A Guide to Climbing Efficiency

Q: What is the ideal cadence for climbing?

A: Whatever cadence allows you to maintain forward progress with maximum power output control and minimal stress on your body.

That said, let us go into more detail. 

Cadence is Power: Power is directly affected through small changes in cadence; the more significant the gear ratio, the more power generation. 

Some assume that if you get a smaller gear, triple chain ring, or compact crank, you can climb better or faster by increasing your cadence. In some cases, this is a true statement. 

To maintain a higher spin rate, we must develop some critical elements in training to make this happen. 

First, we need to develop a supreme level of Aerobic Development, Cadence Efficiency, Force Application, and Muscular Endurance is critical to any cycling discipline, Climbing, TT, or Sprinting.

In the case of climbing, Muscular Endurance is the secret sauce and is key to reducing fatigue. Developing a high level of muscular endurance, strength, and cadence development activates your nervous system to communicate to the working muscle more rapidly for long periods. As with all things, this process takes time to develop.

This process is called a neuromuscular response, which involves the CNS – Central Nervous System. 

Formula for Success

Muscular Endurance + Neuromuscular Control (RPM) + Faster Recovery Rates = More Power Production & Fitness Gains

So, to climb faster, we must train the CPS - Cardio Pulmonary System to deliver more oxygen to the working muscles. The efficiency ratio must be increased to meet the demands of climbing, and once again, this takes time to build. 

Coach David’s recommendation would be to focus 100% of your time on building a solid base by aligning (a) Aerobic Development, (b) Cadence Efficiency, and (c) Force Application during the early stages of training and development. 

Going back to “Cadence is Power” by saying, if you can learn how to increase your cadence in any gear in any given situation, 5 to 10 rpm up or down in each direction without shifting gears prematurely, you are golden. This all stems from, you guessed it, a higher level of muscular endurance. 

6 Keys to Climbing Efficiency 

  • Increase your aerobic capacity, cadence efficiency, and muscular strength with proper focused training and development.
  • Approach the hill in the proper gear and cadence band for the given situation. 
  • Increase your cadence in the same gear without shifting until the cadence meets the elevation on the hill and shifts appropriately. 
  • Use your gears and cadence to maintain forward momentum as the hill continues. 
  • Find a cadence band that you can maintain with control and focus. 
  • Depending the length of the climb will determine the cadence and gearing selected. 


Your road to success!

    1. How to Climb More Efficiently

    1. Determine Heart Training Zones

    2. Rider Assessment to Determine Cycling Ability

    1. Phase 1: Developing Baseline Endurance Fitness

    2. Phase 2: Endurance Tempo Development with Cadence Control

    3. Phase 3: Applying Force to the Drivetrain

    4. Phase 4: Buffering Lactate, Hill Work and Speed Endurance

    5. Phase 5: Muscular Endurance Strength and Climbing Ability

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