Hill revs

hill-revsAim of Session

A hilly ride (zone 2) encouraging higher cadences to improve sustainability of the effort and therefore fatigue resistance

Session description

MAIN SET: On hills, mid-way up the climb, change to a lower cog than usual to hit a higher cadence


Much of the physiology underlying the use of higher cadences is explained elsewhere in this section. Bringing this type of work onto a climb will add specificity (to those riders needing climbing ability in their racing). Since power = cadence x muscle torque, we know that over-reliance on low cadence climbing will require higher intramuscular forces - and those high forces fatigue the muscle a lot quicker than low muscle tension / high cadence approaches to power output. Ultimately, higher contraction speeds will recruit fast twitch fibres; if we do this regularly, those fast twitch fibres get the chance to become more aerobically trained (and we can then access higher powers for a clmbing effort).

Application for the Rider

When a rider hits a climb, there is a temptation to lower the cadence in order to keep the power high and maintain speed. This session not only brings an awareness of the reduction in muscle tension (by switching mid climb) by long term will make the rider more efficient in recruiting a different muscle fibre pool - spreading the load across more muscle fibres. There is another, less documented advantage of high cadence climbing - watch pro riders on a long mountain climb: those with lower cadences appear to be accelerating / decelerating the bike with each pedal revolution. Riders with a more fluid style get through their 'dead spot' far faster, meaning less forward / backward bike movement each pedal revolution.

Practicalities and tips!

  • Find a range of hills with shallow enough gradients that allow you to apply both high and low cadences i.e. available gears will dictact the success of this session
  • Also, make sure the climbs are long enough to enable sustained periods of time at the high cadence work
  • Try to maintain the same bike speed throughout the climb
  • You may notice how sitting back behind the bottom bracket helps you climb more effectively

Evaluation of the session

  • Did you maintain bike speed on the climb?
  • How did the switch in cadence affect your power? Your heart rate?