Tag Archives: Cadence

How slow can you go?

Wednesday’s ride wasn’t for reaching some goal. It wasn’t me trying to increase my fitness. It was a ride just to get away.

I struggle sometimes when life seems to be piling up on me. I know this happens to most everyone, but we all deal with it differently. I get almost paralyzed.

It is hard for me to concentrate. I find myself just staring at the task I need to accomplish. Of course, it doesn’t help anything to just stare! Reason knows that the best thing I could do is to just start. Emotion just keeps staring.

I have found at times like these that the bicycle is great therapy. There have been many times I’ve left for a ride under these clouds and returned with a sunny disposition. More times than not I also return with a solution to some roadblock I’m facing.


I set out in search of that relief. While on Tuesday night I focused on riding with a high cadence, for this ride I just focused on going slow. Low cadence doesn’t always mean you are pushing a big gear and going fast. It can also mean you are just putting along taking in what is around you.

Wondering how long it would take me to climb Paris Mountain at that pace, I started climbing the Furman side of Altamont. I’m so used to going hard up that climb I had to work to hold back.

It gave me a chance to look around at things and notice some characteristics of the road I hadn’t really paid attention to in the past. It also freed my mind to think of blessings I have in my life. It was a pleasant 20 plus minutes.

11733970_10155852982580650_838457357_oI woke up this morning in a better frame of mind — until I looked at Stava and noticed that John James had taken the KOM on Walker Wimps.


Can you fail an FTP test?

Saturday after my functional threshold power test, I sent the data to my coach, Jim Cunningham. He was traveling in California and was unable to give me his analysis that day. However, on Sunday afternoon just before I sat down for a meal with family, the phone rang. It was Jim.

After the normal exchange of pleasantries — it was raining in Greenville and sunny in California — Jim got down to business, “I looked at your data and thought it would be best to give you a call to get your thought process during the test.” Somehow I figured that would be the case. My approach was probably a little unorthodox.

“I noticed that you had a higher cadence in the beginning with an average wattage around 260 watts,” he continued, “but then your cadence drops significantly three different times and at those points your wattage is over 300 watts.” Yep, the graphs don’t lie.  That is exactly what happened.

I explained to him that I was fearful of starting out too strong and that I took it easy in the beginning but measured my effort to keep myself close to my known FTP average. The bursts were times when I stood and dropped the cadence in order to increase the wattage to bring the average up. The times between the bursts were me attempting not to red zone too early from the harder efforts.

“I understand,” he replied. “However, typically in a TT effort you try to maintain a steady effort.” Somehow I knew he was going to say that. “I think at some point in the future we need to have you do another TT effort, but this time keep you in the 80s for your cadence. It could be that for TT efforts you will do better with a lower cadence.”

I explained to him that when I ride at a higher cadence it gives me a very good cardio workout, but I cannot sustain high wattage for very long doing so. I get much more fatigued when I am spinning at 95 to 100 rpm in order to hold a 270+ power level. Bigger gear in the 80s and I can hold that power level much longer.

On Sunday night my workout was supposed to be an hour ride with a large portion of that in a 190 to 220 watts zone. I determined I wasn’t going to look at the cadence readout on my Garmin Edge 500. I was just going to find a gear that allowed me to hold that wattage and felt comfortable to me.

At the end of the workout, I felt great! I then looked at my power file. Every interval was nearly dead on between 82 and 84 rpm. I was also better able to sustain a steady rhythm. Even when I felt as though I was spinning faster during the warm-up and cool-down, I was still only at around 86 rpm.

I realize that I need to learn to ride at a higher cadence.  However, I also think cadence is somewhat of a personal thing. There is an amount of finding what works best for you. I can see myself settling in somewhere between 85 and 90 rpm. Time will tell.

And, yes, I realize now that when it comes to a TT effort FTP test, I need to measure my effort out across the entire period instead of dipping and spiking.  As Jim said near the end of the conversation, “You shouldn’t have had that much left in the tank at the end.”

The bad news? I didn’t really do my FTP test correctly. The good news? Most likely had I done it correctly, I would have had better results. On top of that, I still increased my FTP by 10 watts. I’ll go with the good news!