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  1. #1
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    Changing from Mashing to high cadence

    Ok, I'll admit it, I was a true Masher with my average cadence around 70. I recently purchased a Garmin 800 so now I can track cadence, HR, etc.. What an eye opener. So after reading a lot about increasing cadence being good for endurance and speed, etc... I decided to try to change my ways to see if it works for me. On the last several rides I did I have pushed myself to increase my cadence and it is now averaging about 88-90. I have also really started to focus on rounding out my pedal stroke too (I find this makes the higher cadence a lot easier).

    In any case, over the last several rides I find that my muscles seem like they tire more quickly (and are definitely more sore) and my speed over similar rides isn't where is was (anywhere from .5 to 1 mph slower). For example, after a 35 -45 mile ride I feel like I am really spent and my muscles (hamstring and quads) are sore the next day. Typically when I was mashing the pedals, I would be able to go faster and feel less fatigued (seems sort of reverse of what a higher cadence is supposed to be doing for me).

    For those of you who have made a similar transition, is this common? I am guessing that I just need to stick with it for a few months and it will start to work, but I'm just sort of wondering if I'm on the right track.

  2. #2
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    When I first started riding I too mashed the pedals. I started riding with a neighbor who was fairly experienced riding (rode with the local club known for rides that were more than cruises) and he suggested picking up my cadence. I did and for quite a while the difference felt pretty good. But as time went on I felt that I had plateaued out and just wasn't getting any better. I have since slowed my cadence some (but not back to where I was) and it seems that my average speed has picked up substantially and I don't feel near as tired at the end of a ride as I was getting. For me I feel that it is more important to find a cadence that your body can feel good with and then work on everything else realizing that there may be some changes made as you progress in your experience, etc.

    John

  3. #3
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    Keep at it... it's not natural feeling so your body is protesting.

    As I age, my natural cadence seems to be dropping... I'm happiest at around 80-85 now but I can sustain 100 for long periods of time when I'm trying to get somewhere in a hurry. I think it's probably better to be ABLE to maintain a high cadence than to obsess about always being AT a high cadence, but that's just MO.

  4. #4
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    I will be interested in the responses. I too am a "masher" and am trying to increase cadence, but am finding without getting specific advice on improving my pedaling mechanics a higher cadence is proving counterproductive.

  5. #5
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    It may be that you made too big of a jump, too quickly. If you are used to going at 70rpm, try keeping it at 80 for a month or so. Then 85, then 90, etc. That way you can also figure out where your sweet spot is.

    A year ago I got a cadence computer was at 80 naturally, but decided to try and up my cadence. I didnt have a target in mind, just tried to go one gear easier than I was used to, until that became too easy. Now, I try to stay between 85 and 90. Above 90 and I feel a drop in power, but below 85 I feel like I am using too much effort.

  6. #6
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    it should not take a few months to figure it out as to what is right for you.

    sometimes riders don't quite understand the concept. the goal is to be in the highest gear you can easily turn at 90 or above. If you cannot easily turn the gear over, go one lower. If it is too easy, go to a higher one. I suspect the reason you are so sore is that you are using a gear that is slightly too high right now.

  7. #7
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    Agree with what John said above. My regular cadence is around 85 and that's what it has been for years as well as what works best for me. Because of all the information I read on higher cadences, I experimented with it for years - I can ride for several hours at 120 and not fatigue. But when I want to go fast, when I want to set the lead or hang in with a small breakaway group, or time trial/tri, 85 is where I'm at. I caution that the notion of one cadence is best for everyone isn't true and that people need to experiment and find out what works best for them.

  8. #8
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    As with any exercise it's a change you will have to grow into the new technique.
    Make sure you stretch several times after the ride. Yes it is a pain, chances are you will get a cramp spasm, but you will have less soreness.

  9. #9
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    In order to keep sustained power high (for me) I tend to use a harder gear and slightly lower rpm. I haven't a clue what I'm doing is right but, once on power, I alternate every few moments from ankling type to a slightly more toe down oriented pedaling style. Anyways, hard to accurately describe but, I feel more tension in the gluteal area with one and more quad tension with the other and as a result I'm able to keep the power higher, longer. For example during a time trial or a break, etc... Cadence varies when I do this but in general I'm finding the more powerful I become I'm using slightly lower cadence overall.

  10. #10
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    higher cadence keeps more pressure on lower diaphragm area
    reducing lungs from filling up all the way

    slower cadence "mash style" allows lungs to have more time to fill with oxygen.

    try shorter cranks if you want to spin a higher cadence .

  11. #11
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    I do the same lap around the same track dozens of times, a few nights per week, as part of my intervals. Although there are times when high cadence is very much preferred, it really depends on where you are, who you are with, and what you're attempting to accomplish.

    If I am solo, and doing intervals, there is a sweet spot for me that's on the low cadence side that has me completing that lap much faster than I ever can when I'm employing a very high cadence. The high cadence laps actually "feel good", but I am simply not as fast, and I never will be.

    However, when I'm in a group or a race, I focus on keeping my high cadence when I'm drafting, but lowering my cadence a little when I'm attacking or on the front. You simply don't need to put out the watts when you're drafting anyone, and a higher cadence saves your legs. But when attacking, you need to bleed out every watt possible to make it effective.

    On courses that feature rolling hills, I will often see folks either out-of-the-saddle or seated who are just mashing away on the pedals, almost as if they're sprinting. I can usually manage the same hills by staying seated and employing a super high cadence. This really saves me post-hill, and when they are turning it off after the apex, I tend to still have a lot left.

