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  1. #1
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    Building Cadence.....

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    Decided to start a new thread on this topic. The OP in the new and full of questions thread asked about cadence. There was some great advice there to try to work up to a cadence in the 85-100 rpm range. I'd been counseled by some biking friends to use my gears to keep a steady cadence, but had not sense to how fast I actually was pedaling.

    With the new bike I got a new bike computer, and now can measure cadence. On my first long ride on the new bike, I did nearly 27 miles, used my typical pedal speed. Discovered I ride in the 65-70rpm range. And naturally up-shift when I start pedaling over 70rpm. Told this to a couple of bike friends, who universally expressed concern that I was using too high of gears, pedaling too slowly / too hard to take advantage of any pedal momentum/spin, and could damage my legs/knees. I meanwhile realized I was never going to develop any real speed without a much higher average cadence.

    Which lead to last night's ride. Intentionally focused on cadence, keeping it up around 85rpm. OMG, I could barely breath. Sure it's easier to pedal (from a leg pushing point of view), and was in lower gears. But aerobically it was tough. Really surprised me.

    So how do I build cadence....I'm guessing doing exactly what I did, and the aerobic piece will come. Probably answering my own question. Maybe the real question: Is this common to for a beginning biker (too slow cadence)? Is this much aerobic affect (heart rate up, breathing hard) normal as you push higher cadences? Will I still build leg strength if I solely focus on the higer pedal rates and lower gears?

  2. #2
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    Honestly... I say go with what your are comfortable with... anything over 60 is pretty "safe" on your joints (at least, that's what my PT has always told me). If you were much under that, then I would worry.. but 65-70 is fine... especially if you really aren't moving very fast - I think a slower cadence puts more stress on your joints at 20mph than it does at 12mph.

    I think keeping a steady cadence (>60) and moving at your own pace is more important than trying to hit 85 if your body just can't keep up, KWIM? I think it will come in time.. like I said yesterday, I was surprised mine was as high as it is, because I really thought I was still pedaling much slower (I know I was slower starting out). I definitely notice that I am moving faster in the same gears compared to a few months ago.

    As far as I am concerned you build leg strength either way... I think it's the amount of time you're actually out on the bike more than the cadence you maintain.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by sarahspins View Post
    I think a slower cadence puts more stress on your joints at 20mph than it does at 12mph.

    It's the force, not the speed.

    Climbing is when cadence is most likely to be very low, and it's also where there's automatically a large amount of force involved. In my actual riding, there's a WHOLE lot more force on my knees driving 65 rpm up a 15% grade at 5 mph than there would be, say, descending a 1% grade at the same cadence at 25 mph.

    All other things being equal (grade, wind including whether or not you're drafting, road conditions, bike), then yes, there will be more force at a higher speed than a lower one - but all things are almost never equal, on a bicycle. That's why people spend thousands for power meters.
    Speed comes from what you put behind you. - Judi Ketteler

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by OakLeaf View Post
    All other things being equal (grade, wind including whether or not you're drafting, road conditions, bike), then yes, there will be more force at a higher speed than a lower one - but all things are almost never equal, on a bicycle. That's why people spend thousands for power meters.
    That's what I meant... all things being equal.. I realize that rarely happens, but still.. lol :P

    But I do think that with increased fitness comes the ability to maintain a faster cadence... so it should come with time I don't think that 65-70 is dangerous at all.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by sarahspins View Post
    That's what I meant... all things being equal.. I realize that rarely happens, but still.. lol :P

    But I do think that with increased fitness comes the ability to maintain a faster cadence... so it should come with time I don't think that 65-70 is dangerous at all.
    Actually, something you can try just for fun, is to put your bike in the smallest/easiest gear combo you have and then spin as fast as you can for several minutes. Moving your entire lower body that quickly is going to stimulate your heart beat - even though you may not be generating very much wattage/power.

    I think if you want to ride at higher cadences then you have to practice at it. If you train yourself to pedal at 65rpm's then you get best at doing just that. Kind of like riding in one position all the time on the bars and then switching - you probably need to adjust a bit but then get better at it.

    The good thing is you can train yourself to pedal at different cadences but I believe most people will still have a preferred or as some say, 'self-selected' cadence that they fall back into during a typical ride. When I started riding again a few months back, my cadence was typically around 70-80 and now I'm more comfortable in the 90-100 range. I've had my share of knee injuries so I tend to prefer a higher cadence.

