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Why do I feel slow on flat-ish terrain?

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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

Why do I feel slow on flat-ish terrain?

Old 06-29-22, 03:03 PM
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Originally Posted by eduskator View Post
+1. My jaw drops every time I climb & check my wattage... 180w average to roll 30kph on the flat & 400w average when climbing at 15kph. Newton isn't our friend, that's for sure.
When I'm passed on the next rise by people I blew by on the descent, I often mutter "Gravity giveth, and Gravity taketh away. Blest be the name of Gravity".
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Old 06-29-22, 07:52 PM
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Originally Posted by aliasfox View Post
One of my rides when I'm outside of the city includes an 8 mile climb at a heady 0.5-1%, would chugging up that be considered a 'constant power session?'
That would be sufficient....Better if you get a heart rate monitor and maintain 80 to 85% of your maximum heart rate while climbing that stretch.
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Old 06-29-22, 08:36 PM
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Originally Posted by aliasfox View Post
I have trouble with cadences outside of 65-80 (rough estimate). Spinning at or above 90rpm for even a short amount of time has always gotten me winded.
One of the biggest gains in performance I had this year was training for higher cadence. I used to have an average cadence of 80 rpm and has now gone up to 110 rpm.

Perhaps, it's easier for me to spin extra high cadence because of my petite build and little weight but apparently, even pros who weigh a lot more and bigger than me can also spin comfortably at 110 rpm. I'm still training to increase my cadence further. Just looking if I can still improve efficiency beyond 110 rpm. Take it up to 120 or even 130 rpm, observe for a few months if that improves my average speeds on long rides. So far, 110 rpm is currently giving me the best average speeds on long rides.

Your bike fit would actually start to feel different as you get used to higher cadences so you may need to re-visit your bike fit as well.
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Old 06-29-22, 11:41 PM
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Originally Posted by koala logs View Post
Just looking if I can still improve efficiency beyond 110 rpm. Take it up to 120 or even 130 rpm, observe for a few months if that improves my average speeds on long rides.
There’s no way that a cadence over 110 is metabolically efficient. Too much energy is wasted just moving the legs.
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Old 06-30-22, 08:23 AM
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Originally Posted by terrymorse View Post
There’s no way that a cadence over 110 is metabolically efficient. Too much energy is wasted just moving the legs.
It's actually easy once you get used to it. If I set my trainer to zero resistance and just pedal along at 120 rpm for 10 minutes or more, my heart rate doesn't go any higher than 75 bpm and my breathing doesn't feel elevated at all. It feels literally effortless like I'm doing nothing and just sitting at my chair reading a good book. But that only came after two months of progressive training for increasing cadence rpm.

Pro TT racers will often hold cadence of up to 120 rpm during races.
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Old 06-30-22, 08:28 AM
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Originally Posted by koala logs View Post
It's actually easy once you get used to it. If I set my trainer to zero resistance and just pedal along at 120 rpm for 10 minutes or more, my heart rate doesn't go any higher than 75 bpm and my breathing doesn't feel elevated at all. It feels literally effortless like I'm doing nothing and just sitting at my chair reading a good book. But that only came after two months of progressive training for increasing cadence rpm.

Pro TT racers will often hold cadence of up to 120 rpm during races.
What happens if you pedal at that rpm with resistance?
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Old 06-30-22, 08:41 AM
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Originally Posted by koala logs View Post
Pro TT racers will often hold cadence of up to 120 rpm during races.
I don't think you know what you're talking about.
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Old 06-30-22, 08:45 AM
  #58  
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Originally Posted by terrymorse View Post
There’s no way that a cadence over 110 is metabolically efficient. Too much energy is wasted just moving the legs.
Not to mention the heat buildup, at least in some of us.
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Old 06-30-22, 10:57 AM
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Originally Posted by koala logs View Post
[Cadence of 110 or more is] actually easy once you get used to it.
A high cadence of 100+ may feel "easy", but it is not metabolically or aerobically efficient.

