Spring is now upon us. Time to get off those trainers, and start spinning outside. One of the tougher things to grasp for slower cyclists who want to get fast is the 90 revolutions per minute cadence. (RPM) Constantly athletes question why do we have to peddle so fast? Let’s just jam it in the big ring and grind! There are a few ways to explain this but I like to make the attempt to keep things simple…
First, I’m not a poet but, here is the poetry in motion, one of the coolest and most colorful cyclists in the last generation or two, Jens Voigt breaking the world 1 hr. record, riding about 31-3/4 mph. – at 43 years-old, wow he’s old!: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wjjM2tI6THs)
At any place in that video, take a stop watch and count his pedal strokes over ten seconds and multiply that by six. What you’re looking for is one count every time one foot bottoms out (count the right or the left, not both), you’ll come up with 100-108 rpm. Now keep in mind, Jens is not your ordinary cyclist. He’s on a single-speed track bike – there is no coasting on that bike. If you’re moving you must pedal. The single speed is a great way to teach you how to spin.
The point I’m trying to make, is cycling with a high cadence is so important to generating and maintaining speed. There is a simple way to look at this, let’s simplify the concept. If you take weight lifting and doing bicep curls with a 30 pound weight, how many single arm curls could you do? 10? 20? 30? Now, how many could you do with a 5 pound weight? You could go all day. Cycling with an easier gear works on the same principle. Unfortunately, if you’re going to use an easy gear, to go fast you have to pedal that gear at a faster cadence to generate the speed. Why 90? Well this is fairly simple. First, getting up to 100-110 is a bit difficult to sustain but more importantly, if you’re riding in a group and pushing 90, you have a little gear left to respond to a sudden surge, it’s that simple. At 90 you have enough gear to accelerate. At 110, it’s too hard to get your legs to spin faster without a massive amount of training.
Now that we’ve established that you can push less weight if you can pedal a little faster, training to do does not come without practice. Lots of miles on the road in one gear at 90 rpm’s! NOTHING COMES WITHOUT WORK! We have been practicing this skill all winter on the trainer gradually increasing our ride time at 90 rpms… This has given the athletes I’ve been working with a feeling for what it will be like out on the road. If you work at it, training your body to use a higher cadence should only take a few weeks at the most, perfecting it takes longer.
Now here are some of the benefits of the higher cadence training: First most obvious, being able to ride faster and hold more speed for a longer period of time and acceleration. Jumping from a 90 cadence to 110 in the sixth gear is a hell of a lot faster and easier than going from a 60 to a 70 cadence in a big gear in your big ring. Also you are less likely to build up lactic acid in those legs, which some of you need for running! Second is climbing. When I’ve got that 90 cadence already in motion I hit a hill with it, selecting gears to maintain that cadence is very simple. That combined with being able to stay in the saddle and continue to accelerate, will find you dropping people like fly’s. Finally, and one of the most important reasons for triathletes, who are trying to go faster with the least amount of energy consumed, you’ll find that once you get used to that cadence, it’s easier to hold a certain speed when you reach your happy zone between 85 and 95 rpm. So don’t just take my word for it, try it for yourself. Remember it takes time, so do the work! And if you still have doubts, view it this way: Who’s right, you or every professional who has clipped into a pedal in the last 40 years or so? Learn to push the easier gear with a higher cadence, and leave your competition behind. “ON YOUR LEFT”