    So, besides rider preference, physique, and style, cadence can sometimes be a matter of your goals and/or your position relative to other riders.

  12. #12
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    I am working on maintaining high cadence while increasing my gear. Thus trying to go faster. I can run a high cadence all day long, but I want maximize my speed as well so I can easily run a gear too easy spin fast yet go slow. My computer does not record cadence, only speed. So I have been trying to maximize find the gear which allows max speed through a combination high pedal force and lots of RPM. So basically working maximize power output. It would be easier with a computer that counts cadence. I probably need to invest in one of these, but I feel like my speeds are increasing as a result.
    Joe
    Road Bike - Trek 5200 | MTB - 2003 KHS Alite 4000 26" Hardtail

  13. #13
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    I think there is something to be said in listening to your body too, if you are a more powerful rider it might just suit you better to mash. I'm not a big powerful guy so I naturally have a high motor and keep a very high cadence.

  14. #14
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    It's not a one size fits all activity, find what works for you.

  15. #15
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    High cadence is not for everyone. After much effort it is becoming clear that I am not made for 90-100 rpm. So my optimal cadence is 80-84 and I regularly see 68-70 rpm averages for road rides (lots of climbing where I ride).
    My rides:
    Lynskey Ti Pro29 SL singlespeed
    GF Superfly 29er HT
    S-Works Roubaix SL3 Dura Ace
    Pake French 75 track

  16. #16
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    Over 2 years of TT racing, i have found that at 88rpm, I am significantly faster than at 101rpm. It is just what works for me. For most rides, I am around 90rpm with 175mm cranks.

    I also found that when i was focusing on cadence speed, i was 1-2 gears farther up the cassette, and slower. I determined myself to stay in the 50/11,12,13 for an entire TT just to see what happened (flat 14.9mile), and with the lower cadence, I was faster every time versus allowing myself up to 50/17

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by loona View Post
    higher cadence keeps more pressure on lower diaphragm area
    reducing lungs from filling up all the way

    slower cadence "mash style" allows lungs to have more time to fill with oxygen.

    try shorter cranks if you want to spin a higher cadence .
    I'm sorry but getting one out of three correct does not qualify you for any of our lovely takehome gifts. But yes, shorter cranks do favor a higher cadence. If your nonsense claims about lung filling were correct then virtually every hour record set in the past 100 years (average cadence 100 +/- 5 rpm) would have been better done at 80 rpm or less.

  18. #18
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    i'm both masher and spinner. i spin to rest my legs and i mash to rest my heart. doesnt have to be mutually exclusive as there are advantages to both
    check my review page below!

    www.roadiemanila.com

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kerry Irons View Post
    then virtually every hour record set in the past 100 years (average cadence 100 +/- 5 rpm) would have been better done at 80 rpm or less.
    One thing I've learned about cycling is be skeptical about everything I hear. Cycling contains more unproven tales than any other sport and most aren't based in anything more than "that's what the European's do" or "everybody knows that". It covers everything from wool is the best material, to train on a fixed gear, to indexed/STI/electronic shifting requires skill and isn't as good as whatever it replaces, etc. The notion that high cadence is good and higher is even better and applies to everyone is one of those things.

    Just because every world record for 100 years is done using a cadence of 100 doesn't mean that's right, especially for everyone. The majority of tests show the ideal cadence for tt/tri's cyclists that are highly conditioned ranges from 80-100 and the majority say each rider should experiment and find out what works best for them

  20. #20
    wim
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    Quote Originally Posted by stanseven View Post
    One thing I've learned about cycling is be skeptical about everything I hear. Cycling contains more unproven tales than any other sport..
    It certainly seems that way if you read popular cycling literature and the advice dispensed on the internet. Part of the reason is that for many years now, many people in the cycling advice business have repackaged copied information to sell as their own. By this mechanism, simplistic bunk like "always ride with a high cadence" manages to survive.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by stanseven View Post
    - I can ride for several hours at 120 and not fatigue.
    Highly unlikely.

    Would love to see a Garmin/Strava file with a sustained cadence around 120 for any considerable length of time.

  22. #22
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    More than one way to skin a cat. I can both mash and spin and find it useful to do both during the course of a ride. Mashing puts more strain on legs (force) and spinning (lungs), I tend to alternate depending on which is getting tired. I also agree with you that pushing a bigger gear and mashing I am usually faster, however when the legs go....they go and you are done for the day riding home in a very low gear so I try to avoid mashing during the first half or so of a longer ride (for me metric century and above) to save legs for later if needed. The key is to find the proper cadence for you by watching your heart rate/cadence for a given speed and see which gives you the "most bang for the buck" and use that as your optimal cadence.

    It will also take sometime to train your muscles to pedal "rounder" and at higher cadence. It could take several weeks or months depending on saddle time to start to feel natural and take less effort for you. I would also suggest starting with short high cadence intervals during the course of your ride to work your way up to a higher cadence without stressing your muscles as much to ease the soreness. Good luck and have fun!

  23. #23
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    I started as a masher, and still do (often just climbs, heart recover, or for those trips home from bonk-city). It has taken YEARS to get comfortable at 95-100. And as I just said, when fatigued, I still occasionally fall back to a mash. Keep working at it, one day you'll look down and see 105 and wonder how that happened.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by skinewmexico View Post
    It's not a one size fits all activity, find what works for you.
    Winner!

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by ewitz View Post
    Highly unlikely.

    Would love to see a Garmin/Strava file with a sustained cadence around 120 for any considerable length of time.
    I was trying to imagine someone spinning along that fast just enjoying the day...

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