RPM.

The more I rode, the more natural it felt. After miles and miles on the flat Mississippi roads, my cadence naturally settled into an average pedaling cadence of 80 revolutions per minute. The gear selection didn't seem to matter. Eventually I'd just settle back into the groove at 80 and the miles would fall away. I noted it at the time, decided I really didn't care, and got on with riding.
 
I used to focus on keeping cadence between 90 and 100 RPM on flat roads or on the trainer. It was just something I consciously worked on, because people said I should consciously work on it. I just didn't think to consciously try understand why. I tried to spin as much as I could whenever I could. Little by little that fell away as I focused on other things.
 
Part of this was that every time I heard the word cadence I immediately heard Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen's voices commenting on Lance Armstrong's high cadence. Lance = bad, so therefore through the transitive property cadence = bad. I was bad enough, so that was one element of cycling I didn't need to work on. With science firmly in my corner, I decided to let the RPMs do whatever they felt like doing. 
I hadn't thought much about it until I listened to the Velonews podcast on neuromuscular training. I've always had problems spinning past 120 RPM, and would end up flailing around wildly. Because I sucked at it, I didn't work on it past that level. I developed an effective grind and left it at that. However, this podcast (which isn't a format I particularly like) had a couple knowledgeable coach-types saying that my inability to spin at high RPMs likely indicates coactivation, which is when your muscles actually work against each other. Ungodly amounts of riding doesn't make it better, which explains why high level roadies and trackies, who do work on cadence drills, exhibit less coactivation than triathletes that ride similar or more miles. This scared me. I don't want to be a triathlete.
 
Sufficiently terrified, I decided one of my training goals this season would be to work on my spin. The podcast said that reducing coactivation would improve efficiency. I'm at the point that nothing realistic (given my life) is going to raise my functional threshold power much. In fact, it's only going to get worse as I age. I can target peak power at various durations, but we're really talking about filling in some cracks, not some transformative bump in performance. Losing some weight will help quite a bit, but food = good and has nothing to do with Lance.
 
Making more efficient use of the little power I have available means I may stave off getting dropped a little longer and make it more likely I'll have left at the end to throw at the finish line. By preventing these heavily-marbled slabs of meat liberally sprinkled with cottage cheese I call muscles from fighting each other, I might make decent performance gains. All I have to do is some of that neuromuscular training stuff. From what I can tell, it involves spinning real fast without falling off the bike. That's going to take some work. 
  
After puking for the better part of the weekend and well into Monday, I got on the trainer with the goal of keeping my cadence between 90 and 100 RPM. I wasn't worried about my power or gearing or anything else. I just had to spin, which was harder than I remembered. I really had to focus on it. My heart rate was higher than usual, even though my recovery was much faster. My body is just not used to it yet, but I have all winter. Come spring I may not be pedaling supersonic perfect circles, but I might be able to manage subsonic octagons.
 
At the very least, it will kill some time.

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