Hello GFNY Cozumel riders and greetings from AthletiCamps! We hope you have been able to train hard and enjoy yourself as you prepare for the race coming in November.
August is nearly behind us and with the time we have left until race day I want to address a training topic that can have significant impact on how strong you ride and finish the Gran Fondo. Today’s topic is cadence. As it applies to cycling cadence is the number of times your pedals make a full revolution over the span of a minute. Cadence and torque are directly related vis-à-vis power. For example, to hold 380 watts at a cadence of 80rpm, you need to produce an average of roughly 50 Newton Meters of torque. Holding 110rpm at 380 watts will require an average torque of about 34 Newton Meters.
The significance of this is that you can determine whether to mash harder on the pedals or spin the pedals faster to hold your target power (or you can proxy heart rate for power if you prefer). Here are a few basic principles to keep in mind as you put some finishing touches on your race preparation.
1. Optimal cadence is a myth – There is no single cadence model that applies the same to all athletes. The human body tends to fall into a naturally selected cadence without trying to hit a specific number. We have heard people talk about anywhere between 90 and 100 rpm being optimal, but not all people are wired the same. Some very successful time trialists mash at 85-90 rpm, while others spin 100-105.
2. Your own personal cadence preference will change – As you train and adapt to various environmental factors (climbs, headwind, etc.) your cadence will adjust. If you have some knee irritation or other leg/hip related issue your body will naturally perform better and hold up longer with a higher cadence. Higher torque generally stresses your joints and tissues more than an increase in cadence will.
3. Train at a variety of RPM’s – By forcing your body to adapt to both lower and higher cadences you will have the ability to handle all types of terrain, weather, and other demands that race day will throw at you. One drill we recommend Slow Frequency Repetitions (SFR) intervals that occur at a very low cadence with a very high torque. This promotes multiple adaptations, but one of the most significant is the ability to push a bigger gear to hold a higher power. By getting used to the sensation of high torque, low RPM you will know how to handle it come race day.
4. When resistance is high you can respond to speed/effort changes more easily with higher cadence – Whether climbing an iconic pass used in Le Tour de France or grinding into a cross headwind in Cozumel, responding to rapid changes in pace is easier done when spinning a faster gear. This is even more true when the pace is already very high because the torque you are applying is great. It is easier to increase spin rate than it is to add more torque.
5. Don’t get too hung up on achieving something specific – My mother used to tell me not to sweat the small stuff. Your body knows what it needs to do and will find a way to operate most efficiently. Training will definitely help you change your efficiency at higher or lower RPM’s than you are used to, but don’t stress about becoming a masher if you typically spin, or becoming a spinner if you typically mash. Ride the cadence that allows you to have the most fun.
Having the ability to change your spin rate as demands dictate is a tremendous skill to have during a race or ride. Each rider should determine what their general cadence preferences are and spend some time training at both higher and lower RPM’s. These differences should be enough to make you feel a little bit like a fish out of water. By spending time above and below your comfort zone you will force your body to adapt and be prepared to change as necessary.
Questions? Feel free to contact us or sign up for one of our GFNY Cozumel training programs!
Ride safe, ride strong,