Cadence vs higher gears

Discussion in 'Beginners' started by loki421, 12 Jul 2012.

  1. loki421

    loki421 New Member

    Hi all,

    I'm a new member here so I apologise in advance if this is a common question.

    Basically I've been riding an 18 speed mountain bike for the last 6 weeks or so and I'm upgrading to a good road bike (Trek 1.1 2013, very excited! :smile: ). For the last few weeks I've been trying to keep in the top gear up hills and it's been a real slog sometimes, but it is getting easier. My route takes me around 8 miles round the local country roads and some are quite hilly.

    Anyway, as I'm going to be moving onto a road bike I'm hoping my distance will increase (as I've heard that once you've made the move you can go further and faster). So I'm wondering if I should stick to big gears and knacker myself out after 10 mile or so or gear down to pace myself over a longer route?

    Today I experimented with a 12 mile route over some hilly terrain and geared down quite a lot. My average pace didn't seem to drop much, I've been hovering around 13mph lately and today I came back after 12 miles with an average pace of 12mph, so I'm leaning towards gearing down and making my life easier! lol.

    Just wanted to get some input from some experienced cyclists. I'm trying get my fitness up to a level where I can join my local club, they ride every Sunday for about 50 mile at 14mph pace.

    Looking forward to hearing everyone's thoughts ^_^
  2. stephen.rooke

    stephen.rooke Senior Member

    higher cadence means youll be less tired when riding, but build in some intervals in your rides in higher gears. youll soon be able to get a higher cadence in the bigger gears. i like to alternate quite a bit, if its windy i drop down a few gears and dont bother trying to fight it too much
  3. MrJamie

    MrJamie Oaf on a Bike

    I think its normal when you start out to try to push the biggest gear you can move to go faster, but if your cadence is really low youll probably find if you go a gear lighter youll actually be able to go as fast but easier.

    Less than a year ago I used to live in the big front ring (apart from hills ofc) and my cadence would be something like maybe 55-70rpm and to go faster id be pushing a bigger gear at <60, ive been trying to use the middle ring in general and keep my cadence 70-85 for the past few months. I was going for a flat strava segment earlier on a light trail at about 21mph ( for me on the flat!) and noticed i was about 95rpm, somewhere along the line ive stopped grinding the gears and got comfortable at higher cadence :smile: It definitely feels better, faster and like im putting less strain on my joints.
    BrumJim likes this.
  4. daSmirnov

    daSmirnov Well-Known Member

    Horsham, UK
    I gear to maintain a cadence around 80-90 rpm, which may seem uncomfortably fast at first - but there's some around here who can spin at like 140 rpm. Sometimes I'll run a high-gear on the flat, out of the saddle to sprint if I wanna give my backside a rest. But the rest of the time I'll spin - just as fast and easier on the knees IMO.
  5. TonyEnjoyD

    TonyEnjoyD Veteran

    Best to try and find your most comfortable cadence and use your gearing to maintain that.
    As mentioned in earlier response, once you can comfortably cover your distance in that cadence, start building in some intervals either maintaining the speed using a higher gear - just one would count - then start to increase your cadence but not by too much - just to that comfortable but pushing a bit further/faster.
    There is no set cadence, everyone is different.
    Mine is around 85-90 and I use the gears to my advantage.

    Hope this helps loki41 and welcome aboard
  6. cyberknight

    cyberknight Wibble

    Land of confusion
    Good post !
    To start with look at the spped your doing on the flat in your normal gear and try dropping to 1 easier gear and maintaining the same speed by pedalling a bit faster and you will be suprised how less tireing it is on the legs.
    Once you have experimented with gear choice and found the most comfortable leg speed for you then you can look at doing drills for power or leg speed.I do different things every day depending on how the body feels.Some days i will spin and other i will hit hllls in the big ring or sprint for landmarks.
    Look at the pro peleton and you will see a wide range of cadence , wiggo was spinning away and then they cut to jens voight grinding the biigest ass gear he could and still nearly winning the stage .
    I am a spinner by nature but it pays to find what works for you.
  7. Andy_R

    Andy_R Hard of hearing..I said Herd of Herring..oh FFS..

    County Durham

    Your gears are there to help you maintain the same cadence. Pedal at the same speed rate all the time, use gears to go faster or slower. Simples.
  8. HovR

    HovR Über Member

    You've tried "grinding" the gears, now try gearing down and spinning. You'll soon see what suits you - My personal experience is that spinning is far more efficient, and I can cycle further and faster whilst spinning compared to grinding.

    Don't worry too much about speed for now, work on increasing your endurance and speed increase naturally follows.
    david k likes this.
  9. You've got to find the right balance for you, too high a cadence you may be wasting energy spinning when you don't need too and visa versa pushing too high a gear whilst damaging your knees will also tire you out. As above I'd work on increasing your endurance and speed will naturally follow.
  10. GrasB

    GrasB Veteran

    Nr Cambridge
    Best to try & keep your cadence between 60 & 120rpm. As a general rule you'll naturally hold a higher cadence the closer you are to maximum sustainable power you are, your cadence will naturally reduce the steeper the incline. Beyond that it's a case of balancing your muscle load & cardio vascular system.

    Too high a cadence causing excessive knee join wear & strain (the term 'damage' in this frame of reference means wear & strain) & so does too low a cadence, also just for fun producing too much power compared to your level of training at any cadence...
  11. that's quite a range there - I suspect most cyclists already fall into that category by default...
    yello and david k like this.
  12. Sandra6

    Sandra6 Veteran

    According to my spin class instructor - a cyclist - the optimum cadence is between 80 and 110 rpm, and you really shouldn't be going any faster than that or it's wasted energy.
    I only use my highest gears when I'm coming down hill, but I do find once I've moved up to them I don't drop as many gears back down on the flat, or the next hill.
    If my cadence goes up too high I find I'm bouncing in the saddle so I have to gear up to get comfortable again.
    I think with a new bike you should play through them for a while and try different paces until you learn what suits you.
    david k likes this.
  13. GrasB

    GrasB Veteran

    Nr Cambridge
    Most will most of the time, however especially when climbing riders often let the cadence drop well bellow 60rpm, sometimes as low as 30rpm. Also a lot of riders when descending will extend their cadence well up into the 130-140rpm range. If you've not got a good pedal motion then this can cause problems. However, if you can keep a smooth pedal motion you can extend that range further up & down (there's more scope to go upwards without putting undue stress on your soft & hard tissues).
  14. Nearly there

    Nearly there Über Member

    Anyone with a compact or double set up spin on the smaller ring?
  15. quoi?
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