Spinning in a high cadence helps you climb longer and faster
Scaling mountains on your bike takes more than brute force, according to Spanish researchers. By using a higher cadence, you can last longer and increase your average speed.
In a study conducted during last year’s Vuelta a Espana, scientists from the University of Leon monitored eleven riders during two of the high mountain stages. Tracking their cadence, heart rate, speed, and power over the two days, the researchers found a direct correlation to spinning a lower gear at an increased pedal rate to a better overall performance.
Though many cyclists feel more comfortable churning out big and slow gears, pros have taken notice of high-cadence climbing since Lance Armstrong took the Tour de France by storm. While the likes of perennial runner-up Jan Ullrich spun around 60 rpm’s, Armstrong kept it quick at more than 100 rpm. What happens when you increase your cadence like this, says study author Jose Rodriguez-Marroyo, is that you decrease muscle tension and thereby reduce the overall fatigue from climbing. In essence, you can go faster for longer.
The average cyclist can apply the same strategy to their climbing, but it will take training, adds Rodriguez-Marroyo. “The combination of a higher gear with higher pedaling rate will improve your climbing, but you need a training program to adapt.”
To boost your cadence and ride more like Lance you need to start with an efficient pedal stroke and then begin to focus on boosting pedal speed. So start by smoothing things out with our pedal efficiency training feature and then try Chris Carmichael’s workout for training your legs to spin faster.