The Bike Cadence Debate Resurfaces

It is good to see Trisutto agrees with Onefortypointsix Media in regards to “low cadence” spinning. We have been saying this for years. High cadence may be fine for the top 2-5% of long course triathletes but the rest of us can not maintain such a pace. We at Onefortypointsix Media do not call it “low cadence”, we call it “sustainable cadence”. We call it sustainable because your rpms should be such that you can hold your cadence throughout your ride and still be able to actually run during the run.

When ramping up for the 2013 Ironman Lake Placid, it was clear that 85 to 95 rpms were out of the question. It just wasn’t going to happen. What I did was I looked to my Porsche 944 and how well she raced around those Adirondack Mountains for inspiration. I saw even though the tach went to 6500 rpms, she was most comfortable at about 2800 to 3100 rpms. She was smooth, quiet and powerful in that rpm region. I took that knowledge gained and transferred it over to cycling. I found that 68 to 75 rpms was a good solid cadence that could be sustained and I just used the gears to get me through the course. Early on, I had the strategy of 14 mph would result in an 8 hour bike split which would have me off the bike around 4:30PM leaving me 7:30 to get through the marathon. I needed to find a pace and gearing ratio strategy that would allow me to hold “engine power” while going through my shifting patterns to create power and/or speed. I learned that on the flats (Route 9N) I could go big front ring and mid cassette rear and with a rpm of around 72 I could average roughly 18.5 mph. Perfect. This was good because the 7,000 feet of gain on the IMLP bike course would exact its toll. I needed to discover gearing ratios that would enable me to maintain motor power while not exerting too much energy bleed out (Read: Porsche 944) that would be needed later on in the run. The cadence to gear ratio puzzle became intense during the 3 major climbs (Out of town by the ski jumps, Route 86 climb out of The Jays and Route 86 up through The Notch). I found by dropping to the small ring and to the bottom third of the cassette allowed me to continue a sustained quality effort with only a moderately lessened output in mph while keeping me as fresh as possible for the run.

The high cadence myth remains strong with triathletes because it is “how the pros race”. Well, at Ironman Lake Placid, Andy Potts passed me like he was on a motorcycle. How on Earth can I compete with that so why on Earth would I train like that? The whole idea behind a sustainable cadence is that you train to your ability and develop a cadence and gear ratio that works for you and you alone. You are not Andy Potts, Rinny Carfrae or the athlete you are always bumping against in your local sprint races so why should you train like them?

I am glad to see Trisutto agrees with us but this debate has been settled for years in the eyes of us at Onefortypointsix Media. It is simple. Ride for yourself, train for yourself and have fun. Everything else is just fluff.

Posted in Triathlon News

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