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Cadence

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Alternate thread title:
"Lance Armstrong discovered "spinning" and won 8....no make that 7 Tours and a 3rd place using this revolutionary technique that no cyclist before had ever seen nor heard of, well maybe he didn't actually "discover" it but it was still that and not a devilishly complicated regimen of doping that won him all of those races."

Then again "Cadence" is a bit shorter.
 
May 26, 2009
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Thoughtforfood said:
Alternate thread title:
"Lance Armstrong discovered "spinning" and won 8....no make that 7 Tours and a 3rd place using this revolutionary technique that no cyclist before had ever seen nor heard of, well maybe he didn't actually "discover" it but it was still that and not a devilishly complicated regimen of doping that won him all of those races."

Then again "Cadence" is a bit shorter.

The amusing part is that I can remember that the one who got credited by introducing "spinning" while climbing was Big Mig(and I'm sure he wasn't the first who discovered this). So Lance is hardly the innovator here.

Truth is that indeed spinning works IF you have the engine. The lower your wattage, the lower your optimal *most efficient* cadence (the Dutch magazine "Fiets" had some articles from Adrie van Diemen).

The reason Lance used a lower cadence might indicate he has less power this year, but we are digressing.
 
Franklin said:
The amusing part is that I can remember that the one who got credited by introducing "spinning" while climbing was Big Mig(and I'm sure he wasn't the first who discovered this). So Lance is hardly the innovator here.

Truth is that indeed spinning works IF you have the engine. The lower your wattage, the lower your optimal *most efficient* cadence (the Dutch magazine "Fiets" had some articles from Adrie van Diemen).

The reason Lance used a lower cadence might indicate he has less power this year, but we are digressing.

Van Diemen studied it in great detail and maintained that at 1% increase in efficiency was the most one could garner. Coyle though came out with 8%!!!

Lemond said he looked at it, but it required more oxygen intake - funnily enough, the higher cadence which Lance used, is one of the reasons Lemond felt that he doped. His VO2 Max simply didn't support a cadence of this magnitude.
 
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There is one physiological paper which shows that increased efficiency in professional cyclists can compensate for relatively lower VO2 max. But as efficiency typically varies between 22-25% in professional cyclists, the difference in an inefficient and efficient rider is quite small (not 8%).
 
I think Coyle was imagining the difference between a weekend city bike commuter pushing the wrong gears, and Lance' spinning.

Franklin said:
The amusing part is that I can remember that the one who got credited by introducing "spinning" while climbing was Big Mig(and I'm sure he wasn't the first who discovered this). So Lance is hardly the innovator here.

Go back and watch the 1993-1996 GT's. Mig wasn't really that much of a spinner, though he was somewhat in the ITT's. One of his nemeses, Tony Rominger actually spun smaller gears than he did. What's interesting is that these two guys were mostly power riders. Mig was big and strong. Tony just strong. Compare this to Virenque and Pantani, little guys who often pushed big gears and stood all the time. But Andy Hampsten turned a fairly easy gear up climbs, and he was little too.

The whole nonsense "cadence" argument logically would conclude that somehow if someone like Jan Ullrich had been able to spin like Lance (Rominger, Hampsten, etc.), he would have won 10 Tours. And if he would have kept his weight down and trained more, he would have won more. I say 20 Tours. Maybe 30. Don't you agree?
 
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elapid said:
There is one physiological paper which shows that increased efficiency in professional cyclists can compensate for relatively lower VO2 max. But as efficiency typically varies between 22-25% in professional cyclists, the difference in an inefficient and efficient rider is quite small (not 8%).

Not to be a smart a$$ but 22-->25 is 13.6%...
 
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_frost said:
Not to be a smart a$$ but 22-->25 is 13.6%...

Retracted my comment as I was being a dumb a$$!!

I'd never given the efficiency of the human body much thought...I'm used to considering things which are much more efficient than it is!
 
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_frost said:
Not to be a smart a$$ but 22-->25 is 13.6%...

You are correct and not being a smart a$$. Armstrong's improvement was made over 7 years and the efficiency data has been seriously questioned by many physiologists. Even if the improvement in efficiency was correct for Armstrong, the counter argument is that this improvement may not be so amazing after all over a period of time. The paper I mentioned looked at twelve professional cyclists over a 5-year period and found that efficiency improved from 23.61 to 26.97% over this period while VO2 max remained largely unchanged (mean 75.5 ml/kg/min). This is a 14.2% improvement in efficiency over 5 years.