You can't change physics.




Scott et at, The Effect of Cadence on the Mechanics and Energetics of Constant Power Cycling

Pro TT racers will often hold cadence of up to 120 rpm during races.
No, Pro TT racers know that a cadence of 120 is inefficient.
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Old 06-30-22, 11:02 AM
  #60  
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So, did 28 miles yesterday, including three laps of Central Park. Didn't have anyone going my pace, so can't comment on that, but have a few other observations:

- I apparently pedal faster in real life than on my mag trainer. The 70-75rpm estimate was based off of that this winter, but I was pretty close to 80rpm most of the time in the real world
- I laid off the gas going uphill (not gasping for breath at the top) for my first two laps, and tried getting on the gas a little earlier/harder after I crested. This resulted in some of the slowest lap times I've recorded this year
- I don't like soft pedaling on the hills
- Went hard on the climbs on my last lap, which actually turned out to be my best one of the day

Don't have a power meter, but using Bike Calculator on segments with consistent grades, I see similar results to eduskator - an estimated 170-180w steady-state performance, and ~300w on hills, depending on pitch and duration. I guess I just assumed everyone else picks up 50-100% wattage when the road goes up. I guess not!
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Old 06-30-22, 11:25 AM
  #61  
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Originally Posted by terrymorse View Post
A high cadence of 100+ may feel "easy", but it is not metabolically or aerobically efficient.

You can't change physics.




Scott et at, The Effect of Cadence on the Mechanics and Energetics of Constant Power Cycling
.
I don't disagree, but my suspicion is trained/conditioned cyclists might perform better at self-selected cadence which is typically 80-90. Untrained cyclists are more likely to perform at 60 like the graph shows. I have not done a literature search, though.
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Old 06-30-22, 11:56 AM
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Originally Posted by datlas View Post
my suspicion is trained/conditioned cyclists might perform better at self-selected cadence which is typically 80-90.
That article above found that the self-selected cadence was in the low 80s. That's the dotted line in the graph.
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Old 06-30-22, 11:59 AM
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Originally Posted by terrymorse View Post
That article above found that the self-selected cadence was in the low 80s. That's the dotted line in the graph.
Understood. But the population studied are presumably NOT cyclists but normal people. So for a normal person a cadence of 60 may be optimal, but for a trained cyclist I suspect a cadence of 80 may be optimal. Again, that's my guess I have not researched it.
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Old 06-30-22, 02:11 PM
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Originally Posted by koala logs View Post
Pro TT racers will often hold cadence of up to 120 rpm during races.
I have Matthieu van der Poel's data file from his winning ride in this year's Ronde. Here's the distribution of his cadence data:
median: 91 rpm
75th percentile: 98
90th percentile: 102
95th percentile: 104
97.5th percentile: 106
99th percentile: 109
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Old 06-30-22, 02:12 PM
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Originally Posted by datlas View Post
Understood. But the population studied are presumably NOT cyclists but normal people. So for a normal person a cadence of 60 may be optimal, but for a trained cyclist I suspect a cadence of 80 may be optimal. Again, that's my guess I have not researched it.
The study population was "capable but not competitive cyclists."
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Old 06-30-22, 04:27 PM
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I always enjoy studies which help with further info on the biomechanics and physio of cycling. But reasonable studies are best when they are somewhat narrow focused; which is the case in this study.
To further emphasize what @RChung has noted. The study is fairly narrow, with a very small sampling:
"Participants for this study were recruited from the staff and students of The University of Queensland. ... Participants included 14 healthy adults (11 male, 3 female) that were capable but not competitive cyclists. The mean (± SD) age, height, and mass of all participants was 28 ± 5 yr, 178 ± 6 cm, and 76 ± 9 kg, respectively."
so a range of younger riders, weight range of 67kg (147 lbs) to (85kg (187 lbs), level of fitness would also be a consideration. "capable" being a very broad paint brush ...
And so the question is how critical the level of 'efficiency' needed in the study testing...
so power level becomes a Q, - from the study quote:
"The mass-relative power output of the protocol required an average power output of 183 ± 17 W. There was a significant main effect of cadence on net metabolic power (
P < 0.01, n = 12) with the minimal metabolic costs occurring at 60 rpm (Fig. 1). The preferred cadence was 81 ± 12 rpm. The post hoc analysis showed significantly lower metabolic cost at 60 rpm and significantly greater metabolic cost at 100 rpm compared with the preferred cadence."
power requirements noted between 166 and 200 watts - very average levels for some very, very average riding... with a "Preferred Cadence" having a mean of 81, but VARYING from 69 rpm to 93 rpm - a very BROAD range.
if you're shooting to get to a very average level and have a 'preferred cadence' somewhere between 69 and 93 - you're golden and hitting the mark here...
But really THIS, in NO WAY DEFINES any biometric data which helps clarify 'Efficiency' in any regards, at levels which might be considered 'performance' level riding. Given this, how "efficient" are these riders, relative to what might be possible? That isn't researched here (good thing...) nor would it give any reasonable result.
A Study, of 3 or 4x larger sample, of truly defined performance level riders, which also takes into account VO2 and power/weight, might be something to define and use for performance improvement targeting.
This study quantifies and substantiates what we already are fairly clear on, with scores of anecdotal info, here on BF. That's all.
It's not a 'value' judgement on anyone's riding, but telling us where many of us already perform, is not a guideline for improvement.
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I was gonna go deeper into this study - because good info is useful and not easily come by - given the base of this, it's just not interesting enough...
EDIT: and only 12 of the 14 datasets were deemed 'useable' - so even smaller than the initial outline...

