You’re riding in a group and doing you best to stay tucked in, out of the wind. Sure the bunch is averaging 35 km/h, but sometimes it’s down to 32 km/h. Other times it’s up to 40 km/h. Handling these changes can be taxing if you are always mashing a hard gear to speed up. The key to managing surges is with cadence. By spinning up to speed up a bit, you avoid power spikes that will running your energy down.
In the winter, when you are tied to the trainer, it’s a good time to work on your cadence and your ability to spin higher r.p.m. In the video below, Andrew Randell and Steve Neal of the Cycling Gym take you through their cadence pyramid drills. It goes like this:
10 minutes. Build up from easy to a steady pace for a few minutes.
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Do the following progression two to three times with 10 minutes of easy/steady riding in between: 100 r.p.m., 105 r.p.m., 110 r.p.m., 115 r.p.m., 120 r.p.m., 115 r.p.m., 110 r.p.m., 105 r.p.m., 100 r.p.m. Stay at your lowest heart rate and power output possible. Spend one minute at each cadence except the top stage. Spend two minutes at 120 r.p.m.
Only go as high in the pyramid as you can with a smooth pedal stroke. If you start bouncing on the saddle, treat that cadence as the top of your pyramid. Hold those r.p.m. for two minutes, and then work your way back down. In the video, you’ll see editor Matthew Pioro max out at about 120 r.p.m. He should use 115 r.p.m. at the top of his cadence pyramid, holding it for two minutes.
If you are really having trouble with the cadence work, you could start the pyramid 5 or 10 r.p.m. lower to build your co-ordination.
Do the pyramid three times with five minutes off between each set.
If you can’t spin as high as cadence as Andrew Randell, make sure to practise this drill and take Neal’s advice: “The biggest thing you can do is relax throughout the pedal stroke. We’re not pushing down that hard at this cadence. It’s really about learning when to push a little bit, but also when to relax to stay smooth.”