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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I was wondering if anyone had some input on this, or efficient cadence in general. Does cadence efficiency change depending on leg length/crank length? What about terrain? There seem to be a lot of mixed views on the subject.
 

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I prefer faster cadences (100-110) on the climbs and tricky spots personally. That way if you do hit a rock or something that kills your momentum you still have enough torque available to keep moving. On the descents I dent to be more like 80-90.
 

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The Punk Hucker
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It's a very personal matter, only you can know for sure but beware...

Up to this year I thought I was most effective at higher cadences. I suppose this is due to the fact that my legs naturally want to spin 95 RPM, more or less.
I got a power meter in late '10 and it turns out I produce more power for a lower HR at 80-85 RPM.

I'm trying to adapt my legs natural cadence to my most effective power to RPE/HR by riding a lot at lower cadences. Slowly it feels more and more natural but will I have problems with technical sections where I "float" better at higher cadences?

What about climbs? I always been a good climber and tend to spin higher cadences than most on climbs although it remains lower than on the flat. Actually I tend to climb at 80-85 RPM, I don't believe it's a coincidence!

So to answer your question, as usual, it depends!!!
 

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For mtn bikers 90 - 100 is a good range. I agree it can be personal.

However - Cil - have you tried to spin at 95 - 100 for 3 years? Also, there is something I think you're not taking into account. Yes - you are correct - your pulse will be lower at 85 rather than 100 for the same power. I've also done the power-test studies to see what my pulse/rpm relationship is (I used 200 watts, 4 minutes at 10 rpms). However, that is not the issue.

The issue is that at less than 90 RPM, or even 100 RPM, you are pushing more with your leg each turn, and while it uses your lungs/heart more your quads will give out more quickly. I think if you are doing a 5 - 10 minute power test, you can probably get a best time at 80 RPM, but if you are racing for 3 hours, and certainly for 10 hours, you'll find that after 3 years at 95 - 100, you're net benefit will be at the higher RPM.

Remember that it can take up to 3 years to get your legs used to a new RPM if that RPM is significantly different than the previous one. At the end of the 2nd year, most can spin with minimal hip movement, but your continue to improve the real spin itself. Go get a spin-scan on a Computrainer to learn more about this if that hasn't been done yet.

So I realize people will disagree, but I would maintain that for the most part, 90 - 100 RPM for mtn biking is best, and 100 if possible. The variation between people will often be within that 90 - 100 range.
 

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The Punk Hucker
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LightMiner said:
However - Cil - have you tried to spin at 95 - 100 for 3 years? Also, there is something I think you're not taking into account. Yes - you are correct - your pulse will be lower at 85 rather than 100 for the same power. I've also done the power-test studies to see what my pulse/rpm relationship is (I used 200 watts, 4 minutes at 10 rpms). However, that is not the issue.

The issue is that at less than 90 RPM, or even 100 RPM, you are pushing more with your leg each turn, and while it uses your lungs/heart more your quads will give out more quickly. I think if you are doing a 5 - 10 minute power test, you can probably get a best time at 80 RPM, but if you are racing for 3 hours, and certainly for 10 hours, you'll find that after 3 years at 95 - 100, you're net benefit will be at the higher RPM.
I've been spinning higher cadences for years. Yes your legs work more at lower RPM and that is why I've been doing a lot of force workouts since starting this season. At first I couldn't stand 80 RPM for 10 minutes, now I can go for much longer, probably around 40 minutes at around 105% FTP non-stop.

I wonder why you think it takes time to adapt to higher cadences but you beleive one doesn't adapt to lower cadences...

With that said I'm pretty sure I'll set myself on a higher cadence for technical sections & climbs while going for a lower cadence on the flats.

One must also keep in mind that at 95 RPM, when time comes to bridge or keep up with an attack, you will need to shift to keep up. If you are at a lower cadence, you can simply raise your cadence. The bigger the gear, the bigger the difference in power output when you raise cadence. Personally this is a weakness. As I said, I spin a higher cadence climbing so when I reach the top of the hill I outspin my gear and must shift, often losing ground. I'll see if I cannot shift earlier to get a better acceleration over the hill top.

So, no, high cadence isn't the holy grail... nothing is except versatility and even then I'm not sure. ;)

P.S. You need to work on force if you can't keep a lower cadence for more than 10 minutes
 

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I race both. To each their own. Plenty of woman beat boys. What's up with that? Just because you are on a SS doesn't mean you should place behind all geared riders does it?
 

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spec4life???..smh...
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PissedOffCil said:
I've been spinning higher cadences for years. Yes your legs work more at lower RPM and that is why I've been doing a lot of force workouts since starting this season. At first I couldn't stand 80 RPM for 10 minutes, now I can go for much longer, probably around 40 minutes at around 105% FTP non-stop.

I wonder why you think it takes time to adapt to higher cadences but you beleive one doesn't adapt to lower cadences...

With that said I'm pretty sure I'll set myself on a higher cadence for technical sections & climbs while going for a lower cadence on the flats.

One must also keep in mind that at 95 RPM, when time comes to bridge or keep up with an attack, you will need to shift to keep up. If you are at a lower cadence, you can simply raise your cadence. The bigger the gear, the bigger the difference in power output when you raise cadence. Personally this is a weakness. As I said, I spin a higher cadence climbing so when I reach the top of the hill I outspin my gear and must shift, often losing ground. I'll see if I cannot shift earlier to get a better acceleration over the hill top.