This is the abstract if you're interested:

Santalla A, Naranjo J, Terrados N. Muscle efficiency improves over time in world-class cyclists. Med Sci Sports Exerc 41(5):1096-101, 2009.

PURPOSE: To determine the change in muscular efficiency in world-class professional cyclists during years of training/competition. METHODS: Twelve male world-class professional road cyclists (mean +/- SD: age = 22.6 +/- 3.8 yr and VO(2max) = 75.5 +/- 3.3 mL x kg(-1) x min(-1)) performed an incremental test (starting at 100 W with workload increases of 50 W every 4-min interval until volitional exhaustion) before and after a five-season period. Delta efficiency (DE) was calculated from 100 W to that power output (PO) in which the RER was 1. RESULTS: DE increased (P < 0.01) from 23.61 +/- 2.78% to 26.97 +/- 3.7% from the first to the fifth year, whereas VO(2max) showed no significant increase. A significant inverse correlation (r = -0.620; P = 0.032) between DE and VO(2max) (mL x kg(-1) x min(-1)) was found in the fifth year, whereas no significant correlation between these variables was found in the first year. A significant inverse correlation (r = -0.63; P = 0.029) was found between the increase percentage in DE (DeltaDE) and VO(2max) (mL x kg(-1) x min(-1)) in the fifth year, whereas no significant correlation was found between these variables in the first year. CONCLUSION: The results show an increase in DE in world-class professional cyclists during a five-season training/competition period, without significant variations in VO(2max). The results also suggest that the increase in DE could be a possible way for performance compensation, especially in those subjects with lower VO(2max).
 
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Alpe d'Huez said:
I think Coyle was imagining the difference between a weekend city bike commuter pushing the wrong gears, and Lance' spinning.

Go back and watch the 1993-1996 GT's. Mig wasn't really that much of a spinner, though he was somewhat in the ITT's.

Well, considering everyone rode bigger gears uphill back then, Miguellon was mentioned that he did rode smaller gears and that was I do remember (though 20 years is a bit hard to compare to nowadays). For instance he really never rode "A danseuse", while Hinault and Fignon, power climbers pur sang did dace (a lot). So true or not, it was commented upon that he ued smaller gears than contemporaries.


One of his nemeses, Tony Rominger actually spun smaller gears than he did. What's interesting is that these two guys were mostly power riders. Mig was big and strong. Tony just strong. Compare this to Virenque and Pantani, little guys who often pushed big gears and stood all the time. But Andy Hampsten turned a fairly easy gear up climbs, and he was little too.


I trust you on your word that Tony did use even smaller gears, he didn't dance much either if I remember correctly.

Good call, Andy did seem to ride small gears if I remember correctly (mind you, 20 years is a long time), however I still think he was riding relatively heavy for nowadays.

The whole nonsense "cadence" argument logically would conclude that somehow if someone like Jan Ullrich had been able to spin like Lance (Rominger, Hampsten, etc.), he would have won 10 Tours. And if he would have kept his weight down and trained more, he would have won more. I say 20 Tours. Maybe 30. Don't you agree?

Oh definitely true^^ That a higher cadence is more efficent isn't exactly nonsense, but it is ridiculous to say that it was THE reason for his improvement. On a side note, Ullrich rode bigger gears than Lance, but Virenque and Pantani rode even bigger.

On the VO2 vs Cadence I'm not aware off, in the Dutch magazine Adrie doesn't mention that (I might have missed it, but it's not really a scientific magazine either). Only thing I know is that the higher the wattage the more efficient a higher RPM becomes. A reason why untrained people feel better with higher gears.

But above all, of course I realize I'm going well beyond the initial post^^
 
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scribe said:
I have been developing a revolutionary no-cadence riding style.

But I'll bet your right arm is 3 times the size of your left.
 
Jul 24, 2009
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It's not just about power

A GT is three weeks so recovery is very import. Fast-twitch (white) fibres take ~2.5 times as long to recover as slow-twitch (red) fibres.

As Ferrari explains on his site (53x12.com), higher cadence cycling spares the fast-twitch fibres more (since peak pedal-forces are lower). But the O2 cost is higher.

If I doped and gained 10% more VO2max, for example, my muscles may not get the full benefit from this extra O2 until they are trained for the higher power. But if I had previously done some high-cadence work then I'm now able to use more of this, otherwise under-utilised, O2 capacity. This means more power and better recovery too.
(According to Carmichael, Lance did both low and high cadence work, to strengthen the muscles and to increase high cadence efficiency, exactly what I'd do if I was going to increase my VO2max for a GT.)