    Contrary to what some might imagine, a lot of success at the top levels of sprinting on the track is actually being able to apply force at really, really high cadences (think 135+ rpm) which results in huge power outputs rather than using even greater force per pedal stroke at obviously lower rpm's. Watch any of the top women sprinters or the guys, in the 200 meters or the kilo and you'll see they usually get up to 150, sometimes even 200 rpm for substantial periods.

    Basically you can pedal quicker, you can pedal with more force, or do both. The combination of these is your equivalent power. That in conjunction with the amount of rolling resistance, wind resistance (which considers your frontal area and drag), and the resistance of gravity you overcome = speed.

    The bottom line though is your comfort and staying injury free. So if it works for you and you have no problems, then stick with what is working.
    Last edited by BalaRoja; 10-06-2009 at 02:05 PM.

  6. #6
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    Thanks everyone, great advice.

    While the 65rpm cadence seems to be my current go to and settle in tempo, I want more speed. And I now know unless I can build cadence, I'm not really going to build speed. Heck on a flat without a significant headwind, I can auto-pilot at 65-70rpm at my highest gear/speed. So pedalling faster my only option.

    I think for me it's not only a fitness/ get more aerobically fit for biking, but also a mindset shift. It bothers me (mentally) to be in the easier, spinning gears. Seems wrong, like my legs should be "working" more. I think it's the last 15 or so months focused on strength training, building muscle, making sure I was using high enough resistance on machines to really bring value. One thing forcing myself to ride at that higher cadence/lower strength output did was showed me what kind of opportunity I had to progress my riding. Between the gasping for air, and realizing if I developed both the aerobic capability and greater leg strength, I will go faster, be a better rider.

  7. #7
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    Smile

    Hello everyone. This is my first time replying on this forum (or any forum for that matter!). I started biking in the last month, after spending the last 25 years as a distance runner - anything from the mile to the marathon. Now that I am older (43), I have developed structural foot pain and have chosen to bike since running everyday is painful. Duathlons next summer are my goal and I must say - thanks to my sister in law, I LOVE BIKING!!! It's nice to get excited about something again and look forward to seeing what I can do on a bike. Anyway.....

    The cadence issue is something I also struggle with sometimes. Most of my rides are anywhere from 75-90 or more but I often feel like I sacrifice mph in order to keep the cadence at a reasonable level. Most winter training I have researched as said to ride a lot of miles in the 80-90 rpm range to build an aerobic base. But I sometimes don't feel like my heart rate gets very high (may be because of all the running), and I am switching gears often, especially when I come to a long hill, in order to keep the cadence. Am I OK doing this for the winter to build a base, or should I also add more resistance and slow down the cadence some in order to gain power? I have tried both, and when my cadence was lower and I felt like I was giving it everything because the resistance was higher, my legs were spent very quickly. At 80-85 rpm, I can go 20-25 miles very easily, and follow that with a run.

    Since I am new to this whole biking thing, is what I am doing OK, and then in the spring adding some intervals of very high cadence, and some of low cadence and high resistance for strength? Any help anyone has would be great. Having run and coached runners, I am thinking that doing some of the same types of workouts, only geared for the bike, will help increase my overall speed for the sprint duathlons next year.

    I want to say that it is very refreshing to see answers/information presented in a way that doesn't make novices like myself, feel like our questions are ridiculous. It is especially nice to link up with so many women who are passionate about the same things. I thank you and look forward to reading more about you all in the future!

    "See in yourself not the limits, but the stars"

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by 246marathon View Post
    I sometimes don't feel like my heart rate gets very high (may be because of all the running)
    I think you're right - for one thing, any given person's MHR for cycling will be around 5 bpm lower than their MHR for running - and also to me, running is just way more aerobically demanding. I'm running much more now than I ever did, and one thing I found this summer is that I never, not once, ran out of air on the bike. I don't race or push myself terribly hard on the bike, but last year there were definitely hills where I was struggling for breath, and sprints where oxygen was as much a limiting factor as muscle. Since I started running more, that's just not the case.

    Still, you can get your HR pretty high on the bike. IME I just have to work at it a lot harder than I do running.
    Speed comes from what you put behind you. - Judi Ketteler

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by 246marathon View Post
    Hello everyone. This is my first time replying on this forum (or any forum for that matter!). I started biking in the last month, after spending the last 25 years as a distance runner - anything from the mile to the marathon. Now that I am older (43), I have developed structural foot pain and have chosen to bike since running everyday is painful. Duathlons next summer are my goal and I must say - thanks to my sister in law, I LOVE BIKING!!! It's nice to get excited about something again and look forward to seeing what I can do on a bike. Anyway.....

