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  1. #1
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    Higher RPM for Power Intervals?

    After getting destroyed by some 4 minute intervals, I was wondering about a couple of things.

    On my road bike, I try to get in the upper 80s to 90 rpm - I tend to have to force myself to spin faster as it doesn't come naturally to me.

    On my mountain bike, I spin slower than that. A lot slower on steep climbs.

    If the point of doing intervals is to go faster on a mountain bike, would it make sense to do the intervals at lower rpm to simulate actual ride conditions?

    I've found that its easier to hold more power on an indoor trainer with the rpms above 90. But, I don't think I'd do that on a steep climb or technical section where I'd need the power on a mountain bike ride.

    What do you guys do to balance resistance versus rpm for intervals?

  2. #2
    Always Learning
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    Quote Originally Posted by crashtoomuch View Post
    After getting destroyed by some 4 minute intervals, I was wondering about a couple of things.

    On my road bike, I try to get in the upper 80s to 90 rpm - I tend to have to force myself to spin faster as it doesn't come naturally to me.

    On my mountain bike, I spin slower than that. A lot slower on steep climbs.

    If the point of doing intervals is to go faster on a mountain bike, would it make sense to do the intervals at lower rpm to simulate actual ride conditions?

    I've found that its easier to hold more power on an indoor trainer with the rpms above 90. But, I don't think I'd do that on a steep climb or technical section where I'd need the power on a mountain bike ride.

    What do you guys do to balance resistance versus rpm for intervals?
    Vary your cadence. Do some at 80 rpm, some at 75, some at 85, some at 90, some even higher, some even lower, etc... . We use all kinds of cadences out on the trail - so why not train the same way?

    I can't imagine doing an out of saddle 60 - 70 second grunt power climb at a cadence of 90 or higher. But I can imagine it in the 65-75 rpm range.

  3. #3
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    I would say that the specificity principle would dominate here. Practice like you race, and with the bike you race with, especially when your key event gets closer.

    The only other consideration I've read about was muscle twitch development (Dr. Coggan mentioned this once). If you lack quick-twitch fibers and would gain performance by having more of them, then you should do more low cadence work. If you lack slow-twitch fibers (like me) and would gain performance by having more of them, then do more high cadence work.

    This would be determined by current perceived muscle makeup, and strengths and weakness in your event focus (XC, cross, crits, etc.).
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  4. #4
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    Whatever you decide to do about the power intervals, I can't help thinking that working on your cadence would be another good training goal. Especially since you've observed that you can develop more power at a higher cadence. With practice and greater comfort at higher cadence, you should self-select a higher cadence and be more faster-er.

    When the books I have talk about training to have a higher selected cadence, it's generally an intervals-type workout, although they don't pay attention to power, just cadence. Basically just dropping a series of 2-minute periods at a higher-than-comfortable cadence (but still controlled, not bouncing) into a base ride.

    Ultimately, I think we'd all do better with a nice, wide power band - good to have the ability to do low cadence too.
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  5. #5
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    I always vary my cadence when doing intervals. The whole point being that I am not always in the perfect gear for a climb (may get hung up by traffic or someone spinning out). So my cadence will vary. I, like you, prefer to keep it in the higher range.
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  6. #6
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    I am with ponch on specificity.

    When you are on MTB you are traveling slower mph than on road/trainer and the 'dead spots' in pedal stroke @ 6 and 12 o'clock are magnified. So you can vary/lower the RPM (rpm easier to type out than cadence) on road/trainer and it may help - but still not same thing as riding off-road.

    Do you monitor/record cadence on your mtb that you know that you are @ slower rpm?

    My experience with cadence...
    I was tested by a coach on computrainer -test was to failure - he raised power level 10-20 watts at a time. Prior to test I asked him about cadence. He said that individuals select their own 'natural rpm' by the load placed upon them. During the test, (I was in one gear the whole time), as he raised load on computrainer, as test started at an easy load, I 'naturally' went from 70 rpm to high rpm (90's?) as I approached failure.