See how beneficial a higher cadence could be to a doped GT rider?

Disclaimer: I haven't tried this out myself, this is just what I think Ferrari was hinting at on his site, and maybe Lance's reasons for a high-cadence are due to something else.
 

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elapid said:
You are correct and not being a smart a$$. Armstrong's improvement was made over 7 years and the efficiency data has been seriously questioned by many physiologists. Even if the improvement in efficiency was correct for Armstrong, the counter argument is that this improvement may not be so amazing after all over a period of time. The paper I mentioned looked at twelve professional cyclists over a 5-year period and found that efficiency improved from 23.61 to 26.97% over this period while VO2 max remained largely unchanged (mean 75.5 ml/kg/min). This is a 14.2% improvement in efficiency over 5 years.

This is the abstract if you're interested:

Santalla A, Naranjo J, Terrados N. Muscle efficiency improves over time in world-class cyclists. Med Sci Sports Exerc 41(5):1096-101, 2009.

PURPOSE: To determine the change in muscular efficiency in world-class professional cyclists during years of training/competition. METHODS: Twelve male world-class professional road cyclists (mean +/- SD: age = 22.6 +/- 3.8 yr and VO(2max) = 75.5 +/- 3.3 mL x kg(-1) x min(-1)) performed an incremental test (starting at 100 W with workload increases of 50 W every 4-min interval until volitional exhaustion) before and after a five-season period. Delta efficiency (DE) was calculated from 100 W to that power output (PO) in which the RER was 1. RESULTS: DE increased (P < 0.01) from 23.61 +/- 2.78% to 26.97 +/- 3.7% from the first to the fifth year, whereas VO(2max) showed no significant increase. A significant inverse correlation (r = -0.620; P = 0.032) between DE and VO(2max) (mL x kg(-1) x min(-1)) was found in the fifth year, whereas no significant correlation between these variables was found in the first year. A significant inverse correlation (r = -0.63; P = 0.029) was found between the increase percentage in DE (DeltaDE) and VO(2max) (mL x kg(-1) x min(-1)) in the fifth year, whereas no significant correlation was found between these variables in the first year. CONCLUSION: The results show an increase in DE in world-class professional cyclists during a five-season training/competition period, without significant variations in VO(2max). The results also suggest that the increase in DE could be a possible way for performance compensation, especially in those subjects with lower VO(2max).

Really useful information. Cheers.
 
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Ferrari is "protecting" him and Lance by coming up with explanations... Going from 24% efficiency to 26% would not even give him 45 watts for his FTP. 40th to 1st is way more than that. Lance's real efficiency has been taken at 23.7% in Texas. Thats not exactly special. These riders listed above have V02 maxes similar to lance (70s) and higher efficiency than him. Yet he beats them.


Ferrari was convicted of fraud, criminal conspiracy in Italy. Yet he is viewed with credibility!
 
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elapid said:
efficiency typically varies between 22-25% in professional cyclists.
efficiency improved from 23.61 to 26.97% over this period

The 27% (mean?) efficiency of 12 experienced pros in the 2009 paper doesn't seem to fit the 22-25% used in a number of places (e.g. Vayer/Lemond calcs).

Might there have been some real gains in cycling efficiency made by pros in the last few years?
 
Note: smaller engined riders tend to be shorter, as well as lighter. Due to relitive standardization of crank length (172.5mm for everyone says the bike business), shorter riders have proportionately long cranks. If I were to get the same relative length as Miguel Martinez or the many female superstars out there, I would end up around 220mm or more. Yes, I end up racing 180-185mm. Yes, high cadence with long legs.

I managed to increased my natural cadence at threshold from 101rpm tot 113rpm, over one season (year minus a winter). Just always picking one gear lighter than I would have preferred. I am telling you, I was quite a race monster when I had made this change. This was still last century. At the same time, I changed from a 82kg flyer to an 83kg climber. Before, I could only turn the absolute granny gear of my MTB. After, I was credited to be the fastest climber in the Sports category, as well as being also the tallest and certaintly heaviest.

Seriously, you CANNOT talk about cadence unless you've looked into proportional cranklength and saddle setback.

Take a VERY good look at this :
http://www.customcranks.de/en/cranklength.html

Now, Cipi didn't like climbs, although he did have the engine, proved by his prologue efforts, and surviving the long finales as the most fit. Super short cranks. And trust me, I have much longer legs still.
Armstrong is on the other side of the graph (I did not verify the data offered, but please comment)

Everyone will have a different natural cadence, but it is very much trainable.