So, no, high cadence isn't the holy grail... nothing is except versatility and even then I'm not sure. ;)

P.S. You need to work on force if you can't keep a lower cadence for more than 10 minutes
I agree with lightminer...of course your going to make better power at a lower cadence and lower heart rate but the problem is at the end of the race your legs will be dead..Our bodies are built to push those high cadences for much longer than low ones

Also depending on gearing you should be able to spin up another 10-20 rpm before shifting to answer an attack...do what you want but for most high cadence is much more efficient
 

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MTB23 said:
Stand and Hammer! I giggle when I passed the gearies spinning their brains out.
And I the same when I see a dinglespeeder standing and mashing their brains out at low RPM while I spin the whole time and save my legs.

fast is fast, slow is slow.
 

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mnoutain bkie rdier
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BruceBrown said:
Plenty of SS racers smoking boys on gears at a lot of XC races. So what's up with that?
Those same guys would be faster geared on many courses... It's too easy to get spun out on ss vs. geared. No comparison. Also, hike a bike happens to the ss guys faster than the gearies in most cases..
 

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The Punk Hucker
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spec4life said:
I agree with lightminer...of course your going to make better power at a lower cadence and lower heart rate but the problem is at the end of the race your legs will be dead..Our bodies are built to push those high cadences for much longer than low ones
I totally expect my legs to be dead at the end of a race...
Our bodies are built for what we train them to do. It's much easier to push higher cadences but we can adapt by training.

As I said, I used to think just like you and this season I'm working on changing this. I focus a lot on force workouts & muscular endurance and have gone from 5 minutes at 80 RPM before feeling my legs burning to over 25 minutes now (same %FTP efforts). Time will tell if this pays off, I beleive it will.

Not to mention MTBing is far from being steady state riding, which means you get to rest your legs here and there, allowing for more (in terms of total time) high-end efforts. If I can push 90 minutes of 80 RPM at threshold with some rest here & there, I'm perfectly fine for a XC race (Based on experience 90 minutes of pedaling time is approx. a 110-120 minutes race). At the moment I can do 60 minutes fine... (3x20 with 5 min rest)

Some will argue that longer races have different needs but I'll reply that it's not a matter of cadence, just a matter of power output.
 

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I never said I couldn't keep power for 10 minutes at low RPM, very strange interpretation, I don't think you understood. I'll try again - *If* you are doing a 10-minute time trial on a trainer with power, you might show a better time/distance result than at high rpm because the event is so short so the benefits of high rpm - quad fatigue - doesn't come into play as much as in a longer event.

I don't think there is a single pro who podiumed in 2010 who rides under 90 rpm. I think Tinker was famous for slightly lower RPM, there are a few people here and there, but it is quite rare. That perhaps can tell us something? I do agree, however, that it is useful to put out good power at many RPM. Up super steep hills, the steepest I can climb, with my gearing I'm at 60 RPM. I'm very happy at 60 as that is all my bike will allow, but I prefer to go to 90 - 100 when I can.

The really good pro bikers would just squint at you and wonder what the deal is if you were to talk to them about doing, a race at a target of 80 rpm.

Lopes in his Mtn Biking book says overall to spin at 100, and then starts talking about pro BMXers who spin up to 220 during sprints. And their events are often 10 minutes or less. He also echoes what I found that it takes a few years to get it right. You can certainly also adjust yourself to lower cadence, you just won't go as fast!

As to increasing speed - if one spins at 95, they should have trained a certain amount at 120, and have that upper room available to speed up, or just take dips in the trail without shifting, comfortably.

Speaking of the pro's squinting at people riding at 80 RPM, here is a video of the Pro Mens Short Track National Championship. Adam Crag, JHK, Tod Wells, etc.

Hmmm... They all have high cadence... Hmmm... For a 25 minute race...

http://www.cyclingdirt.org/coverage...hips/video/348487-Pro-Mens-STXC-USA-Nationals
 

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The Punk Hucker
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So what exactly are you trying to prove? That it happens that pros like to ride at higher cadence? Big deal... Those guys would smoke everybody here at 50, 60, 70, 80, 90 and 100 RPM.

And for someone who mentions I have a weird understanding, I never mentionned anything about an optimal cadence being 80 RPM. I said I noticed I produce more power for a given RPE at 80-85 RPM than at 95 and that based on that experimentation, I'll try to ride lower cadences on flats and over hill tops this season.

My conclusion was that it depends, as with everything in life and especially in training.

And since when is 80 RPM considered a low cadence that's hard to push??? Squint as much as you want...
 

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Different people tend to have their own optimal pedalling cadence and climbing style. Typically you'll find that you're more likely to pedal at a higher cadence on the flat than when climbing where pedalling cadence often drops.

Pedalling cadence isn't really a one size fits all thing where you should aim for one optimal cadence. There's a lot of individual variation. To an extent you'll find that you "self select" your own optimal pedalling cadence automatically based on feel.:)

If you're doing long climbs then maintaining a higher cadence in a lower gear is often worthwhile because it's less taxing over extended periods than grinding up in a big gear. If you're doing short sharp climbs then staying on top of a big gear at lower cadence may be the best option. Lots of downshifts (especially between front chainrings) can cause you to lose all your momentum at the base of the climb, slowing you down significantly compared to if you had stayed in a higher gear.:)
 

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LightMiner said:
Hmmm... They all have high cadence... Hmmm... For a 25 minute race...
I saw a range of cadences. I timed Sam Schultz on the first climb at 89 and he seemed as spinny as anyone.
 
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