Strategies for Strength: Climbing at Tempo

Many of us have seen professional riders climbing the famed ascents of the Tour de France. One observation is the speed at which they climb. Not just how fast their bikes are going, but how fast their legs are spinning. This faster climbing cadence is often referred to as “climbing at tempo.” For those of us that ride outside, this is not climbing in one’s granny gear (no offense, Mom), but pushing a relatively hard gear at a fast cadence. Like most aspects of cycling, there is a range of leg speeds riders will use depending on which gear they are in and how fast the tempo is. For the lead riders and climbing specialists, this cadence range can be between 75 and 90 rpm.

Why Climb at Tempo?


Be sure to check out our other Strategies for Strength:

Strategies for Strength: Counting Pedal Strokes

Strategies for Strength: Benchmarks and Rewards, Pt. 1

Strategies for Strength: Benchmarks and Rewards, Pt. 2

Strategies for Strength: A Sprinter’s Take on Climbing Strategies

Strategies for Strength: What’s Your Mantra?

Strategies for Strength: The Cheek to Cheek Technique

Strategies for Strength: The Wisdom of Yoda

Strategies for Strength: Activate Those Hip Flexors

Strategies for Strength: Projection into the Future

Strategies for Strength: Synchronized Breathing


9 Responses to “Strategies for Strength: Climbing at Tempo”

  1. Hi Brook,
    I know there are quite a few Friday Favorites that are right around 90 bpm that are perfect for intervals. Instead of going through post by post, one way to find them is to simply enter “90 bpm” in the search box at the top of the page, and you’ll get lots! I just tried it and it worked great—all genres are represented. Not only will you get the Weekly Music Suggestions, but you’ll also get some profile posts in which I listed 90 bpm songs.

    90 rpm is my MOST favorite cadence to ride, and when I find songs that work really well, I make sure to post them. Hope you enjoy these songs!

  2. brook.nelson@ymail.com says:

    Im very excited to use this in my next class… thank you!
    do you have any great songs for 90 rpm intervals?

  3. marjorie maggenti says:

    Hi folks,
    Oh! Can i just say that i am SO APPRECIATIVE for all this amazing knowledge you offer?!! I am an avid cyclist and triathlete who adores teaching spin and do as much as i can to inspire them: whether it’s to dust off their bikes and get outside, begin to understand the Tour, or to bring it all together in the spin room – you help me so much to accomplish this.
    Thanks to the info you dole out so beautifully…me, and every other instructor who is smart enough to be a member of your site, can’t help but look good and be the BEST instructor out there.
    Thank you: for raising the bar; and for taking us with you.
    Many many thanks, marjorie

  4. Tom Scotto says:

    Ok, here are some of my favorites.

    Rock:
    – Meant to live, Swtichfoot, 75 RPM
    – Mindfields, Toto, 80 RPM
    – Brainstew, Green Day, 76 RPM
    – Smack Down, Thousand Foot Krutch, 77 RPM
    – Satellite, P.O.D., 78 RPM
    – Supremacy, Muse, 79 RPM
    – Wake Up, Rage Against the Machine, 80 RPM
    – Scuttlebuttin, Stevie Ray Vaughn, 80 RPM
    – Rebel Yell, Billy Idol, 83 RPM
    – Rock in America, Night Ranger, 83 RPM

    Electronic / Instrumental:

    – Devil’s Slide, Joe Satriani, 80 RPM
    – Hang Tough, Layo & Bushwacka, 80 RPM
    – Masters of the Universe, Juno Reactor, 86 RPM
    – Scorponok (Transformers), Steve Jablonsky, 80 RPM
    – I Spy, Neil Zaza, 90 RPM
    – Stones, Sal Difusco, 88 RPM
    – The Main Monkey Business, Rush, 84 RPM
    – The Fate of Billions, Silicon Monk, 78 RPM
    – East Coast Fusion, Kudos, 84 RPM
    – Technical Difficulties, Julien-K, 76 RPM

  5. Victoria Chavarria says:

    Love this! Two weeks ago, I started to apply this concept on my training trying to improve my strength when doing hills outdoors on my road bike… Always used smaller gears when climbing … Guess I was afraid to burn before I got to the top! But I wasn’t improving much… So I talked to a Pro Cyclist, he introduced the concept to me but I wasn’t sure how to safetely apply it on indoor cycling.
    When I start working with them with shorter intervals of 45 sec, 60sec etc how much recovery would you recommend? On this recovery, they can lower resistance and cadence or just cadence? Once they manage the 2 min climbing at tempo, how many intervals of 2 min would be safe to do with them at the beginning? And last, recovery is fundamental as we all know, so how much recovery between each climbing at tempo session? It can be done, Once or twice a week?

    PD. loved the expression ” fast and furious cadence”!…. Hmmm a possible name for a profile there 😀

    • MichaelOrta says:

      I am a relatively new ICA member, so I’m just discovering this drill. 🙂 But I have the same questions that were asked here about recovery. Do you want to keep the group in that hard climb at the pace but just picking up the pace for the interval time then back to the hard climb w/o losing gears and the target pace/rhythm? If so, how long total do you go with how many intervals? Do you gradually have people hold a faster pace (75-90) at a hard gear and increase pace from there?

  6. Here are some of my favorite higher cadence climbing songs. I’m sure Tom has a few more to add.

    Rock:
    Paint it Black, The Rolling Stones 80 rpm
    You Wreck Me, Tom Petty 83 rpm
    Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Queen 77 rpm
    La Grange, ZZ Top, 81 rpm
    How Far We’ve Come, Matchbox Twenty 83 rpm
    Fall Down, Toad the Wet Sprocket 76 rpm
    Original Prankster, The Offspring 74 rpm
    The Chain, Fleetwood Mac 77 rpm
    Teen Angst, Cracker 81 rpm
    Authority Song, John Mellencamp 82 rpm
    Say Hello, Little Spitfire 86 rpm
    Wild in the Streets, Bon Jovi 83 rpm
    Silent Screams, Eowyn 83 rpm
    American Woman, Lenny Kravitz 84 rpm
    Stay On, The Bodeans 85 rpm

    Electronic:
    Jiggle of the Sphinx, Hallucinogen (used in my Roller Coaster Profile) 77 rpm
    Riding the Waves, Afro Celt Sound System 82 rpm
    Mandragora, Medicine Drum 75 rpm
    Conga Fury, Juno Reactor 80 rpm
    Masters of the Universe, Juno Reactor 85 rpm
    Norweg, Cirque du Soleil (Saltimbanco) 82 rpm
    The Words, Disco Volante 85 rpm
    Criminal Intention, D. Batistatos 85 rpm
    H-Two-O, Xerxes 80 rpm
    Durga, E.S. Posthumus 77 rpm (many tracks from E.S. Posthumus are good for vigorous fast climbs)
    Three Sweet Dunes, Ambean (11-1/2 minutes at 85 rpm…talk about committing to a tempo pace!)

  7. catherine hughes says:

    Any song suggestions for this exercise?

  8. Christine Nielsen says:

    I am planning nine months of this. Climbing at tempo is the theme. “Ride like Froome.” is the catchphrase. Everyone will have Froome’s atacks in the TDF in the front of their minds so I’m going to go with that even if there’s another rider I’d like them to emulate. We will do a progression of resistance, tempo and duration (over months). In addition to tracking changes in those elements we will also record HR and power.

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