If you have not ridden a singlespeed bike for more than a few times per season, you are missing out on the wonders of the legs. You will be surprised how well you can still do in a race, even on the road, while spending 100% eacher in "too low" or "too high" a gear.
In the USA, a (semi-)pro called Jesse laLonde is WINNING pro races, and not the most single-speed friendly ones, and also not jsut the ones where the superstars stayed home. The guy always rides singlespeed, and lets his legs figure it all out. Singlespeed is associated with mashing out of the seat, but in my case, I end up spinning a lot too, and apparently saving up there. I also actively pedal a shorter total amount of time, as I end up coasting, a lot. Interval, you say? Yes.
My best time on a particular off-road hill climb, which took me 2m37 in my somewhat better days, was on a singlespeed. The gearing worked out to 110-90rpm throughout the hill. The breathing was insanely intense, but the legs could pedal through it. I used 185mm cranks here, where the 113rpm was years earlier with 172.5mm.

I know for a fact that managing and training your cadence helps. the easy way is to slide your seat forward. If you try/train with your seat in the roadie conversative "back" position, it's gonna hurt, and feel all bad. But MAN, once you've dealt with that, and get to harvest the fruits...

It gets really interesting when you learn to spin longer (or proportionate) cranks.

Have YOU ever suffered a whole season, spinning a too-easy gear on the hours of dull flatland riding?

Try it. test you preferred cadence in a threshold test on the ergotrainer. Your legs will spin exactly as they like. Train a season in a lighter gear than you like. On flatlands, a singlespeed with a smartly calculated ger can help. Just ride your normal cruising pace. Suffer in sprints, be relieved on hills and with headwinds.

Lance suffered when Chris told him to spin. Don't trust me, try for yourself. How many superpro's really tried, a whole season.

Nothing having to do with cranks comes instantly, that's why power and efficiency tests will end up being inconculsive, every time. 150mm cranks will see to be best. Every rider know how to do the first half of a squat, many times. Compared to the second part. Knee angle, it needs to be trainer. Many riders are not even using their optimal knee angle range, let along training it.

I see Kenny van Hummel suffering over the alps, seated, on a conventional flat land bike.
Another thing thing that bothers me. why try to do it all on the same bike? I'm just an amateur, but I'm sure to adjust my bike if there is going to be a lot of decisive climbing. Is the sport to win the race, or to win just like they did when gears were just invented?
 
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I Watch Cycling In July said:
The 27% (mean?) efficiency of 12 experienced pros in the 2009 paper doesn't seem to fit the 22-25% used in a number of places (e.g. Vayer/Lemond calcs).

Might there have been some real gains in cycling efficiency made by pros in the last few years?

Doubt it. The 23-27% efficiency is from a 2009 paper. The 22-25% is often quoted because I think it is from an earlier paper. It is also used by Saris in their energy expenditure calculations for PowerTaps. This difference probably reflects different measurement techniques or other factors. I wouldn't read too much into it.
 
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Being a fixed gear sport, track racers have used very fast cadences over the years. I have seen racers zooming at over 150 rpm. My road cadence is typically 100-105, when on the track I spun from 110-135.

ihavenolimbs said:
A GT is three weeks so recovery is very import. Fast-twitch (white) fibres take ~2.5 times as long to recover as slow-twitch (red) fibres.

As Ferrari explains on his site (53x12.com), higher cadence cycling spares the fast-twitch fibres more (since peak pedal-forces are lower) ...

I think this is a pretty reasonable deduction, because the studies out there do tend to suggest that for very fit cyclists (racers), muscular fatigue kicks in quickly at slow cadences, and slow cadences also do not tend to maximize one's aerobic abilities to the fullest. Note - this opinion is from reading a number of studies over years, I might be able to dig up a posting if required, but none are at the 'top of my head'. It is also worth noting that how slow is too slow is often a debated point.

Cloxxki said:
Note: smaller engined riders tend to be shorter, as well as lighter. Due to relitive standardization of crank length (172.5mm for everyone says the bike business), shorter riders have proportionately long cranks. If I were to get the same relative length as Miguel Martinez or the many female superstars out there, I would end up around 220mm or more. Yes, I end up racing 180-185mm. Yes, high cadence with long legs ...

Another interesting subject area, and one that is pretty much two camps from what I have read. I know some people who believe strongly in what Cloxxki has stated, while others feel it is bunk. The most interesting thing is both camps provide intelligent arguments and support it with some degree of proof! Another debate for science!
 

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