Training your Bike Cadence in the Off-Season

A triathlete racing his bike
December 13, 2016

D3 Staff


Are you amazed at Lance Armstrong's cadence? Do you try and achieve that same cadence on your rides? If so, should you? There has been a great amount paid to Lance's high cadence, but does that cadence translate to better performance for triathletes?

When we see Lance at the Tour the focus is on his tremendously high cadence. But it is not just the rate of RPM's that get Lance up the mountains. Force on the pedals also plays a large role in getting Lance to the summit first. Remember that when Lance first started out in cycling he was a masher. He was able to muscle his way to victories in one day races and stages of the Tour De France. By pushing a big gear at a low cadence. Doing this developed Lance's force and muscle endurance. When he started to work on his now famous high cadence his aerobic threshold caught up with his muscular endurance, a balance was struck and he became one of the best cyclists ever.

So, what does this mean for your average triathlete? It's good to be like Lance, if you remember that force plays a big role in his success. Many triathletes already have the aerobic capacity and threshold necessary for a fast bike, but are held back by a lack the force. So, what can you do to increase your power?

Find a slight uphill grade and ride at 55 to 60 R.P.M. for 3-5 minutes, spin easy for 3 minutes and repeat this cycle 4 to 6 times. During this workout your heart rate should stay low, if it rises than you need to shift into a bigger gear. This workout will help you generate more force while pedaling. This can be done during the latter part of the base phase and early in the build phase. After this point you want to incorporate a simple extended force workout like pushing a bigger gear at 60 RPMs for an extended period of time. I have heard that some professional triathletes will do this for an hour, spin for 10 minutes and do another hour of big gear. This type of workout will give you the ability to put that force to the pedals for a longer period. Both workouts are necessary for transferring gains made in the weight room to the road and faster bike times.

Remember that balance is the key here. I feel that triathletes have been focusing too much on spinning and aerobic capacity. The idea of increasing power is not to make you a masher, but to allow you to spin a bigger gear at the same cadence, thus increasing your speed and lowering your bike time. Balancing the ability to spin with more power is going to help you reach new levels next race season.

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