Cadence (Cycling)

What’s the current thinking on cadence?
If memory serves me correctly it used to be all about high cadence (90-100rpm like pro-cyclists) then the trend was to lower cadence (80rpm - think Sutto was big advocate) then it went to, it’s a personal thing so whatever works for you.
I naturally gravitate to 90rpm+ but did a fairly easy 30min session last night and used different gears and cadences to deliver the same power for 10mins each (95, 79 & 88rpm on avg). My HR was noticeably lower on the 79rpm (lets call it 80) effort for the same speed/power.
I guess my question is whether I should pursue that and try and ride more in that range.
ETA. Additional thought, as it was low power easier session does the simple act of spinning your legs faster use more energy relative to the actual power output than it would on a harder effort, thus distorting the result?

In my n=1 experience, high RPM needs cv system running faster, low RPM will fatigue muscles quicker. That said, I used to go at 85-95rpm and now I feel more comfortable at 75-80 and can put out more consistent power over longer periods.


I recall reading somewhere that HR can be higher with high cadence.

I am like you and naturally ride at a pretty high cadence, of 90+ rpm. However, I have worked specifically to ride at a lower cadence as well. I now find that when I am climbing a decent hill, I will alternate, some sections at 90rpm and other sections at 75rpm, but maintaining a similar power. In my own experience, low cadence creates more burn in my legs.

When riding on the flat at a steady power, I now select a higher gear, riding at 70-80 rpm, at 220w doesn’t create much burn in my legs, but HR is noticeably lower

On Zwift, I gravitate towards higher cadence, in the real world, I mix it up much more

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self selecting cadence isn’t really about how fast your legs turn, it’s about how much you push and for how long, so it’s very related to power required, and yes at low powers the effort of turning the legs faster is annoying so because you don’t need to push harder on the pedals to generate the power you don’t need to manage those legs.

The inertia in the system can also make a big difference, since how much the pedal slows between revolutions influences how long you can push for. That’s why cadence differs uphill or on a shitty low inertia trainer to the flat or downhill.

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Every article I’ve read on this subject has come to the same conclusion. It depends. ( shock )

Individually there is a perfect cadence, where your power output comes at the least cost to your sysem, but it varies from athlete to athlete as you’d expect. The experiment you have done is probably the best way to find out. 90rpm is supposed to be idea, but if you swap from 90 to 80rpm or 100rpm with the same power output and your HR comes down, theres 's your answer.

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One thing I’ve noticed on the Trainer, is that for a given wattage, my cadence drops as I fatigue. So whilst I might feel comfortable in Zwift riding 260w at say 95rpm; after a while I cannot maintain that power at that cadence and I have to drop to under 90 with the added resistance to push against. My cadence is nearly always lower on the road.

This is something to do with proprioception and ‘sense of force’.

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It also varies based on your fitness levels.

@Jorgan pretty sure that drop in cadence is something we all do as part of that self selected cadence.

based on where you have trained it to be and where you feel most comfortable, but neither suggests that this is the best cadence, just the one that is most appropriate for you at this time…

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