How do you ride?

I've been having a play this week with a borrowed power meter and it got me wondering about the best way to ride in an IM.

I tried spinning at 100rpm in X gear, then 90rpm in Y gear, then  and eventually found that the best effort i could put out was at around 80 rpm in a big gear. 

Is it better to push a bigger gear at a lower rpm or smaller gear at higher rpm with the run in mind?

 

Comments

  • (Lurks)

  • Good question, FF lurking for answer too. image

  • We have Wattbikes at the gym now and after playing around for several sessions I've found I can get a higher power output at around 92 - 95rpm for the same HR. But I guess everyone is different - some more than others image

  • When i was having my bike fit done the chap told me that 80rpm in a big gear suited me better too.

  • I just try not to fall off, anything else is a bonus
  • Like running cadence, it's suggested that the bike should also be around the 90rpm mark. 

    It's not everyones spin speed but a guide to work with. I find it easier to maintain as my legs seem to automatically want to work at that pace.

  • youre a big bloke FF so maybe a lower cadence is better suited to you, if you are to spin at higher revs i would think that larger leg weight you have as opposed to a skinny bloke wouldnt be as efficient -  might be wrong though as with the  larger weight comes more inertia - and then theres the different muscle fibres that is individual to the person - i know - get one with an engine in 

  • i find it really tiring to try and spin fast.....

  • I hear what your saying DK...wheres that Engineer when we need him

  • Don't forget that there's a difference between max power, max continuous power, and max continuous power that allows you to do something mildly resembling a run afterwards.

    It may be that there are three target rev speeds for different races.

    Great experiment though.

  • I prefer big gear and spinning slower, but then what do I know?  Three bike rides so far this year and I've only come off twice!

  • Also lurking as borrowing a friends spare power metre to see how it feels to train with. Currently training using cadence And heart rate so will see if my head and legs can get to grips with the power metre.  One of the coaches is going to do a "test" with me but not sure what that entails yet.

  • Doner Kebab wrote (see)

    youre a big bloke FF so maybe a lower cadence is better suited to you, if you are to spin at higher revs i would think that larger leg weight you have as opposed to a skinny bloke wouldnt be as efficient -  might be wrong though as with the  larger weight comes more inertia - and then theres the different muscle fibres that is individual to the person - i know - get one with an engine in 

    Yep that fits, i have larger leg weightimage

  • Mainly I ride like a donkey on a jet ski.

    However, last week for the first time I managed to spin at 90 and maintain speed.  Usually I grind it out at 70-80 and always wondered why I could never elevate my HR on the flat.  At 90, HR is perfect.

  • Power will be always be higher at a lower cadence for the same effort but that won't necessarily equate to higher speed. Higher cadence gives a more constant supply of power.

    I would think that the better your aerobic capacity the more likely you are to benefit from higher cadence.. like 90-105. If you've got stronger legs relative to your aerobic capacity then a lower cadence might suit better.

  • Drugs aside, Ullrich and Armstrong were a bit handy on a bike and both had different approaches to cadence.

     "I tried spinning at 100rpm in X gear, then 90rpm in Y gear, then  and eventually found that the best effort i could put out was at around 80 rpm in a big gear."

    Max effort may not be the best approach, you might not be able to maintain this over x hours, it's perhaps getting round the course using the least amount of energy?

    I find 90 rpm+ on the bike fits with my (rather unnatural) run cadence.  

  • In a sort of bad english way that was what i was trying to say FF, with best effort not meaning max, but what i could do without blowing out of my arse an hour later

  • I agree with BKins..

    High cadence gives me more overall power, but your heart needs to be fit enough to handle it, (HR goes up with higher cadence)

    Lower RPMs give higher power per pedal stroke, but can mean the legs explode from the effort.

    In power tests I have used both higher cadences and lower ones - I got some of my better efforts at 85ish rpm.  I normally ride at 90 

    on a hill climb last week, (best 30 min power this year) i rode at 77 rpm
    however on the flat where I got a strava pb segment later in the ride I rode at 88 rpm 

    Its really person depandant, and it changes over time.  