    The cadence issue is something I also struggle with sometimes. Most of my rides are anywhere from 75-90 or more but I often feel like I sacrifice mph in order to keep the cadence at a reasonable level. Most winter training I have researched as said to ride a lot of miles in the 80-90 rpm range to build an aerobic base. But I sometimes don't feel like my heart rate gets very high (may be because of all the running), and I am switching gears often, especially when I come to a long hill, in order to keep the cadence. Am I OK doing this for the winter to build a base, or should I also add more resistance and slow down the cadence some in order to gain power? I have tried both, and when my cadence was lower and I felt like I was giving it everything because the resistance was higher, my legs were spent very quickly. At 80-85 rpm, I can go 20-25 miles very easily, and follow that with a run.

    Since I am new to this whole biking thing, is what I am doing OK, and then in the spring adding some intervals of very high cadence, and some of low cadence and high resistance for strength? Any help anyone has would be great. Having run and coached runners, I am thinking that doing some of the same types of workouts, only geared for the bike, will help increase my overall speed for the sprint duathlons next year.

    I want to say that it is very refreshing to see answers/information presented in a way that doesn't make novices like myself, feel like our questions are ridiculous. It is especially nice to link up with so many women who are passionate about the same things. I thank you and look forward to reading more about you all in the future!

    "See in yourself not the limits, but the stars"
    Good for you on your new goals and for taking up cycling. Sometimes that how it is - you try new things and they can be very rewarding. Sounds like you are in the right place.

    You probably generate a higher max heart rate while running because it is clearly a highly weight bearing activity whereas cycling isn't quite as weight bearing. Steep hills on a bike will have you bearing the most weight while on a bike and should get your heart rate fairly high. Most people I've talked to who do triathlons always mention a higher max heart rate on runs than biking so you wouldn't be alone there.

    About your cadence question - from everything I've seen, brand new riders are more likely to use a lower cadence, say 60ish. (not without exceptions obviously) Whereas more experienced people tend to use a higher cadence, roughly 90ish.

    There are a lot of advantages to a higher cadence. One of the more obvious ones is that it is easier to accelerate if you are spinning comfortably at 85 rpms, than if you are grinding at 55 - assuming you are going the same speed (20 mph at 85rpms & 20 mph at 55 rpms) because each pedal stroke at 85rpms requires less force. Another thing is how it tends to generate less muscle fatigue - a higher cadence - in your legs than if using a bigger gear. It seems like you've noticed that in your own training already when you use a higher cadence and have an easier time running later. It probably is 'saving your legs' a bit. I bet serious triathletes and ladies here who participate in multi-sport competitions can give you a more insightful response on the bike then run angle.

    The corollary of all this is that a higher cadence you will feel your heart rate and cardiovascular system be more taxed. As I mentioned in another response, get on your bike and get in the granny gear and spin to 100+ rpms for as long as you can - you can even do this will going downhill - and you'll notice how your heart beat speeds up very quickly, even if you are basically coasting down a hill.

    If you are a duathlete, then I assume your bike goals in a race are along the lines of a time trial. Meaning the faster you go, the better your result since it is all about overall time right?

    In that case, just use whatever cadence you are more comfortable with. Try different ones for a few weeks to get used to how they feel and I bet you'll soon find your happy cadence spot, whether that's 60, 80 or 110
    Last edited by BalaRoja; 10-06-2009 at 06:14 PM.

  10. #10
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    I am working with a coach and she actually sets up my workouts with a specific cadence range that I should aim for. Except for climbs and hill repeats, my cadence must always be over 70 rpm.

    So, it's about finding the right gear where I can keep the required cadence and the required heart rate. My heart rates normally run pretty high so this would not apply to everyone, but for example at a 70-80 rpm, I would want enough resistance to get my hr up to 152-155 and sustain that hr/cadence combination for an 8-10 minute interval. Then recover for 8 mins and do it again! For the 85-95 cadence, I find the gearing to maintain my hr at 159-162.

    These intervals have really helped me to pick up my cadence and as I get better at them, I can use more gear and keep the same hr/cadence so I end up going faster!! I've increased my avg speed by 3 mph in 2 months and I credit these intervals.

    Of course, I should disclose that I am an absolute geek when it comes to all this data. It fascinates me and doesn't detract at all from my pure joy of riding.
    ----------------------------------------------------
    "I never made "Who's Who"- but sure as hell I made "What's That??..."

