Racing cadence

Wondering what everyone’s thoughts are on racing cadence? I think I’ve always had a fairly high cadence and prefer to spin up hills. Was reading the pros tend to have a lower cadence in their Ironman races. I’ve never really thought about it in the past but wondered if there was merit in trying to reduce my cadence. I was doing strength intervals (5 mins at low rpm and fairly high power, 5 mins recovery, for 2-3 hours) and was quite surprised by the high power for low cadence at the end, with a heart rate that was lower than I thought. Might do some experiments on the turbo. I’d have thought it would make your legs “heavier” and so the run might be tougher but if you can drop your heart rate and get used to the lower rpm then maybe worth thinking about…

Brett Sutton has talked about it for years - the longer the distance the lower the cadence.


Whatever you pick you need to spend time training it before judging whether it works for you or not.

My first IM, which I did in a very respectable time for me, I had an avg cadence of 95 and a good run.

My best IM, 4+ years later it was 78 and I also had a good run.

When I did my first IM I couldn’t imagine being able to ride along comfortably at 80, let alone below it.

Now I couldn’t ride for 20 minutes at 95 without blowing up.

There is a lot of evidence that lower cadences are more efficient at lower power levels but it will also depend on the individual.

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Yeah, he’s the one that sprung to mind as soon as I saw the question.
I agree with the longer equals lower assessment. It’s how I’ve naturally gravitated as I’ve gone longer, without any direct focus of achieving that result.

I’ve always rationalised it as follows:

In shorter tri’s, you’re not working for anywhere near as long so can hold a higher HR (that often results from higher cadences) for the necessary duration. Generating the same power from a higher cadence reduces the force required from the muscles, saving them for the faster requirements placed on them for a short 5-10k run.

In longer tri’s, you want to manage energy consumption a lot more. Keeping the HR lower is helpful to that. You are working at a much lower % of threshold, and so the fact that the power is being generated more from muscular force is less important, as it’s still a relatively moderate force.

Probably a really rubbish physiological explanation in terms of being technically accurate, but seems to loosely align with things I’ve read.

One of his articles here:


article by Joe Friel says if the performance limiter is VO2 max like in a Sprint, a high cadence like 100rpm will allow you to reach a high % of VO2max. But if the performance limiter is energy management over time like in an IM, a lower cadence like 80rpm, which is more efficient.


From the studies I’ve read. If you run the trial with people who have a naturally high cadence, then high cadence comes out as more efficient. If you run a trial with people who have a low cadence, then low cadence wins.

Any study that allows people to self select their cadence…their self selected cadence comes out top.

Daniella Ryf has I think a cadence around 70, she’s probably the best female ironman cyclist at the moment. Froome has a ridiculous high cadence, but Quintana is much lower, Nibali in the middle.

Personally I think people over think cadence. It’s true that as I get fitter and faster, my cadence has increased, but its that way round. I don’t think that by just increasing my cadence I’m suddenly going to get faster.

That, except it is not ‘natural’ cadence

he misses the point slightly…