    Im sure that doesn't help much image  However using a power meter at least helps you understand whats going on.  A useful beginner book is 'joe friel power meter handbook'  - basic but enough to get you started (along with obviously promoting training peaks image )

     

  • I'm an engineer, not a sports physiologist... people are too multivariate. Machines you can derive from a set of logical axioms, living things lend themselves more to a heuristic approach.

    For Armstrong's return from cancer, Michele Ferrari saw that he'd lost a lot of muscle and the associated strength required to turn the gear he had previously pushed. Owing to the fact that his treatment had spared the "engine" of heart and lungs, the switch to a higher cadence was a conscious move to shift towards a style of cycling with lower load on his muscles and more on the aerobic engine - taking advantage of Armstrong's position.

    On the flip-side, Sutto makes the point that self-selected cadence is generally the best way to go - however he also expressed the opinion that when Xena rode a lower cadence there was a benefit to her run - as a former pro cyclist there are some good lines of comparison that can be drawn.

    Luckily this is an area where there is a significant amount of research. Unfortunately - at least w/r to your question - there aren't many solid conclusions that we can draw. This is probably mostly due to the lack of a clearly defined and understood fatigue model - there are logical arguments for higher and lower cadences within the boundaries of "what we know". 

    Arguments include:

    • Low cadence is good because the metabolic cost is lower.
    • High cadence is good because it facilitates the clearing of waste products from the muscles.
    • Low cadence is bad because the raw force required is higher and this may effect (yes, effect) fatigue.
    • High cadence is bad because you waste energy moving the mass of the leg more times for a given distance.

     

  • BKins wrote (see)

    Power will be always be higher at a lower cadence for the same effort but that won't necessarily equate to higher speed. Higher cadence gives a more constant supply of power.

    I would think that the better your aerobic capacity the more likely you are to benefit from higher cadence.. like 90-105. If you've got stronger legs relative to your aerobic capacity then a lower cadence might suit better.

    Disagree with the first sentence, but otherwise agree. There was a very interesting discussion on slowtwitch a month or so back regarding why TT power and climbing power differ - I'll see if I can find it later (can't do slowtwitch at work!)

  • Doesn't pedalling technique come into it also?  

    Power is a function of 'work' over time, work in turn is (force*distance)

    In this case the distance is the circumference of the pedal revolution so to get a higher wattage you'd want to apply force to as much of the pedal revolution, in the shortest amount of time.

    You could have two riders producing the same power, one spinning (shorter time per revolution) a low gear (low force) with good technique and one pushing a high gear (requiring more force) with poor technique/lower cadence (longer time period).

  • You could also have one spinning with poor technique or one pushing a bigger gear with good technique - the two aren't directly correlated.

  • TheEngineer wrote (see)

    You could also have one spinning with poor technique or one pushing a bigger gear with good technique - the two aren't directly correlated.

    Agreed - the example was just to show you can get the same power output from different techniques, as comments have been made that spinning a light gear = less power than high gear-low cadence.

    Whichever option you go for - working on the efficiency of your pedal stroke will be beneficial.

  • Agreed. One must be careful here not to venture into the argument on whether trying desperately to spin in a perfect circle is beneficial...

  • TheEngineer wrote (see)

    Agreed. One must be careful here not to venture into the argument on whether trying desperately to spin in a perfect circle is beneficial...

    Is it not?

    That's something I'm trying to correct at the moment, after seeing how 'figure of eight' my stroke readings were during a recent VO2 test.

  • I know cycling weekly did an article on this a few years back - but the real outcome was that all riders did different things - so they couldn't identify anything as being ideal for everyone.
  • cougie wrote (see)
    I know cycling weekly did an article on this a few years back - but the real outcome was that all riders did different things - so they couldn't identify anything as being ideal for everyone.

    Much like running stride I suppose - I do have a tendency to overthink things like this.

  • May be a stupid comment, but, wouldn't it be useful to switch between the two and to load up the different systems (muscular/respiratory)?

  • There is no such thing as stupid comments, just stupid people.image

  • I must be stupid, I cant work out if your having a dig Or not image

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