Speed Skills: Low Intensity + High Cadence Training

By Marilyn Trout | 03/26/12
Speed Skills: Low Intensity + High Cadence Training

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We’ve teamed up with Marilyn Trout, certified USA Cycling Elite Coach to answer Voler Newsletter List members’ training questions. You can view her coach profile at http://www.linkedin.com/in/mountainpedalscoaching80903 Send your cycling inquiries to Marilyn, and for a limited time, if yours is selected to be answered in our Training column, Voler will send you a $20 gift certificate that can be used towards any purchase from the Voler Store at http://www.voler.com. To submit your inquiry, e-mail her at Marilyn@MountainPedals.net, and type “Voler Training Question” in the subject line of the e-mail.

Voler E-Mail List member Colin Funk is our 88th winner of a $20 Voler gift certificate! His training question follows…

Speed Skills: Low Intensity + High Cadence Training


I am a competitive road and cyclocross racer and have recently begun to implement leg speed drills. What is this low intensity/high cadence training supposed to accomplish?



Early season workouts such as High Cadence/Spin-ups/Downhill sprints in the small chain-ring… fall into the Speed Skill point of the racing triangle with the other 2 points being Endurance and Force. Pedaling smoothly at a high cadence enables a rider for a greater economy of effort, that is, quick muscle contractions with minimal energy expenditure. The rider that can access a greater leg speed at the finish line or the mayhem of a cyclocross start will definitely be at an advantage. The goal is to develop the leg turnover with these general speed skills so when specific speed training, such as simulated finish line sprint work, comes around in the Annual Training Plan, all the ingredients have been addressed individually. (Whenever a skill is pulled out, you become more aware of the details that make up the ability as a whole and can better address the rider's weak link.) The energy output is now directed towards forward motion instead of energy wasted with bouncing or fighting the bike. It has been shown that as leg speed improves, so does race performance.

As the season progresses so does specific speed work. With Speed Skill being a point in the triangle of racing abilities, the adjacent two sides correspond with Power on the Force side and Anaerobic Endurance on the Endurance side. Power is the ability to apply maximum force in the shortest time possible (P = Force + Speed Skills). This attribute becomes obvious on short hills, sprints and accelerations. Anaerobic Endurance is the ability to resist fatigue at a high cadence while turning a big gear (AE = Endurance + Speed Skills). A rider who has developed this area is able to bridge gaps, climb steep hills, maintain sprint speed or endure repeated surges/pace changes. Well-developed Anaerobic Endurance can combat fatigue as lactate accumulates.

Keep working to feel more comfortable at a higher cadence. You will reap the benefits at the finish line, cyclocross starts and being able to sustain a good spin in the TTs. Being able to increase the cadence, even if it's in the typical gear that you've used in the past, you'll naturally have an increase in speed.


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