The big debate!
Well firstly let’s establish a few things. Long course athletes will ride a different cadence to short course and drafting athletes – for example the Elite cyclist will sit at 95-100 RPM when racing, while the long course Ironman athlete will sit around 80-85 RPM.
Now this is the debate: Having a high cadence will help you run faster off the bike, but having a low cadence will make you work harder and be stronger on the bike!
Firstly, lower cadence should not be used in junior athletes as they are still growing and don’t need the extra stress on the knees and other joints etc. They need to know how to pedal correctly and fast…. This is where track cycling is a great learning curve for all young aspiring triathletes.
There is a time and place for low cadence sessions in short course and Olympic distance athletes, and that is in training! Without you even knowing it, hills are a form of low cadence training. This is forced strength work on the bike.
So what cadence are we seeing in Olympic distance drafting athletes? 90 RPM in training and 95-100 RPM in racing is the common theme and seems to sit well with a lot of my athletes. It still allows them to be able to run fast off the bike.
Now onto Ironman and long course athletes. Yes, you want to be able to run well off the bike. However, being stronger and being in a lower gear is a much better and time effective way for a faster Ironman than spinning your way to improvements which will take years of training.
Now this is not to say your next Ironman in 4 weeks’ time needs to be at 70 RPM- No! You need to train this and have the proper adaptation in training first, then you will become efficient at this.
Benefits of having a low cadence:
· Smoother pedal stroke
· Builds muscular strength
· Lower heart rate than spinning at 100 RPM at the same power
· Over a longer distance you will be much faster than spinning
Conclusion: There is a time for low cadence in all training. Hill repeats offer an easy way to train low cadence. During a race short course athletes will tend to have a cadence of 95-100RPM, which allows them be able to run fast off the bike.
For the long course low 80's RPM is the preferred race cadence. Research has shown that within experienced cyclists low cadences are more efficient than high cadence. They use less energy to produce a sub-max power output at lower cadence than high.
Here are a couple of our top sessions we use for using low cadence work:
15 min easy 6 x 1 minute single leg focus on smooth stroke 5 min Zone 2 (Steady) 3 x 10 minutes at 60 RPM (or for those of you that don't have cadence meter, it is low cadence grinding away. Heart rate should only sit high Zone 2 however, but legs will feel it) 5 min easy spinning in between 5-10 min easy
Warm up - 15- 20 min easy Find a hill, around 5-10% gradient. Complete 4 x 6-8 min Seated in Zone 3-Zone 4 (Mod hard – hard). We are looking to aim for your FTP or just over. Recovery back down. Being seated works the glutes and quads a little more. This Gives you a lot of strength training. Cool down 20 min easy
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