for a new PR.

The hard part was improving my cardio fitness to recover more quickly from the aerobic stress of spinning. But once I got past that obstacle it's worked for me. If I mash bigger gears, especially on climbs, I risk cooking my legs and I'm done for that ride. No big deal if I'm riding solo or with patient partners, but on fast group rides I've been dropped and couldn't recover when I tried to mash up climbs or stand to pedal too long. Then my knees ache the next day. If I sit and spin I look like an eggbeater but I keep up just fine.
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Old 07-17-19, 12:25 PM
  #43  
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When I used to ride DF bikes, my cadence was typically between 85-95 RPMs. I think the average cadence, as displayed by the computer after a ride, was at the low end (~87), but it includes coasting and the occasional hill climb where it drops significantly.

On my recumbent, I am a little lower cadence, typically 5-10 rpms lower. I'm trying to get my cruising cadence back to around 90, but it seems harder to spin on the recumbent.

The velo is similar, but riding it is different enough anyway. I tend to spin to get up to speed, then shift up and ride at a lower cadence to maintain the pace (on level ground, a velomobile holds speed really well!). I haven't got a cadence meter in the velo yet. I'm saving up for Power Taps.
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Old 07-17-19, 12:31 PM
  #44  
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Originally Posted by canklecat View Post
The high rpm technique evolved to be more efficient for pros riding multi-day stage races with little time to recover. It wasn't common in an earlier era of bigger guys like Merckx, Indurain and others who didn't fit the currently vogue stringbean body type.
The only reason that guys in the distant past rode such low cadences on climbs was because sensibly long derailleur cages were unfashionable among racers. On a tailwinded shallow descent with someone pushing the pace, those guys would spin extremely high cadences as they topped out their gears.

For his hour record, Eddy Merckx chose 52-14 and averaged about 104rpm. He wasn't a low-cadence masher.
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Old 07-17-19, 12:53 PM
  #45  
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Originally Posted by HTupolev View Post
The only reason that guys in the distant past rode such low cadences on climbs was because sensibly long derailleur cages were unfashionable among racers. On a tailwinded shallow descent with someone pushing the pace, those guys would spin extremely high cadences as they topped out their gears.

For his hour record, Eddy Merckx chose 52-14 and averaged about 104rpm. He wasn't a low-cadence masher.
They mashed because the typical freewheel was a 5-speed corncob. They might have the luxury of a 13-21, maybe a little bigger, on mountain stages.

Merckx's hour record was completely different from his stage racing style, other than time trials. Different discipline, different bike, different technique. No undulating roads to gradually sap the strength. Fixed gear to help maintain the momentum of the pedal stroke. A much lighter steel bike that would probably be impractical for stage races and might disintegrate on the cobbles.

On mountain stages he was a rock 'n' roller, like most bigger guys, putting his full body into every pedal stroke. In the older films you can actually count their cadence. It was typically 50-70 rpm on mountain stages.

Heck, I had to ride my old steel bike with 7-speed the same way until I switched from a 13-24 to 13-26 freewheel, and swapped the chainrings from 52/42 to 50/39. With my bird legs I was dipping and rocking to get body English into every stroke until I was about to have a stroke. Switching gearing made a huge difference. With my carbon bike the 52/42 chainring and 13-28 are fine. Just a few pounds lighter but a big difference in climbs.
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Old 07-17-19, 01:16 PM
  #46  
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I don't have high leg strength. So spinning in the low 90s works for me. If I'm going all-out on flat ground, I'm in the low 100s. That's the only way I can keep that much power going.

Perhaps larger riders favor lower cadences? But like all the previous comments, "it depends".

You might try shifting one click easier to speed up your cadence and see how that goes. It's good training, anyway. At the very least, it'll help smooth out your pedal strokes and maybe make you a little more efficient.

My cadence is in the 70-80 range if I'm just cruising. Spinning at those very easy pedal pressures is a bit tiring.

Last edited by rm -rf; 07-17-19 at 01:19 PM.
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Old 07-17-19, 01:42 PM
  #47  
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Originally Posted by canklecat View Post
They mashed because the typical freewheel was a 5-speed corncob.
Right, and combined with a 52-42 crankset, that resulted in a very high bottom gear. But there was no technical reason that doing something like adding another smaller chainring on the inside of the cranks would have required hardly any tangible compromise, except that it wouldn't have played well with a Nuovo Record rear derailleur.

Durable, smooth-shifting parts for achieving such a result were available, and wouldn't have added much weight. The problem was drivetrain fashion.

Eddy Merckx wouldn't have been cranking out 50rpm on mountain ascents if he was running the gears to spin faster.

With my carbon bike the 52/42 chainring and 13-28 are fine. Just a few pounds lighter but a big difference in climbs.

The 42-28 on your carbon bike is exactly the same ratio as the 39-26 on your steel bike.

Last edited by HTupolev; 07-17-19 at 01:45 PM.
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Old 07-17-19, 01:51 PM
  #48  
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I was in the mid 60's and a buddy said "Hey, try a faster cadence" I did, now about 80rmp and I like it a lot more.

I downloaded a bunch of 80-85bpm songs and played them to get the cadence ingrained in my head.

My knees like it better too.

50yrs old 6'ft, 200lbs.
20-60 mile rides, 18mph avg.

Jeff
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Old 07-17-19, 02:26 PM
  #49  
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Originally Posted by AlmostTrick View Post
Spin to win. If mashing was more efficient racers would do it.
Some actually have. I could be wrong about this but I believe LeMond was more a power guy than a spin guy.
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Old 07-17-19, 02:34 PM
  #50  
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Like most of us, I started out pedaling harder to go faster. Over the years I discovered that different cadence is appropriate for different situations. On a relatively flat road at cruising speed I tend to be in the 80-90 rpm range. If I try to maintain a 100+ rpm cadence I tend to wear out and the same is true if I try to power big gears at 60 rpm. These days I listen to what my legs are telling me. I will go up in gears until my legs start to feel stressed. Then I stop and maintain a comfortable cadence. It works well for me. Using this method on a 30 mile ride with 60-65 ft. per mile of climbing I'm good for 15-17 mph. I'm 73 and have the ex-college football player (which I am) body.
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