What Is The Optimal Cycling Cadence For You To Run Faster Off The Bike? | GTN Does Science


– The relationship
between your bike cadence and your cadence running off the bike is a subject that’s been
debated for years in triathalon. – Yeah, it’s commonly said
that your bike cadence needs to match your running
cadence so that your muscles are prime and ready to
run straight off the bike. – Well, it has been proven that running with a slightly high
cadence is more efficient. So should we be cycling with
a cadence in line with that? Well, the issue is some
people prefer to cycle with a lower cadence, but is that, then, impacting their run off? – Well, that’s why
we’re here at Team Bath, and we’re gonna be using the help of head physioligist Jonathan Robinson to help us shed some light on this. Now, I’m afraid to say, Mark, we’re gonna be the guinea pigs. (upbeat rock music) – Okay, whilst Heather is
getting set up behind me, let’s run through what we
are going to be doing today. And given that there’s only two of us with a relatively limited amount of time, we’re gonna be condensing the experiment into very short but
intense brick sessions. Going straight from a 10 minute bike to a five minute run off. And Heather’s gonna be doing that at her half Ironman intensity whilst I’m gonna be doing it at my
sprint distance intensity. I think we’re gonna be doing
three experiments each. And we’re gonna hold our
number run cadence of around 170 steps per minute
throughout all the tests but we’re gonna change our bike cadence. We’re gonna do one test with
our bike cadence quite low, around 65 rpm, we’re gonna
do one where we match our run cadence, so around 85 rpm, and then, finally, we’ll do one with a high cadence on the
bike, around 105 rpm. So we really do cover
both ends of the spectrum. And to make things fair,
we’re gonna do them in completely different orders. Heather is gonna start with a high cadence and I’m gonna start with a low cadence. And you may be wondering what we’re going to be recording for our analysis. Well, to be honest, given that there haven’t really been any solid scientific findings on this subject, we’re just gonna record
everything from VO2, heart rate, perceived effort
of exertion, and even lactate. And, perhaps, one or more of those will help us draw our own conclusions. (upbeat electronic music) – Well, Jonathan has very kindly put the results together for
us, and done a bit of analysis. But there was so much for us to look at, we decided it was best to come back here to the studio where we can take our time and have a look properly. – Yeah, and obviously, there were only two of us and we crammed a heck of a lot into a short space of time. So this is hardly the
most accurate experiment, but it will be interesting
to see what it shows. But before we look at any data, let’s talk about how it felt. So how did you find the
different bike cadences? – Well, obviously, I had the
slightly easier test anyway, and doing half Ironman
pace for just ten minutes, none of it felt that hard. I did start with the high cadence, which is a bit of a shock
to the system on the bike. But it it did mean when I went to the run that running at that
pace on the treadmill, it felt fairly comfortable. As for the 85 rpm, it all
felt fairly comfortable. But, interestingly, the
lower cadence on the bike actually felt the easiest, but then when it came to the run, it did feel a little bit sluggish to get going. Mixed feelings, what about yours? – Yeah, well, obviously, I
started with the low cadence. And the obvious part was when I ran off, I just felt like I was
stomping the treadmill. I really struggled to find
the rhythm on the run. And then, on the 85 rpm, to be honest, that’s really my preferred cadence anyway, so I just felt really at home and really comfortable on that. And then, with the the high cadence, admittedly, I was probably
pretty tired by then. So I think it just all felt quite hard. My RPE was higher on both
the bike and the run. But it will be interesting
to see what the data shows. So, should we take a look?
– Yeah, Let’s have a look. Well, starting off, we’re just gonna look at the data from the cycling. And, interestingly, I had a lower VO2 score for the lower cadence. – [Mark Threlfall] Yeah,
likewise, I actually had a lower VO2 with the
low cadence, and then, my highest VO2 was with
the highest cadence. And then, the matching cadence, that’s somewhere between the two. – Yeah, I think I was pretty similar to that as well, actually. – Yeah, and that’s funny. So basically, our bodies are running more efficiently when we’re
riding at a lower cadence. And, perhaps, we are just better-trained at the lower cadence, that’s
our preferred riding style. – Yeah, but anyway, we wanted to find out how the changing cadence
affected our runs, so let’s have a look at those results. Well, there you can see my VO2 started low on the run after the low cadence. But then, quite quickly, it
started to go up dramatically. And when I did the high cadence, it was the completely opposite way around. – Yeah, mine did exactly the same. And maybe it’s because we’re working our muscles harder on the
bike with the low cadence. So, eventually it catches up with us, which is a bit like what you said. Perhaps, if we extended the bike length, that we would have seen it on the bike. And other than a slight increase in my VO2 with the low cadence
when I got on to the run, my other VO2 scores were pretty close. So it does all really come down
to your personal preference. – Yeah and I could actually get some of my results to support that because 85 rpm is my personal
preference, as is yours, Mark. And on the run, from that, my heart rate was lowest, my perceived
effort was lowest, and my lactate, even
though, for my distance, it was very small margins,
it was still noticeable. – Yeah, and one other thing I noticed, having done the low cadence first, was just how much fatigue
I felt in my muscles. It was almost like I’d been in the gym doing squats or dead lifts. So I definitely know I won’t be choosing the low cadence for my racing. Well, as expected, we don’t
really have a definitive answer, but what was really interesting was just how efficient the low cadence appeared to be, and then, it all switched, and turned out to be the less efficient. Especially when we got
later on into the run. It just really kicked up. – Yeah, well, that brings
us back to the 85 rpm. And maybe we’re a little biassed because that’s what we cycle at and then run at, but I think it does match that theory that if you’re cycling
at the same cadence, it is then naturally easier to run at that cadence when you get off the bike. – So I guess our recommendation would be to test it yourself. And an ideal opportunity to
do that in is a brick session. You can do different
cadences and then run off. And if you like this video,
give it a thumb-up like. And to see more videos like this, just click on the globe
to subscribe to GTN. – And whilst we’re on the topic, if you want to watch a
video on running cadence, just click here. – And we have a great little video on Draught Legal Triathlon, comparing clip-on bars versus on the drops. And you can see that by clicking here.