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Old 06-30-22, 04:35 PM
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Originally Posted by datlas View Post
But the population studied are presumably NOT cyclists but normal people. So for a normal person a cadence of 60 may be optimal, but for a trained cyclist I suspect a cadence of 80 may be optimal.
The test group were non-competitive cyclists, and their average preferred cadence was 81.

The study reports something interesting: the preferred 80 cadence was also where the subjects produced maximum power from the vastus lateralis (quadriceps muscle). Max power from the biggest leg muscle -- maybe that's what we naturally select for.
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Old 06-30-22, 05:01 PM
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All that notwithstanding, whenever I've been doing structured workouts on a trainer in Erg Mode, I generally find it easier to put out higher power at higher cadence - >100 - rather than a lower cadence in the 80s. In the 80s, I find myself bogging down and have difficulty maintaining that power and cadence.

Contrariwise, when I'm doing a longer climb of >6%, I find myself gravitating toward the mid-80s, even if I have gears that allow a higher cadence.

So, there's that.
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Old 06-30-22, 06:13 PM
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Originally Posted by datlas View Post
I don't disagree, but my suspicion is trained/conditioned cyclists might perform better at self-selected cadence which is typically 80-90. Untrained cyclists are more likely to perform at 60 like the graph shows. I have not done a literature search, though.
The relationship between cadence and metabolic efficiency has been studied quite a lot. Here are a couple that use "well-trained" cyclists as the subjects.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3218268/
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20386335/
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19229554/
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Old 06-30-22, 09:05 PM
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Originally Posted by RChung View Post
The relationship between cadence and metabolic efficiency has been studied quite a lot. Here are a couple that use "well-trained" cyclists as the subjects.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3218268/
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20386335/
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19229554/
thanks for this! really interesting stuff which will promote a bunch of re-reading. LOL!
they bring more questions... not in the focus of these studies...
but that's all beyond this OP/topic.
... but I will throw out on question regarding method in Leirdal - Ettema. 2 sessions, #1 was an incremental to exhaustion (see study) and #2 was 8 5min segments at 80% VO2 (75% actual).
, since the base comparison is from FCC, neither of these methods are showing Gross Work done (VO2 is not directly 'work'). and the 8 segments of 5 min method is not fully explained, and I'm not seeing a separation of data from the 2 methods...
anyway... I'll spend more time reviewing Stig Leirdal - Ettema
Thanks
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Old 07-01-22, 07:17 AM
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Originally Posted by terrymorse View Post
A high cadence of 100+ may feel "easy", but it is not metabolically or aerobically efficient.

