Cycling is an integral part of Ironman triathlon, which is a multi-disciplinary endurance sport that involves a 3.8 km swim, a 180 km bike ride, and a 42.2 km run. In the cycling portion of the race, athletes are required to maintain a steady pace for an extended period. Therefore, it is essential to understand the importance of cadence work in cycling for Ironman triathlon.
In this blog, we will discuss the role of cadence work in cycling and its importance for Ironman triathlon. We will also explore the low versus high cadence argument, and provide areas in which beginners could improve their performances. Finally, we will give a workout to help improve cycling cadence for Ironman triathlon.
The Role of Cadence Work in Cycling
Cadence work is a term used to describe the frequency of pedal revolutions per minute (rpm) that an athlete completes on their bike.
The most efficient and effective cadence for cycling is a topic of much debate, with some athletes preferring a low cadence and others preferring a high cadence. However, most experts agree that the optimal cadence range for endurance cycling is between 80 and 100 rpm (Carpes et al., 2013).
Cadence work plays an important role in cycling because it affects a number of physiological and biomechanical factors. For example, a higher cadence requires less force per pedal stroke, which can reduce the risk of injury and fatigue. Additionally, a higher cadence can improve cardiovascular fitness by increasing oxygen consumption and improving the efficiency of the body's energy systems (Carpes et al., 2013).
On the other hand, a lower cadence requires more force per pedal stroke, which can build strength and power in the legs. However, a lower cadence also requires more energy and can increase the risk of injury and fatigue (Carpes et al., 2013). Therefore, it is important to find the right cadence for individual athletes based on their fitness levels, cycling experience, and racing goals.
Low versus High Cadence Argument
The debate between low and high cadence has been ongoing for decades, with both sides presenting valid arguments for their preferences. Some athletes prefer a low cadence because they believe it improves strength and power, while others prefer a high cadence because it reduces the risk of injury and fatigue.
Research studies have been conducted to determine the optimal cadence for cycling, and most studies suggest that a cadence range of 80 to 100 rpm is the most efficient and effective for endurance cycling (Carpes et al., 2013). However, there is some evidence to suggest that the optimal cadence may vary depending on individual factors such as fitness level, body type, and cycling experience.
A study conducted by Marsh and Martin (1997) found that well-trained cyclists were able to maintain a higher cadence than less experienced cyclists without experiencing a decrease in power output or an increase in perceived exertion. This suggests that experienced cyclists may be able to benefit from a higher cadence than less experienced cyclists.
Another study conducted by Candotti et al. (2015) found that the optimal cadence for cycling may depend on body type. The study found that cyclists with shorter legs and longer torsos were able to maintain a higher cadence than cyclists with longer legs and shorter torsos. This suggests that body type may play a role in determining the optimal cadence for individual athletes.
For beginner triathletes, there are several areas in which they could improve their cycling performances. One of the most important areas is cadence work. Beginners should focus on developing a consistent cadence that they can maintain for an extended period of time.
One way beginners can improve their cadence is by practicing cycling drills that focus on developing smooth and efficient pedal strokes.
For example, one popular drill is the single-leg drill, which involves pedaling with one leg at a time. This drill helps to develop a smooth and efficient pedal stroke by isolating each leg and forcing the cyclist to focus on maintaining a consistent cadence.
Another way beginners can improve their cadence is by incorporating interval training into their cycling workouts. Interval training involves alternating between periods of high-intensity cycling and periods of low-intensity recovery. This type of training can help beginners to develop the cardiovascular fitness and endurance needed to maintain a consistent cadence over long periods of time.
Finally, beginners can improve their cadence by working on their bike fit. A proper bike fit can help to ensure that the cyclist is in the most efficient and comfortable position on the bike, which can improve their cadence and overall cycling performance.
A Workout to Help Improve Cycling Cadence for Ironman Triathlon
Here is a workout that beginner triathletes can do to help improve their cycling cadence:
Warm-up: 10 minutes of easy cycling at a comfortable pace
Main Set: 4 x 4-minute intervals
▫️Interval 1: Maintain a cadence of 80-85 rpm at 60-70% of maximum effort
▫️Interval 2: Maintain a cadence of 90-95 rpm at 70-80% of maximum effort
▫️Interval 3: Maintain a cadence of 100-105 rpm at 80-90% of maximum effort
▫️Interval 4: Maintain a cadence of 80-85 rpm at 60-70% of maximum effort
▫️Recovery: 2 minutes of easy cycling at a comfortable pace between each interval
Cool-down: 10 minutes of easy cycling at a comfortable pace
In conclusion, cadence work plays an important role in cycling for Ironman triathlon. Finding the optimal cadence for individual athletes can help to improve their efficiency, reduce the risk of injury and fatigue, and increase their cardiovascular fitness. While the debate between low and high cadence continues, most experts agree that the optimal cadence range for endurance cycling is between 80 and 100 rpm.
For beginner triathletes, improving their cadence can be achieved through drills, interval training, and proper bike fit. The workout provided is a great starting point for beginner triathletes looking to improve their cycling cadence. By focusing on developing a consistent and efficient cadence, beginner triathletes can improve their overall cycling performance and achieve their goals in Ironman triathlon.