    So, I guess what I am saying is that if 'I' were not 'watching RPM' I would 'naturally' choose most efficient RPM pending on load.

    On another note:
    In Hunter Allen's recent book Cutting-Edge Cycling:
    Dr. Andy Coggan says that due to multiple lines of evidence - he does not believe that cyclists can gain any significant benefit by performing specific pedaling drills. Rather cyclists should focus on maximizing their power output at a cadence for the individual's characteristics and the nature and demands of the event.

    In same book - It says Hunter Allen - for 20m wattage tests has an "Optimal Cadence Testing Protocol", he will have new athletes do first test at what ever rpm feels best to them. Next week, have client perform 10 rpm below and week after that 10 rpm above first test to see if there is a more optimal cadence.

  7. #7
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    Anytime I do actual structured intervals, I measure my performance (at least for the last 20 years or so) Anytime I measure my performance, I try to beat my current record by producing as much constant power as possible. For me, this means 102-6 rpm cadence.

    For structure intervals, I always use roughly the same cadence because that is where I produce the most power. I figure the other, less used cadences will be trained as a by product of riding a bike in race-like conditions ...or on the SS.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndrwSwitch View Post
    Ultimately, I think we'd all do better with a nice, wide power band - good to have the ability to do low cadence too.

    ^^^

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by J.B. Weld View Post
    ^^^
    "Mixed training produces mixed results." --someone who seemed knowledgeable at sometime in my past ...don't recall who.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Poncharelli View Post
    The only other consideration I've read about was muscle twitch development (Dr. Coggan mentioned this once). If you lack quick-twitch fibers and would gain performance by having more of them, then you should do more low cadence work. If you lack slow-twitch fibers (like me) and would gain performance by having more of them, then do more high cadence work.

    This would be determined by current perceived muscle makeup, and strengths and weakness in your event focus (XC, cross, crits, etc.).
    Ponch

    You have replied on an earlier post of mine - (ex short sprinter, thanks again for your observation)
    Preparing for first MTB race of the season

    On my 20 min test on trainer- I get best power / lowest HR at relatively low cadence compared to others I read about - those who get best power @ 90+ rpm. Does this agree with the Dr. Coggan comments you made above?

  11. #11
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    You have some pretty useful information about yourself that you can use to guide your training.
    -It appears that you produce your best power outputs at 90ish rpm.
    -You preferred cadence for steep climbs on a mountain bike is 60-70rpm.

    From this it appears to improve your performance you need to either improve your power output at lower rpms or you need to learn to climb a higher cadence (easier gear) on your MTB.

    If I were you I would do a fair bit of low cadence climbing intervals on the road to improve your ability to sustain a higher pedaling forces. At the same time while mountain biking I would work on being able to pedal efficiently off road at a higher cadence.

    I have a similar characteristics. I have been successful at improving my ability to turn a higher cadence off road, however being able to produce power at a lower cadence is still a work in progress.
    "The best pace is suicide pace, and today is a good day to die." Steve Prefontaine

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by scottz123 View Post
    Ponch

    You have replied on an earlier post of mine - (ex short sprinter, thanks again for your observation)
    Preparing for first MTB race of the season

    On my 20 min test on trainer- I get best power / lowest HR at relatively low cadence compared to others I read about - those who get best power @ 90+ rpm. Does this agree with the Dr. Coggan comments you made above?
    It seems most people get best power at lower cadence for hills:
    The relationship between freely... [Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2012] - PubMed - NCBI

    Here's information (not a study) about muscle twitch type and training considerations:
    http://www.wholeathlete.com/assets/d...type-print.pdf

    I'm still looking for the study about muscle twitch development from cadence targets, but can't seem to find it. I know I've read it before.
    Last edited by Poncharelli; 02-25-2013 at 12:41 PM.
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