2 part question on watts & cadence



jeff828

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May 2, 2004
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1) Riding with my group on the weekends I notice I am not able to ride up a certain hill with the leaders, Its about a 2-3minute climb and in order for me to stay with them at the pace they set, I have to hold 300watts, I can hold it for about 1minute then start drifting off the back to eventually settle in at about 250watts for the rest of the climb. Is it correct to say that if I don’t increase my watts to 300 for 2-3 minutes, then I will probably never stay with them on that climb?
I live in an area where there are no hills like that, mostly flat, My question is, if I were to train to be able to hold 300watts for 2-3minutes on the FLATS or on the trainer will that convert over and allow me to stay with those guys then on that hill? After all watts are watts, correct?

2) spinning a 53x17 @ 25mph at a high cadence (about 100rpm) seems to tax my heart and lungs and legs more then when I shift to a bigger gear 53x15 @ 25mph (about 80rpm) and pedal the gear over smoothly. My HR lowers and legs don’t feel as tired and I have more power. I have done low rpm training for 2 seasons so I have learned to pedal lightly and all the way around smoothly, my thought for riding this way was: pedaling fast requires energy for the muscles to fire quickly, over & over (your legs can get tired even spinning with light resistance) I seem to have learned how to pedal a lower cadence (while producing power) but it does not tax the heart & lungs because Im not at a high rpm and pedaling with that light/smooth stroke I am able to relax the leg muscles in order to get more blood flow to the muscles and recruit more muscle fibers since Im applying powerall the way around. Does anyone know why this is happening and is my thinking wrong?

Thanks for your input
 

jerryz

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Dec 7, 2004
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jeff828 said:
1) Riding with my group on the weekends I notice I am not able to ride up a certain hill with the leaders, Its about a 2-3minute climb and in order for me to stay with them at the pace they set, I have to hold 300watts, I can hold it for about 1minute then start drifting off the back to eventually settle in at about 250watts for the rest of the climb. Is it correct to say that if I don’t increase my watts to 300 for 2-3 minutes, then I will probably never stay with them on that climb?
I live in an area where there are no hills like that, mostly flat, My question is, if I were to train to be able to hold 300watts for 2-3minutes on the FLATS or on the trainer will that convert over and allow me to stay with those guys then on that hill? After all watts are watts, correct?
The short answer is 300 watts is 300 watts. The trainer 300 watts is doesn't have any wind resistance. But if you can out out 300 watts you can put out 300 watts.

jeff828 said:
2) spinning a 53x17 @ 25mph at a high cadence (about 100rpm) seems to tax my heart and lungs and legs more then when I shift to a bigger gear 53x15 @ 25mph (about 80rpm) and pedal the gear over smoothly. My HR lowers and legs don’t feel as tired and I have more power. I have done low rpm training for 2 seasons so I have learned to pedal lightly and all the way around smoothly, my thought for riding this way was: pedaling fast requires energy for the muscles to fire quickly, over & over (your legs can get tired even spinning with light resistance) I seem to have learned how to pedal a lower cadence (while producing power) but it does not tax the heart & lungs because Im not at a high rpm and pedaling with that light/smooth stroke I am able to relax the leg muscles in order to get more blood flow to the muscles and recruit more muscle fibers since Im applying powerall the way around. Does anyone know why this is happening and is my thinking wrong?

Thanks for your input
This is a little trickier. Most studies show that the self selected cadence is the most effecient. Having said that, the lower the cadence the more power per stroke is required. So, by increasing your cadence you can actually decrease the power per stroke required to maintain a certain power output. This does move the stress to your cardio system. And not everyone is going to be a spinner like Lance. But getting your cadence up to 90 - 95 has some benefits. On the hill mentioned on part one. AN area that you would see an improvement would be as your cadence fell you had more room to fall. If you start at 80 where does you cadence go? If you start at 90 - 95 where can it go? And on the steepest hardest hills everyones cadence falls.
 

