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Cadence pyramid drills

Despite the conditions outside, winter is a great time for triathletes to improve their cycling. If riding outside in the snow isn’t for you, you don’t have to stick to the trainer alone all winter. Take these next few months to try something new, like joining an indoor cycling studio. Solo trainer workouts are great and if planned properly, will make you a stronger rider. But for those seeking a more structured plan and some expert riding tips, studios like The Cycling Gym in Toronto can take your cycling to the next level.

In this video, Andrew Randall and Steve Neal of The Cycling Gym take you through some cadence pyramid drills to help you learned to spin at a higher r.p.m. This is helpful for group riding, particularly for triathletes who race in draft-legal events or ride with a club outdoors during the warmer months. In group riding, the bunch may be averaging 35 km/hr but the speed still fluctuates at times throughout the ride. Handling these changes can be taxing if you are always mashing a hard gear to speed up. The key to managing surges is with cadence. By spinning up to speed up a bit, you avoid power spikes that will running your energy down.

The workout:


10 minutes. Build up from easy to a steady pace for a few minutes.

Cadence Pyramids

Do the following progression two to three times with 10 minutes of easy/steady riding in between: 100 r.p.m., 105 r.p.m., 110 r.p.m., 115 r.p.m., 120 r.p.m., 115 r.p.m., 110 r.p.m., 105 r.p.m., 100 r.p.m. Stay at your lowest heart rate and power output possible. Spend one minute at each cadence except the top stage. Spend two minutes at 120 r.p.m.

Only go as high in the pyramid as you can with a smooth pedal stroke. If you start bouncing on the saddle, treat that cadence as the top of your pyramid. Hold those r.p.m. for two minutes, and then work your way back down. In the video, you’ll see Canadian Cycling Magazine editor Matthew Pioro max out at about 120 r.p.m. He should use 115 r.p.m. at the top of his cadence pyramid, holding it for two minutes.

If you are really having trouble with the cadence work, you could start the pyramid 5 or 10 r.p.m. lower to build your co-ordination.

Do the pyramid three times with five minutes off between each set.

Cool down

10 minutes.

If you can’t spin as high as cadence as Andrew Randell, make sure to practise this drill and take Neal’s advice: “The biggest thing you can do is relax throughout the pedal stroke. We’re not pushing down that hard at this cadence. It’s really about learning when to push a little bit, but also when to relax to stay smooth.”