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High or lower?

Aug 9, 2009
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Being a recent convert (running is my sport)to commuting 31 mile round trip on country roads, I seem to want to ride in a big gear as much as possible. The route is "undulating" and I ride a Scott S40 with a triple chain ring.
Done about 1200+ miles so far.
Am I right in going high or should I be looking for a lower gear and increasing my cadence?
 
Jun 9, 2009
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Optimal stride frequency in running is typically much lower than optimmal cadence for cycling. It is commonly seen that runners who convert to cycling ride in a larger gear and a lower cadence than experienced cyclists. Riding at a high cadence required the muscles of the cyclist to be recruited and contracted precisely in order to maintain a smooth pedal stroke. This takes time to develop, since the cerebellum (portion of the brain responsible for motor control) is slow to adapt to new patterns.

Unfortunately, riding in a big gear with a slow cadence places stresses on the joints (primarily the knees) that can lead to pain and joint dysfunction. For this reason, it is important to try to increase your cadence until it reaches about 80 r.p.m.

I would recommend that you vary your cadence during your commute. Try doing short stretches where you ride at as high of a cadence as you feel comfortable while working to maintain a smooth pedal stroke. Increase your cadence by lowering gears until you feel youself bouncing on the saddle, then back off a bit until you are smooth again. Then return to your more comfortable slow cadence for a couple of minutes and repeat the drill.

You will accomplish several things by doing this during your commute. First, you will increase your natural cadence in time, which is good. Second, you will add variety to your riding which will keep your commute fresh and fun.

Congratulations to you for working to keep less cars on the road and use your body to travel your commue! Have fun and be safe!
 
Jun 16, 2009
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David Suro said:
Optimal stride frequency in running is typically much lower than optimmal cadence for cycling. It is commonly seen that runners who convert to cycling ride in a larger gear and a lower cadence than experienced cyclists. Riding at a high cadence required the muscles of the cyclist to be recruited and contracted precisely in order to maintain a smooth pedal stroke. This takes time to develop, since the cerebellum (portion of the brain responsible for motor control) is slow to adapt to new patterns.

Unfortunately, riding in a big gear with a slow cadence places stresses on the joints (primarily the knees) that can lead to pain and joint dysfunction. For this reason, it is important to try to increase your cadence until it reaches about 80 r.p.m.

QUOTE]

Another vote for high cadence. From personal experience transitioning from being a runner, higher cadence felt too easy, so i constantly pushed big gears. Big mistake. When you run it takes alot more effort since you are supporting your body weight and pushing off every stride, so there is a tendency to try & replicate that while cycling and runners end up pushing big gears at a low rpms. I remember Dave Babiracki, i used to run with him and he helped me with my gearing choice when i got my first race bike. he said only these wimpy cyclists need a 21 with the 42 chain ring. We used to climb everywhere in a 42x19. He should have stuck to running(i think he placed 2nd in Boston to Bill Rogers one year and he also had a couple of AR in 10 or 20K)
Dont make the same mistake
high cadence
 
Forget about cadence and just focus on the effort level and ride a gear that feels good for you. Mix it up for variety and fun but otherwise, as you become fitter and ride more, you'll naturally begin to pedal more quickly.

If and when you start to ride with groups (or race), you'll learn that being able to use smaller gears at same speed is handy for managing the accelerations and surges. But otherwise it's no big deal.

You'll only get knee or other problems if your bike isn't correctly fitted to you and/or you have an existing/previous injury or attempt to do way more than your body is used to/ready for. The forces in endurance cycling (even at relatively low cadences) are too low to cause such problems per se.
 
Aug 6, 2009
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This is how i think of it. Please somebody correct me if I am wrong or misleading anyone.

A higher cadence (+110rpm) is better for developing VO2 max and general leg speed to cope with accelerations in groups (as previously stated)? So higher cadences are better for "fitness" so to speak. I find these are needed to upgrade any new stength/power you have gained. Cadences +130rpm are more for develping leg speed for sprinting and accelerations but hard to keep up for very long periods of time so are not as useful for developing time trial/climbing style "fitness"

Slower cadences (50-80rpm) are better for developing cycling specific strength/power for time trialing and climbing. As stated previously to much of this can place stress on joints etc.

Cadences in between, 80-110rpm, are 'cruising cadences' for your easy daily rides, tempo or longer daily rides.


Ultimately If you want to race or be a competent recreational rider that wants to match with the racers at the park on the weekend you need to concentrate on all three. There are plenty of books that give different training reigmes for each three.

I started of by going to the local bookstore and browsing. I have since bought a couple to use as a refernce guide for developing my own 'training' regimes.
 
awal3207 said:
This is how i think of it. Please somebody correct me if I am wrong or misleading anyone.

A higher cadence (+110rpm) is better for developing VO2 max and general leg speed to cope with accelerations in groups (as previously stated)? So higher cadences are better for "fitness" so to speak. I find these are needed to upgrade any new stength/power you have gained. Cadences +130rpm are more for develping leg speed for sprinting and accelerations but hard to keep up for very long periods of time so are not as useful for developing time trial/climbing style "fitness"

Slower cadences (50-80rpm) are better for developing cycling specific strength/power for time trialing and climbing. As stated previously to much of this can place stress on joints etc.

Cadences in between, 80-110rpm, are 'cruising cadences' for your easy daily rides, tempo or longer daily rides.


Ultimately If you want to race or be a competent recreational rider that wants to match with the racers at the park on the weekend you need to concentrate on all three. There are plenty of books that give different training reigmes for each three.

I started of by going to the local bookstore and browsing. I have since bought a couple to use as a refernce guide for developing my own 'training' regimes.
It's the power you are generating that's the important element for developing VO2 Max, TT power, climbing power, acceleration ability. Cadence, per se, is not really relevant.
 
Sep 1, 2009
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Just make sure you are comfortable with whatever cadence you are riding at. Jan Ulrich famously used a very low cadence and he was / is one of the world's greatest cyclists.

I can tell you that riding at high RPMs will be very stressful when you first start riding that way.
 
Mar 19, 2009
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Leshoops said:
TY again,
I seem to be finding a happy medium as I try the different methods on different terrain.
Getting there!!!!!!

it will take a while to build up your cadence, but if you are logging lots of miles + climbs I would seriously aim for at least 80rpm. pushing bike gears early on is setting you up for injury.

keep the slower cadence for the occassional strenght building ride.
 
mtnracer said:
Just make sure you are comfortable with whatever cadence you are riding at. Jan Ulrich famously used a very low cadence and he was / is one of the world's greatest cyclists.
Media commentators famously claimed Ulrich rode with a low cadence, but it's just another one of cycling's myths.

Suggest looking at some video without sound and timing his pedalling rate. I think you'll find he's often in the 95-100 rpm range. Hardly slow.
 
Mar 18, 2009
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Higher cadence is better in the long run. You lose less momentum with a high cadence and it keeps a more even pressure on the chain which is driving the wheel. You wheel dosent care what gear you are in. It is going to turn as fast as it is being driven. And you as the engine are going to lose torque before endurance. I have found that 100 is a good number for a rider to work up to and play with.

It seems like what all the fast guys are doing.