frenchyge

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Apr 3, 2005
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jeff828 said:
Is it correct to say that if I don’t increase my watts to 300 for 2-3 minutes, then I will probably never stay with them on that climb?
'Fraid so, unless you lose some weight or they slow down. :)

jeff828 said:
My question is, if I were to train to be able to hold 300watts for 2-3minutes on the FLATS or on the trainer will that convert over and allow me to stay with those guys then on that hill? After all watts are watts, correct?
I'd say yes. Climbing the hill may feel a little different than riding the trainer at the same power, but with the motivation of holding those guys' wheel as you climb, I'd say you could do it.

jeff828 said:
Does anyone know why this is happening and is my thinking wrong?
A faster cadence does produce a higher HR, breathing rate, and possibly higher perceived exertion. The pitfall in those observations is to conclude that because of them you would not be able to produce the same power for the same duration at that higher cadence, and that's not *necessarily* correct (although it might be). Just because it feels harder doesn't mean your body couldn't keep it up for just as long. You'd have to do some testing with different cadences during your trainer workouts to see if the lower cadences really improve your ability to produce power for longer durations, or if it just brings your breathing back to an easier rhythm and feels more comfortable.
 

peterpen

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Jul 29, 2003
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jeff828 said:
1) Is it correct to say that if I don’t increase my watts to 300 for 2-3 minutes, then I will probably never stay with them on that climb?

Yes, unless you lose lots of weight. ;)

jeff828 said:
I live in an area where there are no hills like that, mostly flat, My question is, if I were to train to be able to hold 300watts for 2-3minutes on the FLATS or on the trainer will that convert over and allow me to stay with those guys then on that hill? After all watts are watts, correct?

Watts are watts, but climbing recuits different muscles than riding on the flat, especially if you're climbing out of the saddle. Personally, I can't be strong on hills unless I train on them.

re: 2) Low RPMs means less stress on your heart/lungs, more on your muscles. It may feel light to you b/c you're used to it, but a lower cadence at the same wattage means more force applied to the pedals. This can be a problem when you call on those muscles late in a race, say to close a gap or for the sprint. Also, it's harder to react to surges and attacks at lower RPMs. That said, if you don't have the aerobic engine and/or haven't trained yourself to use high RPMs, it's not going to feel good.
 

RapDaddyo

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May 17, 2005
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First, there's a pretty big difference between 2 and 3 mins when you are at or near your max power for the duration. As you have discovered, even one minute is hard at 300w. You should be able to work out what you need by the average speed during the minute you can stay with them and the length of the hill. Once you can hold 300w on the flat for the required duration, you should have no problem holding 300w on the climb because the bike doesn't run out from under you on a hill like it does on the flat. I find it easier to ride at high power on hills and into the wind. Today it blew like hell (25-30mph) and I had one of my best rides because it was so easy to hold power into the wind. As to cadence, I agree with the other comments that it doesn't matter -- choose the one that feels best.
 

jeff828

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May 2, 2004
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THANKS ALOT to all for the responses, it was very helpful. I usually have a 90-95 cadence anyway but there’s 1 workout I do that involves this low rpm & longer duration. And yes I have become accustomed to this 1 sort of training, I have noticed a slight decrease in cadence in races because of it, so now I power the flats & rollers 53x16,15 in a low rpm 70-75 and when I come to a hill I hold 95-105 so I get a mix on the days I do this type training. This is only 1 or 2 days a week I ride like this, its not that I do it everyday. Thanks again guys.
 

macca1234

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Aug 9, 2005
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i ride hills at 60rpm in gears that I usually dont even use on flats and i dropped 48/50 of the local riders on a 7km climb, so just do what feels sexy to you. It works for me but i am only 118 pounds :rolleyes:
 

Krazyderek

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Mar 2, 2006
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One other thing i don't think anyone mentioned is that (i beleive) your cardio system can recovery 30% faster then your large muscle groups, so if you spin for the first half of a race, eat and hydrate, then you'll recover faster for the end of the race (final sprint or break away) then if you were mashing for the first hour of the race. All depends where your strength's lie though.