Question: Most coaches suggest low-cadence, big-gear workouts to improve leg strength for time trials. They say this is the way to convert the leg strength gained in the gym to cycling power. But because of knee problems, I spin moderate gears at about 100 rpm. Is there an alternative to low-cadence workouts? — Steve V.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: I’m not sure there is, Steve. Pedaling takes place on a continuum with higher cadences associated with less pressure on the pedals. But the only way to produce enough pedal pressure to benefit leg strength is to lower the cadence and use gears larger than would be normal for the terrain.
If that’s a problem for your knees, you shouldn’t do it. Gaining some strength at the risk of not being able to ride is clearly a bad gamble.
On the other hand, there’s really no pressing reason to do low-cadence training. If you can do leg-strength exercises in the gym (I’m assuming they don’t hurt your knees), then you can go directly to intervals at your preferred cadence. Or, as most riders do, include some intervals on the bike during the weight-training period.
This progression (skipping the low-cadence stuff) will spare your knees and have the added benefit of being more specific to the events you’re training for.
Remember, there’s no magic in any single workout or progression of workouts. Riders need to adapt their training to physical limitations.