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As in the question, do heavier riders tend to have higher/lower cadence and should there be any difference?

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    I don't have any definitive information, but just as an example, Chris Froome is known for having very high candence while being one of the taller riders (although quite thin) on the peleton. Meanwhile, Contador is a bit more average height, but tends to stand on the climbs resulting in slower cadence. Each rider must find what works best for them.
    – Kibbee
    Jun 10 '16 at 20:51
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    In general, one will observe in nature that smaller animals have more rapid/more frequent movements. One would expect this to carry over into human cycling, where "optimal cadence" for a five-foot, 98 pound person would be higher than "optimal cadence for a six-six 260 pound person. But likely the difference would be no more than 20% or so -- other factors are at least as significant. Jun 10 '16 at 21:05
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    But then you have specialist sprinters, who tend to be heavier but also spin out to ridiculously fast cadence. This is another "ideal what" question. In my experience faster than about 100rpm everyone is trading more power for decreased endurance, and that effect quite possibly kicks in as low as 60rpm. I don't see any tourists sitting on 120rpm all day, every day.
    – Móż
    Jun 11 '16 at 0:56
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    "Ideal" cadence is hard to answer (see this bike.SE question for a discussion of "optimal" cadence). Is your question something like "does cadence vary across individuals in a way related either to their size or weight for a given power or speed?"
    – R. Chung
    Jun 11 '16 at 1:11
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    Ah. Well for the "should" question, check out that "optimal cadence" question linked above. In addition, here's a recent study that links body mass with pedaling technique although cadence itself was fixed at a constant rate.
    – R. Chung
    Jun 11 '16 at 11:50
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Individual "ideal cadence" is probably more closely related to muscle composition and comfort than it is to size. While someone could probably "maths out" an ideal cadence for a rider based on all the variables necessary (height, weight, power, muscle composition, etc), that won't matter one whit if the rider has spent the 2500 hours over the last 3 months practicing at a different cadence that they are now comfortable at. Riding is largely a practiced unconscious act (spinning) that is developed over time. Making major (or even minor) changes has the potential to ruin the whole unconscious part, making the act tedious and draining and overall less efficient for an individual. Developing the unconscious act of riding with pedal drills or cadence drills is a difficult task that most recreational riders don't have the time or patience for.

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    Um. There are at most 2208 hours in three months. :) May 27 '19 at 10:57
  • Unless the person observing the 3 month period is travelling at near light speeds. Which happens to be my general preference for manner of travel. May 28 '19 at 15:30
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    Oh that's how you have so many Strava KOMs! May 28 '19 at 15:31
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Muscle strength grows with the muscles cross section area. And the required forces to move a body grow with the weight of the body. Heavy persons must have the muscles to move themselves, especially if they are fit enough to enjoy bicycle riding. So, all else equal, a 120kg person should be able to exert significantly higher forces than a 60kg person. (I'm talking about the mildly overweight class of people at about 90kg to 130kg, not the extremely overweight class with more than 150kg.)

The cardiovascular system, however, does not scale with weight. The continued power output of a 120kg person is not significantly higher than that of the 60kg person. (Otherwise you would see much heavier riders at races as the speed of level riding is virtually independent of weight but very dependent on power output.)

So, the heavy person can exert more force, but cannot sustain more power. Power is force times cadence. As such, the heavy person is more comfortable with a lower cadence.

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