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by tctrek View Post
    My heart rates normally run pretty high so this would not apply to everyone, but for example at a 70-80 rpm, I would want enough resistance to get my hr up to 152-155 and sustain that hr/cadence combination for an 8-10 minute interval. Then recover for 8 mins and do it again! For the 85-95 cadence, I find the gearing to maintain my hr at 159-162.
    Okay, bear in mind I am relatively new to the whole monitoring HR thing, but my resting heartrate is always high... and has been for as long as I remember. In fact, the only time I remember it being "normal" was when I was severely hypothyroid after having my daughter (TSH was 16.7 or something stupid)... so how does a higher heart rate effect your max? Mine is not so far off from yours... and I know what my resting HR is (and it's higher than average) and now I'm wondering just how abnormal that is.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by sarahspins View Post
    Okay, bear in mind I am relatively new to the whole monitoring HR thing, but my resting heartrate is always high... and has been for as long as I remember. In fact, the only time I remember it being "normal" was when I was severely hypothyroid after having my daughter (TSH was 16.7 or something stupid)... so how does a higher heart rate effect your max? Mine is not so far off from yours... and I know what my resting HR is (and it's higher than average) and now I'm wondering just how abnormal that is.
    Well, my heart rate upon waking is about 68. But once I'm walking around, going to work, etc. it runs around 83. When I get on the bike, it immediately goes to 100-105. On a super easy recovery ride, it runs around 125-130. One time I was doing a very long 7-8 degree climb and I sustained a heart rate of 173 for 22 minutes.

    So, that's how high my heart rate is! Some people freak out when they hear it, but it's really normal for me. I've been checked by doctors and they say I have a hummingbird heart -- it's small and beats fast .
    ----------------------------------------------------
    "I never made "Who's Who"- but sure as hell I made "What's That??..."

  13. #13
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    Lucked into another beautiful fall day, and was able to get about a 14 mile ride in after work. Kept an average cadence of 84rpm. So pretty good improvement from Sunday's 64. On a much, much hillier route, too.

    And, wasn't sucking air as bad as on Monday. Amazing how quickly bodies acclimate to physical stress.

    I think it's a bit of developing a muscle memory at the higher cadence versus the lower I'd been doing.

    That said I once again feel it more in my hams and glutes post-ride. Just the faster cadence or the clipless pedals or all of the above?

    And best of all didn't fall...getting hang of the clipless! Great day!

  14. #14
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    Before getting too excited about high cadences (and in the 1970's we thought 60 rpm was hot stuff!) take a gander at your muscle: are you more a slow twitch or a fast twitch kind of gal?

    Are you the sort who can go forever and not run out of steam, or are you a little bunny rabbit who goes very very fast? When you were in track, did you run 50/100/200 m, or were you in the 400m and up?

    Forcing a slow twitch athlete to go at a higher rpm than they are built for is going to put their best asset (slow twitch fibers) to waste while stressing the small portion of fast twitch they have. (we all have some of each)

    Force a distance runner (slow twitch) to race a short sprint, and not only with they lose, they'll also likely be gasping for breath and puking at the end of the race. (it's quite a spectacle! I've done it!) But no-one is going to point at the distance runner and say she's a poor runner and out of shape.

    Don't kick yourself if your rpm doesn't meet some mythical "good" number. There's nothing magical about higher numbers, what's magical is riding well by taking advantage of your strengths and feeling fabulous! There are many different riders: Do what feels right.
    "If Americans want to live the American Dream, they should go to Denmark." - Richard Wilkinson

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by KnottedYet View Post
    Before getting too excited about high cadences (and in the 1970's we thought 60 rpm was hot stuff!) take a gander at your muscle: are you more a slow twitch or a fast twitch kind of gal?

    Are you the sort who can go forever and not run out of steam, or are you a little bunny rabbit who goes very very fast? When you were in track, did you run 50/100/200 m, or were you in the 400m and up?

    Forcing a slow twitch athlete to go at a higher rpm than they are built for is going to put their best asset (slow twitch fibers) to waste while stressing the small portion of fast twitch they have. (we all have some of each)

    Force a distance runner (slow twitch) to race a short sprint, and not only with they lose, they'll also likely be gasping for breath and puking at the end of the race. (it's quite a spectacle! I've done it!) But no-one is going to point at the distance runner and say she's a poor runner and out of shape.

    Don't kick yourself if your rpm doesn't meet some mythical "good" number. There's nothing magical about higher numbers, what's magical is riding well by taking advantage of your strengths and feeling fabulous! There are many different riders: Do what feels right.
    What a good post this is...
    "My predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved;I have been given much and I have given something in return...Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and an adventure." O. Sacks

 

 

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