You can't change physics.

Scott et at, The Effect of Cadence on the Mechanics and Energetics of Constant Power Cycling

Time Trial training articles commonly suggest training to spin at >100 rpm

https://howtheyplay.com/individual-s...Faster-Cycling
https://www.bikeradar.com/advice/fit...er-time-trial/
https://www.trainingpeaks.com/blog/5...time-trialing/

Just a few examples. In my experience, high rpm cadence training helps to develop more efficient pedaling technique and more efficient muscle engagement at high rpms.

Don't fight the mass of your legs but rather use its momentum to carry the legs around the pedal stroke like a flywheel effortlessly.

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Old 07-01-22, 07:23 AM
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Originally Posted by burnthesheep View Post
I don't think you know what you're talking about.
I don't think you know that I know what I'm talking about.
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Old 07-01-22, 09:08 AM
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Originally Posted by koala logs View Post
Time Trial training articles commonly suggest training to spin at >100 rpm.
I think the idea behind the high cadence drills is to allow for the bursts of power needed during a race course.

A summary comment from Stephen Chung :

In the end, it appears that you can be fairly similar in efficiency and performance between the range of 80 – 100 rpm, so a higher cadence may not be as big a deal as it seems.
S. Chung, Optimal Cadence: What’s Right For You?, 2005-02-07
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Old 07-01-22, 10:01 AM
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Ok, so lets pick >your< best current level - doing any kind of ride... TT, hill climb, rolling loop...
And you want to 'improve'...
you accept that the studies above are accurate an applicable to you... and that the most 'efficient' cadence is somewhere around 60 rpm ish....
how are YOU going to 'improve' ???
there really are only 2 things, improve power and improve efficiency - efficiency comes from 3 factors, aero, mechanical, and 'motor' - mechanical is very minimal which includes all aspects of the 'machine/bike' (tires, drivetrain, overall weight, etc...) , aero - again somewhat equipment, somewhat ride/position, a lot of the environment (flat road vs steep hill, head vs tail wind, etc...)
...finally - the efficiency of the 'engine/motor' - can this be improved? - let's leave that for the moment...
Back to improve engine/motor 'POWER' - if you accept 'efficiency is already predefined at somewhere round 60 ish rpm - what and how do you improve the only other option open, your power?
will it be enough? you're already 35-40 yrs old (or older...) , and not as 'powerful as you were 10 yrs ago... you have many constraints on your time/ability to maximize your 'power improvement' - what's left to do to improve?
here's a great video on results of doing ONLY power based work for a period of time and the result of it, eliminating any possible change in 'motor efficiency'
- whoop commercial aside...
increased power enough to 'improve' actual riding over time?
... back to 'efficiency'
if you accept that 'efficiency' is within the studies' observed bounds, can there be substantial/substantive efficiency improvement? or are you limited?
OR
is YOUR engine/motor efficiency not yet at it's optimum? (not observed in ANY of the studies...)
if there's an opportunity to 'improve' your efficiency, what can/will you do to improve or define your 'efficiency' and it's limits?

Ride On
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Old 07-01-22, 10:17 AM
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Originally Posted by terrymorse View Post
A summary comment from RChung :

In the end, it appears that you can be fairly similar in efficiency and performance between the range of 80 – 100 rpm, so a higher cadence may not be as big a deal as it seems.

https://howtheyplay.com/individual-s...Faster-Cycling

If efficiency between 80 to 100 rpm is similar, that is a good thing for high rpm cadence.

Because higher rpm's favor better resilience against muscle fatigue but only if you are well trained for spinning at high cadence.
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